|System: PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Phoenix Online Studios||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Phoenix Online Studios||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: July 11, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: N/A||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
The game begins where the old story left off. In the Land of the Green Isles, one of King Grahams twins, Rosella, is set to marry her suitor, Edgar. On the wedding day, a stranger in a black cloak swoops down, places an evil magic spell on both twins, and disappears, leaving only the cloak. Playing as King Graham, you set out to find the stranger and break the spell on your daughters.
Clocking in at about an hour, with most of that time being taken up by cutscenes, the game feels more than a little sparse. Theres really only one puzzle in the whole episode, after which you sail between a few islands, watching cutscenes and looking for clues as to the strangers whereabouts. Though the world feels big and open, most of the paths are blocked, making the experience linear. If Activision were charging people to play this game, wed denounce the entire project as a rip-off.
But as far as we can tell, Episode 1 is not really meant to be a full experience in itself. If you see it as a demo, or an introduction to a larger and more ambitious work, it holds a lot of promise. For one thing, the sheer attention to detail is impressive. Before games had great graphical capabilities and refined gameplay mechanics, developers had to use words to explain what characters could and couldnt do. Thats replicated here. Walk out on a balcony, and the narrator tells you what your character is thinking. Touch a suit of armor, and the narrator notes that its too heavy for you to wear. (Yes, she sounds like shes talking to a child, but we already admitted the voiceover work was terrible, right?) To those who enjoyed video games back when this kind of storytelling was popular, The Silver Lining is a great reminder of how much developers did with the tools they had.
Also, while the in-game graphics lack detail, as noted above, they do a wonderful job of evoking the feel of old games and depicting the universe of Kings Quest in 3-D. The polygon count is low, but theres a good degree of charm in the castle and the surrounding area. If you have memories of playing classic PC adventure games, The Silver Lining will bring them back. However, if you were a fan of the Kings Quest series in particular, the experience can induce déjà vu. Much of this world is exactly the way it was in the early 1990s, only with an extra dimension. Despite all the glitches we experienced with them, the cutscenes are well-done from a directorial standpoint: the camera is always artfully placed, and some of the imagery does a lot with a little bit of processing power.
Even the sound has its good side, at least if you ignore the voiceovers and concentrate on the music. The haunting pieces feel right at home in the games medieval setting, and theyre amazingly well-done for a free fan-made game. The compositions are all original, and we hope the musicians responsible for them get paying work as a result of the great job they did here.
Again, this game feels dated, and theres really not a whole lot to this first episode. For Episode 2, well be looking for a lot more (and better) puzzles and a much higher gameplay-to-cutscene ratio. The franchises storied history and surviving fanbase make it ripe for a continuation, and if its done right, The Silver Lining could be a real contribution to retro adventure gaming. Episode 1 is far from a masterpiece, but it could be the prelude to one. And as far as price goes, you cant beat free.
CCC Freelance Writer