Another Code:R A Journey Into Lost Memories (herein abbreviated to AC:RAJILM) is from the same developer behind the rather excellent Hotel Dusk. So I was somewhat excited when AC:RAJILM was announced for the Wii.
After an extensive playthrough, it seems that this excitement was altogether misplaced. This is not necessarily to say that the game is bad, or that this review will be negative, but just don’t expect to ever get excited in AC:RAJILM.
It seems that CING, when mixing up AC:RAJILM in the laboratory, accidentally got some of the quantities of the point ‘n’ click ingredients wrong. They have definitely made an adventure with pointing and clicking but some of the elements aren’t optimally balanced.
So, for example, a staple technique used in these kinds of games is to give players lots of things to investigate, the payoff for throroughness being hidden items, secret bonuses, hints or extra flavour.
Unfortunately, in AC:RAJILM, there are far too many dud things to investigate and so clicking on all 50 items in every new room becomes a chore, but this is further compounded by Ashley’s in-depth description of each object. Without a hint of irony she describes such interesting objects as a roll of adhesive tape or two pens, one blue one red. Alone, this issue is slightly annoying, but with other aspects of the game seemingly conspiring to make progress as slow as possible it really grates.
Ashley herself is incredibly annoying. Conversations with all other characters tend to go on and on. Then they will be repeated slightly paraphrased, then you will explain the conversation to every new character you meet, then Ashley will summarise the key points of the conversation to the player and then at the end of each chapter you will get tested on it all. We have discussed how I feel about game length before (games are too long). However, AC:RAJILM is a bit bizarre in that it is four times as long as it needs to be and the game would benefit from some severe editing; remove the sheer hours and hours of redundancy and repetition and it would be a significantly better game.
As well as all the duff investigation spots and redundant chunks of conversations, puzzles are eeked out at a glacial pace. Typically, you will enter a room with a puzzle and have it sussed within ten seconds. However, before you get to solve it, you’ll be forced to have two different conversations, leave the room, come back into the room, advance the story in a different direction, find Matthew, an annoying child who has the tendency to run off after every conversation, end a chapter, start a new chapter, come back, talk to a character, leave the room before you are finally allowed to pick up the pipe and combine it with a marshmallow to solve the puzzle.
The Wii controls are semi-integrated; the Wiimote proving to be a most welcome alternative to the mouse in the point and click genre with the added benefit of some motion sensitive control. However, there seems to be no logic as to when motion controls are used and when they aren’t. Some puzzles will see you using the Wiimote a la Zack and Wiki, pulling, twisting, dipping, shaking, tipping and turning the Wiimote as necessary. But then other puzzles with perfectly Wiimotable switches, levers and actions are all performed automatically whilst you watch. This irked players in my household but may not bother those not too fussed about game mechanic consistency or players who don’t mind hammering “A” to skip through a conversation the third time you are having it.
Lastly on the negatives is the interaction between how the game plays and how the story progresses. Even those who really really care about the storyline are totally powerless to drive it. It is not just the linear nature of the game that frustrates and make no bones about it, you will only be allowed to go from A to B when and only when CING wants you to. It’s like Assassin’s Creed without the violence. It is like 101 Classic Book Collection but with more text and less interactivity. Occassionally, a character will ask you a question, and because you’ve been hammering A to skip everything you have to work out what you were being asked and you are given two options. Choosing the wrong option has no implication. Choosing the right option unlocks even more conversation with the character you are talking to. It’s a nice idea but all a bit pointless if there are no implications on your actions.
As it is obligatory to say in any Wii game review these days, the game itself does look nice and the sleepy setting of Lake Juliet is rather nicely brought to life. Little background details really do make it feel like a nice holiday camp. Butterlfies flutter around a pathside flower and squirrels scamper up trees as you run past. Ashley is rather pleasingly animated in the conversation sequences and the subtle differences in body language and expression for various emotions have been well put together. Particularly pleasing are sequences when Ashley moves from one ‘zone’ of the lakeside to another. Again, there is an implicit criticism for most other games when this game can make running from one place to another so visually engaging. A criticism on AC:RAJILM for showing promise with the odd moments of genius and then failing to exploit.
Overall, it is hard to recommend this game as a game to anyone, the pacing is too slow and the dialogue is heavily superfluous. However, approach it as a kind of real-time interactive version of the TV series 24 where any kind of action sequences, action of any sort or indeed anything that occurs with anything approaching speed or urgency have been replaced with fairly trivial tasks that occur at a speed approaching continental plate seperation and you might actually enjoy it. Alternatively, if you play it imagining that the characters have come straight from Twin Peaks then the whole game is much darker and far more enjoyable.