Resonance review

In my opinion, this is the best game in Comp 09. It’s not my personal favorite, although I enjoyed it thoroughly. However, if you look at how well programmed it is, how well written the prose is, how well-told the story is, and how many different possible solutions it has (at least three), you will see that this game has consistently good production value. It is, as Jim Aikin sometimes puts it, professionally written.

And that’s especially important, because — with all due respect to Matthew Scarpino, the author of this fine game — there nothing genius being done here. The programming does not make a brilliant leap forward. The characters are stock. Not everyone can write as well as Matthew, but like his programming his writing is more the result of hard work than of genius.

In sum, _Resonance_ is a fine game for future and aspiring authors to study and to use as a model and a benchmark for their own efforts. It is a game of consistently high quality, and that high quality is a result of work within the existing technology supplied by the authoring tools.

Now, about the game itself–

First, I just have to say: What is *with* the paranoia toward hypnotists? Very few of us are out to take over the world. Almost none of us, in fact.

In case you’re wondering, the premise of _Resonance_ is very close to workable. The trick is that the human body doesn’t pick up radio waves. If it did, and you could use the human skull as an antenna, in the first place everyone’s skull is a slightly different size, so you couldn’t generally broadcast to everyone, and in the second place, as the technical information he gives you says, the human skull would resonate at its own frequency — which may or may not be the brain-wave frequency required to induce trance.

And if his facts are right, and the human skull resonates at 2.5 -ish kilohertz, and as he says (and this is right), beta waves are in the band 12-30 hertz, then it’s clear that the human skull *doesn’t* resonate at trance-inducing frequencies.

–It’s a pity he got that wrong, because the brain does indeed exhibit something called the frequency following effect, or entrainment. But it doesn’t use radio waves and it doesn’t work through the skull. The technology he’s talking about uses light and sound pulsed into the ears and eyes.

Just as in a loud rock concert you’ll find your heartbeat synchronizing with the rhythm of the percussion, with a light and sound machine, your brainwaves will synchronize with the frequency of the flashing lights, and you will go into trance. Reliably. It’s a physiological effect.

It’s nice — it’s a better, faster, more emotionally hygienic and pleasanter way of regaining your emotional equilibrium than watching TV. Use beta-wave frequency to go into deep trance, alpha for light trance, delta to fall asleep, and gamma to help you wake up. A light and sound machine costs about $100 – $150.

But, as it turns out, humans in trance do not turn into mind-controlled zombies! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

–Anyway, a nice pulp spaghetti-Western IF-noir plot. There are just a few false moves:

The author unintendedly created a comic effect when he allows you to go through the story with a steel bowl on your head. I had mine on all through my police interview. Then I hit a bug when I tried to put on the guard’s uniform — the computer wouldn’t let me wear anything — so I broke into the compound wearing a steel bowl and, apparently, my underwear.

Generally, a good litmus test to keep in mind is whether an image would make it on the screen of a Hollywood movie. If not, there’s probably a reason for it. The only metal-on-the-head-to-keep-away-brain-control that I can think of was in _Signs_, and that was intentionally ridiculous.

The only serious criticism I have of the story is that it wasn’t meaningful enough. The PC never faces a tough choice. There’s no moral or emotional conflict. Also, most of the emotional stakes-raising happens in the backstory: there, we have a kidnapping and a betrayal.

I know it’s more difficult to do, but really that stuff should be in the front-story. The player should go through it personally. And we should face a difficult moral or emotional choice that shapes the outcome of the story — perhaps, will we kill the friend who betrayed us, even though we understand it wasn’t his fault? Making the wrong choice could influence the endgame.

All together, though, and even with the quibbles above, this is a thoroughly well-done game, which I encourage authors to study. This is how you do it.

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Published in: on October 27, 2009 at 10:43 am  Comments (3)  
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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. “The author unintendedly created a comic effect when he allows you to go through the story with a steel bowl on your head.”

    It seemed to me that the comic effect was quite intentional. Did your play-through involve the sequence were you use a candy wrapper as a hat and feed a garlic-yoghurt flavoured candy to a rabid attack dog? That can hardly be unintentionally non-serious. :)

  2. Could be! — but this comic effect undercut the game, rather than enhanced it.

    The candy wrapper I didn’t buy, but it was in amongst so much science fiction that I didn’t buy that it didn’t stick out. Didn’t strike me as funny.

    The slavering guard dog who you bribe with the yogurt-flavored candy bar reminded me so much of a doberman I had when I was a boy that it seemed entirely reasonable to me. Also a bit funny. But that was humor that suited the narrative.

    Conrad.

  3. Reading other reviews of this game, I see that some people got much buggier plays of the game. I surmise that I lucked out and got something more like the game the author intended than did others.

    Probably because I follow authorial prompting, generally.

    Conrad.


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