Review: Louisiana (PC)

Louisiana
(Slowakia 2012, developer: Silver Play Entertainment, publisher: Deep Silver, platform: PC)
louisianacover
Undercover investigator tries to solve murder case in 1902 Louisiana.

Adventure games in our modern times usually have the biggest problem which puts them in a smaller niche than other genres: linearity. Louisiana tries to circumvent this by introducing interesting new game mechanics. But does it all fit together, does the storytelling and overall presentation do it justice? Read on…

Deep in the south where people and storytelling disappear
There is definitely some kind of story hidden behind the non-existent cutscenes. Only it is so badly told the player loses interest pretty quick. Something about murder, something about betrayal, something, something. More like something very boring. It doesn’t help that the characters are all rather forgettable. A bad script is one thing, but having an uninteresting main character having conversations with even less interesting NPCs in a gaming world which doesn’t offer anything of intrigue is inexcusable.

Missing cutscenes could easily be excused because of the low budget, but having no real transitions between the scenes and the same locations reused again and again doesn’t make the whole affair very intriguing to play through. Lack of suspense is the biggest problem, and even if murders are happening, the player seldom gets an idea how they were executed and why. The story becomes even more convoluted the more time the player invests in it. And after a short playtime of around 5-7 hours with a horrible ending one does not only feel dissatisfied as an adventure player, but also quite flabbergasted how bad storytelling can turn out.

Louisiana15

Originality is key
Stil not all is lost as the game still offers some interesting and original gameplay ideas which are rare in the genre: characters reacting to the player’s behavior and different approaches to solutions.

In many adventure games, linearity is predominant in so far that there is usually only one way to talk to a character and one specific way to solve a puzzle. In Louisiana each individual character can either behave in a neutral, positive or negative manner, depending on how he or she is approached by the player. There is even a stats screen showing what the NPCs think about the main character, and only by the choice of words or certain actions can new dialogue options be unlocked. There are also extra puzzles which can be solved and different ways of achieving certain goals.

Execution of ideas not so well done
In theory this all sounds very promising, but when the dialogues and NPCs are as dull as the boring and convoluted mess of a story, there’s really no way to play through the game again or try different things. It’s also not true that there’s ALWAYS another way to get through, because some puzzles just can’t be skipped.

Puzzling boredom
Talking about puzzles. Those come as unimaginative as can be. Some even come in pairs, which is very strange. Not only are they badly implemented in the game world (e.g. why solve a chess puzzle twice to convince a character of one’s intelligence?), it more than once seems they are simply in the way to tell a story. A lot of items are randomly placed and because there’s no hotspot key, they are often overlooked.

Louisiana08 night

As the environment is usually very empty, it’s even weirder to find those items at the most-unlikely places. Still as there’s usually not a lot of space to maneuver and the puzzle solutions are seldom as difficult as in many contemporary adventure games, at least it doesn’t take too long to progress.

Helping hands which don’t hold
It’s a good thing there aren’t a lot of difficult puzzles, because the help system in a sort of notebook is completely useless as it’s not ordered in any way and seldom offers competent advice. Having the protagonist remain silent when picking up items isn’t good either, and the other characters often say what they want but leave the rest to the player’s running-around-til-something-is-found method.

Technological regress
The graphics engine doesn’t impress, but there are certainly worse 3D third-person-adventures out there. The surroundings are all pretty empty and there’s not much of moving background detail. Some locations are actually nice to look at, some are not. The characters themselves lack the same level of detail and move like in games from long-forgotten times, while lips-moving is out of the equation as well.

Louisiana01

What is also quite annoying is how unfinished the product seems: System crashs, freezes (at the end I could only complete a puzzle with the help of another save game I got from someone else) and situations when conversations with characters from other chapters (which are invisible except for the mouse indicating there is someone to talk to) are possible, are something which will hopefully be fixed with a future patch.

Sounds not so bad
At least the sound department offers a bit more variety and quality: Voice acting in the German version is actually quite good, even if the tutorial narrator and some characters seem to be reading their lines without knowing the context (or anything about sentence structure and intonation). Too bad the overall good voice acting is lost on the mess of a script.

Louisiana03

Music is also nice to listen to and at some points even creates some atmosphere (even though it also inexplicably stops playing after a while). Again the game’s pacing is in the way as without any dramatic elements or cut scenes, the player’s involvement is kept to a minimum.

Independent failure with promising elements
It’s really a shame that a game with such good and to a certain degree innovative ideas lacks the polish necessary to elevate it above mediocrity. Louisiana doesn’t even come as close as that, as an uninteresting story, forgettable characters, together with unimaginative puzzle design and a bad presentation with plenty of technical hiccups make it an indie game which should have been left in the swamps of the title-given location. It is recommendable that a publisher finally released it, but in this form it needs more than an overhauling of game mechanics, the elimination of technical issues to be acceptable to play: mainly something like good storytelling which is lacking in every part of this adventure.

Rating: 4/10

What the developers wanted to achieve can be seen in this trailer which doesn’t really tell much of the story:

Buy the PC game on
Amazon Germany

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About nufafitc

Being an avid gamer, cinemaniac, and bookworm in addition to other things the internet and new media present, I'm also very much into DIY music, rock and pop in particular. Writing short or longer pieces about anything that interests me has always made me happy. As both an editor for German website "Adventure-Treff" and UK website "Future Sack", I like to write reviews and news about recent developments in the movies, games and book industry.
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