IFReviewed by David Whyld on 2006-10-30 05:17
Blurb: “How it spread no one could say and everything from the food eaten to animal bites got the blame, but still it spread.”
Pestilence is a game about a disease. Of which you are, unfortunately, a victim. The game begins with you heading to a medical centre looking for a cure. A nicely interesting idea, but I'm sorry to say that my enthusiasm waned quickly afterwards.
I never really warmed to Pestilence for a number of reasons. The main one was that I, as the main character, often had to carry out some decidedly non-heroic actions to make progress. The first location required me to commit cold blooded murder to gain access to a medical centre where I had gone for treatment; later on I'm required to gas a woman locked in a cell (for which I get a nice score boost even though it’s not necessary to perform this action). While I can understand that the player is desperate for a cure, I'm not sure I like the idea of indiscriminately murdering other people to find that cure. I also wasn’t too keen on the game’s fondness for killing me off so many times in the early stages. I didn’t really expect to die so often, or so frequently, and having to restart the game so early into play was a hassle. In hindsight, one of the ways to prevent my untimely demise did make sense, but it was only after I had died and thought “but what if…?” that I realised it made a difference. Personally, I’d have preferred not having to die and restart the game to figure out what I needed to do.
The player carries around with him a notepad which fills itself in whenever some clue to the cure is discovered. In theory anyway. One game it seemed to fill itself in fine – which was nice, because it showed I was making progress – yet in another it stayed blank for the most part, even after I found out what I needed to do, and then filled itself in all in a rush.
I wasn’t very keen on the way some of the puzzles were constructed, or the way only a certain command will work yet other, equally reasonable commands, often won’t. At one point, I was required to put an item on another item to allow me to get through a locked door. I had a number of items, as well as there being a perfectly decent one in the room with me, yet the game hit me with YOU CAN’T PUT ANYTHING ON THE BUTTON whenever I tried to place items on it. Only the relevant item worked and allowed me through the door, but shouldn’t the game have at least had a better response than YOU CAN’T PUT ANYTHING ON THE BUTTON if I tried the wrong item? The first time I chanced across the button, I didn’t even have the item in question and spent a while trying to put other things on it instead.
Despite my initial misgivings, the game is actually quite playable once you solve the first set of problems and start making progress. There are the usual puzzles inside the medical centre involving opening locked doors and bypassing various hazards, including an infected woman who will tear your throat out with her teeth if you unwittingly stumble into her cell. I died several times at that point, as I didn’t realise the woman would attack me until she appeared and killed me, and not expecting her to keep chasing after and killing me every time I tried to run away. Funnily enough, if I opened her door and then either entered her cell or walked away, she’d rush out and kill me, yet if I stood there and did nothing, she left me alone.
There are a few NPCs, although only the lab assistant, like you infected with the Pestilence, has any proper dialogue. He can be questioned about a wide variety of subjects, and while most of these are simple filler, it’s nice to find an NPC with so many different responses. He almost seemed alive at one point. Saying that, as the ingredients for the cure are to be found around the medical centre and are reasonably easy to acquire, and the lab assistant actually knows what the cure is, I'm kind of surprised he didn’t just make it for himself rather than waiting around for me to come along and save him.
Finding a cure is a simple enough procedure in itself. Simply locate the ingredients, most of which are in easy to find places, find out what the name of the cure is and make said cure. According to another review I read of the game, the cure varies from game to game, but in the three times I played through it (once just exploring, once relying on the hints to get to the end, once to get a walkthrough done and write my own review), I had to find the same cure each time. Maybe I just got on the bad side of the randomness and it doled out ‘artemis’ every time.
Overall, while I wouldn’t say I really liked Pestilence, it’s not a bad game in itself. I was surprised by the player having to kill an innocent civilian right at the start of the game – surely a better course of action could have been implemented – and some of the other actions were a little suspect at best, but it’s not a bad game overall.
5 out of 10