Covert Front 4: The Spark of Life
When we last saw Kara, protagonist of the Covert Front series, the turn-of-the-century badass espionage expert had just escaped a Zurich prison compound, and hijacked the plane that would take her to her next destination: Lisbon, Portugal. She remains hot on the trail of Karl Von Toten, the German scientist whose discoveries could tip the balance of this alternate universe's World War. It's time to save the free world. Karol Konwerski, Mateusz Skutinik, and the rest at Pastel Games bring you to the climactic finale of Kara's mission in Covert Front 4: The Spark of Life, another episode of wonderful point-and-click adventuring.
Use the mouse to interact with the scene, clicking on an area when the icon changes to a hand to indicate you can do something there, or that there is something to be picked up. Some scenes are wide, and can be scrolled over by moving the cursor to the sides of the play screen. Kara's inventory is stored at the bottom of the screen, and clicking on an item will either activate it, or ready it for use. And considering you'll have lugged half a Craftsman tool chest of items by the end of the game, it's pretty convenient.
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Analysis: It has been a while since we've gone into the world of Covert Front. By our calender, she's been flying that plane for three years now! Still, the time in development was obviously well spent, since Covert Front 4 is another polished entry in what has become a classic casual gaming series. The style of the installment has clearly evolved with the developers own, creating a work that fits perfectly with its predecessors, while undeniably exploring new, even fantastic, ground. The tone and quality is set in the first minutes of gameplay, as Kara coolly fixes her malfunctioning aircraft and sets down on an enemy airfield without breaking a sweat. Skulking about in rural daylight is a different kind of tension from the dark alleyways and creaking mansions Kara has explored in the past, but you will still look over your shoulder at every chirping bird and creaky door.
All the hallmarks of the series return, for good or for bad... mostly good. The uniquely shaded art-style once again perfectly captures the seedy cloak and dagger atmosphere of a world at war. The puzzles are as deviously conceived as ones you would expect from the makers of Submachine (and some of the screens late in the game definitely have the feel of that series wink wink). They puzzles are heavy on the hot-spot hunting, but having to examine every screen for hidden alcoves and secret compartments is exactly what you would expect from a spy game. Still, a little more guidance would have been appreciated though, especially for one particular puzzle where an action must be repeated several times for an effect to take. Additionally, while the sound effects and well-placed sparse bits of music are perfect at keeping things ominous, the voice-acting for the series remains quite bland.
Covert Front 4: The Spark of Life is not for beginners, either to adventure gaming or to the series. Even those who've played the previous installments might want to run through them again to refresh themselves of Kara's universe and mission. Still, it is definitely the finale that the series deserves and that fans have desired. The only thing missing is "Kara Will Return in... From Lisbon With Love", at the end of the credits, but perhaps that would be asking too much.
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