a review by inferno  

 

 

 

 

Revisiting old friends

Hope Springs Eternal, the second offering from independent adventure game developers Mikael and Eleen Nyqvist and their company MDNA Games, came as a most delightful diversion for me. Normally the games I review and explore are in the mystery, horror and darker spectrum of the adventure genre. Now while this game is indeed categorized as a “Mystery Adventure,” it is clearly on the lighter side of the graph. The adventure is similar to the Nancy Drew series, but with more of an adult and refined tone. It seems that, following the success of Remedy (the Nyqvist’s first adventure), the developers have made the decision to connect these first two stories together as a recurring series: The Carol Reed Mysteries.  And for my part I couldn’t be happier about it. This little piece was just like revisiting old friends. And indeed you do revisit them, as a number of the characters from Remedy (where we were first introduced to Carol and her penchant for sleuthing) return once again -- in particular Katrina and the gravedigger.

The moment I loaded Hope Springs Eternal and began to explore the familiar apartment and beautiful surroundings, it was as though I was returning to a favored vacation hideaway.  Surely this was the place where curious and intriguing adventures awaited. My reaction is probably the result of the stylized look of both games. The graphical technique is the same as in Remedy; it’s as though one has stepped through an Impressionist Art Gallery and into one of the paintings. This gives the player a sort of dream-like reality and offers an alternative form of “the willing suspension of disbelief,” which is necessary in all stories if the reader/player is to enter into the author/designer’s world.  The impressionistic graphics work well here for the various locations and storyline. I found the effect to be quite relaxing; it created a desire to wander in a leisurely manner through the scenery, as I pondered the various conundrums and queries of the plot.

 

Who is Carol Reed?

Just who is this Carol Reed anyway? As we learned previously in Remedy, Carol Reed is a young Englishwoman from Nottingham who is apartment-sitting for her friend, Lovisa in Norrköping, Sweden. After uncovering the mystery of the disappearance of her friend, Conrad Vogel, she has decided to stay for a bit longer in Norrköping and is trying to make a go as a private investigator, having taken over her dear friend’s business. We begin this episode when Carol receives a call from Conrad’s sister, Katrina. It seems that a fellow colleague and friend, Anna, has gone missing. Could Carol come right away to Katrina’s place? 

  …And the next mystery begins to quietly take shape.  

 

Gameplay

For the most part, Hope Springs Eternal installed and loaded for me with few problems.  I did experience an initial glitch, but this was dealt with by MDNA technical support swiftly and completely. Wonderful customer service here, folks…an important point to be sure. After that the game played flawlessly and I experienced no crashes during the seven hours it took for me to play it.

 Hope Springs Eternal is a classic slideshow, point-and-click adventure game that utilizes the Adventure Maker game engine. The pointer icon or “cursor” is a solid medium blue arrow, which will vary in direction depending upon the various bearings offered. A medium-sized blue dot will appear in areas where no further progress can be attained. The cursor will also change into a magnifying glass, signifying that a closer look is needed. It will also change into a set of pink and blue gears when there is something for Carol to interact with. The save feature is the same as in most adventure games that use The Adventure Maker engine; the player simply has to right-click or press ESC on the keyboard, and up at the very top of the screen will appear various functions which allow the player to create an infinite number of saves, to load from any particular save, to enable or disable transitions, or to quit the game. Hope Springs Eternal is also a program for which, after the install, you can put away the CD and play the game from your hard drive…nice.  This makes for a quieter gaming experience, allowing the sounds of the mystery to surround the player, -- not the constant whir of the CD ROM drive.    

As in any good tale, there are a number of “red herrings” that try to fool the player as the mystery unfolds. This story does have a solid base, great ideas, a few twists and maybe a turn or two; yet I was left with the wish for more plot exposition with regard to the relationships between the psychological character portraits of Anna Bergion, Axel Von Fersen and Axel Weber. Still, the story in Hope Springs Eternal is a clear improvement. I feel that Mr. and Mrs. Nyqvist will most assuredly grow as  writers and storytellers as they gain more experience. While the game is inherently story-driven, there is also quite a fair share of inventory, sliders and “push-button” puzzles to keep us occupied. A nice element added here is that you may bypass these conundrums if you so desire, without fear of compromising the mystery. This makes this series ideal for new adventure gamers who just want to relax and enjoy the story.

          The player may access the game’s universe through a very clear graphic of the town’s map; the clue here is to visit every location, and don’t be afraid to double back a number of times and check everything …sometimes more than once. The game also seemed to be somewhat nonlinear, which is wonderful for those gamers who love to explore on their own.

 

Style

The music has evolved since Remedy, and while the opening theme is still the same familiar tinkling of the ivories, I was pleased to hear the musical underscore change its timbre and melody from location to location. But not just a change in tonality, a change rather in its character, exactly capturing the diverse “visual phrases” and moments within the “personality” of the mystery. Lovely…an immense improvement, Mikael,-- you should be proud. The various Foley or sound effects were logical and appropriate,, although I did expect more footfalls in places where there were none.  The voice work was quietly succinct, with Sara Louise Eriksson reprising her role as the inquisitive Carol Reed. One very interesting point here is the chance, finally, to hear and see Mikael and yes, even the indomitable Sarah Louise, who lent both their voices and likenesses to this episode. We also get the hear the elusive Eleen Nyqvist as well...I was sure that I saw in the credits as one of the characters too, but I was wrong...maybe just wishful thinking on my part.  So, where do they appear, and just whom do they visually portray???

“Forget it --- I’m not spilling the beans here,
you’ll just have to play Hope Springs Eternal and figure it out for yourselves!!!

Hint: Watching the credits here is a must!”  

The look of Hope Springs Eternal has not really changed since Remedy.  And you know what? I like that. The Nyqvists have created, in this series, an incredibly delicate and peaceful atmosphere (unusual for a game of mystery,) much like a strand of shimmering freshwater pearls -- each different in its warmth and hue, yet similar in form and content. The conscious choice to incorporate this particular impressionistic graphical style subliminally binds the two games together, much like a beautiful piece of jewelry that encircles a graceful wrist. It leaves me eager for future episodes of The Carol Reed Mysteries to complete this elegant bracelet. 

 

Conclusion 

There is plenty to do and see here, including a myriad of Easter Eggs and cameos (a few are physical and many are written, so keep a weathered eye out for them). So, the question now becomes, would I recommend this game to the Adventure Community? Absolutely. For the price point and ease of play, I found it truly a delightful diversion. New gamers will appreciate its ease and accessible gameplay; they’ll gain a positive experience from Hope Springs Eternal. Expert gamers will most likely view it as a welcomed respite …a day’s outing, ready to permeate and embellish the mind of the inquisitive.

   

…Inferno

 

graphic with kind permission of
 
MDNA Games

 

Genre: Point & Click Adventure
Published & Developed by MDNA Games
Written & Directed by Mikael & Eleen Nyqvist
Music Composed by Mikael Nyqvist 

Minimum requirements: Pentium 800 or higher,
 64 MB RAM, 8 MB video card,
500 MB free hard drive space,
Win 98, but 2000 or XP is recommended.
The game runs in 1024 x 768 resolution.

 

 

 

 

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