theuselessgod's TRAUMA (Mac) review

A cute tech demo, but there's really not much here.

The Short

Pros

- A unique point-and-click adventure game using photographcs

- Four levels each with multiple endings

- Effects and photography aspect of the game looks good

Cons

- Absurdly short; you can probably beat it under an hour

- Runs at 800x600 by default...what is this, 1995?

- Voiceover and story, the main focus of this game, are poor

- Doesn't make a whole lot of sense, even with alternate endings

- The photos that have been "touched up" with weird elements look tacky

- Feels like a full-price flash game...because it is

Crushed teddy bears aside, TRAMA really isn't that great

The LongTRAUMA starts interesting. The premise is that a girl and her friends have gotten into a horrible traffic accident, and she's seeing bizarre visions in her subconscious while in a coma. Using still photographs taken in different positions to navigate the world (much like the original Myst games), TRAUMA tries to have both a unique style, story, and adventure by offering branching paths, multiple endings for each scenario, and a quite voice-over throughout.

Unfortunately, while this might have worked, it would have required a very skillful execution to pull off, and that is not something TRAUMA does.

Every world has a distinct color theme about it

I found the game initially compelling. A game like Myst but using actual photos, that are somewhat disjointed in their connection but still trying to tell what I thought started as a compelling tale? Sign me up. The problems start, however, when you realize these pictures just don't look very good. The photos were native at 800x600, like they were taken by an ancient digital camera, so when bumped up in resolution they look stretched. They also try to "add" unique bits to the photos via Photoshop and it shows: the changes look like they drew over the image in pen with no attempt to meld it.The game also falls apart with the narrative. Had it been strong enough, I would have been willing to overlook the somewhat boring locations and photographs and instead focused on what it would be like in the mind of a comatose car accident victim. However, the girl's voice is blasse and airy, like she's just sleepwalking through all her lines, and what she says isn't particularly compelling either. The little side-stores that were part of each scenario were unique and somewhat interesting, but the poor narration combined with the just passable writing isn't enough to carry an already dull experience.

The main goals involve collecting photos and interacting with certain objects.

The four scenarios have branching paths and multiple endings to discover, which is neat if you can stand digging through the same few pictures over and over. Controls to designate which direction you want to go are decent at best, annoying at worst, with you have to draw large gestures with the mouse in order to do simple things like turn around. You also draw certain things to interact with objects, which I thought was a neat way to "solve" the "puzzles" (really it's just searching until you find the answer and then knowing where to use it), but forcing it in normal movement was a mistake.

Where could that photograph be? Hmm...

Despite all my complaints, I got a weird amount of enjoyment out of TRAUMA. I played through and got every ending, taking me about an hour total, and after that deleted it and never looked back. I think the idea of doing an abstract, Myst style game with photographs instead of pre-renders could actually be a pretty awesome indie game, but TRAUMA flubs too many of the fundamentals to be that. It's an interesting tech demo, but as a game it isn't worth your time or money.It's going for $7 on Steam, and I can't recommend it at that price. I got it as part of an indie bundle as a throwaway game, so I don't feel bad that way (or the hour I spent on it), but unless someone gives you the game for free I'd wait and see if a follow-up game takes these concepts and makes an actual "game" out of it.

Two out of five stars.

The chapter titles show how pretentious this game wishes it was, but it even fails at that.
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