Reviewed: March 31, 2003
Released: February 28, 2003
Dark…twisted…disturbing…evil…and downright creepy are all valid words that can be used to describe the new adventure-horror title, Post Mortem. The opening movie is very cinematic and reminded me of those sinister opening credits to the movie, Seven.
When we join our lead character, Gus MacPherson we find the retired detective living the solitary life of a starving artist in 1920’s France. A mysterious female visitor, Sophia Blake, arrives and wants MacPherson to solve a murder mystery. Her sister and brother-in-law were brutally murdered. This heinous act is told through brief but grisly flashbacks showing the decapitated bodies meticulously positioned in a bed holding their own heads. After a lengthy conversation in which you can control the flow of questions, you accept the case and the game begins.
Post Mortem features:
Post Mortem is your typical first-person adventure with a 360-degree panning interface where you can move around and interact with people and objects using the mouse. You will run all over Paris using the convenient map that keeps adding new locations as they are revealed through clues and conversations.
You can access your growing inventory with the right mouse button then scroll through your items five at a time which is okay until you get 20-30 items and you need to get the one at the bottom of the list. You also keep a notebook that records all the transcripts of your conversations.
When you reach each new location you will explore them for clues and engage the local populace in various topics of conversation than can lead to additional topics and eventually clues about the mystery. It’s all standard adventure gaming stuff but it works really well thanks mainly to the good story and moody settings.
The conversation tree is a bit odd. Your topics look like file folder tabs and each has a question mark so you have an additional click to make before you can ask a question. There is a bit of logic discrepancy in the structure, as some characters will talk about things you already know about. It’s more time consuming than anything else.
The story is set against the artistic sub-culture found in Paris during the 20’s, which ultimately leads to some colorful encounters and witty banter. To make things even more interesting MacPherson has some limited psychic abilities that he uses to help solve the mystery. Unfortunately, this aspect of the game wasn’t developed as nicely as I had hoped, and it ultimately was squandered away to trigger a few additional cutscenes (think CSI flashbacks).
Most of the time MacPherson will have to use his detective skills to solve the mystery, but there are a few occasions and puzzles that require him to use his artistic abilities as well. One such situation has you converting a verbal description into a sketch drawing then showing that drawing to the person for their approval. This originally sounded fun but there are so many possibilities that it could take you many attempts before you finally get it right. There are other puzzles that aren’t terribly difficult if you have been paying attention. The game is very good about providing all the clues you need to solve any problem.
One interesting gameplay twist is the multiple paths you can take to reach certain destinations. This quickly becomes evident when you visit the hotel and speak with the desk clerk. If you are charming you can get him to let you into the crime scene, otherwise you may have to take an alternate route that leads to new possibilities. There are no “wrong” ways to do anything, only different ones and this leads to some nice replay value.
The story becomes quite engrossing as the killer strikes again and the corrupt police, mysterious client, a stolen heirloom, and a secret Brotherhood all combine to create a mystery of epic proportions.
The movies and 3D backgrounds of the game are excellent despite their dark and moody themes. The characters look pretty decent until they start to move then things get a bit jerky with repetitive animations and tears in the textures. The rest of the game including the interface, item pictures, and map screens are all excellent.
The music in Post Mortem was done by Robert Marchand and is quite good and ranges from eerily chilling to some period jazz pieces. It provides the perfect backdrop for the mood the game is trying to capture. My only critique is that the clips are just a bit too short and they start to loop and get repetitive. The sound effects are few but adequate for the game.
For the most part the voice acting is excellent with the notable exception of MacPherson. It’s always disturbing when the supporting cast outshines the star whether it be in movies or a video game. The actor that portrays MacPherson is either just really bad or is trying to communicate an indifferent lead character. I know Gus is reluctant to take the case at first but he just seems to lack any personality whatsoever throughout the entire game.
Unlike most adventures, Post Mortem offers enough multi-branching paths that you will probably want to play the game at least twice to try everything you didn’t do the first time through. Even a single pass will take you upwards of 10-15 hours to complete making Post Mortem is a great bargain for only $30.
The box makes it abundantly clear that this game is from the same people who brought you Syberia, and while Post Mortem is quite good it isn’t in the same class and hardly the same genre as that award-winning adventure.
Post Mortem gets several things right including moody visuals, good music, respectable voice acting, good gameplay design, and a slick interface that blends right into the gameplay. All of this goodness is equaled out with a few minor flaws but nothing so serious to detract from the overall experience. This is a definite must for mature adventure gamers or anyone looking for a good thrill.