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Residue (PC) artwork

Residue (PC) review


Beneath all of Residueís unfortunate clumsiness, lack of direction, poorly implemented mechanics and shoddy presentation lies what could be a potentially interesting concept.

If youíve not heard of the Aral Sea, it was one of the worldís largest lakes before Soviet-era Russia irrigated the bejesus out of it, and reduced it to around a tenth of its original size. This devastated the surrounding areas both environmentally and economically as a massive body of water was whittled down into a comparative puddle. Only quite recently have measures been put in place to try and right this horrendous action, but itís going to take decades to start setting in and Aral will probably never amount to what it used to be.

Residue takes place in the aftermath of a failed project to hasten the restoration via dramatic means, poking around in the skeletons of beached ships and among the ghosts of failure's past. If it sounds like an interesting premises, thatís because it is. The further you delve into the dried-out seabed, the more you uncover not only about the factual travesty, but the details of Residueís previous radical attempts to right it. Scraps of forgotten documents are outnumbered by phantom re-enactments of the past scenes of a small groupís attempts to hasten Aralís renovation.

It should be desperate and touching. And it would be if it wasnít hamstrung by poor voice acting and oft-whiny dialogue. Every character in the game is the not-so-proud owner of a Russian accent so poorly implemented it makes Cate Blanchettís effort in that awful Indy film seem genuine. The character youíre supposed to feel the most sympathy for suffers the worst of this, grumbling endlessly in a shrill tone as he follows people around, bleating at them until they give up and pay him some attention. Had this been deliberate, it might have made for an interesting dynamic, but heís cast further and further into reluctant heroism and martyrdom.

Finding these instances, even in itself, is often a huge pain in the arse. The game circulates protagonists with specific skillsets that lets them access areas that others cannot. Emilio is the youngest of the three, and can scale obstacles and leap from platform to platform. His part of the game is often the most simplistic, tasking him from getting from A to B, and itís rare that youíll find yourself wandering around lost trying to figure out what to do next. This is not even remotely true in regards to Nikolai, who navigates around with a grappling hook contraption bound to his waist that almost always works at least half of the time. Because of this, what heís supposed to grapple is never made clear, and a lot of time is wasted simply trying to figure out where the hell he should be going. Despite a section of the game revealing a ghostly scene directly beneath you at one point, youíll find this is not the way the game wants you to go. It actually wants you to go right and up, despite going out of its way to draw your attention elsewhere. The last guy, Jumagul has none of these concerns because his abilities donít allow him to do hardly anything of worth. He can dazzle you with his ability to hold a flashlight or open a door all while wearing a hat so ludicrously large, it makes him look like a walking capital letter T.

I could be more forgiving had the initial grungy feeling of loss and lingering regret stayed at the forefront of the gameís tale. Nikolai served as foreman to the previous failed attempts to resurrect the Aral Sea, while Emilio and Jumagul have come to try and reclaim his last remaining worker back into their family. They share very different but still intertwining goals, and the interaction between the trio as they criss-cross each otherís paths and how their agendaís slowly alter in the face of disaster is sometimes strangely compelling. Then, maybe a third of the way in, it starts to descend into the ludicrous before sporting an ending that makes so little sense even if I chose to spoil it for you Iím not sure how Iíd go about explaining it.

The game seems determined to lurch awkwardly towards its poorly realised conclusion and to hell with any fallacy it has to contend with along the way! It seems to lose interest in the Aral Seaís valid plight in order to advance its own shaky narrative, dismissing previous strengths petulantly in order to forge onwards with its custom-built ridiculousness and getting lost. Once Residue loses any sense of the interesting concept it decided to stop cultivating, all thatís really left is unfortunate clumsiness, lack of direction, poorly implemented mechanics and shoddy presentation.


EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (April 21, 2019)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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Masters posted April 22, 2019:

Looks like you didn't love this game. :) I'd never heard of it, and it looks bad, even at a glance, so I suspect your view is justified. Good job trudging through another entry in your ever-growing 'obscure garbage' pile. Your writing here is surprisingly serious and lyrical, and it's denser and less snarky than I am accustomed to; almost as if this piece were written by a different person, or perhaps the same person, years earlier. Curious...
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EmP posted April 22, 2019:

The implied joke here is that yesterday, while clearing out some files, I found this review which I had written back in 2015, and promptly forgotten it existed. I assume I was waiting for a slow week or something and then it fell into the void for four years.

I didn't much like the game, and that was a shame. The little indie studio that made this was following up on a sleeper indie horror game called They Breathe which I remember enjoying. They don't seem to have made anything since.

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