by Chris Scott
reviewed on PC
Alive and kicking
Everyone keeps saying that the adventure genre is dead and every once in a while a developer releases one just to prove that idea wrong. The Penumbra series is one of those instances and its done pretty well for itself, generating a cult following in the process. Starting with Penumbra: Overture and continuing with Penumbra: Black Plague, developer Frictional Games, introduced us to a creepy Lovecraftian environment, where danger lurked around every corner and solving puzzles is the primary means of survival.
Make no mistake about it, despite its survival horror trappings, the Penumbra series is firmly rooted in the adventure genre. The series has excelled by taking the traditional adventure genre conventions and throwing them out the window. Puzzles tend to make sense and the novel physics-based environment really helps to immerse you in the world. The games have always had a fairly intriguing story and all of these strong points combined, it isn’t hard to see why the series has built such a successful little niche for itself.
All of this brings us to Penumbra: Requiem, the expansion to Penumbra: Black Plague, which is somewhat of a departure for the series. Gone is the intriguing, if somewhat convoluted story as the narrative in Penumbra: Requiem. Also gone is the feeling of danger lurking around every corner. However despite loosing some of what made the series stand out, it still offers a pretty good gaming experience.
It has been said that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. Playing through Penumbra: Requiem I couldn’t help but think of a little game released by Valve last year. That’s right the game is very reminiscent of Portal. From the segmented level design to the environment based puzzles to the loose ties to the main series, Penumbra: Requiem is very much a Portal clone.
Where Penumbra: Overture and Black Plague were story driven, Requiem is puzzle driven. Using the physics engine players will be tasked with aligning blocks and pulling switches to reach an exit and then you will do it all again in a new area. It is all quite fun but unlike Portal, which was in the Half Life universe but not directly related to the main story, Requiem feels disjointed because of its ties. It is nothing that can not be overcome but fans of the series may be a little put off because of it.
Graphically the expansion is on par with its big brother Black Plague, which is to say it is not very impressive. Texture detail, especially up close, is noticeably poor. The coloring is bland and while it certainly fits the overall style for the series, it is also nothing we haven’t seen before. On the plus side, there are some decent lighting effects that help to establish the mood. The mood is further established by the excellent sound design, which outshines the graphics in every aspect. Ambient sound effects help to relay a creepy atmosphere and the game is further enhanced by the solid music, one of the best I have personally heard in a horror game. But therein lies the rub, Penumbra: Requiem is an expansion to a survival horror/adventure game and everything in its presentation points to it being a survival horror/adventure game as well but it just doesn’t work out that way.
Penumbra: Requiem is also a very short game, clocking in between two to three hours, fortunately the game is budget priced making the short play time slightly easier to stomach. In the end the game may not be a worthy addition to the Penumbra series but it is not a bad game in its own right. If you can get past the budget look of the game and accept it for what it is, a fun environment based puzzler, then you should find plenty to like in Penumbra: Requiem.
No Pros and Cons at this time