We are facing a revision of the thriller genius' film, but will its videogame live up to the movie?
Do you remember Alfred Hitchcock's 1958 film Vertigo? Unfortunately I haven't been able to see it yet, but what I do know is that it is widely considered a cinema classic and also one of the best films by the director. In the film, James Stewart had to keep a close eye on a magnificent Kim Novak as she overcame her vertigo (do you get it?). Of course, it is Hitchcock who we are talking about, and it wasn't going to be that simple: the suspense scenes, the music, the romantic tension... intrigue at its finest.
Moreover, in the video game developed by Pendulo Studios, the main character is Ed Miller, an American novel writer who lives in the middle of the countryside, where he is constantly looking for inspiration. The game begins with a scene in which a car accident leads the protagonist to develop certain psychological problems that prevent him from living his life normally. From this point on, through therapy, we will have to find out whether everything that has happened to Ed is real or just part of his imagination. As in the film, in this revision of the story, not everything is what it seems. We will have to be very careful not to miss any details and solve the enigma.
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Beyond black and white
Pendulo Studios carried out a complete revision of the classic film, which includes of course that it's now set in the era of smartphones and social networks, and that affects the plot. There are numerous nods to the classic that it adapts, such as scenes that change to black and white or the appearance of the legendary director. Furthermore, there's imitations of the habits of Hitchcock's last films in which, fed up with spectators being more concerned about finding him on stage than following the plot, he would always appear in the first frames.
I must say that I'm not a big fan of the art style Pendulo Studios has shown in their latest works. Their depictions are rough, with face modelling that aims for extreme humanisation in order to best appreciate the unsettled states of the main characters, but they are not executed well at all, and sometimes lack soul or personality. This can be seen in a very significant way in the animations, which do not feel natural and lead me to think that sometimes they have not correctly chosen the perspectives of the scene, based on the resources they have.
The music, the script and the plot are the best things about Vertigo, without a doubt. An adaptation of a classic by a legend like Alfred Hitchcock is not easy, but it has been achieved. The soundtrack will feel like another main character of the game and will fully convey the suspense and tension to you.
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Vertigo switches between different stories and characters. It tries to approach the different perspectives of the investigation from unique angles, so that we can draw our own conclusions. Decisions are a recurring theme throughout the adventure, with decisions having to be made on aspects that at first glance seem trivial, as well as others of crucial importance. The problem is whether certain decisions really have weight in the final outcome, or whether they are simply game dynamics introduced to keep us busy and extend the experience.
The same applies to cinematic action scenes, such as opening a door by moving an analog stick or pressing a button. At first you do it at full speed, because you don't expect it, but you soon realise that it doesn't make much difference whether you perform the action or not. If you don't do it, the character will simply stay static waiting for you to do it. In this case I wonder, is it really necessary to introduce mechanics that don't influence the outcome of the narrative at all?
This is probably the most negative aspect of the game. The edition I tested is the one released on Nintendo Switch on September 27 (its first edition was for PC at the end of 2021). Although I had high hopes for it, it should be noted that it has not been implemented well on Nintendo's game console. The game suffers from texture issues throughout the adventure, from problems related to shadows to shaking due to polygons not lining up properly. This happens especially in open level scenarios, and is most noticeable on surfaces that are in the background. It also suffers from drops in the refresh rate of images, especially on loading screens.
Adventure game or highly interactive visual novel?
It is a very good question, and my answer is that Vertigo is not an adventure game at all, but rather a visual novel with a lot of interaction. As soon as you understand this, you will enjoy the game much more. There are no old-school puzzles, but rather sets of decisions and actions that will lead you down one path or another. That idea is great, but the "challenge" component is removed from the equation. That makes it much more accessible, but for some people it can also be synonymous with boring. Puzzles like those from Hollywood Monsters, from the same developer, are missing.
The icing on the cake is undoubtedly the work of the dubbing team, who deliver a masterful performance for all the characters. To sum up, for a game called Alfred Hitchcock - Vertigo, the script and narrative are certainly up to the mark, but not the artwork, which, with the exception of the most emblematic scenes, is rather linear.
6 / 10
The plot is engaging and will keep you on the edge of your seat throughout the adventure.
The art is nothing new, and it is not on the same level as former titles from the developer. Performance suffers greatly on Nintendo Switch.