Shardlight: the joy in pointing and clicking

SL-manhole

Suzy Mostaani

I’m a big fan of point and click games. They have a long and rich history in the canon of computer gaming, but unfortunately they are usually overlooked. And that’s not because it’s a dead genre. The internet is a wild and fertile land when it comes to these types of games, and I for one am pleased that the lack of attention in mainstream gaming is providing them with space to be free to flourish. It gives them the scope to experiment away from the curtailing big money publishers. Their relatively simple mechanics force a shift in content balance, providing perfect opportunity for the important elements of any game, like story-telling and character building, to naturally bear most of the creative weight.

Take Gemini Rue for example, a favourite of mine. This little jewel of a Cyberpunk adventure has an amazingly compelling storyline, old school visuals, and just enough of a melancholic atmosphere to make the hair on the back of your neck stand to attention. It’s very reminiscent of the 90’s game, Beneath a Steel Sky (which, I might add, you can download for free).

Illuminating Shards of Light

Shardlight2

One recent release has toyed with my curiosity though. Wadjet Eye’s Shardlight. Basically a post-apocalyptic world (yeah, I know, the industry is oversaturated with this setting, but hey) plays home to your character: a sick woman infected with a mysterious disease called ‘Green Lung’, who’s in search for a cure to save her life. The game has tons of innovative and potent backstory that grips you from the start.

And this is what I love about Wadjet. Their ability to take a well-worn generic setting – this has to be as generic as they come – and turn it into something special. They achieve this through indirect details which you don’t pick up at first glance. It slowly builds on your connection with the characters, the world and setting. And it helps when the setting is made to feel genuine by a great narrative, a spectacular script and prime voice acting; hats off to Wadjet Eye mainstay Abe Goldfarb for this.

But it’s always a shame when a talented team is held back by dated tech, as is the case with Wadjet. They’ve predominantly made their mark by using AGS (Adventure Game Studio) which, in all fairness, is a pretty amazing tool, and in most parts is perfect for games like these. But it does feel a bit clunky, more so with every new release. Awkward action sequences… graceless interface… an unrefined dialogue system… lack of resolution options. That aside, I highly recommend checking this game out. It will provide you with a good 7 or 8 hours of great gameplay, exploring some interesting ideas within a very ‘adult’ setting. And the ending… well, I’ll leave that with you.

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