Written by: Rik

Date posted: February 22, 2014

Extras:

Jack’s a real charmer.

Jack’s a real charmer.

Guilty is the second and final entry in the Innocent Until Caught series, the first of which was Innocent Until Caught [*slow hand clap* oh, bravo – FFG reader]. We did have a crack at that one, incidentally, but were undermined by a combination of sound problems and, more crucially, a bug that prevented further progress. To be honest, it didn’t seem all that great – certainly not good enough to warrant more than a cursory search for workable solutions, and, given our casual disregard for chronology here on FFG, a skip ahead to the sequel was called for. (Besides, we’d unwittingly already covered a later Divide by Zero effort, the decidedly okay-ish Flight of the Amazon Queen, a few years ago).

Guilty’s main distinctive feature is the opportunity to play as one of two characters. You can either take the role of returning protagonist Jack T. Ladd (groan) or new female lead Ysanne Andropath (slightly less-audible groan). At the start of the game, the former has been apprehended by the latter for crimes numerous, although the particular circumstances of the arrest surround a milk truck and a hostage situation involving a cow. Jack’s attempts to delay his return to face justice cause the two to make some unscheduled stops, during the course of which they uncover an alien plot to wipe out humanity. As Ysanne/Jack, it’s up to you to save the day.

The first thing to say is that this isn’t your typical switching mid-game type effort, where one character becomes captured and you take the role of the other in order to rescue them. You choose to play as Ysanne or Jack and then you play through the whole game as them. Once you complete it with one, you can then go again and see the same story from the other character’s point of view. Although the overarching story and many of the locations remain the same, the characters have different problems to solve. For example, on the first planet, Jack is tasked with finding more fuel for the ship, while Ysanne investigates the eerie silence of the settlement (for more on which, see Finding fuel on Lixa). While you do your bit, the other character is doing theirs but you don’t know the details. You’ll see problems and objects you don’t need to get involved with, only for their purpose to be revealed second time around.

Conversations involve this close-up view. Here, we’re being chatted up in a casino.

Conversations involve this close-up view. Here, we’re being chatted up in a casino.

As approaches go, it’s a pretty neat idea, although the two sides of the story don’t quite add up to the same whole. Rather than having two tales that interweave in a neat and clever fashion, certain aspects are reimagined to give the character you’re playing a more central and heroic role. You can sort of understand why they did this – probably to make it a bit easier to create each half of the game and keep the player character central to events – but the occasional moments when the second character is filling in exactly the other half of the same story (a brief section on a tank springs to mind) hint at greater potential unfulfilled.

Otherwise, Guilty is your bog-standard point and clicker, and as such lives or dies on the strength of its interface, game flow, puzzles and characters. And in most of these respects, it’s a disappointing effort. The characters are rather one-dimensional, and the central conceit is simple: Ysanne hates men, and Jack is a man who says things like “Hey babe, how are they hanging?” – you get the picture. Jack T. Ladd’s name is, of course, is a ‘humorous’ reference the phrase ‘Jack the Lad’, which as we all know, is another way of saying ‘tosser’. In the previous game he closely resembled Han Solo in close ups, and it’s clear that he’s intended as some kind of loveable rogue, but his jokes are too bad and his sexism too apparent for anyone to really warm to him. Ysanne sort of provides a level of relief, but there’s no subtlety to her either, she’s just your typical bad tempered ass-kicker who just keeps reiterating her distaste for the opposite sex. I don’t think it’s spoiling anything to reveal that, in the tradition of such things, the two leads eventually warm to each other, although they don’t really share many conversations as the action unfolds (presumably to avoid spoiling the other half of the story), so when they do become closer, it doesn’t seem entirely natural.

Women, eh? They’ll be getting the vote next.

Women, eh? They’ll be getting the vote next.

The supporting cast include the ship’s computer, Booba (triple groan) who seems to be based on a Jewish mother stereotype, and barring the occasional chuckle, most of the humour is fairly lame. I played the disk version and so missed out on the voice acting, although in my experience shoddy dialogue is normally received more favourably if you don’t have to listen to someone trying to act it out (a quick search on YouTube reveals the voiceovers to be slightly better than expected, although not by much). Evidently, some characters from the previous game return here, although for my money their appearances seem rather shoehorned in. (They could of course be beloved by fans of the series, if indeed there are any, but I didn’t really see why they were there at all).

The game itself hovers on the borders of acceptability. The interface isn’t great, with a grey area regarding the appropriate use of the ‘take’ and ‘use’ commands, while the inventory is a little haphazard, allowing objects to overlap and become difficult to identify and select. The graphics are a little bit poor in general, with a lack of definition making small objects and areas hard to find. On top of that, there are some sections which veer towards the truly hateful, such as the need to wander some caves endlessly both as Jack and Ysanne, while the section involving a mystery card game also drove me bananas. In general, the game is reluctant to let you know you’re along the right lines, and characters too often resort to the default ‘what are you doing’ lines even when you’re close to a solution. Finally, and this is probably just a personal thing, but many of the non player characters, particularly your co-star, seem unable to stay still for two seconds, wandering around with ants in their pants and leaving you with limited time to initiate a conversation. OK, I know having them just stand around in one place isn’t exactly realistic either, but it really got on my nerves.

Warning: this game does not contain male nudity.

Warning: this game does not contain male nudity.

Overall, then, Guilty is of the sort of standard you’d expect when poking around in the murky depths of adventure games less-celebrated – it’s just about ok, but towards the bottom end of respectability. The basic premise is good, but ultimately unrealised, and while the basic ingredients are there, there’s not a lot else, and certainly neither the story or characters are going to keep you interested if the simple mechanics of puzzle solving don’t do it for you on their own.