What Makes You Tick:
A Stitch in Time
A troubled town seemingly locked in time, a prestigious institute of scientific research in diaspora and dissolution, a cryptic note from an estranged father, and a miraculous mechanical heart. They all have a part in the story of What Makes You Tick: A Stitch in Time, a handsome, evocative adventure game from Lassie Games. We reviewed the original What Makes You Tick when it was released years ago, and previewed the demo of A Stitch in Time last spring. Now you can get the full adventure and see for yourself the fate of Ravenhallow, the Smith Institute, and the mad Dr. Vincent.
While many of the characters from the original What Makes You Tick make important appearances, the main protagonist of A Stitch in Time is a new arrival. Nigel Trelawnty has just travelled to Ravenhallow, hoping to settle his late father's estate, when he is caught up in events proceeding from the plot of the original game. Like many adventure games, you control Nigel with the mouse, clicking to move, collect items, and interact with the environment. The controls for A Stitch in Time are a little unusual, but easy once you get the hang of them. When you find a person, place, or thing to interact with, click and hold the mouse button and a verb coin will appear, with which you can look at, speak with, or handle the object in question. Your inventory is accessible from the bottom of the screen; click on an item to select it, click on another item or on the screen to use it, and double-click to dismiss the item. Other than that, if you like adventure games, then you know the drill: explore, meet the locals, collect items, solve puzzles, and unpiece the mysteries of the Smith Institute.
Analysis: One thing we remarked on in our review of the demo was how difficult it is to make a "serious" adventure game with puzzles that respect a serious tone, and how the demo managed to achieve that. The complete version of A Stitch in Time does a fair job of living up to that promise. A few more puzzles than I would have liked breach the line into goofy territory, and many puzzles rely on favor-trading that seem very tangental to the main plot (though they serve well in fleshing out the characters of Ravenhollow), but many puzzles also stick to the story in a way that fits.
The puzzles themselves are solid, and while some are a bit silly, they are never illogical. Since the game uses hot spots for key locations, you'll never get stuck because you couldn't find an important item lying around. You might get stuck because you haven't explored everywhere, or interviewed every character as thoroughly as you can. It's important to be a comprehensive investigator in A Stitch in Time, both to fill out your inventory and to gather important clues. Pay attention, for many details are important.
Being a good explorer will also give you a deeper appreciation of the game's storyline. I continue to be entranced by the world of Ravenhallow and vicinity. Maybe I just need to visit more European seaside villages, but there is something about Ravenhallow's timelessness, coupled with the lore of the nearby Smith Institute and Northwest Castle, that I find very intriguing. I feel like there are a billion nooks and crannies in Ravenhallow to investigate, and every new scene feels like a discovery. One novel feature of A Stitch in Time is the ability to play every scene in both day and night. The differences between Ravenhallow in the day and nighttime are not only crucial to solving certain puzzles, but give you nearly twice as much game to explore. Ravenhallow becomes an entirely different world at night.
The excellent presentation is what makes A Stitch in Time so immersive. The music is evocative and well-selected. The sound design is atmospheric and inviting. The backgrounds (some of which are by John Green) are absolutely gorgeous and possibly my favorite part of the game. The weakest part of the design is perhaps in the characters; some of the dialogue feels a bit forced, and the stiff movements and lack of voices take some of the animation out of the animation. But even here, the developers populated Ravenhallow with some excellent characters, like the enigmatic mask-maker Mandelbaum and his precocious daughter Eve; the despondent, Lorre-esque lawyer Lionstone; the stubborn, put-upon trader Captain Amayi; and the taciturn, plainly torment Baron Northwest.
I feel that What Makes You Tick: A Stitch in Time is a few clicks shy of a masterpiece, and as it stands it is very good. There are some small weakness in the gameplay, the writing, and the design, but other elements are impeccable, and the overall package is very strong. If anything else A Stitch in Time creates a small but immersive and fascinating world to explore, and for this alone it is a success.