Developer: Streko-Graphics Inc.
N Amer - 07/03/2007
Dead Reefs Review
The only control option is the keyboard, which is unusual for adventure games. However, having the keyboard for movement wouldn’t be so bad if it had been designed adequately. Accessing the inventory items is difficult, and combining inventory items is just strange. These keyboard controls can be remapped, but the interface is still almost wholly impossible, due to the clumsy movement of the main character and the bad camera angles.
Enough about the interface for now, though, let’s get to the story.
In Dead Reefs, the plot centers on a curse that has been visited on an old, distinguished family that lives on an island. It seems that this particular family was involved in piracy over the course of many years, and finally they murdered and robbed the wrong people. Among the haul was a mysterious object that became a curse to the family. The latest mishap involves the current Baron’s son, who has been murdered. An investigator has been sent to the island to discover the truth behind the death. You are that investigator.
From the beginning, the game does an excellent job of first presenting the story, then continuing the tale with well-timed events and puzzles. Besides the great pacing, the game also accentuates the adventure with wonderfully animated and drawn characters. These characters move realistically, with individual mannerisms. They all look believable, too, with great period clothes. The background scenes are good, too, but aren’t as detailed.
Despite this promising setup, though, the game quickly deteriorates, due to the horrible character movement. In Dead Reefs, it becomes almost laughable. Amadeo, our intrepid sleuth, never walks, he only runs. And, he is most often running into walls and doors. It is very difficult to get him turned in the correct direction, so players will spend a lot of time inching him down hallways pressed against the wall, looking at the icons at the bottom of the screen to see if anything lights up.
To make matters worse, the camera angles are really bad, too. Often they will abruptly switch viewpoints while Amadeo is moving, which is disconcerting. They are schizoid, too, and will sometimes have Amadeo moving into the screen, or moving out of the screen. Moving the character out of the screen is just bad design in an adventure game, as the player can’t see where the character is going.
Even if an icon lights up for some type of action, it is entirely possible to miss an important item or action. For instance, early in the game Amadeo must perform an action inside a closet. There is no hint for this and no highlight. Amadeo will open the doors of the closet, and then just stand there. Oh, he has to use his walking stick to rap inside this dark closet, duh! Why didn’t I think of doing that? (Good old MaGtRo, thanks!) A little while later, Amadeo is looking at a desk and says “a bureau”. There is a paper on the desk, which he can pick up. This appears to be it. But, when Amadeo looks at the desk again for the umpteenth time after all the ways out of this location have been closed, he all of a sudden picks a key up. Huh? What key, where did it come from? It was pure luck I found it, as there was no verbal indication there was anything there to pick up besides the paper, and it was too dark to see the key clearly.
And that is how many of the puzzles are presented. In the dark, with no hints or indications that important actions are required.
The puzzles are actually fairly interesting, with a good mix of inventory and logical types. But, there is no direction or instruction on how to solve most of them. No dialogue hints, and not many journal notations on them. I will confess that I resorted to a walkthrough very early on, which takes much of the fun out of these types of games.
The bottom line of this game is that it is a classic example of what could have been. The wonderful plotting and great animation of the characters, plus an interesting story, all combine in a visual manner that is engaging. But, the interface is the game, and this interface is horrible. Not many players will stick with the game because of the undue frustration caused by the bad controls and total lack of direction for the puzzles. That is a shame, because this could have been a good adventure game.
Review Scoring Details for Dead Reefs
Despite the good story, great graphics and nice characterization, playing this game isn’t any fun. The interface is painful.
Wonderful graphics and animation really serve to set up the game’s story. The only drawback is that everything is dark and dreary appearing, which can make it hard to see needed items in some of the locations.
The music is also good and is well-suited to the themes during most of the game. Sometimes the tunes seemed a little inappropriate, as when a melody that you would more likely hear during a “searching” or “questing” part of the game would play during a discussion of murder and death, but usually the music was right on target.
The puzzles aren’t too difficult in themselves, but due to the lack of direction and hard to find objects, they can be tricky to solve.
Whoever thought this interface was a good design needs some counseling.
This could have been a really fun adventure game. The atmosphere is great, and the story is presented in an intriguing manner. Watching the characters while talking to them is a treat, as they are animated exceptionally well. However, the interface is the game, and this interface is frustrating and clumsy in the extreme. Most players will give up and not continue, because it’s just not enjoyable.
A great story can’t rescue this game from the clutches of the interface
Reviewer: Anise Hollingshead
Review Date: 07/26/2007