Tears of Betrayal
The small town of Talkstone has a serious traffic problem. If you don't use the crosswalks to cross the street then you are fair game to any passing motorist. Step into the road away from the relative safety of the crosswalk and it's odds-on you'll be hit by a car appearing suddenly and without warning ... game over!. On foggy nights even the crosswalks aren't safe — just ask Roxanne. Except that you can't ask Roxanne as she has been in a coma for five years, ever since the night when a red sports car ran her down. Roxanne's husband, James, still has nightmares about it.
On this particular day you (James) awaken from your troubled dreams to find a note on the pillow where Roxanne used to sleep. It's written on hospital notepaper and in it Roxanne affirms her love and gently chides you for not visiting her in a long time. The note promptly vanishes as if it had never been. Has Roxanne recovered from her coma or is she, in some mysterious way, trying to tell you something? There is only one way to find out.
Tears of Betrayal is a third person perspective adventure game that uses a 3D graphics engine to create the game world but still allows you to use the mouse to interact with the environment. Like the adventure games of old you can build commands by selecting actions from a pop up menu, or you can type commands directly into the input bar that appears at the top of the screen.
I liked the ability to try lots of different things and it reminded me of the early Legend games such as Eric the Unready, where you could also type or select commands from an impressive verb list. Here though, I thought the pop up action menu was a little unwieldy with all the verbs bunched in alphabetical order and it may be more useful for future games to have the most frequently used actions such as 'look', 'take', 'talk', 'open' and 'close' listed together, perhaps in a separate column. If you are not averse to typing it is easier to just type commands. That aside, it is good to be encouraged to experiment to see what might happen. You may be rewarded with a light-hearted moment, or you just may solve a puzzle.
You can move James around by pointing and clicking but I found it far easier to navigate by using the keyboard arrow keys. Using the mouse to navigate can be fiddly and, it has to be said, not always successful. The other advantage of using the arrow keys is that you can get James to run by also holding down the shift key. Just be careful running as you may accidentally step into the road with fatal consequences. And it's not only cars that will kill you, other missteps can also have serious consequences.
All adventurers should by now be fully aware of the importance of saving your progress often and this game, like the early Sierra games, will reinforce the point. If you need further encouragement to save just remember that Tears of Betrayal is a 3D game and it is possible to get James trapped in the scenery. This happened to me several times and often I was able to move him by judicious pounding on the arrow keys while turning, and sometimes a mouse click would do the trick. But on other occasions I had no option but to load a save game. Nineteen save game slots are provided so you have no excuse not to save.
You begin the game with twenty dollars (once you find your wallet) and you soon realise that this is not nearly enough. The basic necessities of life; food, drinks, clothing and health club membership are very expensive. Just like in real life having money helps and you won't get far without it. Fortunately, ways of making money are provided and you will spend some time gambling just to build up your finances. Other means of getting cash may also present themselves.
The puzzles are generally in context and not overly difficult to solve, only one really required some lateral thinking. At other times talking to characters will give you a clue about what you need to do in order to move on. There are relatively few inventory items to collect and some items will need to be combined to make them useful. To interact with objects and people you need to get up close and personal, otherwise you will be told you are too far away. A little more forgiveness in this respect would have been appreciated.
It's good to see an independent adventure game in 3D. Although the graphics aren't overly sophisticated, and there are loading delays between some locations, they are perfectly serviceable. In fact objects such as cars are quite well done with good detail and James' reflection in mirrors works well too. Speaking of James, up close he has an unfortunate countenance and vaguely simian stance which makes him look a bit Neanderthal. Dialogue is all in text as are the descriptions of objects and this works fine. I think Roxanne's is the only voice you hear within the game, apart from the piano player who will sing for a price (and it pays to listen). The music is good and helps to set the atmosphere for the various locations.
Tears of Betrayal has a scoring system like the older adventure games and you can watch your points as well as your cash accumulate as you move through the game. I finished it without getting all 287 points so clearly many points are given for trying non-essential actions and you are encouraged to play again to try to find them all.
I have to say that, although I enjoyed the freedom to try different things, it didn't always work for me. I think this was partly because the designers were trying for a humorous note that at times seemed at odds with the story which is ultimately about revenge and closure. An irreverent or less serious theme would have carried the humour more effectively. As it is some of the humour is a little immature and the youth of the developers is, perhaps, also reflected in the attire of the nurses in the hospital where short skirts and high heels seem to be an acceptable uniform. On the other hand the poignant denouement is very well handled, if a little sudden.
Despite my quibbles I found Tears of Betrayal to be quite an entertaining game and a very respectable first effort from a new independent developer.
You can purchase this game at the Tears of Betrayal Website.
Copyright © Gordon Aplin 2006.
All rights reserved.
PC compatible computer 1GHz (1000MHz), 98/ME/2000/XP, 128MB RAM, 800MB hard disk space, 32MB 3D accelerated video card, CD ROM, Mouse/Keyboard, DirectX compatible soundcard with speakers or headphones.