Tears of Betrayal
Release date: 28.11.2005
Game language: English
USK/PEGI: no rating
A review by slydos 11th March 2006
The Belgian independent developers from FrixxIt offer us a 3D 3rd-person adventure game with "Tears to of Betrayal". You can purchase it through the homepage. According to developer's statement the game is guided by the old classics of Sierra and LucasArts.
If we take a closer look at the game's handling, we can rather ignore LucasArts as a model. Scroring and parser-interface reminds strongly of Sierra, however also strongly of old Legend-titles and similar adventure games, where one can enter both, words into a dialogue line per keyboard and also verbs from a list per mouse-click. From the beginning you will notice, that you don't get a point for each individual successful action, as it was the case with Sierra, where you were reliably rewarded for most of the conversations and other doings, which advance the action.
Exactly as we know it since the first King's Quest installment the F3-key causes a comfortable automatic repeat of a text input in TOB. Unfortunately they dropped another comfortable feature, as there is no Sierra-like character speed-up with the +/-keys or by menu. There is also no acoustic notification, if we get an additional point, we must check that for ourselves.
Comparable with the classic games (before the PC-operating-system accepted the mouse as input device and gamers had to depend on joysticks or keyboard), you can also control your TOB-character directly with the arrow keys to spots you want him to go. And when it comes to the crunch you really should use the keyboard, since point&click inputs are possible, but not always interpreted by our hero the way they were actually meant. By the way this also happens after the patch installation. Well, never mind, with the keyboard you can usually free James from 'deadlocked' situations or finally jockey him where you clicked before in vain. With keyboard controls James rarely gets stuck, but it happens sometimes. Then only quit and restart helps.
Otherwise "Tears of Betrayal" runs error free, except 2 or 3 situations, when James movements are lame and one better temporarily switches off all advanced graphics options, like shadows, mirror or high texture quality. The shadow function is a beautiful feature horizontally, but doesn't work on walls, because the shade is simply cut off there!
In order to interact with an object or a person, we must always move our character very close to hotspots, so that he often stands between us and the object we desire to click at and we have to push him aside again a bit. Honestly said, I consider a handling like this unnecessary while using the mouse control exclusively in the object area. We must always position James in the correct manner, to be able to accomplish actions. If we would have a pure keyboard control this ado would be explainable.
It often happens, when we open a door (which easily swings through our body), that we cannot see, whether something lies inside the cabinet, room etc.. Our point of view cannot be changed by ourselves. This happens automatically at certain places, but not necessarily in a way, we would have wished as curious gamers. So if you can't see anything and therefore alternatively try to enter prepositions (e.g. look into) in the text line, then the TOB parser unfortunately no longer understands you.
While we can control our character James with the left mouse button which also opens the menu at the bottom left corner and the inventory list bottom right, the right mouse button manipulates an extensive verb list to select the desired command. If you're hitting a hotspot - for example a can - correctly, the verb is automatically linked to the appropriate noun, for example 'take can', and we get an additional comment or the intended action is accomplished. I didn't use the entire verb pallet evenly, but some verbs very often and others only once or twice. Maybe some verbs are only useful in very unusual, not tested variations. Over hotspots the verb list consists of 33 words, else there are 5 terms in the list. Here we can also find the well-known 'look around'-command, which always gives an overview of the current scene, similar to the old-school, graphic-free textadventures. In TOB I have missed a certain change or better say variety of answers and comments. Especially in the outside scenes, the describing texts were nearly always the same, which was a little bit disappointing!
The developers mention 11 puzzles, which are necessary to finish the game and 22 so-called easter eggs, some of them puzzles. Concerning the definition of eastereggs my definition deviates from that: Eastereggs are neither optional puzzles, as we find them in this game, still increasing the score points, nor are they obvious to find out i.e. by normal handling and combinations. TOB has a lot of optional puzzles and game ads but I wouldn't call them eastereggs. These optional puzzles are however fullfilling the replay sense of the old classics, where you could likewise increase or maximize your score. Real eastereggs go beyond the maximum score and are only a special reward for very cunning players or special goodies for those who believe to know already everything about a game, betrayed by the developers to recompense replaying a game.
Here an example of an easteregg by Roberta Williams, she disclosed in the R.Williams Collection: In King's Quest 2 one must leave the scene with the black bat symbol over a cave entrance to the south and return again. If one repeats that often enough successively, one can finally watch the batmobile leaving the cave.
Besides dialogue- and object-based puzzles we find some mini games in TOB, which we can play over and over again to gain money for some tasks. We can also get money using other methods. Here comes an illogical however very satisfying and fast 'feature', if you were able to find out! Who wants to know, how you could stay 'solvent', read under "CHEAT" at the end of this review. We can die in TOB by inadvertence and that also reminds of the old quest-series. Quite similar to Larry, Graham, Roger or Sonny, James will be treated, when using the 'wrong' ways. The roads of Talkstone are dangerous indeed.
When finishing TOB for the first time, a bunch of points will probably be missing, so that replaying is nearly inevitable, if one has only 'some' ambition. Actually this makes more fun than with every 'modern' adventure game, because it gets you down to the most absurd thoughts. Unfortunately only few ideas are really adequately awarded, read - with a suitable saying or reaction - and that is what I would regard as the main difference compared to the classics. There are simply too many identical comments and also too many mismatching or wrong answers. The existence of the text input line makes sense, if you are sailing beyond logic, but offers in my opinion still too little possibilities. The parser hardly understands synonyms, what was a factor of excitement and fun in the old classic games.
The story already starts thrilling. Each time, you begin to play, the motor of the car starts too; the car which sends Roxanne heavily hurt into hospital. This intro always builds up the same foggy-eerie atmosphere. The intro automatically stops, when you load a savegame. Roxanne, the wife of our hero James, gets run over a few days before their 5th wedding anniversary in the otherwise quiet roads of Talkstone in the middle of a crosswalk and since then lies in a coma. Of course James' thoughts center on Roxanne and who would hold it against him when she appears in one of his dreams. But in this dream she speaks of premeditation and attempted murder and requests retaliation. Actually a possibility looms of finding out more about the incident.
The story several times drifts off from completely normal situations into the surreal fantastic and lets us doubt about the psychological health of our hero. However this disorder does not at all exclude a certain eye twinkling humor, particularly if our hero is self-mocking about his hallucinations. Thus put yourself in the place of an apparently normal mental ill man who has his quite funny moments! As it is usually the rule in adventure games, we have to resign ourselves to the quirks of our alter ego and act in his interest, if we want to know, how it all ends. So we support James during his investigations and visit e.g. a fortune teller.
What will happen in Talkstone with and through James - be in for a surprise! In about 8-10 hours you should have finished at least the torso of the game, which however doesn't mean that you've seen all accessible locations, have accomplished all feasible actions and conversations and first of all have attained all possible points. In my eyes the overall plot was logical, while some story details seemed to be absurdly designed, in order to wrap up a passable puzzle.
Talkstone is dipped into a grey veil, dull and foggy the meteoroligist would name it, I think. Even during the night this fog doesn't clear up and seems also to enter the interiors. We experience the environment by night and day, also the visions our hero and other influences are shown by different scene coloring too.
At first sight it's a nice town with houses, a harbour, some shops, a bank, a hospital, a bar, fitness center, park, a pawn shop. But something is different with the streets of Talkstone: one can only cross them by zebras, otherwise one dies in this nice village! The question about the public security-forces arises. Where is the police actually, the municipality? Can't find such facilities in Talkstone and nobody seems to be around to care about accidents and other killings. Only a lonely demonstrator, who pitched his info stand in front of the park entrance, heart-warmingly cares about the life quality of chicken! The playground and the chippy are orphaned and shabby, garbage lies about everywhere. On the sidewalk you are requested to gamble and there's a woman sitting on a bank, who makes no secret, that she has just shot her husband! Abysms! During the day the city is busier, the shops are open and you can meet pedestrians from time to time, who are willing to talk but usually don't have much to say.
Both, the scenes on the one hand, objects and characters on the other hand are still clumsy, rough 3D-models. But the accessible, examinable 'world' is relatively large, self-contained, however freely accessible up to the usual restrictions that one cannot enter the pharmacy at night etc.. Textures were selected suitably and unobstrusively, perspectives and logical environmental design are correct and all foreground objects at least clickable. You will stay at every location for a considerable amount of time, not because you want to admire the plethora of graphic details, as in splendourful prerendered scenes of 2D-games, but because you want to try the plenitude of possibilities to act with the available objects. For an independent game a considerable number of animated and interactive 3D-characters populates the village and already look quite realistic, as long as they remain in motion.
The walking animations succeeded excellently, only when James or other NPCs stop, it gets hairy. James then rather looks like as human masked gorilla! And if we are honest, we really don't want to believe at close range, that he is already 5 years married and leads a settled life of a family man. He simply looks too young. The same with the other characters. These female teenagers, are they nurses, flower sellers or simple passers-by all have a Barbie body and don't conceil a certain model catwalk-training, since they brave any flooring or paving unperturbed on their 12cm-stilettos.
Brave James relatively often runs into walls and other objects, but one can free him nearly every time using the arrow keys. I was very pleased to discover that our character is reflected in mirrors (you can switch this feature on/off in the menu) and throws realistic shades, produced by surrounding light sources or by the sun, which sometimes penetrates the grey. You will however notice that the shadow always ends exactly, where a wall or another obstacle begins.
Facial expressions, gesturing or lip movements are no option. If our hero moves however, then the robotlike impression disappears fast. Particularly the great jazzy rhythms, which exactly beat time to James' steps, strengthen the forward tending dynamics of his walk. Sound effects, music and speech give no cause for criticism and support descreetly the uncanny atmosphere.
"Tears of Betrayal" doesn't tap its full potential by far, but often brings back smiling memories of classic adventure games, which took weeks or months to complete, however actually with as small means as words, ideas and combinatorics. It's good to know that there are still developers, who try at least to add a drive towards interactivity to the genre, which games with eye-oriented consumer graphics took away from it. Of course I gladly behold gorgeous and detailed scenarios, but that never tops the fun, when you receive a special tailored answer to your very personal proceeding, say for instance, as in an old Space Quest game, in which you get this message after a certain sequence of actions: "Now, now, now, what have we here? You haven't found the clue to this file's existence. Yet somehow you know ... Perhaps substracting a few hundred points from your score will teach you! Cheaters never prosper!" TOB has no such game depth, but makes nevertheless a lot of fun and is to recommend because of its easy handling to those, who don't want to deviate from cosy point&click. The game's price has just been reduced to $19,50 + shipping what is a good price-performance ratio.
Total rating: 72%
Adventure-Archiv rating system:
- 80% - 100% excellent game, very recommendable
- 70% - 79% good game, recommendable
- 60% - 69% satisfactory, restricted recommendable
- 50% - 59% sufficient (not very recommendable)
- 40% - 49% rather deficient (not to be recommended - for hardcore-adventure-freaks and collectors only)
- 0% - 39% worst (don't put your fingers on it)
Windows 98/ME/2000/XP CPU 1 GHz 128 MB RAM 600 MB free space on hard disk CD-ROM-drive GeForce 2, 64 MB, standard resolution 1024 x 768 DirectX compatible soundcard Mouse, keyboard
- Windows XP
- P IV 1,6 GHz
- 512 MB RAM
- 16x DVD-ROM (Artec WRA-A40)
- nVidia GeForce 2MX400 64 MB graphic card
- Soundcard DirectX-compatible
It doesn't matter if you've already found a credit card or not, go to the bank near James' house. Imput 'use credit card with atm' in the dialogue line and receive $50 each time. Repeat it with F3-key until a certain amount is reached, about $400 if I am right. Then you get the reply that it's too dangerous to carry more money in the streets of Talkstone.
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