The Experiment Review
By Chad Montague |
Just from the box you might think The Experiment (originally titled "Experience 112") is your typical point and click adventure. Stranded with amnesia: is there a hook more tried and true for getting players to explore what is often an island where some tragedy has occurred? Though the package mentions the surveillance system, what it fails to point out is that rather than shuffling around on your own, you'll be assisting a lady named Lea via interactions entirely dependent on your use of the Ecology Department of Extra-Human Neuroscience (EDEHN – ha!) lab's computer system.
So rather than logging into a science fiction world, you're logging into a high security network within that world. The game's interface is a desktop where you access surveillance cameras, interactive maps, employee e-mail accounts, and sensitive files in order to uncover the plot and keep moving. In fact, even the save and load functions are seamlessly integrated into this system of menus.
From the start I was pretty psyched about the possibilities of this viewpoint. When you first meet Lea she is in a small room just waking up in a daze. Some sort of IV is stuck in her arm, so she pulls it out to face the camera and wonder who is watching her. When you don't move it to follow her as she investigates the hallway, she gets the idea that you're not really up to speed either. After she instructs you to activate the rotate upgrade for cameras, you can "shake" yes or no to answer questions. That's not to say you do much camera shaking in the future, but it is one hell of a compelling way to introduce one of the most basic operations of the game.
Navigating Lea's way through the crashed research boat is accomplished by clicking different symbols on a map. Since you can turn on and off lights remotely, she figures that is the best way to get her attention. There are also doors to open, objects to activate, and elevators to use. As you make her way around, she'll start to have freaky flashbacks of weird experiments involving a chemical called hydroxide oxydrin, secreted from a pseudo-human/insect species called the Tyriades. Is it the key to everlasting life? If that's the case then where did everyone go and why is the boat all overgrown with funky plants? Who are the Tyriades, anyhow?
Naturally, you're going to find out, but it'll take quite a few passwords, keys, and puzzles to get your answers. Besides using up to three cameras at a time to follow Lea around, you'll be doing a ton of sleuthing around in the EDEHN computer system. All the employees of the facility have their own logins and passwords for the network, so depending on whose files you're accessing you'll be able to learn some details on the Tyriades via audio recordings, decipher some codes with a Polybius square, or maybe just find a secret document containing the access code's to someone ELSE's files.
A seriously large chunk of time is spent sifting through e-mails, memos, and bits of research to determine what is useful and what is just drama or scenery. It can get tedious trying to keep track of who has what information, but on the other hand some of those plot tidbits make your really curious: sound files of "Combat Tyriades," video footage of mutated birds, evidence that most of the staff appear to be sleeping around with everyone...