Sins of the Fathers
"The sins of the fathers shall be visited upon the children." Of all of the misquotes from the bible (and it is a misquote), this is one of the most hotly debated. Do sons deserve to suffer for what their fathers have done? And if not, would someone please explain that to Emily Thorne on "Revenge"? Leaving aside the most addictive show on television today, Alawar Games (creators of such classics as Sacra Terra: Angelic Night) has come up with a fabulous adventure hybrid based upon this theme, visiting the (supposed) sins of a father upon a hapless son in Dark Strokes: Sins of the Fathers.
The game begins with Ethan Blake, about to happily marry his fiancé Clair. Unfortunately, his wedding needs to be postponed as he and his beloved rush to meet with his father in response to an urgent message. Even more unfortunately it becomes immediately apparent that someone or something is after poor Ethan, smashing in his train cabin window, causing a massive (and beautifully animated) wreck, and kidnapping both Clair and his father the Judge, all while terrorizing the town where Ethan's father has lived. Ethan must discover who the faceless ones are pretty quickly or else everyone he loves is doomed (as well as the town, but you know where Ethan's true priorities lie).
Dark Strokes: Sins of the Fathers is basic point-and-click adventuring with hidden object elements scattered throughout the game. Ethan must find his way around using navigation arrows and solve a wide variety of puzzles in order to discover exactly what is going on with this very strange town. Classic hidden object scenes (themselves quite nicely done with necessary interactions to find the listed objects), mini-games (of a nice variety and difficulty), and the usual adventure puzzle solving are balanced with a lot of story-telling, revealed through handy articles, conversations, and tons of gorgeously animated cut-scenes. A refilling hint timer is useful both within the games and puzzles and also within the adventuring portion of the game. Glints and sparks of light point the way to useful areas (a feature disabled in the expert mode) and a mysterious glowing blue eye highlights hidden object scenes.
Analysis: The story of Dark Strokes: Sins of the Fathers is a variation that has been seen many, many times in adventure hybrids these days. And although the game is gorgeous, and the animations that move the story along are wonderful, what is it that makes this particular hybrid stand out amongst the pack? The answer is gameplay, and lots of it. Dark Strokes is so packed with story, gaming, and adventure that it approaches a length (even in the "regular" adventure portion) very rarely seen in games these days.
It's not that the story is not interesting, because it is indeed quite gripping, especially the scenes relating to the finding of the figurines and the amazing little steampunk boat display they fit in, each one revealing a tiny bit more of the past. Answers are not completely obvious and there are enough plot twists to keep the gamer interested rather than creating a story so obvious that you can guess the entire plot line within half an hour of play. There are also enough unique elements in the hidden object scenes and the puzzles to keep the game fresh and interesting as the story develops and the player edges ever closer to the "forbidden city", where answers await the most intrepid.
For seasoned adventure connoisseurs the game can be a bit easy in casual mode, with too many glints, hints, and clues, but most of that is taken care of in Expert mode, and is enough to satisfy a wide-range of adventurers. There are a few minor problems with the English, most noticeably with Clair's name (in my day it was spelled with an "e" at the end), but overall the text, dialogue, and voice-overs are competently done. The music, while not necessarily anything to write home about, still does the job in setting the mood.
The standout storytelling, animation, and gameplay makes Dark Strokes: Sins of the Fathers a fun and somewhat spooky experience through a long and satisfying adventure hybrid. More mysterious than flat out scary, it is nonetheless quite a ride and definitely worth the time.
A Collector's Edition is also available. It includes concept art, a built-in strategy guide, and extra gameplay. Remember that Big Fish Game Club Members pay only $13.99 for Collector's Editions (or 2 club credits), and collector's editions count 3 card punches of 6 total needed for a free game.