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Ceville (PC) artwork

Ceville (PC) review


"Despite its good intentions, Ceville is so mediocre that I'm struggling to know what to say about it. It's easy to enthuse about brilliance in games, or relentlessly rant about awful bits. Ceville has no significant examples of either. Despite its good intentions, it's unremarkable; despite its problems, it's rather playable. It sits firmly in the middle of the gaming spectrum, a title that's likely to annoy few but resonate with fewer."



Despite its good intentions, Ceville is so mediocre that I'm struggling to know what to say about it. It's easy to enthuse about brilliance in games, or relentlessly rant about awful bits. Ceville has no significant examples of either. Despite its good intentions, it's unremarkable; despite its problems, it's rather playable. It sits firmly in the middle of the gaming spectrum, a title that's likely to annoy few but resonate with fewer.

Aside from the agreeably colourful and well-realised world of Feryanis, everything is decidedly bland. Characters seem initially strong but quickly degenerate into mumbling stereotypes. The story goes through as many motions as it does lengthy, uneventful stretches. Puzzles regularly skirt brilliance before deviating into long-winded, pixel-hunting tedium.

It's never really bad, either. Sure, it can be fiddly to control thanks to an unhelpful camera, and voiceovers occasionally trigger over one another, leaving a jumbled, incomprehensible aural mess. In a worse game, such issues could be the final insult. In a better game, they'd remove some of the shine.

Here, I just don't care. There's no personality to insult, no shine to remove.

It almost works -- which is arguably the most disappointing thing about Ceville. Making the protagonist so evil, so surly, so difficult and dislikable, was a brave move. It's a move that could well have paid off if they'd had the courage to stick with it, instead of finding a way to quickly turn the story around to make the despotic ruler a good guy. And the beautiful, sprawling, hub-based areas of the land, combined with multiple playable characters, could have provided for some fantastic puzzles -- if the developers had known how to use this environment to their advantage. Instead, it forces mindless to-ing and fro-ing at regular intervals, broken up only by the frustration of forgetting what it is you're supposed to be doing, and which character you're supposed to be doing it with.

To its credit, Ceville is very good at setting up big, multi-layered puzzles with a clear goal. But it's absolutely awful at signposting the route. When you need to disguise yourself as a fairy in the first of the game's three chapters, it becomes immediately obvious that you have to steal a costume from a rehearsing actress. What isn't apparent is that you have to backtrack to a previous area, pick a tomato from a vine that the camera outright refuses to look at, go back, throw it at the actress so she takes the costume off to be cleaned, give a handkerchief to a man with a cold so he'll lend you his crowbar, break into a vending machine with it, take the money from inside, feed it into a grammarphone so it'll start playing and the actress will start dancing, climb up to manoveur a spotlight over a trapdoor, watch as the actress falls into it, pick up the cleaning ticket she drops, go back and collect her outfit, go to find the real fairy you imprisoned earlier, give her some parsley so she falls asleep (???), then use a long pole to nick her wand.

Sorry, should have put a spoiler warning there. Oh well. It's not like you'll remember it all.

To be honest, I've seen worse puzzles in adventure games. The main frustration here isn't that the puzzles are obtuse, as such -- the above is one of the more awkward examples -- but that the length of time required to complete them triggers sheer boredom. When there's so little else to engage you, the actual mechanics become key. And Ceville just falls flat.

Worse is that Ceville goes to great lengths to recall the 90s Lucas Arts classics, but feels like a parody rather than an homage. Some of the references are so blatant you might momentarily think you're in the wrong game -- until you realise that the quality's severely lacking. What Ceville doesn't seem to grasp is why it's trying to be like those games, and as such it gets the focus all wrong. It's one thing to paint a world that looks similar, write a story that plays out comparably and concoct puzzles that at least attempt to function on a similar wavelength. It's another to capture the soul and flair that gained Lucas Arts a reputation. Ceville either doesn't try, or just misses the mark completely.

Elsewhere, surprisingly adept voice acting is lost on a script that doesn't know where to pitch itself. The majority of the "humour" is so painfully predictable that I was sure it was aimed at ten-year-olds. Then, for once, it did something really funny, but as a result of a cultural reference that the more youthful audience simply wouldn't understand. Most of the time, it falls short on all accounts, and comes across as convoluted, overly intentional and thoroughly plain.

Which is a good description for the whole thing, really.

Rating: 5/10

Lewis's avatar
Freelance review by Lewis Denby (March 05, 2009)

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