|System: PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Lexis Numérique||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: DreamCatcher Interactive/The Adventure Company||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Feb. 5, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
Just like any other time-worn genre, adventure games - even those with the benefit of having an air of creepiness interspersed throughout - are not immune to the pitfalls frequently found from one title to the next: recycling of old tenets, lack of innovation, and dull play mechanics. It's always encouraging when something new and interesting comes along. When French developers Lexis Numérique concocted The Experiment, aptly named as it is, they threw the rulebook out completely. The result is a seriously deep adventure title with a presentation and gameplay that's refreshingly original. It's best to set aside a few solid afternoons for this one; once you get sucked into The Experiment, you'll want to see it through to the end.
The mysterious adventure begins aboard a large run-down science vessel that's long been beached on a tropical island in the Pacific. The jungle has overrun the seemingly deserted ship. Players find themselves in the operations room of the steel beast in front of an array of electronic panels and computer terminals. From the helm of one of the main computers, players discover Lea Nichols - a survivor of the EDEHN science team - on the ship's surveillance system. As Nichols wakes up in confusion, she notices the security camera watching her and addresses you directly to ask for help. She sets off to discover what happened to the remainder of her science team and escape the confines of the dilapidated ship. Players will follow Nichols closely throughout her mission, providing guidance and assistance as they learn more about the eerie nature of experiments previously going on in the ship. Without giving any of the story away (since that's typically main force behind such titles), let's just say science has run amok following some surprising discoveries.
What's unique about The Experiment is the way players interact with Nichols. Though she can't be controlled directly, she can be guided by using the ship's computer system to turn lights on and off, activate computer terminals, and use speakers to generate sound to get her attention and draw her towards an area of interest. The ship is also littered with surveillance cameras which are the only way players can view Nichols and her surroundings directly. A window (which can be opened and closed at whim) with a 2D schematic of the ship shows you where she's located at any given time, and it serves as the main form of navigation in the game. The small map also highlights the location of lights, computers, and crucial surveillance cameras which can be clicked on to bring up a live feed of the area.
Up to three different surveillance cameras can be accessed at a single time to provide different angles and views of what's happening on the ship. The view windows for each of the three cameras can be stacked, scaled to three different sizes, and arranged on the screen in any manner the player chooses. At any time players can click on a camera screen and then move the mouse to pan the camera in different directions. Eventually Nichols will locate camera upgrades, which allow you to zoom in and out, fine-tune for details, detect heat signatures, and enhance available lighting. When combined with the area map, the surveillance system provides a truly out of the ordinary experience while navigating the bowels and dark corridors of the ship. This slightly unusual presentation isn't entirely perfect, but it's definitely a fresh design that's a welcome addition.