Developer & Publisher: MDNA Games
Released: January 1, 2021
Requirements: Minimum: Any version of Windows or Mac OS X or higher
Storage: 12 GB
Minimum resolution, 1280 x 720
Widescreen monitor recommended
It has been about a dozen games since I strode out with Carol, a number which in itself indicates the level to which she has built a following. Despite that hiatus, having kept abreast of the games I feel confident in saying if you like Carol you will like this.
As the title suggests, we are in the time of the pandemic. Alvin is a 16 year old boy with a love of skateboarding and a COVID stickler of a mother, meaning he needs to sneak out to indulge his passion. When he doesn’t come home one day, his mother has more to worry about than sanitised hands and face masks, and Carol is called upon to solve the mystery.
If you have played any Carol Reed games you know how they work, so feel free to skip this bit. For everyone else, the game is first person point and click, utilising photos of real people and places in and around Norrkoping in Sweden to create the game world. Click your way through, point to point, looking for items and clues to move on. At each point you can turn left and right, and perhaps also move forward or occasionally look/move in another direction. It's simple but it works.
It’s a completely static environment, each point being a single still image, but it doesn’t feel sterile. The volume of images, and the variety of locations (however mundane) give it a “lived-in” vibe. Which is probably not surprising given it’s a real world.
Conundrums and puzzles abound, and are at the heart of these games. Follow the breadcrumbs to find the bits and pieces to progress. It's fairly gentle as the puzzles go, but be prepared to go back and forth, by both design and in search of things you might have missed. In that regard your journal is a friend.
A good one in fact.
I am disinclined to wander around for overly long hoping to find the item, I don’t know I need, which is randomly located somewhere. To that end, the first page in the journal will tell you your next objective, which is really the location you need to go to find the next clues or pieces. As there are quite a lot of locations, I liked this aspect. I was far more willing to meticulously search a location, knowing there was something there that I needed, than I was to visit every location in the hope of finding something important.
In that regard, pay attention to the objective. It can suggest more is required than you might at first think.
Which is not to say that there aren’t plenty of clues as to “where to next”, and when a new location opens up (signified by a large pop-up icon), fail to check it out at your peril. All taken together, you shouldn’t be stuck for long.
If you do get really stuck, clicking the objective will give you a “hint”. However when I used this and fiddled with it further after the event, it is really a complete solve, so use it sparingly.
While you can, and will, visit and revisit locations once they open up (through the map that is accessible once you exit a location), Carol might decline to travel somewhere, saying something like “later”. She might also refuse to do an action, even if it’s the right one, until something else has happened, saying something like “I need to x first”. This plus the various triggers I was able to identify, suggests a very linear path through the game.
Which doesn’t really matter.
The game uses a combination of spoken word and read dialogue, and music and ambient sound round things out. Moving the mouse to the top of screen brings up the inventory ribbon, where you can access your journal, and examine and occasionally combine your inventory items. Click an item to try using it in the game world.
I thought the hotspots were fairly generous, but you can press space to identify them. Icons will indicate what to do where. Save at will (woohoo).
As indicated, all the elements add up to produce a puzzlingly gentle outing, with Carol and her city front and centre. Fans will be pleased, and newbies may well discover a franchise to their liking.
I played on:
OS: Windows 10, 64 Bit
Processor: Intel i7-9700K 3.7GHz
RAM: Corsair Dominator Platinum RGB DDR4 32GB
Video card: AMD Radeon RX 580 8192MB