The story of Resonance's development would make for a good inspirational movie. It all started started with adventure game enthusiast Vince Wesselman doing all the art and coding himself. His team slowly grew to include a half-dozen other independent developers from around the world. Five years later, the point-and-click revivalists at Wadjet Eye Games helped Wesselman's game find distribution on GOG.com and Steam.
Fortunately for Wesselman, and like most inspirational movies, the hard work paid off in the end. Resonance is a quirky and memorable adventure game whose appeal extends far outside genre enthusiasts.
Resonance is a point-and-click adventure in every sense of the word. There is no other genre whose name so precisely describes its feedback loop. You see something on the screen, point at it, and click. Fortunately Wesselman also added some new gameplay ideas to Resonance that keeps it feeling fresh.
The standout, back-of-the-box feature is the ability to switch between multiple characters at (almost) any time. Resonance stars a cast of four people who come together to break into the vault of a dead scientist to make sure his creation doesn't fall into the wrong hands.
The intrepid cast of characters includes a doctor, a scientist, a detective, and a hacker, so it's usually pretty clear who needs to go where to do what. Switching between characters is seamless, and talking to any one of the other characters for advice will usually give you a good idea of what to do next ("I think Anna mentioned wanting to go here with Ed" etc.). Unfortunately, moving more than two characters around the game at a time gets pretty monotonous. You can ask one of the other four playable characters to follow you and speed things up a bit, but there is no way to select all the characters and have them move to the same place as a group. This led to empty five-minute pockets of play time where I was just getting everybody into the right place, rather than solving puzzles or talking to other characters.
Resonance keeps the hallmark adventure game inventory system, but changes it up by adding short-term and long-term memory inventories. The long-term memory menu shows important events that have happened throughout the course of the game that you can watch at any time, or ask characters in the game about. It is useful for when you come back to the game after not playing for a few days, and you usually get a genuinely interesting response out of other characters when you talk to them about what is happening.
Unlike the long-term memory items, which are curated by the game, the player has complete control over what goes in the short-term memory menu. If there is a person or thing in the environment that you want to ask someone else about, just click and drag the thing into your short-term memory menu, and it lives up there for later use. It's a really neat idea. Rather than combining physical items until a solution pops up, the player has to take in the surrounding people and environment to make progress.
In execution, there are still a few rough patches with this idea. There are some times where a few short-term memory items could have solved your current predicament, but only one of them works. Short term memory also doesn't sync between characters, so you might have to backtrack with another character to "see" a person or thing to use it later. That said, it does represent an exciting direction for traditional point-and-click adventure games.
Resonance has plenty of retro graphical charm. As someone who got into video games through adventure games in the 90's, the environmental art, and the way characters walk and talk, makes me titter with nostalgic joy.
But besides nostalgia, there's not a lot going for Resonance in the graphics department. Wadjet Eye's other must-play adventure game, Gemini Rue, enhanced its dark and eerie atmosphere through the rudimentary lens of a 90's PC game, but Resonance feels a bit "vanilla" in comparison. I can't see anyone new to the genre being won over by the graphics, but if you grew up on Space Quest, there's plenty to love.
Resonance brings back everything that I loved about adventure games, but it also brought back the parts that had eight year old me banging my head on stacks of handwritten notes and graph paper maps.
There is a puzzle near the beginning that took me one grueling hour of trial and error. Over sixty mind-numbing minutes, I couldn't deduce the logic of the puzzle. After looking around the internet, many dedicated adventure fans gave up and found a way around this particular puzzle (if only I had known...) but nobody had found a way to crack the puzzle without simply brute forcing it.
In my ten hours of play time, the rest of the puzzles in the game perfectly delivered the "A-Ha!" moments that make these kind of games so rewarding. But a cursory glance at adventure game forums shows that every puzzle in the game has at least one person stuck in frustration. If you're expecting a more streamlined narrative experience like Telltale's latest output, you might be more frustrated by some of Resonance's brain twisters.
I still hold that adventure games usually best other genres at delivering dialog-heavy stories, and Resonance doesn't disappoint in this department either. The vibrant colors, animated characters, and witty humor couple with the ominous story and a few brutal late-game plot twists that make Resonance feel like a straight-to-video science fiction movie, and I mean that in absolutely the most endearing way possible.
As an unapologetic fan of adventure games--without the Space Quest and King's Quest series, I probably wouldn't be writing this--Resonance strikes a chord in the deepest pleasure centers of my brain, with an aesthetic and gameplay design that harkens back to a bygone era of PC gaming.
Creator Vince Wesselman's passion for the adventure genre shines through every one of Resonance's pronounced pixels. There are a few hitches here and there, but they won't stop Resonance from being one of the best adventure games you will play this year.