After years in the cut-throat world of seismology you have finally stumbled upon an amazing find. A strange sound, emitted during an earthquake, leads you to believe all is not right in the sleepy town of Izmit. Unfortunately you are not the only one, as rival seismologists arrive on the scene. Who will discover the cause of the earthquakes first? More importantly, will you live to publish your findings?
Bizarre Earthquake is a point-and-click adventure where players take control of a veteran seismologist and her assistant. Over a series of days players will discover an increasing number of strange earthquakes, and wander the nearby countryside to uncover what or who is the cause.
The game play is pretty standard for a point-and-click. Players can choose from options relating to walking, looking, picking up and talking. These are indicated on the cursor, chosen by cycling through the options with a right click or mouse wheel. Inventory items can be selected and used together, or on the characters and environment.
An intriguing game play feature is the dual characters. Seismologist Cansu and her assistant Bora are both playable. Each has their own unique objectives and puzzles. This isn’t all that new an idea; Day of the Tentacle had three characters to switch between. However, rather than Cansu and Bora’s stories interlocking, like those in Day of the Tentacle, in Bizarre Earthquake they are concurrent.
Bora might be out looking for petrol for the 4WD, while at the same time Cansu is in the forest tracking down the earthquake epicentre. While the player can switch between the characters at will, solving one characters puzzle prompts the advancement of the story, and thus the resolution of the other characters puzzle.
What this means is that if a player is stuck on a section they can switch between characters, incrementally solving aspects of each puzzle until the ultimate solution of one clicks for them. The game then progress to the next part, rather than requiring the player to go back and also complete the other characters puzzle.
It’s an intriguing mechanic which certainly speeds the game along. By the same token, it promotes multiple play-throughs, as players can retry the sections they missed to see how the situations resolved themselves. I am interested to see how this influences other point-and-click games, and how they can refine and improve the idea.
Generally the puzzles are well thought out, and make logical sense. There is some challenge in unraveling the designers thinking, as the sequence required to achieve some puzzles can include far more steps than is absolutely necessary. However, puzzles never require a massive leap in logic, or break the reality of the game. Like most good puzzles, you are given a problem and left to resolve it.
Unfortunately, the rest of Bizarre Earthquake falls somewhere between average and awful. The writing, including the story and dialogue, is incredibly sloppy and unfocused. Admittedly, this may be caused in some part by the awkward translation from Turkish. However, this doesn’t excuse the stilted story progression, or the poorly realised characters. The main storyline bumbles along, before suddenly peaking and then abruptly ending.
The graphics are well done, but extremely generic. To the point of being bland. There is nothing in the game that visually stands out, or makes the experience unique. Annoyingly, incidental animations have been left out in many cases. Instead of a character performing an action, like walking from a room, the screen instead quickly fades out with a door sound effect, before fading back in with the character missing. This becomes particularly off-putting when multiple actions like this happen in quick succession.
While the player’s interaction with the world is condensed down into the pointer, freeing up the screen for more play area, the rest of the menu is chunky and out of place. Bulky boxes sit at the top of the screen which take you through to the Save, Statistic, Objective and Settings options. The inventory also sits up here, and it too is inelegantly handled. Even additional screens like the Main Menu and Extras screen are poorly realised and arranged.
Background music is well written, but inconsistent in its use. No area or situation appeared to have a particular track associated with it; instead it was almost like each location played a song at random. Occasionally another song would interrupt, but this never seemed to coincide with a dramatic turn or some other story beat, as you would expect. The music would just suddenly and jarringly switch. As for the sound effects, they are pretty standard stock sounds.
A number of bugs exist throughout the game, primarily associated with the ability to switch characters. These include character models shrinking or enlarging to comical proportions, models not being swapped so that characters slide instead of walking, as well as character inventories not updating if the player had used the other character to complete that section. By the end of the game, for me, Bora was wandering around with a multitude of items I know should have already been used. It made solving puzzles a lot more frustrating, as I could never tell what were relevant items and what weren’t.
While odd design decisions, poor writing and glaring game bugs are littered throughout this game, I don’t think Bizarre Earthquake should be ignored. It has its fair share of problems, that’s for sure, but under all this I can see a developer finding their voice and honing their craft. This is the kind of endeavour we should be nurturing and supporting, not ignoring because of its flaws.
SUMMARY: If you enjoy discovering obscure games, Bizarre Earthquake is well worth a look for you. More importantly, if you have an interest in point-and-click adventure as a genre, this game should be a serious consideration to add to your collection. While it won’t wow you with its execution, hopefully you will be able to see the underlying vision and appreciate the developer’s interest in this under-represented genre.
Make no mistake; this game has a swag of flaws and problems. If you have little time or patience for convoluted puzzles and lacklustre writing then Bizarre Earthquake is bound to leave you disappointed and frustrated. You are better off spending your time on a more polished title from a proven developer.
Bizarre Earthquake was developed and published by Proximity Games, and is available now on Steam.
Reviewed On: PC
Review System: nVidiaN9600C, G1 Sniper M7 S1151, 16GB RAM
Playtime: 6 hours