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A fun horror game plagued by some nasty bugs

  • Seeric
  • 07/14/2012 06:55 PM
As a survival horror game relying heavily upon suspense, Picturesque is difficult to review without indirectly spoiling one thing or another so I'll go ahead and get this out of the way first - fans of horror games will likely enjoy Picturesque as it has a good sense of atmosphere, some neat gimmicks, and clever puzzles, but they should be prepared to face some significant bugs, including at least two which can permanently prevent progress.

The plot of the game is simple enough, but suitable. Cecelia is a photographer and reporter for a supernatural tabloid sent on a routine trip to check out a 'haunted mansion', but of course the mansion quickly proves itself to be legitimately threatening and Cecilia finds herself trapped inside. Cecelia's personality and attitude towards her job are both quickly established through a few opening scenes where she talks on the phone with 'Dennis' and later when she seems far more interested in taking a picture of a cat than of the mansion.

Atmosphere is a vital element in any horror game, and Picturesque, for the most part, handles this very effectively. The tilesets used are suitably dark and gloomy and light and shadows are both frequently utilized to enhance the mood. The blood and gore around the mansion are also delightfully grim. The music and sound effects especially go a long way towards enhancing the creepiness factor; making 2D sprites 'scary' is no easy task, but the sound does a wonderful job of maintaining a heavy, suspenseful atmosphere. Being limited to walking also helps to keep the atmosphere intact and the lack of a run button is usually not particularly noticeable as the mansion can be quickly navigated, although being limited to walking during chase scenes can seem a bit silly. There are also a few other nice touches, such as a nod to Resident Evil with typewriter-based save points (thankfully sans ink ribbons), the ability to inspect most inventory items to bring up a detailed, full-screen picture, and lots of flavor text, although the library of all things feels oddly non-interactive at the moment.

There are a few issues which hurt the atmosphere though. Picturesque suffers from some layering issues, such as a cat which looks like it walks on top of trees and fireplace bricks which look like they 'float' in front of Cecilia when walking near them. Objects also can be interacted with as long as Cecelia is next to them, which can lead to some awkward moments, such as having Cecelia face a desk while making a comment about a blackboard behind her. Also, while the character sprites are not really 'bad', Cecelia and her portraits are perhaps a bit too noticeable as being RTP-based while the 'monster' of the game is quickly identifiable as "that guy from the Clock Tower games" even in sprite form and his tendency to run into walls during chase scenes can outright kill the atmosphere.

Puzzles and other gameplay mechanics are handled well. Important environmental objects such as keys are usually marked with a sparkle and those which aren't are usually obvious. As the title implies, Cecelia's camera frequently comes into play and is used in a variety of ways, such as for taking pictures of clues and lighting up a dark room with the flash. Puzzles also have a nice difficulty range and can include anything from simplistic Resident Evil-style "use Item X on Object Y" puzzles to surprisingly devious ones, such as a certain combination code puzzle, but never feel outright frustrating. Chase scenes are also tightly timed, at least when the antagonist doesn't run into a wall, and occur close enough to save points that they give a nice adrenaline boost without making the player lose too much progress upon failure.

The biggest issue facing Picturesque in its current form is the multitude of bugs in it which can either break the game or break the atmosphere. There are multiple moments when an event can repeat or break if the player decides to backtrack, such as Cecelia saying "Hello" every time she enters the mansion if the player decides to go outside while the front door is unlocked and a more severe incident occurs right before the first chase scene as leaving and returning to the room at the wrong time will cause the chase music to start playing, but the antagonist will not actually appear like he's supposed to until the player moves to a different room. The first of the bugs which can permanently stop progress occurs if a player tries to examine any item while standing next to a door they have unlocked with a key; examining an item and putting it away while standing next to such a door will trigger the event to use the key to 'unlock' the door, but since the game gives players the option to toss out keys they've already used, if a player no longer has the key the door will once again become locked. The second progress-stopping bug occurs late in the demo, but it is much easier to encounter and I could not find a way around it even after half a dozen attempts, so I was ultimately unable to complete the demo. In this case, it is a cutscene bug as a new NPC is introduced and says a few words to Cecelia while Cecelia takes a few steps forward, but then it endlessly loops and even 'breaking' this broken cutscene by leaving and reentering the room just leads to the same endless loop of a line of dialogue followed by Cecelia taking a few steps to the right. Although this bug occurs near what I at least think is the end of the demo, it seems to be completely unavoidable and makes for a disappointing ending. These are easily the most significant technical issues, although there are a few others as well which are easy to accidentally encounter, such as being able to trap the antagonist in the same room as Cecelia (or inside of a table) only to have Cecelia comment "I think he's gone" shortly before her death.

Overall, Picturesque is a great horror game in its demo form and will probably continue to be a lot of fun once it is completed, but the game will definitely need some extensive bug testing and fixing along the way.


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Thanks for the review! Sorry about the bugs, I don't have people to do bug testing except for on here (and none were reported after my last upload), and I have very little time to do-so myself being a working father of two.

I'll try to get those fixed before I continue on though!

As far as chase mechanics, 2K3 is very limited in that department, and there isn't really much I can do to keep him from acting funny and having silly issues with walls. I can look into it deeper, but extensive tinkering with the chase mechanics and searching on the internet say there isn't much else to be done :(

As far as the new NPC being introduced, that was supposed to end the demo and present a screen telling you such, sorry I didn't get that programmed right >_<
Thanks for the reply, I'm glad to know that that really was pretty much the very end of the demo anyway.

The chase mechanic issue was mainly only noticeable in the first room of the first chase where it's both big and has a sharp L-turn, but seemed to work much better during the narrower second chase; rm2k3 can definitely be a hassle for things like chase sequences, so working around the issue by limiting player movement to tighter spaces or very open spaces with obstacles (ex: the dining room on the left with the table in the middle makes for a nice 'chase room' even though it's a dead end) would probably lead to less stress and take up less time than trying to fiddle too much with rm2k3's mechanics.
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