Post Mortem Review

These days, adventure games usually come in one of two varieties: the third-person-against-stationary-backgrounds type, and the first-person, stand-in-one-place-and-look-around type. Post Mortem falls into the latter category, and it stands quite well against similar games.

The game revolves around a film-noir style detective story set in Paris around the 1920's. You play as Gus MacPherson, an ex-detective who is now happily making a living as a painter. One night, Gus has a bizarre vision and is visited by a woman asking him to resume his role as a detective. She hires Gus to investigate a couple rather gory murders (the subject of Gus's vision), in which one of the victims was her sister. Of course, the case isn't nearly as simple as it first seems. I won't divulge any further plot details, but suffice to say, it's got a number of interesting twists, and it's generally well done.

The graphics are on par with other games in the genre. You'll see some impressive sights, especially during the cut-scenes, but the game doesn't employ all the latest hardware tricks, thus allowing it to run on older systems. My only real objection to the graphics is the 3D characters sometimes look out of place against their backgrounds. This is especially noticeable when the background contains other people, and the sharp, 3D characters stand in sharp contrast to the blurry, background ones. This is more of a minor annoyance than a major issue, though. In all, while the visual presentation doesn't reach the level of, say, Myst III, it certainly holds its own against -- and in many cases surpasses -- that of other first-person adventure games.

The sound is about as good as you can ask for. Background music ranges from some nice jazz tunes to creepy ambient sound and is all well done. Voice acting is great, across the board. The voices fit well with the setting, and generally keep the drama in check, only getting intense and emotional when the situation calls for it. One of the characters you play as perhaps gets a little annoying after a while -- he's really played up as a stereotypical Frenchman. The main character, though, is solid, throughout the game.

As far as gameplay, the game makes good use of its "detective" theme. Puzzles will have you collecting evidence, interrogating witnesses, and sketching suspects, with some more traditional ones thrown in for good measure. The difficulty of the puzzles varies, with many straightforward ones, a few which are rather tough, and a couple which are harder than they should be. (One gives whole new meaning to the idea of "pixel-hunting").

On the whole, though, they are satisfying, and often rewarding. Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of the game, though, is that the developers made an effort to make it nonlinear -- something of a rarity in straight adventure games. Rather than clicking through every item in a dialogue tree, you have to carefully select what you say, since it will often impact how the game plays out. That said, there's no way completely box yourself in -- you'll always be able to find a way to finish the game.

Unfortunately, even though the various paths lend some replayability to the game, you'll still find the experience to be quite short. I finished Post Mortem in about three and a half hours. As is the case with any adventure game, it's certainly possible that you could get stuck in a puzzle or two, thus extending play time significantly. However, I think most gamers will find that the game ends much sooner than they would like it to. After beating the game, you might be compelled to play back through again, especially if you get one of the less-than-ideal endings. However, Microids didn't implement the branching-path system as well as they could have, so the paths generally only differ in the order and manner in which events are presented to you. It's unlikely that you'll uncover a whole new puzzle or significant plot development the second time through, so playing through again will probably only offer another couple of hours.

The time you do spend with the game, though, is good enough to make the game worthy of recommendation.

-- Chris Garson