by Caitlin Roberts
reviewed on PC
Not just another ordinary adventure
Still Life 2 is unlike any other adventure-puzzling game I have played. I don't mean in the Big Flashing Neon sign shouting ‘new’ or ‘different’ sense, nor is it the “what the hell were they thinking?” kind of way. No, Iceberg and Microids have worked a subtler magic in this sequel. Still Life 2 allows the adventurer to settle comfortably into the familiar ebb-and-flow which we who love adventures have come to know as the standard pattern. And just when you are well and truly sucked in, happy in the knowledge that you know what to expect and that all of the elements of a really good sleuthing experience are there, Still Life 2 takes the genre one step farther. I won't lie and say it's absolutely perfect, because there are a few weaknesses, but it's been a while since I was really caught up in an adventure game the way this one has caught me.
The (back) Story
The storyline can't really be discussed without also touching on the back-story. And there is a lot of it in Still Life 2. Not having played the original Still Life, I at first found the lengthy sequence detailing the history to be interesting, if a little heavy and dissociative to the viewer. At the outset of the game, it is more like watching a movie than playing an interactive adventure. Once you're past a certain point however, all that improves and by the time you are properly into the game it does become clear why the back story was so necessary. The history lesson takes you through some of the highlights of the original Still Life, accompanied by a dark and dramatic classical track, leading up to a gunshot that sends the masked killer starring in the scene falling backwards into an icy river, only his mask remaining. A change of scenery puts you into a hotel room observing a phone call between FBI coroner Claire and Victoria McPherson. You will be taking on the role of Vic, for now at least. It is January 2005 and you are in LA, tracking down more leads on the guy that you recently shot into the river. After a review of your case notes, and some rule-breaking assistance from Claire, you track down a tidbit of vital information on your current 'case', and are galvanized into action, flying off to interrogate your boyfriend, of all people.
The real story
Let me guess. You thought that was the storyline, didn't you. Well, it is... and it isn't. You'll be seeing that storyline again, later, but for now, you have a new story to discover. It's October 2008 in Chicago. You're back with the FBI, and working on a case hunting down the East Coast Killer. This monster's been killing for nearly 3 years, and no one's made any real headway on the case. You yourself have been following leads for the past six months, and the problem is that this killer just isn't making the mistakes you need him to make in order to get anything solid on him. And the TV newshound, Paloma Hernandez, isn't cutting you any slack either. Publicly. When she calls to try to set up a meet with you to trade information for exclusivity on the case, you turn her down flat. Unfortunately for her, because she's about to become the next victim of the East Coast Killer.
The REAL story. Really.
Gotcha again. You're not Vic anymore. You're Paloma, and you're on your own now. The killer has just left you captive in his bridal suite, an electric collar fastened around your neck and no way to reach the window or the door without getting electrocuted. You have no way of knowing if anyone even knows you're missing, let alone where you are. Your only chance for survival is to make it happen yourself.
And this is one of the many twists that I cannot recall coming across previously in an adventure game. Yes, they happen at pre-determined points, which allows the game to continue in the linear plot format we are so accustomed to, and yes, the first time that you flip characters you will find yourself disoriented. This will pass and you will find yourself actually looking forward to your next opportunity to play the other character – or discover clues to the current situation in one of Vic’s flashbacks. It creates the perception of a whole new level of participation in the game, so that even if you’re actually solving the same number of problems, it doesn’t get… stale… the way the repetition of adventures sometimes can.
Sudden plot twists will keep you coming back for more.
None worth mentioning.