|Interface||1st 360 simple||Real-time||minor|
You play Faust, basically an amnesiac. Mephistopheles has asked you to judge a group of people, to determine if they should go to heaven or to hell. The people are all the inhabitants of a strange amusement park -- freaks and other emotionally damaged people.
The characters you investigate are interesting, but not up to the expectations raised by Mephistopheles' pompous introductions. They are too quickly sketched -- almost caricatures -- to engender either sympathy or antipathy. The basic idea of the story is good, including the characters and setting, but the lack of subtlety and depth greatly reduces the impact. The ending also introduces an unexpected twist, making the story more about you than about the characters you've been studying, further deflating the overall impact.
A large part of the story is presented by magic cutscenes activated by touching various objects, and they often contain clues for the challenges. I'm not fond of this style: it's clear that my character isn't really there, thus subverting immersion, yet it's not surreal enough to evoke a sense of a dreamworld. I feel like I'm being dragged along by writers that couldn't figure out how to tell a story and present a game at the same time.
The individual challenges were mostly easy. There were a few interesting ones, and one or two might present difficulties -- you have to watch carefully for clues. There seemed to be a few bugs in the challenges, where the clues were contrary to the actual solutions -- fortunately the "correct" solutions were fairly obvious. The challenges were fairly reasonable as puzzles, but they sometimes seemed to be arbitrary magic when considered as part of their environment -- another manifestation of the game being caught in a limbo between a real world and a dream world.
I noticed some design problems. If you do things in an unintended order, strange things start happening. The second chapter was especially bad, forcing me to restart the chapter and play through in the intended order.
The game is presented from nodal positions showing 360-degree views of pre-rendered scenes. The cut-scenes contain characters, pre-rendered 3D manikins. This is unfortunate, since the manikin technique is not yet well enough developed to present the emotional subtlety that this story needs of its characters. The highlight of the presentation was the lovely licensed music used throughout.
The interface had a few rough spots. The centre of the viewing area -- the area in which you interact with the world -- was too small; I frequently wanted to interact with something, only to be foiled by a spinning world. The game was too quick and/or stupid with moving objects from hand to inventory, necessitating extra clicks to reget an object after a failed usage attempt.
Faust seems to be an ambitious game, trying to examine its characters in depth, to make some deep psychological statements. It never attains these goals. It's too rushed, too sloppy to live up to the initial promise. I admire the attempt, but the execution is wanting.