I really like point and click adventure games. It’s one of my greatest thrills to have experienced some of the classics in their heyday, having played Monkey Island on a 486, enjoyed Dream of the Turtle on my Nintendo DS and just having scored Full Throttle Remastered from Humble Bundle so I can go back and revisit a game from my childhood. When done correctly, point and click games are a wonderful vehicle to deliver great story telling, dialogue and logistical puzzles in one package. Recently, groups like Telltale have re-imagined how such a game is done, and I don’t fault them for mixing in current ideas (QT events) with the gameplay to make it exciting. Four Last Things was certainly novel and fun, albeit short. But, unfortunately for Violett, it feels like there was too much going on in the minds of the creators to focus on just making it a great adventure and, instead, it becomes a chore of a game that more closely resembles the dreaded Hidden Object Hunt.
Let’s back up. Violett is the story of a rebellious girl who’s forced to move with her parents to a home in the countryside and she immediately hates everything. By chance, she sees a glimmer in a mouse hole and ends up falling into a mystical world that’s part Wonderland, part Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and a huge nod to Coraline. Determined not to die in this parallel land, Violett uses her wits and various allies she meets to help her find the way back home and back to her parents, whom she seems to miss but will probably just start hating again a week afterwards.
Artistically, I do love the way that Violett looks. Some may not realize, but this Switch version is the remastered edition, which has great updated visuals and several new levels added to it from the original. I can’t fault the game for how it looks: Violett does imbue the player with wonder and a bit of eye candy throughout, as there’s plenty of color and sheen to the entire world. Violett herself looks a little wonky in comparison, like she was created at the beginning, the rest of the game was given form and then they kept her as-is, but it’s not the worst thing in the world. She moves and glides about quite suitably, and does a good job of not drawing too much attention as she attempts to move throughout.
Early on, Violett gains the ability to manipulate things from a distance, but I’m not totally certain if it’s magic, a psychic power or a bit of both. The power allows for some interesting gameplay in which Violett needs to be able to gauge what she can get with her hands, what she pushes with her mind, and when maybe one target needs to be swapped for another. Most of the time, the puzzles lead you to the solution through natural progression: observing your surroundings and reading the hints you find will keep most gamers moving forward at a steady but reasonable pace. You’ll also find various colored orbs that are a bit of a hunt to collect but pretty doable with the old fashioned “click everything” approach.
The problem, at least for Violett on the Switch, is the handling of the controls. Right off the bat, the game advises you to use the touch screen, which, as readers will know, I’m an advocate of touch screen support. In fact, the touch screen is the perfect way to best navigate most of Violett: you can hunt for items best, and using her remote powers is far more accurate when you can tap where you want to interact. However, this is arguably a beautiful game, and you’d probably want to see it up on the big screen. What happens then is the right stick controls a floating cursor, the left stick moves Violett around, and different buttons trigger events and actions. Although this seems simple, it quickly became tedious, and even moreso when I wanted to use an item in my pack. The game ultimately gives you three choices: waste your time with the button controls, sacrifice the big picture for the touchscreen, or cross your fingers and pray for magical mouse support to appear from Nintendo. The last one doesn’t seem coming down the pipeline, so save your wishes.
And, of course, you can make any excuse or allocation for a game when it’s good, and Violett is…okay. I mean, it’s not the most original story, but it’s handled in a good fashion and I liked the world I was dropped into. There’s a thematic of things being dark and sinister, but it really felt pretty light hearted most of the time, at least in comparison to, say, Sanitarium. I did enjoy the music, I can say that with no hangups whatsoever: gorgeous game with a great soundtrack. But I didn’t feel invested in helping Violett. The prologue made her seem like a petulant little brat, and this experience for her was something that maybe needs to happen in order for her to get her life together. Alice simply followed curiosity. Chihiro had bad luck on an off day. Violett probably needed this so she wouldn’t get suspended for smoking at school during her first week.
Still, Violett has mostly been put on the wayside in the Steam marketplace, and it’s cool for the developers to take one of the most logical of their titles and add it to the Switch’s growing army of indie takes. I know several people out there will pick up Violett with intrigue, have a grand day playing it and that’ll be that. Having played it on my PC, I knew a bit about what I was getting into already, and really need to look at it as a Switch title. For that, it’s not looking good. The controls are simply not doing it for me and there’s no obvious solution other than to stay mobile. If you’ve gotta see where the adventure ultimately leads, by all means, though be ready for plenty of mobile play.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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