Still Life 2

Posted by Matt Barton.
First posted on 03 June 2009. Last updated on 20 January 2011.
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Still Life 2
The enormous old house looks much smaller from the outside.
Still Life 2
The hotel room is the first crime scene that Vic investigates.
Still Life 2
Vic needs to carefully search each room for small clues such as blood stains.
Still Life 2
Paloma is a beautiful journalist who will undoubtedly have a major scoop on her hands if she can survive.
Still Life 2
Vic's PDA keeps track of clues and documents that she gathers in her investigation.

The game is available at Microïds Shop.

As soon as I heard that Microids announced a sequel to the 2005 hit Still Life, I could not wait to get my hands on the game. I greatly enjoyed the original game's wonderful story, characters, and puzzles. Unfortunately, Still Life 2 turned out not to be as great as its precursor. While still enjoyable, I was somewhat disappointed by the sequel's poor pacing, a few improbable puzzles, and perhaps too many plot twists for its own good.

Like the original title, the action is split between 2 different characters that the player controls at separate parts of the game. This time, though, both characters exist in the same point in time. The main character is Vic or FBI Agent Victoria McPherson. Vic is arrogant, stern, and generally unlikable, though there are moments in the story when her humanity shows through. She is also quite attractive in a black leather miniskirt. The other character is a television news journalist named Paloma Hernandez. Paloma is also quite attractive and resourceful, though more self-centered than Vic. Neither woman is the stereotypical helpless female: both are intelligent, confident, and occasionally arrogant.

The story focuses on The East Coast Killer, a serial murderer who abducts women and tortures them to death. The killer also records his vile deeds on video tape and mails them to the police and the media. The East Coast Killer is a meticulous and expert criminal, leaving no clues behind him except the tapes, and since he wears a gasmask and disguises his voice, the authorities have no idea how to catch him.

Shortly into the game, Paloma is kidnapped by the killer and Vic must find and rescue her. The action switches back and forth between Vic's formal investigation and Paloma's desperate efforts to survive the sadistic games the killer puts her through. For instance, the killer wakes her up and tells her over an intercom that she has been poisoned and only has a few minutes to find the antidote. The player must work fast to search the room and solve a quick puzzle or Paloma will die.

There are only a few other characters, such as Vic's new partner Forest Garris, Vic's former partner James Hawker, and a wily female sheriff who seems determined to impede Vic's investigation. Garris is a bumbling and nosy apprentice who does little to help Vic. Hawker, meanwhile, has plenty to offer, but he seems unstable and untrustworthy. Along the way, the player learns about the death and true identity of Vic's former boyfriend and why she is afraid of fire. These parts are presented as flashbacks, which help add some variety to the gameplay. Paloma's character is less developed; she is simply a pretty journalist who will cross any line to get a scoop.

Most of the story takes place in a dilapidated old house deep in the woods. The house is heavily fortified and effectively cut off from the rest of the world. Although it seems small at first, it has a huge network of underground passages and chambers that Vic and Paloma must explore. There were only a few locations that really frightened me. Most of the rooms are drab and gray, much like a prison or military bunker. By contrast, the outdoor scenery is very detailed and quite realistic. Still, I miss the first game's lavish areas, particularly the art gallery.

Overall, the audiovisuals are quite nice. The characters are also well designed and move fluidly, though the lip syncing is poor. Animations are good, though the player is unable to skip lengthy animated sequences such as opening hatches and doors. The voice acting is great, and the snappy dialog helps keep the player invested in the story. The music is also appropriate, often moody and sinister, and the sound effects are convincing.

Alas, there are several gameplay elements that may be off-putting to some adventure gamers. For instance, there are many timed sequences that force the player to reload the game after each failure. The timer arguably makes these sequences more exciting, though I just find them frustrating. There is no option to disable the timer. Also, there are many ways to die in the game, so frequent saving is advisable to avoid having to replay large segments of the game. Moreover, many animations cannot not be skipped, and it quickly gets tedious watching Vic slowly open a hatch or climb a set of stairs many times. The inventory system is a pain; Vic and Paloma can only carry a few items at a time, and they must store unused items in lockers and cabinets. Unfortunately, these are far and few between. It has been a long time since I have played a game that involves this much tedious backtracking.

In addition, I encountered a number of technical glitches within the game. On rare occasions, I found myself unable to move my character and was forced to load from an earlier saved game to continue.

Still, most of the puzzles are logical and fun, especially those involving Vic's field kit. Vic must search rooms for fingerprints, blood stains, and even suspicious odors. Later on, Vic must disable traps and even turn them against their owners. Some of the puzzles can be challenging to solve. For example, a particular puzzle involves a set of interviews placed on Paloma's voice recorder; somehow, the player is supposed to figure out that the dates of these recordings must be entered into a keypad to reveal a code needed to open a false door. It is also easy to miss a hotspot (such as with Vic's testing segments) and be unable to continue the game. As well, there is a segment with a metal detector that is poorly explained; there is no clue given in the game that the player needs to use the detector on certain spots outside, not just wave the detector over them.

Overall, Still Life 2 is mostly enjoyable for its characters and storyline. The game picks up momentum when Paloma is captured and seldom flags after that. It tries too hard, however, to keep the player from guessing the identity of the killer, and on 5 different occasions, it even tricks the player with a false ending. While some gamers may find these plot twists exciting or even funny, I have to agree with Paloma, who at a certain point in the game yells out, "Will this ever end?" On the other hand, there are still some images from the game that I will not forget, such as the poignant scenes where Vic is unable to pull the trigger to kill villains she cares about. Still Life 2 is a good game, but it falls a bit short of its full potential.

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