Still Life

Do you like watching creepy thrillers with jarring camera angles and grainy film? Are dank, rotting crime scenes with blood-soaked clues and mysterious puzzles your idea of a good time? If so, you’ll probably want to check out “Still Life.” Imagine Se7en/8mm David Lynch movie meeting a survival horror (sans the survival) like Resident Evil. With a dark city setting and an absolutely skin-crawling bad guy, you’ll have your fill of entertainment. In “Still Life”, you begin as an FBI agent investigating the latest in a series of grisly murders where the killer has drown and eviscerated his female victims—and if you think you’re getting a censored videogame-nerfed look, think again. They aren’t afraid to creep the hell out of you by showing silhouettes of the crimes…or even the actual murders themselves! If you have a weak constitution, you won’t want to play this game. Being rated “M” they have taken full liberty of language, violence, and exposure (naked victims’ bodies are up-close and personal). For those of you who are unfazed by mature content, there is a lot more to appreciate in the game. There is a high level of detail and polish to the game; intense and suspenseful music punctuates the tone and for in-game characters and backgrounds are darkly stylized with exquisite cut scenes. Thanks to the linear game approach, you essentially play through a movie, so the backgrounds and characters are relatively static. It makes for a fun investigation, but you’re basically just playing through a movie. There are a variety of innovations that help “Still Life” to stand out from other games in the genre. The most unique feature is the game’s “flashback” investigation. The main character pauses in her hunt for the serial killer in the present to re-visit some of her grandfather’s notes on a case when he was a young P.I. in England. You then get to play through the grandfather’s investigation which parallels the present-day investigation in M.O. The two storylines slowly reveal family secrets and heightening mystery as you attempt to solve the cases. The actual investigations are relatively straightforward for a majority of the game, but there are also innovations in evidence gathering. At one point, you use a photograph taken of a fresh crime scene and then return to that crime scene later to look for missed clues. You use the item and can toggle between the photo and the real-time view to try finding discrepancies. The photo is interactive, so you can “click” on the photo to take a closer look. The puzzles are decently challenging and creative. For example, early in the story you must unlock a safe to recover some evidence. You must first find the combination as a string of numbers written on a piece of paper. Then you have to decipher the combination to a safe by translating symbols on a tile into a sequence of numbers. The difficulty is high enough to not feel cheated, but not ridiculously hard so that you throw the game into traffic. The game is not without drawbacks. The load times, while not overly lengthy are noticeable and as previously noted, the game is very linear. You can’t really explore much outside of the path of the game and any important items are very conspicuous. Even the dialogue is limited in variety. You basically hit prompts to progress the story and there is virtually zero incentive to be careful (except that you might miss something and have to comb over the city and waste time). Even though there really isn’t much to the game as far as interaction, the engaging and creepy “whodunit” aspects make it appealing enough to keep playing through and the suspense levels are well balanced. As far as accomplishing what it set out to do (make a thrilling game story), “Still Life” is successful and definitely worth checking out…if you’ve got the spine and stomach for it.

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