Time Stand Still
Following on from Remedy and then Hope Springs Eternal, Carol Reed is back again in Time Stand Still on her third case set in the quaint Swedish town of Norrkoping.
Carol is a young English investigator who picked up her first case to help out a friend while holidaying in Sweden. Seemingly she's now well and truly entrenched in her adopted country of residence, with her very own apartment and her very own Detective Agency. You can admire the brand new sign — Carol Reed, Private Detective — as you start the game and enter Carol's new home.
But you won't be spending too much time at home because a newspaper article about a haunted house catches Carol's attention. The owners of the house have reported lights mysteriously switching off and on all by themselves, and items moving around. They've even found a strange footprint in the garden.
Carol needs a case so she's off to chase up this mystery. Much of the game then centres around the 'haunted' house with visits to other locations including The Design Museum, Library, and old school; plus some long walks in the countryside as Carol follows the trail. It's a trail of mystery and murder that started decades ago, involving the well known Swedish Architect, Carl Bergsten, and there's a little Norrkoping dirty linen hung out for all to see.
From the husband and wife team, Mikael & Eleen Nyqvist, using the Adventure Maker software, Time Stand Still leads you on through a parade of still photographs as you explore Norrkoping.
As with the two previous games it's something different, quite charming, as the photos have been treated with smudges of colour (sometimes lots of it) turning them almost into water-colour paintings. You can still recognise the photos, but the splashes of colour add a surrealistic edge.
Norrkoping is a very pleasant town to explore with expansive colourful gardens, some narrow walkways and canals, quaint houses, and multi storied buildings with impressive facades. It's like going on holiday playing Time Stand Still, except, I suppose, if you live in Sweden.
It's a gentle, point and click adventure game, in first person perspective, so you take on the role of Carol Reed. Just watch out for the arrow and click to move from one dazzling location to the next. Sometimes navigating around the enclosed areas to find the right perspective is a little tricky, but never a chore.
I should emphasise here the word 'gentle' as there are no 'action' sequences. You don't even need to worry if you don't like frights, because the 'haunted' house is so colourful and there are so many distractions, it isn't exactly scary — unless you're thinking about the cleaning and dusting. There are around a dozen rooms, crowded with soft furnishings, lots of pictures on the walls and dressers, and numerous other knickknacks. And there are a couple of jumbled sheds too, not to mention a dark, secret place to find.
Of course there are also items to ferret out and use as you follow your investigation, and the cursor changes to a hand, or a magnifying glass, or cogs, when there's something to see or do. Moving the cursor to the top of the screen opens your inventory where you can inspect objects closely and combine them if necessary.
There are 10 or so characters to meet, including several familiar faces if you've played one of Carol's previous adventures. Her good friend, Katrina, is back and so is the woman who works in the local kiosk. If your investigation slows down it's a good idea to talk to either of these characters as they have a good knowledge of Norrkoping.
For conversations you get a series of still photographs of each character with changing expressions as they speak. Even though the characters aren't animated, this gets the job done nicely. A note pad appears for you to ask questions, and the voice overs are quite reasonable for an independent game. Maybe a little more dialogue for Carol would draw her personality out more, although the closure of her investigation does bring a pleasant surprise.
All the dialogue in Time Stand Still appears in text at the bottom of the screen, good for deaf players but there is one aural puzzle to take into consideration here. The music, I thought, was very fitting for this trip. Light and relaxing, setting the mood for puzzle solving.
And whilst on the subject of puzzles, there's a variety in Time Stand Still. As well as searching for keys and other objects to use, there are documents to find, plus a few more abstract or logic puzzles including a small paper maze and a memory game. None of them are very difficult except, perhaps, for the music puzzle which took me the longest of all. Now I do know that it's not a very difficult challenge, but if you're anything like me and completely unable to reproduce a note, then this one could be a stumbling block for you too. The good news is that, like in the previous Carol Reed games, you can skip these stand-alone puzzles at the click of a mouse button and continue happily along. However there is some incentive to perservere because if you by-pass any of the puzzles then you don't get a 5 star rating when you finish the game.
To sum it all up, Time Stand Still, is an enjoyable little game. It isn't too long, and it isn't too difficult, but my time spent in Norrkoping was very pleasant indeed. There are some entertaining puzzles with an interesting snippet of history to go along with them. I got introduced to Carl Bergsten and I've since done an internet search and learned more about him.
So if you're looking for a relaxing diversion, take a trip to Norrkoping and play Time Stand Still. It's an independent game so it doesn't have all the 'polish' of more commercial adventures, but it's an engaging sojourn just the same. Although you don't get to say 'Gotcha!' face to face with the baddie at the end of the investigation (one of my favourite things), there is Carol's happy ending. I hope she doesn't get led astray and give up solving mysteries.
You can purchase Time Stand Still at the MDNA Games Website.
See the metzomagic.com Time Stand Still walkthrough.
Copyright © Rosemary Young 2006.
All rights reserved.
Win 98/2000/XP, Pentium 1000 or higher, 128 MB RAM, 8 MB video card, 800 MB free hard drive space.