Game Over Online ~ Fade

GameOver Game Reviews - Fade (c) The Fade Team, Reviewed by - Fwiffo

Game & Publisher Fade (c) The Fade Team
System Requirements Pocket PC with 11.5MB of storage memory and 10.5MB of program memory
Overall Rating 83%
Date Published Friday, September 14th, 2001 at 03:03 PM

Divider Left By: Fwiffo Divider Right

Any avid follower of the Pocket PC game scene will undoubtedly be aware of Fade's recent release. It was touted as one of the first titles to bring PC style adventure game on to the handheld scene. My first impression from the dark noir like colors of the game was the thought that this title was paying homage to one of the last great adventure games; Under a Killing Moon. Fade, on the other hand, is much darker than that.

Its content is definitely aimed at a mature audience and the premise, much more tantalizing than the average adventure title. The game exudes a quality that is a cross between the recently lauded film, Christopher Nolan's Memento and Mathieu Kassovitz/Jean-Christophe Grange's film, The Crimson Rivers (Les Rivieres Pourpres) . The latter reference is due to its setting. You assume the persona of Louise, an antique collector who self-deludes himself into a shop of importance in a small tiny French hamlet on the countryside. He is quite cynical and aware that what he sells is junk. Despite all of this, the picturesque scenery only serves to make the game more mysterious. The panorama seems too perfect. The residents seem too happy. What should be harmless is eventually questioned. What seems innocent appears sinister. Case in point is the traumatic affair of confronting the police office about the disappearance of your wife Anne. I won't review the details but its scene was incredibly disturbing.

Louise is remarkably cynical because he suffers from amnesia, a disorder that apparently he has carried from his early teenage years. As such, he must record down every detail of his day in a diary in order to constantly refresh himself on what he must do. This justifies the use of the title Fade since at various moments of the game; Louise literally fades in and out of what seems to be totally different lives, into completely different environs. One day, he may be in Paris. In the next, he may be back in his house. The use of this technique probably harkens back to titles like Planescape: Torment or the aforementioned film, Memento. We are engaged in the protagonist's search for his own identity. What makes it stranger is the fact that Louise always seems to bump into his wife's friends. His long-time next door neighbor's residence is organized such that Louise begins to question whether he is actually living there. When his wife, Anne, disappears, a strange symbol is marked everywhere. Louise tries to ask his neighbors for help only to find out to his own horror that he apparently was involved in a violent domestic assault. Compounded to the protagonist's problems is an inability to stay conscious for a lengthy amount of time without medication. Here, he reminds me most of the protagonist in the mediocre movie, The Watcher. He suffers from debilitating headaches that force him to lie down. Louise possesses the same chronic problems, often falling asleep at the most inopportune times.

Fade is presented in a truly classic adventure game style. Much care has been made to make the world dynamic or changing. However, the engine only allows static views of the world. There is no animation so to speak in the visuals. Fade uses a combination of pop-up characters and notably in the beginning of the game, text, to illustrate that things are going on while you move about. The visuals are incredibly subdued and have a dark feeling to them. It is a credit to the artists that every character pictured on screen seems to have dark clouds swimming behind their eyes and they only become increasingly sinister. The visuals are not without their faults though. Many times, it is hard to see anything because of the darker palette used. In one instance during the game, I had a hard time on a computer monitor (tethered to my PDA) to make out the night scenes. Suffice to say, this makes it tough on the battery life if you need high contrast/backlight to make out even the rudiments of a particular scene.

When I say that Fade carries over classic adventure gaming elements, I believe they also carried over some of the flaws that have probably contributed to that genre's downfall in the current PC market. For one, Fade relies on tapping various objects in a particular scene to manipulate them. Often, there are many superfluous functions attached to one. For example, you can always break open a door but there is never a need to. Moreover, your character is too weak to break open anything. The dark palette makes objects hard to find especially if viewed under direct sunlight. Recent PC adventure titles have overcome this with a slightly different approach. Notably pioneered by Lucasarts' Grim Fandango, onscreen persona will turn around to look at objects that need manipulation. Before this, important objects were given a certain halo to distinguish them from the merely decorative ones. The lack of this could simply be because Fade runs on static visuals but still, I found there were a lot of needless Fedex quality quests. It doesn't help that to traveling from your bedroom to the cellar basement consists of maneuvering almost half a dozen screens. From one scene to the next, there is also a noticeable fade effect. Initially, this is appealing but I often wish there was just a way to go from your house directly to town, skipping the already completed intermediaries. Perhaps a bookmark option would be in order. The Fedex style quests also detract from your immersion into the game world. I liked assuming the role of Louise, wondering why I suddenly wake up at Paris. But, going back and forth to a bar from my hotel room three times to take my obligatory medication to start the day is a little excessive.

Technically, Fade weighs in at little over twelve megabytes. For current generation PDAs, the memory requirement is massive. It is obviously advised you store the game on an external storage card. I found myself wishing that the developer could at least split the game up in different chapters, so I could rotate which one I wanted on my PDA. With that type of burden on your system, I was thinking that I'd hear some background score or even selective speech. However, the only audio components present are the several ambient sound effects. The speech may actually be a problem as the developers of Fade are French in origin. There was a lot of written text, obviously in such a genre. Still, I found some translation problems. Your home's living room is initially called lounge and then mysteriously referred to as living room the second time you return. A stool refers to a three-step ladder and there are instances when the action you perform is "aller a". Luckily, these aren't that rampant and I think I still retain a minimal amount of French knowledge to get around them.

The platform I tested on was an iPaq with an ARM processor. There are loading times in the game, particularly during start up, saving and loading processes. They aren't annoyingly lengthy but definitely noticeable enough that it takes the quick out of "quick-saving". Fade is unquestionably more of a game to play while sitting around then on the go. Its sheer size and relative complexity means that you want to devote more than a 15 minute stretch at it, if you wish to be awed by its content. Although Fade is not without its share of technical faults, I was duly impressed by its style. Simply said, the atmosphere Fade generates is hauntingly chilling even from nothing more than static visual scenes. The unwieldy Fedex style quests only serve to detract from this and artificially extend the life of the game. With their inaugural release, this development team has established themselves with the best PDA adventure game, par excellence. It still, however, has quite a ways to catch up to its PC brethren harkening back to the days of the "pixel-hunting" adventure titles. Hopefully next time around, artistic creative genius will be matched by equally innovative fundamentals.

[09/10] Addictiveness
[16/20] Gameplay
[14/15] Graphics
[07/10] Interface/controls
[05/10] Program Size
[04/05] Sound
[02/05] Discreetness
[13/15] Learning Curve
[ N/A ] Multiplayer


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