What do a 16 year old homeschooler, an Iranian beauty queen and an amateur cyclist all have in common? Not much. More on that in a moment.
The curtains rise on Resonance to reveal a world in chaos. You may watch in horror as news reports come in of some sort of massively coordinated attack that has unleashed death and devastation across the globe. Then without warning, an invisible director will hit the rewind button, leaving you peering into the drab apartment of a shy geeky scientist named Ed, 60 hours earlier.
The prelude is one of the most smartly crafted I’ve played through in recent memory. In it, you will explore the events of a single morning from the point of view of four characters. There’s Ed, who works for a scientist named Dr. Morales, inventor of the mysterious resonance device. There’s Ana, a smart and beautiful doctor with a troubled past. There’s Bennet, a gruff, street-smart cop. Then there’s Ray, an investigative journalist following a mysterious lead. As this diverse ensemble-cast comes together in dramatic fashion, you may well be tempted to scoot towards the edge of your seat.
When I was a nerdy 16-year-old, I took a semester-long Spanish class at a local community college. At the beginning of the class I was lumped into a group containing Alina, the aforementioned lovely Iranian lady and Ben, a peppy redheaded amateur bicycle racer. I couldn’t think of anything I had in common with these two. Yet, forced into a study group, we somehow became fast friends; getting in trouble for joking around during class; calling each other during the week to leave reminders about upcoming assignments; we were even talking about going to see a film together.
I knew who I was, and I knew who my study partners were. I knew that we were different and that’s what made it interesting. There were rules, challenges, and a constantly unfolding story, but the interaction between myself, Alina and Ben is what I looked forward to. We had to sit through an hour plus of lecturing before we could have a chance to really talk. We had to subject ourselves to the boring necessity of menial work before we could really engage in the rules that govern human interaction. We had to persevere before we could play.
In Resonance, the narrative builds in tension as the characters come together. They are the only four people who have an inkling of the truth of Resonance. It was a device built for good, but capable of being appropriated for great evil. Forces unknown are conspiring to do something terrible with it, and it’s a race against time to prevent them from having their way. As the four wildly different protagonists are forced to work together, you as the player take control of all of them, using their unique abilities to advance the story.
Sometimes a game’s story and its mechanic don’t seem to resonate. That is the unfortunate problem with Resonance. As Ed, Ana, Bennet, and Ray struggle, finding themselves caught up in a scenario of potentially apocalyptic proportions, not even knowing if they can fully trust one another, I want to explore the potential and nuance of these strained relationships. However, I am relegated to pushing fuzes into a box and pressing buttons in the right order. This mirrors life, offering complexity and possible joy of human interaction as a reward for a job well done. Yet, when it comes to conversation and plot advancement, instead of being drawn into this game and being made to feel as though my input matters, I proceed through predetermined dialogue options which lead in nearly every case to a single predetermined result. It feels less like I am taking part in Spanish class with Jordan, Alina and Ben, and more like I am watching.
Resonance has lovingly, hand-drawn graphics, a moody and atmospheric fictional game world, and complex characters, most notably Ana. Yet Resonance uses these things to mess with you. It’s like a book that really wants to be a videogame. In fact, while Resonance may be a videogame, it is definitely not a typical game. It is a series of many (mini) games; various puzzles and obstacles strung together by a singularly scripted narrative.
After that semester in Spanish class, Alina, Ben and I went our separate ways. We enjoyed our time together and were glad to be done with the class’s challenges that we worked through. But ultimately it was those challenges that brought us together. We were there for a reason, and when that reason expired, so did our friendship, which did not have any sort of lasting bond.
Resonance is thoroughly intriguing, with the allure of challenging puzzles and well imagined characters as well as the drama that might unfold as they interacted. Sadly, after you’ve solved the puzzles (which felt more like chores),observed the relationships develop (as though from a distance) and finished the story (like an interesting summer read), you’ll realize that it’s well and truly over. You may recall it as a fond memory from time to time, but as you go your own way, you’ll realize that Resonance entered your life for a time but sadly, did not have the power to form any sort of lasting bond.