Still Life PDF Print E-mail
Written by bobdog   
Friday, 06 June 2008 06:56
Still Life Logo

Developer: Microids
Average Price: USD $10-20
Official Site
Demo download (from FileFront - 247MB)
Rating: Mature, 18+ (for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Sexual Themes, Strong Language)

NOTE: Still Life is a murder mystery in search of a serial killer, with graphic depictions of violence, nudity and sexual trauma. As such, it is rated Mature.

Modern-Day Nancy Drew
From the moment I played the demo for Still Life, I knew I wanted to play the full game. No, I'm not the type of person into weird kinky fetishes, sadism or brutality, which are on view throughout the game. However, I am a sucker for a good murder mystery/thriller, and Still Life certainly fits the bill admirably. In the opening montage, whirling snippets of video show main character Victoria McPherson with her (presumed) boyfriend as they enter an art studio. At the same time, a tall hooded stranger pulls a dead nude woman across the ground. Scenes of violence are interspersed with scenes of frenetic painting on canvas. We are left to presume that the killer is the artist, and uses blood as his medium. Victoria (an FBI agent and serial killer profiler) is then called away to a crime scene on a cold wintery night. This is where we pick up the story and finally take control of our character.

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Still Life is a realistic adventure game, where you collect items, use them as necessary, and then discard them when done. It is not a Kings Quest, where you must use the duck to lift the crane to open a wash-basin -- none of that goofy stuff. Everything you see a need for, you should immediately know what to do with it; i.e. you are told to take a photograph of a crime scene, so you get tools such as a camera, UV filter for lights, tweezers, etc. It all makes sense, and as a long-time adventure gamer, I appreciate it. And most everything you do need on screen doesn't require an intense pixel hunt but is easily recognizable. If you find yourself missing something, it should be relatively close -- not hours of backtracking.

Within the story, you will visit various destinations in the city to follow up on your leads. You'll also talk to many people, and interestingly, you are able to address both the matters at hand (using the left mouse button), and personal questions as well (right mouse button). You will engage in domestic activities (baking cookies for your dad) and decipher various puzzles to progress. And this is only half the story! The other half relates to an old casebook you find of your grandfather, who was working a case in 1920s Prague that had many eery similarities. (Interestingly, the grandfather's character -- Gus Macpherson -- is featured in another Microids game called Post Mortem).

And is the mystery truly a mystery? Oh yes! Two-thirds of the way into the game, you still have no clue who the murderer is -- in either timeframe -- although you have many suspects, to be certain. Is it the cop partner? The overbearing cop boss who hates prostitutes? The painter? The boyfriend who owns the studio? The college tutor working on a serial murder thesis? Your grandfather? Or maybe even … you?

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Yes, I Swear … By the Moon and the Stars in the Sky
As mentioned before, this is a mature game, and there are tons of mature language, with many characters dropping F-bombs, discussing excrement, and showering mother dogs with love. However, you may be happy (?!) to know that everything is within context and not gratuitous. You get whacked in the head by a murderer, so you'd probably say "Son of a … Sam!" (because it's a serial murderer, of course). You get the point. Conversations are interesting, voice-acting is well done and you can even get into personal questions to further develop your relationship with characters. The characters' mouths move "mostly" in time with the voice-over. And the music in the background is achingly gorgeous.

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Character Assassination
This is one of the few games I've played that really attempts to put some flesh to these three-dimensional avatars on our screen. You can learn more about each person through your line of questions, and the way they act to you and within your presence. You also have a diary that updates itself, and you can read this for more information. Your grandfather's character in particular is very interesting, as an ex-painter turned private investigator, and his interactions with the hookers in Prague is bittersweet, as he is in love with one of them, yet you learn of information from the developing case that answers why he went into a spiral. This game just feels like more than a game, and the people you interact with are key to that feeling.

Humor is carried throughout at appropriate points, with numerous situations and conversations that made me laugh out loud. Add small, surreal features like the fuzzy bunny slippers you wear in your dad's house to making him cookies (with a recipe made out of "love"), and your character becomes even more believable as a person.

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(Another Cereal Pun) They're Greaaaaaaaaaaphics!
The game has graphics -- neither great nor terrible. You navigate 3D landscapes in the game, in a fixed point view of each scene (i.e. you don't move, but the character does, according to your cursor's directions). Most items you might need are, if not blatantly obvious, at least not hidden as a single pixel in the frame. Locations are interesting and believable, although you only have a set path that you can follow, unless other lines of questioning open up areas.

The cutscenes are very well done, and feature a variety of movement and artistic styles. And the paintings that dominate the game are creepy yet realistic.

Puzzle Me This
Like any adventure game worth its salt, Still Life tosses a variety of puzzles your way. Some are simple -- compare two pictures of crime scenes and see what is different; some are cerebral -- if something is missing, where would I logically find it? Some are mechanical -- you need to maneuver buttons in a certain way to get something to open. The worst of these is a lock-picking exercise which forced me to resort to the walk-through to finish (link above!). But overall, most regular people should be able to figure out the answer on their own.

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Mad Manson Beyond Thunderdome
Still Life is a realistic adventure game that pulls us into the creepy world of serial killers and serious investigators. We go through everything that a policeman might experience, from sweeping the crime scene, to identifying bodies, to questioning suspects (with some puzzles tossed in every now and then that actually make sense to the overall story). We also have our "real" life, talking to our partners, baking cookies for our dad, learning about our family's own mysterious past. The climax is satisfying only in that you finally save someone, but it is left open for a sequel (supposedly coming November 2008 as stated in this press release).

Still Life

Game Rated 9.5/10


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