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Take the Rorschach test

This game had been on my list of "games I should play" for some time, mainly because I have this thing for adventure games that has lead me to write my dissertation on them. I'm happy to see that there are still innovations possible in a genre that many have declared to be dead (or at least, to have committed suicide). Rorschach is not a commercial game, so I guess it counts as indie. The truth is that it's not a complete game, but a really good prototype wrapped in quirky and loopy charm. The game designer is Jens Andersson, lead designer of The Darkness, and the artist is Ida Rödén.

I don't want to say much about the story of the game, since it's so short it may give away too much. It's a detective adventure, where you play this tiny guy in black who has to solve a murder in an insane asylum. The gameworld is all in black and white, hand-drawn in a naïve style that makes it look like an illustrated book. There are very few animations, and when they happen it's mostly in a stop-motion style that harks back to short films from the cheap-but-artsy-and-stylish animation school tradition.

The game could have you on looks alone, but it's much more than that. Even though the detective story form is a bit trite, the investigation is quite engaging thanks to the dialogue. All the characters are fascinating, from the patients to the doctor and the nurse, who both seem a tad batty themselves. The innovation that seems to be at the core of Rorschach is the dialogue system itself, where the topics that are mentioned in a conversation can become part of your inventory, and can then be used to request information from other characters. The mechanic itself is not groundbreaking – Broken Sword a.k.a. Circle of Blood did something similar, but in that game you did not select the topics that you would include in the conversation. However, the way in which the dialogue topic is used is exploited rather wittily, providing interesting variations on the same mechanics. The conversation topics inventory works particularly well when you interact with the patients, whose pathologies shape the way you communicate with them.

As I said, I don't want to spoil it. You may want to check it out for yourself. The game is available for PC and PSP.

For being an incomplete prototype, Rorschach is very compelling, and I just hope that through the praise of bloggers like yours truly, the makers get to finish the story. Many complete, commercial games wish they had the charm and mystery of this little experiment.

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