by Tom Mackey
reviewed on PC
It's about time
In a world of high octane adventure games, cinematically produced at scales of epic proportions, Perils of Man provides a short but sweet taste of the classic adventures of old. At its core it is a point and click adventure game with 3D animation and puzzles reminiscent of a rubber chicken with a pulley in the middle. But what makes Perils of Man stand out for me, is its unique brand of quirky charm and fantastic graphical style. This isn't a game without flaw though and it ultimately fails to achieve the kind of impact it is clearly going for.
Let’s talk about the story first, seeing as that seems to be what is really supposed to suck us into this world. You are Ana Eberling, the latest generation of a family that has a reputation in the world of science that is both impressive and full of mystery and intrigue. Ana is on a mission to solve the mysteries surrounding her family, and chiefly amongst them, why her father, her grandfather and her great grandfather all disappeared at the height of their careers. What follows is a time travelling conundrum that spans four generations. Throughout the story, which took me roughly 3 hours to complete, you get the feeling the developers are really trying to impress upon you how profound this all is. Aside from the quirky humour that is laced throughout, there are continuous indications that there is something slightly more serious and perhaps even sinister at play here. But ultimately the game falls foul of the one thing it is trying to play with, time. I feel like had the game been longer it may have been better able to make me feel like I was experiencing something with a profound and deep meaning. Instead though I came away feeling like I’d witnessed someone take a valiant swing but ultimately miss when it came to the final hit. That being said, it certainly keeps you intrigued enough throughout to want to find out where everything is leading.
The dialogue and voice acting are quite strong which certainly helps to immerse you in the game's surreal atmosphere. There is something just slightly ‘off the wall’ about the way characters deliver their dialogue and it helps to give Perils of Man a unique feel when comparing it to other similar adventure games. What really sets this game apart though, is the wonderful art style. At first it feels slightly reminiscent of stepping into a Tim Burton film. The characters teeter on that line between looking purely animated and actually looking like they could be stop motion puppets. In fact, it may be that similarity to Burton’s unsettling style of animation that really helps to give this game its unique feel. As mundane as the events occurring might be, there is always something keeping you on edge that you can’t quite put your finger on and I think the art style has to take a lot of the credit for that. If you look closely it’s also possible to see some similarity with the style of some of LucasArts most renowned adventure games like The Curse of Monkey Island. This may have something to do with the fact that the game was in part designed by Bill Tiller who had design roles on many of the popular LucasArts titles.
Tiller's involvement may also go some way to explaining the nature of the some of the puzzles you encounter during Perils of Man. For the most part the puzzles are not too outrageously challenging. Most of them can be solved by simply taking the time to study the environment and click on everything it is possible to click on. Then it is usually just a case of choosing the item you've collected that fits the gap. But not all of the solutions are so obvious at first glance. Sure, you could probably get through the game solving every puzzle simply by trying every item in your inventory. But take one particular example where the only way you can progress is by combining a particular item with the sky, not another object, but the sky. The game does not make this immediately apparent and it took me a frustrating amount of time and experimentation before I worked it out. This is a problem that has been present throughout the point and click adventure genres history though. In fact it’s probably safe to say irrational or completely obscure solutions to puzzles are a staple of the genre. So if you approach the game with that in mind you might fare a little better than I did. But I’m all for games not spoon feeding me solutions so an obscure challenge is still preferable to no challenge whatsoever.
The perils of game design
As far as the actual gameplay is concerned, I did encounter the odd awkward camera angle and points where I couldn't click on items I should have been able to click on. In places it does feel a little like the aesthetic design of the environments may have come before the practical design. I was walking into objects and missing doors fairly regularly which did pull me out of the experience a little. When playing games in which you can explore a 3D space I do expect to be able to explore every side of the environment. But the camera is always fixed on one side and doesn't move a great deal with your character, which makes exploring a little awkward at times. This may stem from the fact the game was originally developed for mobile devices, when on PC we are accustomed to a little more freedom.
Perils of Man is certainly an interesting game. Though it didn't necessarily succeed in making me feel like I’d had a profound experience or leave me considering the story's implications, it didn't leave me feeling nothing at all. The art style and the general atmosphere of the game definitely make it stand out from others in its genre as something familiar yet strangely unique. For all of the meddling with time Perils of Man focuses on, it feels like time is the one thing it needed more of to really develop itself into another classic adventure game.
Fantastic art style, strong dialogue, challenging puzzles for the most part.
Story falls a little short, awkward camera.