With more of the industry's attention focusing on the action, strategy and MMORPG genre, it's becoming even more difficult to find a truly great adventure game. It becomes even more complicated when long-running titles come to a sudden end such as in the case of the Myst series taking its final plunge into the adventure genre later this year with Myst V: End of Ages . Fortunately there are still a few developers out there that really know the potential that is still left in this dieing genre. With that said, the developers of the recent Syberia series have now come back with a completely new and interesting adventure game. Still Life is a murder mystery adventure where you're tasked with following the clues to find out who the culprit is. It may not sound much different from some other adventure titles that were released in recent years (mainly the CSI series), but Still Life does have enough of its own great features to make it one of the best adventure games so far this year.
If there is one important element in any adventure game then that would definitely be the storyline. The storyline is certainly the most solid foundation of any game, especially those in the adventure genre. Still Life has a great story that will keep you on the edge of your seat right up until the climatic conclusion. It really adds to the addiction of the game, and you won't want to stop until you've found out who this killer is. Within the story of Still Life are a number of unique and interesting characters. From college teachers and crooked cops to discouraged FBI directors and prostitutes, they're all here. Each character has their own distinct personality which really gives them a more lifelike feel and you'll start to care for them.
You take on the role of Victoria McPherson, an FBI agent investigating a series of serial murders in present-day Chicago. There is a whole lot of evidence, five dead victims, and her boss isn't too happy. Obviously, she's got no leads to go on. That is until she visits her dad for the holidays. Upon searching the attic of her dad's house, she runs into an old trunk which houses her grandfather's old case files from when he was a private investigator back in the late 1920s. One file in particular catches her attention, and once she starts to read it she realizes that the current string of murders are happening exactly like they did in the late 1920s in Prague which her grandfather was investigating. Now she has to put all the facts together and figure out what connection the killer may have with her family. Still Life really earns its 'M' rating with its depiction of very graphic murder scenes. Some of the scenes are completely disturbing. Blood is splattered all over the place, messages written on the walls with the victim's blood, and the female victims themselves lay in a bloody mess, topless with a number of stab wounds to their chests and their throats cut. After all, the killer's profile is to slice the victim's neck open, stab them several times afterwards, and then disembowel them. It's not exactly a very pleasant thing to see and the gruesomeness of this title just adds to the suspense and terror.
As the leading FBI agent on this case, Victoria will be called to these crime scenes to help piece things together. This is done by a simple navigation system that any adventure fan should be familiar with. You can simply move Victoria by clicking anywhere in the environment. Although occasionally she'll have some trouble finding her way around a corner and run into the wall instead. You'll have to keep your eyes open for certain clues that may be of importance which are also recognized by the mouse turning into a magnifying glass. Some clues are very hard to find, but it's not too hard to the point where it'll drive you insane looking for them. Your objectives are usually pretty obvious, and even the puzzles may be challenging but aren't terribly difficult. There are only a few large puzzles throughout the game, but it feels like a nice balance between exploration and puzzle solving.
The interface itself is very easy to use allowing you to quickly access your logs and inventory whenever you want. Items in your inventory are needed for specific puzzles and objectives within the game. Certain items will also have to be combined in order to create new objects. You can also take a closer look at certain objects to see if you can find any further clues. Other characters will also have to be questioned in order to get the information you require. You'll come across a number of characters and many of them seem like they could easily be the killer, but the story keeps you hanging the whole time making it hard to discern who it really is. When talking with other people you have two different dialogue options. Clicking the left mouse button allows you to talk about the business at hand, and clicking the right mouse button allows you to talk about an off-topic subject. This obviously allows for some variety in the conversation, and you'll learn more details about the characters this way.
There are a number of different places you'll visit within the game including a college campus, the FBI headquarters, her father's house, different crime scenes, and even a number of locations in Prague when you play as Victoria's grandfather when she is reading his old case files. Each of these places can be easily accessed at any given time. This is thanks to a handy map that can be pulled up at the entrance and exit of each area which shows all of the locations that you've already visited. Clicking on anyone of these locations will instantly load that area.
As was mentioned, you do get to play as Victoria's grandfather when she's reading his old case files. The game switches back and forth between her and her grandfather at certain points which really makes the game feel like two adventures in one as you try and solve the case in the 1920s as her grandfather and you try to solve the same style of murders in the present as Victoria. It seems like a nice balance between the two, and it's also great to see how both of these cases relate to each other.
The visuals in Still Life look absolutely gorgeous. The pre-rendered scenes are all displayed in full detail and have a nice solid look. The cutscenes are also great to watch. They look so realistic that they really add to the production value of this game and make it feel more like you're watching a mystery movie. Although some of the animations are a little awkward. For example their mouths don't sync with the words very well. Also there are a few poor one-liners that are supposed to be funny but don't really do anything positive for the game.
When it comes down to it, Still Life is one solid adventure title that any gamer should consider looking at. It has a few rough edges and bugs, but its change of pace and interesting storyline make up for most of its faults and will surely have you hooked right from the start. A nice set of interactions such as removing figure prints from evidence also add to the overall immersion of being a FBI agent searching for the truth. It all leads up to being a very suspenseful title that will shock you in the end.