Reviews

Heaven’s Hope Review – Click, Click, Clicking On Heaven’s Door

946165_945284802187751_3355892161966159234_n
Platforms: PC
Reviewed On: PC
Developer: Mosaic Mask Studios
Publisher: EuroVideo Medien GmbH
Singleplayer: Yes
Multiplayer: No

Review code provided free of charge by the publisher.

It seems there’s not much more to be done with the once mighty point and click genre as developers seek to instead imitate the past, attempting to capture what everybody loved about those classic adventures. In the process of trying to be just like their heroes they tend to accidently take a fair amount of what they didn’t work, too, such as puzzles that don’t make any sense, leaving the player with a nasty twitch and a habit of trying to mash everyday object together in their kitchen. Heaven’s Hope also seeks to imitate rather innovate, bringing a few potentially neat ideas to the table that fall by the wayside quickly. To a degree it succeeds in its emulation attempts, the developers crafting a very solid point and click title that manages to avoid some of the traditional pitfalls. They’ve created a game worth playing for anyone with a love of the genre. In the process, though, they’ve struggled to craft something memorable.

You play as Talorel, an angel who is about to sit his aviator’s test in Heaven when he is goaded into performing a dangerous maneuver that leaves him stranded on Earth, near the town of Heaven’s Hope which has come under the tyranny of a seriously strict religious fanatic by the name of Greta who has reinstated the inquisition. To get back you need to recover your Halo and either get some new wings or find some other way up to Heaven, or else you’re going to be stuck amidst the humans forever. To help out you have two Angelic pals speaking to you from their Heavenly perch, plus the assistance of some humans who naturally need a bit of convincing in regards to your less than Earthly origins. However, there’s another obstacle in your way as well, as somebody doesn’t want you returning to Heaven. As story setups go it’s actually a pretty interesting one, playing off classic religious tones while introducing new elements that help paint Heaven’s Hope’s world as being unique, a creation of a clearly inspired mind, taking place in the 19th century.

2016-02-18_00006But a solid premise can’t help if the execution isn’t up to snuff, and here the game struggles a little. The writing is the first problem, as it misses a huge plot element by failing to really explain a certain character’s motivation, leaving it vague and unrefined. You can figure said motivation out, but even then it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense  In other areas it’s more mixed; the comedy is subtle and underplayed in the grand scheme of the story, and so this isn’t a laugh out loud game or even one that will make you giggle from time to time. You will, however, generally have a small smile on your face as you explore the visually wonderful world of Heaven’s Hope and interact with its citizens. The dialogue  ranges from being is quite good to clumsy. There’s also the small problem of certain lines getting repeated awkwardly thanks to the conversation trees, while other sentences may make no sense as things they refer to are no longer relevant. While the narrative meanders along in a predictable manner it’s still more than engaging enough to keep you interested, even if the ending is rather anti-climatic.

Alright, so the game’s story seems a little rough around the edges so far, but still enjoyable. So where’s the problem? The characters. It begins with Talorel himself. It’s not that he’s unlikable, quite the opposite; the voice actor brings him to life commendably, using an unusual cadence that sometimes comes across as halting, but nevertheless imbues Talorel with a decent amount of charm. However, under that surface likability he’s simply a uninteresting character Even after spending multiple hours with him I still can’t say very much about his personality, and throughout the six to eight hours it takes the complete the game he’s never fleshed out, nor does he get anything resembling a character arc, finishing the story as almost exactly the same person he began it as, despite the efforts of the writers who try to cram his arc into a final scene that comes across as rushed. The supporting cast doesn’t fare much better with almost all of them being instantly forgettable, having the same surface likability but with absolutely no depth. Only a couple of them come close to being memorable, tantalizingly within reach but never managing to get there. Shona the witch is a prime example, a character who initially seems like she’ll be a lot of fun, but barely gets any screen time before being left behind. The game never really bothers to develop its cast, and that’s a shame. Of course the same accusation can be levelled at a lot of classic point and click games, but times have changed and this genre thrives on its story and characters.

That’s quite a few complaints in regards to the narrative, and yet I still enjoyed it. There are flickers of something much better than can be seen throughout the narrative, and that makes me hopeful for any potential sequels. The premise alone is great, and Talorel has the potential to be a brilliant character.

The gameplay is standard point and click fare, asking you to amble through the relatively small world of Heaven’s Hope and its outskirts in search of objects that can be used to complete puzzles. For the most part Heaven’s Hope uses a consistent sense of logic in its conundrums that let’s players actually think their way through rather than having to rely on desperately grabbing every item in their inventory and testing it against whatever puzzle is in front of them, as is the tradition. The best point and click games might look like utter chaos with nonsensical solutions to an outsider, but as the player will know there’s actually a good internal logic that sews everything together. It’s understanding that logic that is key. Only occasionally does Heaven’s Hope trip and fall headfirst into the realms of stupidity, such as using a mouse to muffle a bell, a solution I’m positive almost no one would ever consider. It’s also guilty of the typical contrived puzzles that leave you scratching your head at how obtuse a simple task can become, plus some other daft errors that occur from time to time, largely because it’s not always the best at conveying where you should be focusing your efforts next or because it’s a little picky about the order things have to be done in.

To aid in your journey you can hold down the spacebar to illuminate objects that can be interacted with, a modern feature that’s been adopted by most point and click titles, and for good reason. Purists might still love hunting around the screen for things they can interact with, but personally I never did find that fun. There’s also a question mark icon floating at the top right of the screen which summons Talorel’s two Angelic companions to offer up some clues, a fine idea that doesn’t actually work. Their advice is often vague at best, providing nothing solid with which to work with, or just stating the overarching objective that the player is already perfectly aware of. They should exist to offer hints and tips in regards to specific puzzles, not to remind the player about things they already know.

2016-02-17_00007It’s also a shame to see a potentially wonderful premise get completely underutilized. As an Angel Talorel boasts a few seemingly cool skills that could really have made Heaven’s Hope stand out from the crowd, but alas the developers need seem to go anywhere with his unique skillset. The ability to talk to animals is a prime example, being hugely underused both in terms of how often it appears and how little it gets woven into puzzles. It’s also massively inconsistent in its own logic. You gain a mouse companion early on that proves helpful in some puzzles but for whatever reason you can’t talk to it, nor can you talk to a few other animals you run across. There’s only a few moments where you get to use the power, and when you do it feels underwhelming and not nearly as well utilized in the conundrums as it could be. The other Angelic power is being able to Angel Breath, letting Tolorel breathe life into certain objects. Again, a pretty cool idea that isn’t worked into the gameplay properly.

Meanwhile, another sequence in which Talorel has to atone for the sins he has committed as a human is a great opportunity to play on how people are inherently sinful, how we seemingly can’t get through an entire day without committing some sort of sin in the eyes of the Church or God, but that gets flown through quickly.

It feels as though playing as an Angel that has fallen from Heaven barely impacts the game in any meaningful way. It’s a perfectly solid premise for a point and click, but alas it’s like the developers sat down and instead of really weaving their unique theme into the mechanics opted to instead stick with crafting a perfectly serviceable but bog-standard game, only occasionally bringing in the elements that make Heaven’s Hope stand out. And that’s the game’s; it’s unremarkable, it’s puzzles and characters enjoyable as you experience them but forgotten soon thereafter, vanishing into the mists of memory, unlike some of the most classic point and click games such as Monkey Island or even some modern examples, such as the Deponia trilogy, all of which stick with you. It’s not very funny, it’s puzzles are fairly typical of the genre and its characters simply aren’t interesting. Given its modest length, sitting at about 6-8 hours, it feels like Heaven’s Hope could have spent a lot longer building its character, world and puzzles. We never get the time to know any of the characters. Now of course this would be understandable if  storyline was more of a traditional adventure, with the player moving from place to place, but Heaven’s Hope take’s place a single, small town, providing plenty of opportunity to flesh out the inhabitants.

That isn’t to say that it doesn’t hit the nail on the head a couple of times. There are a couple of rather good puzzles, including having to annoy St. Peter, and a fun sequence involving a bear. However, these lovely moments are somewhat superseded by the existence of two moments where you have to very careful navigate an area using point and click controls that are, at best, inaccurate. The first isn’t so bad, but the second one involves having to balance on beams by moving a character around very careful, and it’s nothing short of painful thanks to the loose controls. Whoever designed it needs to be fired into space.

There is a single area where it is rather remarkable, however; the visuals. The hand-painted backgrounds look lovely. The animation style also looks like stop motion and doesn’t gel with me at all, but the scenery is beautiful to behold. You’ll want more of them, but perhaps smartly the world is kept small. It leaves you wanting more space to explore, yes, but the relatively small amount of scenes available means each is used frequently, rather than having entire areas that are created and then used once or twice.

2016-02-20_00003A few technical problems also plagued the game. Interacting with a couple of dustbins before the story actually demands it caused the game to crash every time, but thankfully the autosave is pretty generous. There’s some framerate drops in a few scenes, too, although because this is a point and click it’s hardly serious and it stabilisies quickly enough. A far bigger problem was how I got completely stuck towards the end of the game, unable to complete a puzzle despite having everything needed. From what I can ascertain something didn’t trigger correctly,  leaving me trapped. The developers were contacted and suggested that I was using an older version of the game at this point, and that I’d need to restart to avoid the bug entirely. I didn’t encounter the problem on my second playthrough, so hopefully it’s completely fixed.

I’ve levelled a lot of criticism at the game and come across as mostly negative. So does all this mean that it’s a bad game? No. I enjoyed my time with Heaven’s Hope, and was glad to have played it. I’ve been a point and click fan from the moment I began gaming and I’m always happy to see a new title arrive, but that doesn’t mean it gets a free pass from criticism. It’s simply an okay game. Those are the hardest games to review because it’s difficult to become passionate about something that’s average. What it does mean is that it’s one for more dedicated fans of the point and click genre. If playing the Monkey Island games, Day of the Tentacle, Discworld and co were a big part of your gaming education and you eagerly await any new release that can give you you’re puzzle fix then it’s absolutely worth a purchase. Heaven’s Hope may not be able to stand alongside the classics of the genre or even next to some of the finder modern examples, but it’s still perfectly enjoyable. If you aren’t a big fan of the genre, though, or are seeking something that brings new ideas to the table then skip this one.

Advertisements

Categories: Reviews, Videogame Reviews

Tagged as: , , , ,

1 reply »

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s