Coined by the developer himself as an interactive detective drama, does Faravid Interactive’s point-and-click adventure The Samaritan Paradox deliver the mature storytelling it promises?
The Samaritan Paradox
(Sweden 2014, developer: Faravid Interactive, publisher: Screen 7, platform: PC)
A novelist dies under mysterious circumstances, and it’s up to cryptologist Ord Salomon to find his secret last novel that leads to more than just the reason behind his death.
A cryptic book of mixing genres
Plot and character development are rather slow, and it takes a while before the player can appreciate the mix of fact and fiction, with an interesting twist being that the fairytale book reading mixes with the present-day happenings. There are enough thriller and mystery elements to keep the following-leads concept going and engaging. A bit of folklore is also thrown in with Ord reading certain passages of the secret novel and the player controlling another character. Like in The Longest Journey, these parts of the game are sometimes full of wonder at first, even if flying and talking dragons aren’t the most original concepts. Still, what the story manages to do is to fit in some mature themes with human relationships in connection with a make-believe novel world and the real one.
Unfortunately, with every genre mix, or in this case combining fantasy with reality, some continuity problems crop up. It often feels as if the individual chapters are too wide apart, with slow progression in one resulting in neglect of the other. In addition, some mysteries are overloaded with not-so-clever explanations, while the repetitive dialogues and some rather superficial character interactions make identifying with these people difficult as well. This isn’t helped by abrupt transitions to new places, which is due to the technical problems the game has.
The dialogue system is too cumbersome and counter-intuitive, while the inventory is too small to navigate through. The absence of a diary also makes it harder to keep track of one’s goals. Slow walking animations don’t help matters either, while time-sensitive sequences when one can die or fail are another contender for bad game design. The puzzles have some highs with inventive uses of the deciphering methods of Salomon, while the fantasy world also provides some fun distractions. But there are also a few instances when solutions are very obscure, as in the case of coins being arranged in a specific order to open a safe or an awful crane operating sequence.
Same old with new sound
Technically, the indie roots and low budget can’t be overlooked with low-res characters, few animations and less detailed backgrounds. However, the art design has a certain comic book charm to it, while the fantasy setting provides some beautiful vistas. Voice acting is good, even if not spectacular, while the varied soundtrack is a particular highlight, with synth-rock passages and some catchy songs. It’s also included in the GOG release, which is worth the purchase alone.
A spellbinding book and a good game in it
Story and characters of The Samaritan Paradox are reminiscent of a good detective novel by slowly introducing both and without letting go of the reader, or in this case the player. The soundtrack is great and adds to the suspenseful or dreamy atmosphere. The only downside in addition to the outdated graphics and problematic inventory/dialogue system is the puzzle design. There are a couple of memorable conundrums, but they’re not easy to solve. Few hints seem to be the staple of the adventure game genre of late, which is a shame, because it prevents people to enjoy a rather well-told story that offers more than the standard storytelling fare the genre is used to.
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