Entrapment

Entrapment - An adventure game by Stuart Lilford of Lightbulb Games

The first of my reviews (finally) of the selection of games generously included in the AGS Bake Sale bundle and what an opening it is. Entrapment is a game by Stuart Lilford, aka Tenacious Stu, of Lightbulb Games created using Adventure Game Studio and first prototyped back in January 2011 when he was at University. The finished game sees the main character, Sam Drake, plagued by attempts to frame him for murder from an unknown stalker. Recently he has been waking up in hotel rooms with different women.. different dead women. Yeah..you thought you had problems?!

The first thing that really grabbed me is the music. The title screen fades in to moody, threatening chords, oozing with tension. Peircing notes lance through the chords, shortly resolving into a lighter, more positive swelling soundtrack, the likes of which you’d find in epic movie productions. The music was created by Brian Carnrike (aka Swordofkings128) and his unsettling scores punctuate the rest of game, heightening the tension. Some of the sound effects in the game, such as the ticking clock, complement the soundtrack, although I felt the game would have benefited from more sound effects. It cannot be understated how solid the game feels with a proper musical score though.

The game deals with very serious themes, [spoiler warning] namely murder, guilt, and split-personality disorders, [/spoiler warning] but these are made more palatable by a good dose of humor. The gravity of his situation isn’t lost on Sam, and he tells you so when you happen to forget! He also has a hard time convincing the other characters that the murders are even happening and his frustrated exchanges with the hotel receptionist work well as comic relief.

Visually, the game is presented in a simple, almost cartoon style, however this works well with the difficult subject matter. The focus isn’t on the gory details – though they be presenting their bodily fluids to all who can bear to watch – instead it’s on Sam’s attempts to cope with his predicament. That’s not to suggest that the graphics were an afterthought. On the contrary, the backgrounds are full of nice touches like the light cast from lampshades and ruffles in the duvet covers of the hotel bed. Not to mention the blood trail leaking from the abdomen of the unfortunate young woman lying in the middle of the floor..

Some background animation would have breathed life into the otherwise static scenes – there were some flashing lights I recall – however Sam himself has been given some very nice animations. It has to be remembered that the game was finished to a tight deadline to make the Bake Sale and it’s easy to forget how much time it takes to create each animation, especially for a one man team. Of those that have been implemented, my favourite is the ‘wide-eyed’ horror that Sam expresses and the crawling animation.

I found the puzzles satisfying, not too difficult but not blatantly obvious either. I didn’t spend too long scratching my head although I would have liked to see more interaction with some of the hotspots in the rooms. Items that I thought were perfectly logical puzzle items turned out simply to be background scenery. The puzzle solutions made sense though and I especially liked the solution to the bathroom puzzle..because you would use a [insert item here], wouldn’t you?

The dialogue in the game was well written, although I found the intro sequence a bit over the top but it later feeds back into the story well and there’s a nice, related, touch in the main menu. I did find some of the monologue – particularly the reveal near the end – quite awkward. A splurge of explanation for everything that happened that was perhaps unnecessary.

It’s a short game which tries to cover a lot of ground and mostly succeeds. Some of the later dialogue introduces ideas which would have been nice to see earlier, to see how they would unfold, but the game presents a solid, well-rounded story that quickens your pace throughout. A nice feature are the two different endings with two extreme choices left up to the player and I felt compelled to try them both, and rewarded for doing so.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the game. It’s clear that a lot of love and time has been invested in the game and it succeeds in presenting an unsettling narrative. That such a powerfully emotional journey can be contained in such a small episode is testament to the author’s creativity and narrative technique. I’d be very interested in seeing a longer piece from Lightbulb Games, exploring psychological issues in more detail.

The Bake Sale is now finished so the game is no longer available for the moment, however you can see a trailer of the game here and some notes on its genesis on the Lightbulb Games blog.

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