If you fancy something a little bit on the strange and dark side of the puzzle/adventure world then check out Emily the Strange – Strangerous on the Nintendo DS.
Those of you who have yet to experience the strange world of Emily may well be surprised to hear that the goth teenager has been around for as much as 20 years. She began life on a sticker promoting the Cosmic Debris clothing line and has gone on to appear on clothing, stationary, fashion accessories and even a number of books and graphic novels. However, nothing could have prepared her for this latest accolade – being the star of her very own video game from PQube for Nintendo’s handheld console.
The story centers around thirteen year old Emily the Strange, who loves her black cats (Miles, Mystery, Sabbath and Nee Chee) almost as much as her goth look and dark clothing. Emily is awakened by a horrific nightmare in which her beloved black cats have been taken by a mysterious person. She then realises that the nightmare has come true and Emily sets out to recover all of her cats, meeting some villains and strange characters along the way.
In the course of her adventure and quest to recover her lost felines, Emily will have to visit six parallel universes where nothing is quite as it seems. Emily will have to solve puzzles and construct devices in order to progress through these strange worlds. During the game, the player controls Emily with a touch of the stylus and she will walk or run depending on the environment she’s in. A simple to use menu is situated in the top left of the screen, in which you can find her scrapbook. The scrapbook contains all of the information on the game, if you’re having a little trouble, and information about Emily’s four black cats, as well as the option to save the game.
The game starts off with Emily in her bedroom, which is filled with weird bottles filled with insects, a book case, a fireplace and a table full of TV screens and equipment such as test tube bottles. Anyone who has played a puzzle/adventure game before will know instantly that they have got to rummage through each area to find a clue or a puzzle of some kind. Emily doesn’t always move very fast within the game, so expect her to wander quietly as you frantically tap away at the DS screen.
Fans of the Layton series of games will be pleased to know that the puzzles follow a very similar form, for the most part. There are a lot of lateral and logic puzzles, whilst some, such as the labyrinth puzzle, will test your nerves whilst trying to draw a line through the maze without touching the sides. There is no difficulty curve to the puzzles on offer in the game. Players may come from a mind-bending puzzle that has required some time to solve, to a basic puzzle that is over in seconds. Interestingly, the developers seem to have realised that solving certain puzzles may be too difficult for the average gamer and included the solutions in the back of the manual. Either way, it is a nice variety of puzzles that will have fans of the genre thinking hard for a while.
But it is not all about the puzzles in Strangerous. The game offers a few mini games that offer a break from the puzzle solving, such as Skate Bored. These mini games offer the player a chance to win cat treats, which can be used to coax the cats into giving hints or helping with a puzzle, or Oddettes, which are used for Emily’s personal computer called the ‘OddIsee’. There are a number of functions that are exclusive to the DSi, so take note if you only own a DS or 3DS. These include some mini games and the chance to scan the world, enabling players to scan bar codes and unlock new and weird monster parts which can be used in the creation of Zonsters, which are custom made creatures. I was unable to test these functions out, but can’t really see that I missed anything important.
Players who are fans of Emily the Strange will be impressed by the red, black and white visuals of the game, along with some suitably Gothic-style music to accompany it. Everything is crisp and clear, and the visual style gives the game a unique look that really stands out.
While I intially enjoyed wandering through the game world, this point and click adventure game made me feel a little frustrated at times as the layout seemed a little confusing. Many times I felt completely lost in it and it felt a little awkward as I fumbled my way through the different environments, tapping randomly on the screen in the hope of finding where to go or what to do next. Another area in which I found that the game lacked was the story. There needs to be an involving tale to string together all of the puzzles, but I found that this was missing in Strangerous and the game didn’t give me a real incentive to find Emily’s missing cats.
Emily the Strange – Strangerous is absolutely amazing graphically, using minimal colours to recreate the world of this young teenager, and the background music seems fitting to the environment. The puzzles were good and offered a nice variety. It will certainly appeal to the younger generation of Emily the Strange fans, but I feel an older audience may find the game a little tiresome at times as it feels somewhat confusing and mixed up. Generally speaking it’s a good game, but could have been a great game with a more solid story and a more obvious way of navigating between points of interest.