Back in the 90’s, games such as The Secret of Monkey Island and Broken Sword were kings of their generation. Their influence on gaming narratives and character development inspired not only the adventure genre, but also the way games are written even now days. They were complex, heavily reliant on an engaging plot and craftily witty dialogue. Yet many gamers nowadays have lost interest in this slow paceed, storytelling style of gaming in favour of something like Call Of Duty. But not all hope is lost, as The Slaughter: Act One brings us back to the glory days with a concept resembling The Secret of Monkey Island meets Jack the Ripper. Sounds awesome; But is it? Or does its homage to 90’s point and click adventure make you feel as though it should go back in time to the 90’s and stay there?
The Slaughter is designed as a classic point and click adventure where lateral thinking, problem solving, and talking with various folks are the main focus of game play. We take on the role of Sydney Emerson, a typical drunken, yet sharply dressed private eye who’s in a spot of bother with the local crime lord. While receiving the second worst beating of his life, he is rescued by a fair maiden of the night called Alice and is taken away to safety. As the night progresses a friendship blossoms between the two and, as you expect with this sort of thing, someone has to choke it. Poor Sydney is devastated and must now hunt down the guilty party, before they strike again.
The Slaughter will engulf players into an elegant and gripping murder mystery filled violence, dark humour, and witty banter. The game’s design is very much a resemblance of 90’s graphical capabilities where everything, from the backdrop to the main characters, is simply pixelated. It’s very rare that the game loses track or drags certain discussions or events without purpose. At moments, the amount of chatter did get a little tiresome, but for the most part the dialogue exchanges between characters and the story do a great job at keeping your attention. There are some bizarre moments of madness where Sydney will enter a strange world with a flying, talking fish and everything is upside down. I loved these segments and felt this could have played more of an important part of the game for puzzle solving, or just as a refuge to reflect on important notes.
What did work well to project The Slaughter to a higher standard compared to most other titles are the infrequent yet intense moments of horror. Segments such as a nightmare had my teeth itching and the violence–though pixilated–was crafted and displayed fantastically. The creep factor and elements of surprise are paced brilliantly.
Next to the immense amount of talking is the lateral side of things; This will be a treat for keen problem solvers. Obstacles range from finding a lost dog in a park to winning an arm wrestling competition with a snazzy contraption. The puzzles for the most part are simple in nature, often requiring you to find objects, combine them, and use them in the right place. But it’s the exploration and finding which can prove the real challenge. It’s about examining the environments in great depth, talking to people you haven’t spoken to, asking the right questions, and remembering where you saw that tin of varnish (When you see it, remember where it is. It’s important). It’s nowhere near the complexity of Broken Sword, but I like that. Broken Sword was great, but at many points it was so complex and long winded in its problem solving that it would be tiresome. The Slaughter has the right balance with a rather enjoyable and rewarding experience to have.
There was one moment which nearly ruined the experience for me: The shuffle penny mini game. This little, simple yet infuriating mini game did certainly break the flow of the game/enjoyment for myself for a little while. The objective of the game is to shuffle pennies across a board and land them in certain sections to win points. But the A.I proves way too good at the game, often landing the most perfect shots. And the board itself makes getting a penny within the scoring sections a complete and enraging nightmare for the most part. It doesn’t help the game feels overly long, and at the end the A.I component will land perfect shots just to mock you. It would have been nice to skip this somehow, whether you pay off the NPC or do something else to gain the item you need.
It is around this event that the game does get a little slow, but thankfully midway through act IV things pick up once again–Not long before a major event happens and it’s the end … Bugger! Yes I know, it’s part one. But please, normally when we see this, the second part either takes freaking ages to come out or doesn’t come out at all. I do hope I can play Act Two soon, as this was a pretty good set up, excusing some minor issues. The quirky gameplay elements of puzzle solving die down a great deal and turn into go here, talk to this person, go there, talk to that person. But the game still has its moments of laughter and sheer horror to excite any avid gamer who loves a good narrative.
The Slaughter: Act One is a great return to the much loved point and click adventure style akin to titles such as Monkey Island. True, it doesn’t bring anything new or dynamic, but this is such a refreshing experience. It’s filled with laughter, lateral thinking, and some pretty gruesome yet captivating horror elements. So, I wait eagerly for The Slaughter: Act Two to continue this rather enjoyable murder mystery.
A PC copy of The Slaughter: Act One was provided by Brainchild for the purpose of this review