The Gloves Are Off
Twin Sector could best be described as a “best of” adventure game, but only because it incorporates the same elements of other popular games in this genre. However, there’s certainly nothing worthy of the title “best of” in this game. Like a great chef, a developer can blend a variety of popular ingredients into a new and celebrated creation. But instead of a pièce de résistance, Twin Sector is presented with as much pizzazz as a bowl of Campbell’s vegetable soup. While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with using existing ideas, especially the best ones from various games, the developers erringly assume that these elements define the genre, but that’s just a lazy excuse for not creating and implementing original ideas.
As far as standard adventure games go, Twin Sector should be proud to take its place somewhere in the middle between awful and great. Mechanically the game is fine. It works, it plays well, you can see and hear everything nicely, but it seriously lacks imagination. It’s nothing more than a 3D puzzle game with some cheesy storyline and terrible voice acting. Fans of adventure games that aren’t too discriminating will probably enjoy this game, but be warned that it’s not much of a challenge if you allow O.S.C.A.R. to give you hints; more on O.S.C.A.R. later. I should also mention that although the heroine may be reminiscent of Kate from Syberia, this girl is not Kate and this isn’t Syberia.
Ashley Simms is the star of the show. She’s been revived from a cyrogenic chamber. She’s the only one that’s responded to the awakening. The chamber is filled with the rest of the population of Earth, lying suspended in an effort to temporarily escape a contamination on the planet’s surface. Deep underground, this chamber system resembles a space station with generic metallic corridors linked by various elevators and secured by the requisite impenetrable doors. Ashley soon discovers that there is a problem with the generator system and she has only ten hours to fix it or everyone in the chamber will die. This information is disseminated by none other than O.S.C.A.R., a talking and seemingly sentient computer. More on O.S.C.A.R. later, I promise. Bequeathed with a pair of “model 229 standard issue Robinson telekinesis gloves,” Ashley will have the power to perform acts of superhuman strength and prowess. Any similarities to the Penumbra series and Second Sight are surely intentional.
The corridor system acts as a maze, but it’s more than that. It plays much too prominent a role in the gameplay, making it repetitive and shallow. Far too many puzzles revolve around locating the next freight elevator and finding whatever code or device will open the locked door. The game is filled with puzzle item clichés such as crates, switches, exploding canisters, barrel drums, laser barriers, damaged fuse boxes, missing sections of grating, and those damn endless corridors. In a nutshell, the game is nothing more than a maze that you work your way through, get to the generator room, and save the world. Along the way, you will have to hurl barrels at crates and doors, launch exploding canisters at doors, toss debris at backup switches located on ceilings, and, of course, throw yourself down an open grate to the level below to achieve merciful sweet death.
Virtually all of the action is accomplished with the careful deployment of your “model 229 standard issue Robinson telekinesis gloves.” These gloves allow you to pick up, suspend, and throw heavy objects such as the oil barrels and gas cylinders. They also will allow you to repel or attract yourself to the environment. In attraction mode, you can move your body upwards or forwards to reach high places or to span missing sections of grating. The repel mode is used to smooth out hard landings when jumping down a level or two. Using the gloves is fairly easy, and even though there seem to be a lot of moves that you can perform, they are essentially context-sensitive and automatically adjust to the situation at hand. There’s really not a lot of thinking involved in this game in terms of moves and puzzles, and in case you’ve developed a mental block, O.S.C.A.R. is always here to annoy the #$%& out of you.
Now, as promised, all about O.S.C.A.R.
If there’s anything that frightens me about the future, it’s that it may spawn irritating virtual life forms like O.S.C.A.R. This is the computer that oversees the chamber. It’s O.S.C.A.R. that awoke Ashely. It’s O.S.C.A.R. that gives her directives. Regardless of where she is, O.S.C.A.R. can see, hear, and communicate with her. O.S.C.A.R. tells her exactly what’s up, informing her of such obvious situations as “The door is locked and the switch is broken.” He then tells her what she has to do, and where to go to do it.
He’s obviously tied into the chamber network, so why can’t he just unlock the damn doors and fix the damn generator? O.S.C.A.R. is loosely based on HAL, the computer from 2001: A Space Odyssey, but there’s no comparison in the voice acting. HAL was brilliantly chilling, but O.S.C.A.R. is just embarrassing. This actor is so bad that he can’t even sound like a robot. Ashley is voiced a little better, but she has a certain teenage attitude that wouldn’t surprise me if her favorite retort was, “Whatever…”
There’s not a lot of music, but that’s not a bad thing. The sparseness gives it greater impact, made even more scintillating by the fact the music is well composed to fit the mood of the situations. Ambient sound effects are relegated to the hollow, metallic echoes of footsteps down a long and endless system of corridors. Oddly, the explosions seems compressed, with no sharp retort or crack, just a white noise distorted rumble.
Graphically the game is dated. It’s clean but it lacks personality. Ashley looks great, but only when she’s not moving, otherwise she looks like an animated blow-up doll. The sense of distance is well presented and it works in harmony with the control system. There’s a sense of realism to the physics. When you throw an object, it goes as far as you would expect it to under the circumstances, those circumstances being that the item is being propelled telekinetically.
All I can say is that if I were walking through a store, (although you can get the game online at Steam) I would have my “model 229 standard issue Robinson telekinesis gloves,” in repel mode should I come across a copy of Twin Sector.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.2 Graphics
Dated and repetitive graphics. Character looks like an animated doll. Good perspectives of environment. 2.8 Control
Control system is responsive but not enough variety. 2.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Music is sparse but good. Voiceovers are terrible. 2.6 Play Value
Repetitive gameplay. Unimaginative puzzle designs. 2.7 Overall Rating – Average
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.