Violett

Violett isn’t your normal, everyday adventure game protagonist.  She can move stuff telepathically, has purple hair spells her name with two t's. Like the protagonist, Violett isn’t a normal, everyday point-and-click adventure.  Or is it?  The game is, without a doubt, very stylish and makes a lot of genuine attempts to separate itself from other games in the genre.   Sometimes these features work nicely while others backfire.  The final product is a bit of a disappointment, because Violett is dragged down by the traditional flaws of average adventure games and any attempt to disguise these flaws mostly fail.

Violett’s opening cut scene shows a surly Violett traveling with her mom and dad to a rundown house in the middle of the country.  Through methods that aren’t quite clear, Violett gets shrunk down into a colorful, Alice in Wonderland type bizarro world that she must navigate.  Along the way, she meets all kinds of strange creatures, mostly insects and other small animals, who are either obstacles that require removing or allies that can help Violett in some way.

The game’s most defining trait is its art style and vibrant color palette.  Visually speaking, Violett is one of the most creative games that you will play this year.  Violett’s trip down the rabbit hole needs little exposition, thanks to how brilliantly the game communicates its setting with its gorgeous visuals.  Every environment has a sense of magic to it and designed by a healthy imagination.  This magical world has been integrated into most of the game’s puzzles.  These puzzles frequently require using some sort of exotic device, or finding an object that a gigantic insect needs.

Violett, for all intents and purposes, has no spoken dialog.  Instead, the game’s characters speak primarily in pictograms.  This is also a major defining trait of the game – every clue and hint is communicated visually.  Characters shake their head when you do something wrong.  Pictures tell you what an NPC needs for you to proceed, and the game has a hint system that is essentially a series of diagrams showing you what you need to do next.  The lone exception is with a series of diary pages that provide background on the world, but are otherwise unnecessary.

This focus seems to be a sincere attempt to separate Violett from the pack of point-and-click adventure games on the market.  The game aims to minimize hand holding and instead rewards the patient gamer that carefully observes the environment.  Violett benefits from its lack of hand-holding, but it suffers from it just as often, if not more.  At times, the lack of feedback for why you can’t solve a puzzle is frustrating.  The game’s reliance on pictures and animations to convey what you are supposed to be doing will leave you scratching your head at times.  Some of the clues don’t make sense.    Violett also lacks a function for highlighting useful items and locations in the environment.  This feature has helped countless adventurers avoid the doldrums of going in circles looking for something.  Here, you may get derailed because you didn’t notice an important object or maybe even an exit to the next area.  This is especially easy to do in Violett, because everything looks so weird that what you are supposed to be able to grab, pick up, or manipulate is never obvious.  To make matters worse, Violett has the movement speed of an old lady on thorazine.  It has its moments, but too often, Violett devolves into a boring slog.

The style with which Violett presents its puzzles is unique but when you strip away that style, the puzzles are quite ordinary.  There are some imaginative puzzles that take full advantage of the setting.  For example, one challenge requires you to reach a new area by using rain and sunshine to create a rainbow, which you can subsequently walk on.  There aren’t enough of these, and lots of ordinary ones.  A character needs a widget.  Give him the widget and he gives you a key.  Use the key to get the next area.  Pull some levers or throw some switches to operate a device.  Since the world is a magical one, it doesn’t operate according to a set of established rules.  This trait leads to some interesting outcomes, but it is another double-edged sword.  Deductive reasoning gets overwhelmed by trial-and-error.  Sometimes, Violett can grab something from a distance by using her telepathy.  Other times, she can’t.  A few puzzles get solved by just exhausting what is in your inventory or clicking stuff until you get the desired effect.

Since Violett has no spoken dialog, she won’t be telling you “I can’t use that here” or “I can’t reach that” every time that you do something incorrectly.   Instead, she shakes her head and lets out an annoying failure grunt that sounds an awful lot like she has been punched in the stomach.  This type of nitpick normally wouldn’t merit a mention, but it is one of the more annoying parts of the game.  By the end of this game, you are going to be really sick of hearing it.  Other than that one annoyance though, Violett is very pleasing to the ears – especially its musical score.

Violett’s presentation is unique and pleasant enough that fans of the point-and-click adventure genre might want to give it a look.  However, it is a little too thick for its own good sometimes, and in some ways its style amplifies its flaws when it should be hiding them.  You might enjoy the time that you spend with Violett, but you should approach it with modest expectations and a good deal of patience.