Let's be clear: Going through this will be exactly as if you're leafing through the novel with illustrations of the various setpieces, while voices act out the various dialogues and music plays in the background.
You'll be looking at gorgeous, static illustrations, reading the novel's text phrase by phrase, and listening to the dialogue voiced very competently by various actors.
There are no animations, except for some story-within-the-story segments presented as a puppet theatre, very entertaining, sadly in short bursts.
Some sound effects help to set the scenes, and the soundtrack is very engrossing and does the most to add thrill to the experience.
Even the characters are not shown; you'll only see static silhouettes. I really didn't like that. Maybe it was meant to not impose an image of the character upon the reader. But combined with the rest of the static experience, it just felt lazy.
Besides, you unlock character cards as extra content viewable in the main menu, and the characters are illustrated there, in full detail. So why not expand it to the rest of the adaptation?
-------The Thirty-Nine Steps
(the 1915 novel) was important because it was one of the earliest examples of the man-on-the-run thriller. As such, it is held in high regard, and has been the subject of many adaptations in film, radio and theatre.
But let's face it; for today's reader, it's a pretty dull story.
And seeing how this is a digital adaptation of the novel, it's impossible to view the two separately. It's inevitable that you'll experience some boredom due to the source material. So the question now becomes, what does this adaptation add? Does it present the story in a way that enhances the experience? Is it immersive? Does it expand your view of the story's setting and details?
I'd say yes. I read the novel for the first time, right before playing this. And putting aside the vague boredom I felt both times, my understanding and immersion was definitely higher while playing this.
This being England and Scotland, and the 1914 version of both at that, seeing them illustrated before me certainly helped me be transported there, since I'm so separated from the story's setting by both time and space.
Unfamiliar terms and objects now made sense because I could see them (e.g. dovecot
) Certain sequences now played correctly in my mind. Etc.
It could have done more. It could have shown characters in full detail rather than as silhouettes. It doesn't have to become a cartoon, but animations for important actions would have greatly improved the storytelling.
Personally, I would have preferred a completely different way to present this novel. I would love a proper, 3D first person experience of the whole thing, think Dear Esther
or Gone Home
. Even if it was still entirely linear. But I understand how that would be difficult, even impossible (how do you present a linear story if the player can run around London and the moors of Scotland?)
For what this sets out to do, it does a very good job. Not perfect, but a very good job indeed. I look forward to more adaptations from The Story Mechanics
and I hope they improve their formula.