‘The Act’ Game Review
Growing up in the arcades of the 80's, one of my five favorite games was Dragon's Lair, the game that introduced the world to laserdiscs and brought a unique way of playing games that hadn't been presented before. Instead of watching a Saturday morning cartoon, I was actually playing one. Dragon's Lair was so popular it brought on a host of copycats and sequels like Space Ace, Dragon's Lair II, Super Don Quixote and Cliff Hanger. Some were good, some were bad, but they were always fun to play.
React Entertainment and Chillingo (perhaps my favorite publisher of iPhone games) have teamed up to bring back that nostalgic feel of animated arcade treasures with 'The Act,' a touch game where subtle movements takes place over twitch directional control to advance to the next scene. It's an innovative way of playing an animated adventure, but is it worth the purchase?
Your goal is to help Edgar – a window washer who has to try and keep his job, save his brother from a lobotomy and win over Sylvia, the girls of his dreams. The story is presented in acts, and the lovable and goofy Edgar reminded me of Dirk the Daring, another bumbling buffoon trying to do the right thing.
The animation in The Act is top notch. I loved the look of the game. The colors pop on screen, the characters have that fantastic 90's Disney feel to them and their expressions, which are the "flashing lights" in this type of game, are really spectacular to watch. Edgar's expressions range from confident and goofy, to shock and dismay at his surroundings and the people he interacts with. The character of Sylvia reminded me of Jessica Rabbit, only this is the girl that you'd meet at a bookstore and not the nightclub. I can now understand why some of these weirdos in Japan literally fall in love with anime characters. (I can't believe I just wrote that.)
Instead of Up, Down, Left, Right and an action button, there are only two gestures in The Act – left and right. But it's not as simple as that. For example, if you're trying to get Sylvia's attention at the club (a place that Edgar daydreams about meeting her) just swiping to the right won't get him to advance the the scene. He'll practically maul her while she's sitting on the bar stool. You have to wait for the right cues from the character you're interacting with before the scene can advance. Swipe softly to the right and he'll make small, confident gestures that will get her attention. If you're trying to fit in with a group of doctors, how hard you swipe and when you swipe will determine if the scene advances or not. Laugh too hard at the doctor's joke and he'll think you're nuts. It takes a lot of trial and error to get it right, and it can be very frustrating at times, especially the last scene in the game.
While the gestures provided are novel, and a different way of approaching this kind of game, it can actually take quite a bit of fun out of the experience if you're stuck trying to advance. But once you get it down, the next time you play you'll breeze through the game. It took 56 takes for me to complete The Act the first time through. The second time? 20 takes. And 18 of those were spent on the wall punching last scene. A scene that reminded me of the game 'Karateka' (I'm gonna go way back here) on the Commodore 64 and Amiga, where one wrong gesture at the end was greeted with a high kick to the face by the princess you were trying to rescue. But back then it was a tad harder to pick up your computer and toss it out the window (it's easier now with tablets).
There is one section of The Act which I found fun to play, and that was the chase through the hospital, where you swiped left and right to avoid characters and hazards on screen. If you go through it just once, you'll miss the crazy things the characters in the background are doing. It's small details like this can help make up for a game's shortcomings. Speaking of short – The Act is just that. Short. Once you've beaten it, you'll breeze through it a second time, making the replay value practically nonexistent. And for $2.99, I was hoping for a lot more gameplay than what I got.
The sound and music are fantastic. The music helps give you clues as to your progress in a scene. Make the wrong gesture and you'll notice the music change. There's no dialogue which I found disappointing. I would have liked to have heard even a few simple words or laughs from the characters. Perhaps they'll add that in for the sequel. There are no achievements, no awards or extra things you need to purchase.
This is old school laserdisc type gaming with a unique twist. The animation is stellar, but the gameplay can be frustrating the first time through, and a breeze the second time, so there's not a lot of reason to keep the app on your device once you've beaten it. I'm looking forward to a sequel, but hoping they really expand upon the characters and world and give us more than what was presented the first time around. I loved what React Entertainment was trying to do, but disappointed that that this act ends before it even begins.
App Store Link: The Act | By React Entertainment/Chillingo | Price: $2.99 | Version: 1.0 | 512 MB | Rating 12+