[SPOILER ALERT: This article contains spoilers.]
Dark, creepy, short. That’s how I would describe The Dead City, another Wintermute game, in three words.
In The Dead City, one plays a writer whose mind is plagued by his girlfriend’s grisly death. Having done his time in what he calls “the madhouse,” he begins to seek further clues into the murder, hoping to bring justice to its perpetrator. Along the way, he also discovers a bigger plot running behind the city’s decadence.
I found the game’s visuals – the introductory scenes, the locations, the interface itself – very appealing, as they were very polished and cleanly made. The game’s introductory scenes uses a comic-like approach in providing the details of the back story. The images of people and animals were obviously taken from actual photographs, but they blended well with the hand-made environments displayed in the game. There was only one point in the game, in Alex Kain’s lab, where the photo effect used came off too banal in my taste (is that what “space and time collapsing” would look like?), but everything else was okay.
It does take a while to get used to the game controls, as the Wintermute engine associates the mouse buttons with a different set of options (examining, obtaining the item from the inventory) compared to the ones used in older point-and-click games (where right-clicking allows the player to rotate through examining/walking/talking/using a specific item, etc. and left-clicking executes the chosen action). However, this is a minor difference; once you get used to it, you should be able to progress more smoothly.
The Dead City uses a heavy mix of gothic and cyberpunk elements in presenting the narrative, and the author unabashedly uses as much vernacular as he can to heighten the effect. The game is well-written, and the puzzles were not too difficult, but if you missed certain steps, you might not be able to progress. I wish it took the protagonist longer to find out who the culprit was, since it felt like the author had rushed the plot along just to meet the deadline.
Nevertheless, The Dead City deserves its place in the Wintermute website’s list of games. The Dead City‘s quality, despite a few flaws, is certainly a testament to the game engine’s capabilities. If you’re looking for darkly themed games, here is one game you shouldn’t miss.