Theresia: Dear Emile Review for Nintendo DS


Though there’s no shortage of point-and-click adventuring on DS, mature games are few and far between. Publisher Aksys Games, however, now brings us another title to add to the short list of spooky tales on the handheld. Theresia: Dear Emile mixes real-time adventure with point-and-click puzzle-solving to offer a story that winds more twisted at every turn.

Theresia: Dear Emile screenshot

To tell you much about the story would spoil things, but suffice it to say, Theresia is a well-written tale that reveals itself little by little as you journey through its creepy halls. You awaken in a darkened room, your hands covered in blood. You’ve lost all memory of where and who you are. However, as you progress, faint glimpses of your past come rushing back to you as crippling thunderbolts of realization. You must escape this place!

Theresia’s gameplay is likely most comparable to Hotel Dusk, though the perspective here remains strictly within the first-person. You move around the map in real-time, but when examining objects, rooms, and other gameplay elements, you’ll interact with 2D backdrops. Movement throughout the game’s maps, however, is very much like that of Orcs & Elves (a DS RPG by id Software). Your character moves frame by frame along a grid, and it’s perhaps the game’s main shortcoming. Since you’ll be doing quite a bit of backtracking – as is the norm with this type of adventure – the grid-based movement can make Theresia feel a tad slow and plodding at times.

However, when it comes to its puzzle solving and story elements, this horrifying adventure, for the most part, comes together fairly well. The interface is very easy to use; it’s unobtrusive and complementary to the game’s atmosphere. The controls consist of various icons, which allow you to interact with environments and items in different ways. An eye icon, for instance, allows you to take a closer look at elements of a room or object; the hand icon lets you actually interact with these things. The items you collect are neatly partitioned on the right-hand side of the touch screen – a system easy to navigate and enjoyable to use. You also have a health gauge, as interacting with certain objects can result in painful consequences. The game is quite forgiving in that sense, but with limited healing items (elixirs), Theresia encourages you to take pause before simply poking and prodding everything you encounter as you vie for your escape.

Theresia: Dear Emile screenshot

The game takes place within a dark and brooding atmosphere, and though it isn’t truly a survival-horror experience – as there are no jump-out-at-you moments, zombie chases, and the like – it remains both creepy and somewhat horrifying the entire way through. The game is comprised of interesting and clever puzzles to solve, though, unfortunately, use of the touch screen stays within the realm of basic point and click. The lack of any unique, DS-centric gameplay is perhaps a missed opportunity, yet Theresia manages to remain engaging in spite of its simple approach. Much of the gameplay here (sans the action elements) is somewhat reminiscent of the original Resident Evil, as you’ll need to think “outside the box” in order to solve certain puzzles. Occasionally, though, you’ll be tasked to use items or engage objects in ways that make little or no sense within the given context, and most players will likely find themselves stumped for a while during these portions of the game.

Theresia: Dear Emile screenshot

Perhaps Theresia’s most enjoyable moments, however, come from the bits of story the game reveals as you progress. The tale is paced well, and as you successfully complete small portions of the adventure, you’ll be made privy to more facts about your character, her past, and where and why she is where she is. The cutscenes are also some of the more beautiful elements of the game, and though Theresia may not be a big-budget outing on DS, the developers did a fine job of creating a cinematic experience from start to finish. The game also gives you different points of view with which to experience the story, though we won’t spoil anything for you.

Theresia: Dear Emile screenshot

The actual gameplay visuals, though, are something of a mixed bag. When moving along the map, you’ll traverse 3D halls and environments. The graphics here are serviceable, but there’s not much to look at along the way. Upon entering a room or engaging an action item, however, you’ll experience some of the more visually appealing aspects of the game. Again, Theresia consists mostly of point-and-click gameplay, but the 2D artwork is attractive and detailed. It’s also worth noting that, though the 3D hallways are somewhat plain, the lighting adds an element of apprehension that aids in keeping this experience from ever quite losing its frightful edge.

The aural elements of Theresia are pretty much on par with the rest of the game’s presentation, as themes and sound effects lend an extra bit of tension to the hallowed halls you’ll trod through. Though there is little variety with the musical themes, they are intensifying loops that fit well alongside Theresia’s dread-filled environments. Additionally, your character will grunt and groan when using tools, or she’ll bellow in pain when injured by a trap. A host of other subtle effects also lend mood and immersion to the adventure.

Theresia: Dear Emile is an engaging, morbid, and somewhat heart-wrenching tale. It does, however, rely upon a few weather-worn story conventions that will likely ring familiar to experienced adventure gamers. The game stays well within the confines of an age-old, point-and-click formula, though it’s sure to prove entertaining for fans of the macabre. The grid-like movement along maps often slows down progress, dulling the tension the game attempts to muster, but its strong adventure elements, as well as intriguing story, do a fine job of keeping Theresia elevated above mediocrity. Though the monologue falters occasionally, the story’s thrust should inspire most players to see this tale to its end.

Though the 3D corridors are basic and repetitive, the 2D backgrounds tell a good story. 3.8 Control
Theresia doesn’t venture far from the tried-and-true formula of point-and-click adventuring, but what it does, it does well. 3.4 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music is effective, though the game is quite conservative with its audio presentation. Sound effects and noises help round out the mood. 3.3

Play Value
Though likely created on a shoestring budget, Theresia offers an interesting story, engaging gameplay, and a fine, cinematic presentation. But as is the case with most games of its kind, there’s little reason to come back for seconds.

3.5 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Escape the Maze Alive! Hone your survival skills by carefully exploring the corridors of your captors while uncovering clues that bring you closer to a shocking revelation.
  • Items for the Win! Collect countless items and combine them in order to survive and uncover the depths of the maze.
  • Two Stories of Twisted Love and Despair! Follow the two tales to find out what is the true meaning behind Theresia?

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