As any die-hard adventure game fan knows, the adventure genre has been going through a bit of a slump as of late. I’m not exactly sure why this is the case, but those of us longing for a good puzzle-solving romp are often found sadly perusing the bargain-bins, trying to find some old looked-over adventure title. All is not lost, however, as quite a few European companies are bringing forth quality games, and some of those gems find their way to our shore. The Adventure Company, who last year brought us the wonderful Syberia, once again heard the cries of adventure-lovers everywhere, and gives us another fun, if somewhat darker, tale.
Post Mortem, as one might guess, begins with a pair of grisly murders. Set in Paris in the 1920s, the game centers around ex-private investigator Gus MacPherson. In a very noir-type setting, Gus is called upon by the mysterious (and, of course, beautiful) Sophia Blake to solve the ritualistic slayings of her sister and brother-in-law. Gus, aided by his sixth-sense, agrees to come out of retirement and soon finds himself knee-deep in a mystery involving occult artifacts, the Knights Templar, and several members of the Parisian upper-crust.
The game plays in a first person, Myst-like view. Players wander around each of several locations in Paris, hunting for useful objects and talking to a handful of suspects. Graphically, Post Mortem isn’t all that impressive. Not bad, but nothing mind-blowing. Most of the backgrounds are pre-rendered, with useful objects sometimes painfully sticking out in all their polygonated glory. There isn’t much in the way of “pixel-hunting” in Post Mortem, for which I am quite grateful. Many of the locations are quite dark, which would make hunting for small items annoying at the very least.
Besides the tried and true adventure game tactic of stealing everything that isn’t nailed down, players must also carry out conversations with several of Paris’ citizens. Most dialogue is handled through conversation trees, and one needs to be careful about what one says—characters will react negatively, and even refuse to help out, if Gus openly lies to or insults them. Thankfully, there are no real dead ends. If one possible solution for a puzzle is no longer available, there are always others. In fact, that’s one of the best features of Post Mortem—there are often several paths to take in solving the mystery, and each path can give a different view of what’s really going on. Usually, adventure games don’t have much in the way of replayability, but players may wish to try a few runs through the game to see everything. In fact, there are even different endings, depending on actions taken during the game. Most of these endings are determined by actions right near the end of the game, however, so those who wish to see all the possible outcomes can do so relatively quickly with a few reloads.
The Puzzles in PM are quite good. Unfortunately, there just aren’t enough of them. Very few of the puzzles follow the traditional “try every object until one works” method. While the puzzles aren’t that numerous, they are challenging and require some careful notice of the surroundings. Unlike many adventure games out there, I never found myself saying, “Now, how was I supposed to figure that out?” Given the diverse nature of the puzzles in the game, that’s quite an accomplishment. Solving the puzzles here feels more like an accomplishment, and less like an end to frustration.
Sound and dialogue don’t fare as well as the rest of the game, sadly. Once again, slight problems with English translation cause conversations to feel slightly…off. It never gets to a point of being unintentionally humorous, but it still detracts somewhat from the game. The mixed-bag quality of voice acting doesn’t help matters in this department, either. Gus’ character it pretty good, many of the others are of lesser quality. In fact, it seems as if many of the secondary characters are in fact the same person trying to (badly) change their voice. In a game of numerous (and unskippable) dialogue, this can become grating.
There were a few bugs I came across in my solving of the Post Mortem mystery. None of the bugs were game-stoppers, but they did cause their share of annoyance. In particular, a very handy feature that allows players to review all the documents found just didn’t work most of the time. So I’d have to manually go through and find each piece of almost identical paper in the slightly cumbersome inventory whenever I wanted to review my notes. Not something that happened all too often, but still enough to be a hindrance.
Finally, there are a few cautionary notes. First, Post Mortem is a short game. I finished it in about 6 or 7 hours of play. Adventure games tend to be a bit on the short side, but this was a bit less lengthy than usual. Second, this is not a game for the squeamish. It comes with an “M” rating for good reason. If graphic depiction of gory murders and occult happenings bother you, give this one a pass.
Overall, Post Mortem is a decent game, while it lasts. If you can overlook the brevity and a few technical issues, then you’ll be in for a fun, if short, bout of puzzle solving goodness.
Post Mortem is a decent adventure game that comes to us during a bit of an adventure game drought. It has its shares of problems, but it still manages to be entertaining. It is, however, a bit on the short side, and definitely not for the squeamish.