Louis returns to Jalonsville for the best game in the series yet
Dripping with strangeness, memory lapses, and a cast of characters that would be just as comfortable in a David Lynch movie, the 1112 series has been providing serious adventure gamers with one of the most captivating mysteries we’ve played in years. It’s been nearly 15 months since Agharta Studios released Episode 02, but much to our delight, 1112: Episode 03 was well worth the wait.
As the story begins, Louis finds himself in the bathroom of his best friend John’s house. The problem? He has no memory of how he got there. In fact, the last thing he remembers is being in New York six months earlier. Memory lapses have become something of a problem for Louis as of late, but even for Louis, six months is an awfully long time to lose.
Now back home in the small town of Jalonsville, the setting of the first episode, Louis is surprised to see that the world has turned to winter. More surprising, though, is that his wife Anna seems to be missing, his home and shop have been busted up, and a strange symbol has been graffitied all over the walls of his house.
It’s a strange opening to be sure, but it kicks off 5 or 6 hours of exquisite gameplay as you try to unravel the mystery in front of you.
Like previous games, 1112: Episode 03 ends up presenting you with more questions than answers. This isn’t the final instalment in the series though, so it’s pretty clear that everything that’s come before is leading up to the big reveal. Somehow the lack of answers didn’t frustrate us – it just made us more excited for the next instalment.
The point’n’click puzzling elements here – finding items, figuring out how and where to use them – offer up a pretty sizable challenge. There have been a lot of adventure games in recent years where to solutions seem to be staring you in the face, but this isn’t one of them. As such, it would have been nice if the developers thought to include a hint system of some kind. Of course for a lot of gamers, just having the temptation to use it could be enough to ruin all their fun.
It’s pretty hard to talk about the story in 1112: Episode 03 without giving up spoilers, but I’ll try my best. Characters from the first game come back, new characters are introduced, and not everything is as it seems. The writing is strong, delivering exactly what it needs to – and it’s written in a way that the plot elements and puzzle elements co-exist harmoniously. For example, you may not be able to get a drunk to talk to you unless you can find a bottle of his favourite whiskey. Or you won’t be able to take the pictures you need unless you can find film and a darkroom to develop them in. The puzzle elements here are a sensible part of the story – nothing ever feels like it was forced in there just to add more gameplay.
Agharta’s games always seem to be dripping with style, and Episode 03 is no exception. The visuals here are top notch, and the haunting original soundtrack creates a perfect mood of tense uncertainty. And we really can’t stress how good the game looks. Each room you explore is painstakingly detailed, and there’s a faux-3D vibe, with objects in the foreground that move appropriately when you pan around the room. It’s just a staggeringly beautiful game to look at.
Despite how good the games always look in terms of art assets though, there was one real standout in visual design this time that really knocked our socks off: the snow. As Louis explores the town, the snow falls heavily and realistically in every scene, and they’ve somehow managed to make it feel like it’s right in front of your eyes.
As someone who grew up surviving Canadian winters, I promise you – the snow is perfect.
While it may be a continuation of the previous games and simply a single part of a larger story, 1112: Episode 03 shows improvements over its predecessors, resulting in the strongest game in the series yet. The storytelling is tighter, the pacing is better, and the experience is overall more captivating. It weighs in at about six hours, and you’ll likely find it impossible to walk away until you reach the very end.
But what about Louis? Will we ever really get to find out what’s going on? It looks like we’ll have to wait until Aghartha releases the inevitable Episode 04 and pray we finally get some answers then.