How likely it is that a few Turkish university students make a game about two English paranormal detectives solving a case in 1930’s Czechoslovakia, and their chosen genre is an interactive visual novel which resembles a stage play adaptation of a dark screwball comedy, told in two acts? Sounds something like that couldn’t possibly exist but here I am, reviewing a conundrum of Misadventures of Laura Silver: Chapter I.
Back in the 90’s, a graphic adventure powerhouse Sierra had a nosy redhead wannabe detective Laura Bow who starred in two much-loved games. Laura Silver is nosy, too, but otherwise she’s a complete opposite of her namesake. Silver-haired, laconic and blunt, she may know her supernatural stuff but she’s not something you would call a people’s person. Together with her colleague Orewell Cooper (whose name is not Orwell Copper!), they arrive at a hotel Pavla in the town of Pilsen in Czechoslovakian republic to investigate a case of water demon Vodnik. It won't be long before their contact at the hotel is found dead in the bathtub. Vodnik travels by water so the culprit seems very obvious. However, the peculiar staff of the small hotel appears most suspicious, too.
While Misadventures of Laura Siver is a visual novel, told in a characteristic and lively cartoon art, it has enough interaction to lead into a branching narrative and vastly different outcomes. The cast pops in and out of the screen and talks a lot, like in a stage play of the period. The script is well-written and punctual with lots of seemingly nonsensical dialogue full of masquerade and misunderstandings colored by suspicions and prejudices There’s no voice-acting, only dialogue to click through and that works nicely with the chosen genre. It’s as close to the machine gun dialogue as it gets, typical for the movies and plays of the era the game depicts.
The first act of the game takes place entirely in the hotel where Laura tries to wrap her head around the murder case. She would like nothing more than pull out her trusty revolver, loaded with either silver bullets or holy water, and blame Vodnik for the death. However, the hulking hotel owner, his screechy-voiced daughter, fluffy maid and the cook who just happens to be the cousin of the deceased, can’t be ruled out. To make things weirder, Laura bumps into a strange kid, Uri von Geldern, who claims to be a 200 years old king of Hannover. And so, the strange stage play unfolds with its peculiar participants. When it to comes down to blame someone for the crime, the game can change a lot, leading to multiple endings. If you were clever enough to piece the crucial clues together, it’s followed by an interrogation where you have to make the suspect crack under pressure. Easier said than done, though, but when you pull it off, you will engage in another minigame where the flow of events must be parsed together. At this point, it pays off if you have been an attentive detective even though the game gently guides you towards the proper solution.
Whatever happened in the first act (unless you hit the unfortunate “early death” ending), the second act is played out at the premises of the alleged water demon. The truth about the strange kid is revealed and a whole lot more, too, if you played your cards right in the first act. Otherwise, it’s just dealing with the usual suspect that will result in a couple of possible bad endings. The true ending, on the other hand, brings back the supernatural tone of the tale and while there’s no interaction to speak of anymore, it’s a long and heartfelt outcome that paves the way for the second chapter of the game, coming at a later date. The developers hope that in the end, Laura Silver’s misadventures amount to a trilogy.
I must stress how much I dig the game’s distinctive art. As an illustrator myself, these drawings, animated just enough to avoid stagnation, really speak to me in their expressiveness. You can clearly read the cast’s personalities and relate to them. The first playthrough takes about four hours, and after a couple of hours more, you have seen everything the game has going for it. It’s not in any way too short, if anything, the limited running time works for in game’s favor as the dialogue doesn’t have time to get dragging. Besides, the developers funded the game out of their own pockets during their studies! Misadventures of Laura Silver: Chapter I is a fun ad stylistic – and unexpected – bullseye that really makes you want to see what’s next in store for Laura and Cooper and their new acquaintance Uri.
Video game nerd & artist. I've been playing computer and video games since the early 80's so I dare say I have some perspective to them. When I'm not playing, I'm usually at my art board.