Still Life

8_1Microids’ Syberia and Syberia II told deep, richly textured stories that captivated diehard adventure fans and casual ones alike. It sold quite well, and the idea was begging for a rehash. Still Life appears as though it has exactly the same goal, only it travels a rather different, darker path. In an early demo of the game, the word “mutha-bleep-er†was integrated more than once or twice into the vernacular. The theme and feel of Still Life travels along the lines of something like the hard-boiled, decidedly M-rated film, Seven.

The game appears to be almost a spiritual successor to the developers’ mystery adventure Post Mortem, and stars young FBI agent Victoria McPherson (kin to the earlier game’s Gus McPherson), whose sleuthiness is, shall we say, a bit more Clarice Starling than Nancy Drew. She is investigating a fifth serial killing in present day Chicago, but during some R&R at her family’s home, she discovers that her grandfather had encountered something very similar as he investigated a series of cases in Prague in 1929.

You play as the younger and the older McPherson as the action switches between the two eras, and, during seven chapters, you try to get a handle on today’s murders and what their relationship might be to the earlier ones. The traditional point-and-click interaction is newly joined by arrow key control, but while the inventory objects are 3D (you can even zoom in on objects or rotate them), the 2D art direction is straight out of Syberia II and uses the same techniques with many enhancements in the areas of character detail, texturing, lighting, and shadows. Although not quite 3D, the static backdrops are anything if not beautiful.

4_1Like its predecessor, the game is absolutely gorgeous, and very similar in visual style. Gameplay consists mostly of conversation trees and inventory-based puzzles, but you can now combine items in the inventory screen. The action elements will be played during the exceptionally well-rendered cutscene. There’s tension, intrigue and mystery all around, but the entire affair is a very linear inventory-based puzzlefest. The story, however, offers enough to keep players glued to the game for beginning to end.

With an M-rating and some decidedly Jack-the-Ripper moments, the game certainly qualifies as “edgy,†and since it overcomes most of the problems encountered to Post Mortem players, it stands a good chance of continuing Microid’s legacy of engrossing, heavyweight adventure games.

System Requirements: Pentium III 700 MHz, 128 MB RAM, 1 GB HDD, Win XP

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