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Games time forgot: Evidence, The Last Ritual

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evidence

This week's forgotten game is admittedly a very recent one -- it's less than a year old, in fact -- but it's nonetheless a fair bet that you haven't played it, and most likely wouldn't without a bit of prodding. The reasons for this are numerous: it's an adventure game, it's a sequel to yet another forgotten game, and, above all, it's made by the French

Since it's a fair bet that many gamers aren't French (I've been told that French people do not actually use the Internet), and given that adventure games tend to gain very little publicity in this day and age, Evidence: The Last Ritual (known in france as In Memoriam 2) is an alternate-reality slice of gaming that is definitely worth a look. 

Hit the jump for the story on this serial killer puzzler.

jeesus

Story:

The sequel to the similarly-themed In Memoriam (or Missing: Since January for those of us in the states), Evidence concerns the serial killer from the previous game, The Phoenix, who routinely kidnaps, tortures, and murders the hell out of people for occult-related reasons. A main character from the first game, Jack Lorski, has been found dead and two French tourists searching for their brother have been kidnapped. In what must ostensibly be an effort to toy with the authorities pursuing him, the Phoenix releases a DVD filled with puzzles and clues that might eventually lead to the whereabouts not only of the missing girls, but of the Phoenix himself.

This DVD is exactly what the player puts into his or her computer.

Evidence is an alternate reality game: in essence, the player is literally the protagonist, and the entirety of the game's design, from the fake web sites set up by the game designers, to the automated emails the player recieves from ingame characters, to the very design of the game box, lend themselves to creating a (decently) convincing game world that the player is now a part of. Hell, the French version even allowed players to call ingame characters (played by actors, of course) and have real conversations with them.

As a result, the story feels much more interesting: since both Jack Lorski and the tourists carried cameras at the time of their abduction, each bit of the story is revealed slowly and surely as the Phoenix reveals more and more of their tapes. This style of storytelling is really more affecting than it has any right to be: the actors are kind of hammy and the story itself quickly roams into territory already covered by The Da Vinci Code (Knights Templar = snooze), but there's an odd necessity in seeing more and more of these video clips in an effort to find out exactly what happens to these characters. The clips are made even more suspenseful and disturbing given the fact that, from the very beginning, the player is told that the characters shown in these movies have already been kidnapped and most likely killed: watching these characters slowly follow a path that will eventually lead to their demises is pretty damned unnerving, at times.

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Gameplay:

As said earlier, Evidence is an alternate reality game. This means that, in addition to the numerous ingame puzzles one must solve, the game also forces the player to use the Internet in order to find clues which will then be used to solve ingame puzzles.

For example, the Phoenix may show the player a satellite view of a location and ask the player to type in the name of the boulevard he has highlighted. Since the Phoenix only provides this satellite picture and the ingame videos never explicitly state the name of the street, the player is forced to alt-tab out of the game, use Google Maps, and find the name of the street through meticulous searching. The task is time-consuming and difficult, but ultimately that much more satisfying when the puzzle is finally solved: instead of being forced to accomplish some silly inventory puzzle or ridiculous Myst-style engineering problem, the player has actively used everything at his disposal to solve the puzzle. Additionally, the player may be asked to find "fake" websites created by the developers in order to find out more information about historical figures or quotes.

However, this alternate reality puzzle solving brings up a problem: how does one search the Internet and find the "fake" websites, without running into actual walkthroughs for the game? Missing: Since January was an entertaining game for a few weeks, until the devoted adventure game community posted walkthrough upon walkthrough, essentially flooding Google with solutions to the game. This pretty much ruined the experience for those who wanted to beat the game the "real" way. 

Evidence attempts to solve this problem by setting up an official webpage for everyone who has bought the game, and by providing their own, specific search engine for the player to use. This is a great idea, save for the fact that when I said "their own, specific search engine" I meant "MSN Search, but with the words 'walkthrough,' 'evidence,' and 'solution' filtered out." As creative a solution as this is, it is extremely problematic. To put it bluntly, MSN Search sucks balls. When you're only looking for the game's fake sites the search is decently effective, but if you want to find more general information (say, about the Templars, or Dante), most all gamers will eventually have to use Google, which, in turn, reveals walkthroughs, which...etc.

Not to mention the fact that often times, the game will require the player to uncover general information, but to have specifically uncovered it from one of the game's fake sites. For example, I had to solve a puzzle involving a quote from a famous musician. After entering the musician's name, I was taken to another screen where I was asked a random question about a piano selling company, and the man who owned it. Where did this come from? Well, evidently, when I found out that Bach was the man who said the quote, I found out from the wrong source. I got it from Wikipedia, but the game wanted me to find the information on one of its own fake sites, which happened to be the same piano merchant the Phoenix was asking me to identify.

Still, these flaws are to be expected for such an original and unusual game: if you're willing to slag through MSN Search and rely on clues from email characters instead of resorting to a walkthrough, Evidence is one hell of a fun and challenging experience.

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Why You Probably Haven't Played It:

If you're a European, there's a good chance you have -- the adventure genre is much more alive in Europe than it is in North America. But since I am an American, and I therefore assume that we are the only country in the world and there be dragons in any location more than five meters beyond our borders, I'm going to take a leap of faith and assume you haven't played it.

Even ignoring the whole foreign angle (you can tell all the cutscenes in the game were shot once in English and once in French -- despite the fact that Jack Lorski's voiceover is in perfect English, he speaks in a thick French accent when he's actually onscreen), Evidence is pretty unconventional, even for an adventure title. Alternate reality games are few and far between, mostly due to the fact that they're extremely difficult to execute as playable adventures, and are usually only relegated into small bits of entertainment that usually serve as viral marketing for some other product (ilovebees, anyone?). 

That being said, Evidence handles alternate reality pretty well: it (at least in the US version) doesn't aspire to the lofty heights of the EA's failed Majestic, due to the fact that you won't be constantly conversing with actors portraying ingame characters, which means it does a much better job with what it does utilize. The emails from characters are sort of useless and one sided (you won't recieve a clue email until a few hours after you've gotten stuck on a puzzle, which may be too late considering one might have quit the game or consulted a walkthrough by this point), but they nonetheless help the immersion factor. When you get your first email from the Phoenix killer himself, its tough not to feel a momentary twinge of fear.

So, should you get it? If you're a fan of adventure gaming, absolutely. It goes for about 30 or 40 bucks, which is pretty damn reasonable considering it'll take you a good few weeks (if not months) to complete the game, should you play it the way it's "meant" to be played. The acting may be hammy, the search function sketchy, and the emails unhelpful, but it's immersive, atmospheric, and challenging in all the right ways. Check it out.

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Anthony Burch
Anthony BurchContributor   gamer profile

Lead writer of Borderlands 2, curator of  more + disclosures


 


 



Filed under... #Adventure Games #Alternate Reality Games #Casual Gaming #Games Time Forgot

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