I just finished the fantasy adventure game Keepsake.
Here's the official summary:
'In an enchanted world of mystery, beauty and boundless imagination, begins the epic quest of Lydia, a young girl embarking on a journey of enlightenment that takes her to the gates of Dragonvale Academy where she will become a new apprentice. Upon her arrival, something is terribly amiss. The campus is deserted and even Celeste, Lydia's best friend who is a scholar at the Academy, is no where to be found! While exploring, Lydia stumbles across a most disturbing object... a doll she gave Celeste as a keepsake. It is now clear to Lydia that treachery and sorrow lurks in the halls of the Academy. Accompanied by a charmed dragon named Zak, Lydia must quickly overcome trials in The Chamber of Passage, understand the secrets of the runes and glyphs, and master the forces of magic to uncover the mystery behind Celeste's disappearance, Dragonvale Academy and the beloved keepsake.'
I haven't played a new game in ages, but I thought this one looked intriguing.
Unreservedly the best thing about the game is the scenery and backgrounds. The castle's architecture is imaginative and impressive, the outdoor areas are strikingly beautiful,- even many of the puzzles are a joy to look at. Unfortunately the characters themselves looked unnatural and blocky. I don't usually like 3-D character depictions, but these seemed particularly clunky and unappealing.
Most of the story was quite engaging. The empty school is as eerie as it is beautiful, and one feels compelled to explore it fully. The puzzles are pretty well balanced, though I found some of them rather dull. Most of them are of the move-the-gear-and-press-the-button variety. Some were quite fun. Others just bored me enough to get hints just to get them over with.
I frankly adored the sidekick, Zak. When you find him, he is a wolf locked in a cupboard, but the truth comes out pretty quickly. Watching him progress from insecurity and fearfulness into a fully rounded, surprisingly complex character was delightful. I love characters like him in any medium. His voice was also excellent.
However, aside from Zak, the voices were all somewhere between uninspiring and dreadful. Lydia (the player character) constantly said her lines in the manner of someone reciting a pre-written speech, not like a real person does in conversation. None of her lines sounded natural. Many of the other voices were positively cringe-worthy. It must be terribly easy to get work as a voice actor for computer games today. Also, the text was frequently misspelled and the speech occasionally didn't match the text.
The Hint system is excellent and easy to use. It was especially nice for those puzzles I didn't find interesting enough to fiddle with for an hour.
I didn't find the ending satisfying. It's not that I can't deal with unhappy endings, but it needed something a lot bangier than it had. I won't give away too many spoilers, but it seemed like an awful lot of trouble for not much. Zak's character development was far and away the most satisfying aspect of the story.
All that said, I did like it, and I miss having it to play now that I'm done. This is the first game for the Montreal-based Wicked Studios. Perhaps some of the problem is a language-barrier. They have some real talent, but they need to do more refining and, by all the deities, find some better voice actors next time!!
For Zak and the scenery: *****
Everything else: ** 1/2
If you must talk about something that isn't about grue slaying, adventuring or even drinking some of that tasty rye, then do it here.
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