Prepare to experience the original man-on-the-run thriller in a completely new way. This is a digital adaptation of John Buchan's incredible book (inspiration to Ian Fleming's James Bond!). Be transported back to 1914 London, where Richard Hannay finds himself framed for a murder he didn't commit.
User reviews:
Mixed (22 reviews) - 68% of the 22 user reviews in the last 30 days are positive.
Mostly Positive (828 reviews) - 77% of the 828 user reviews for this game are positive.
Release Date: Apr 25, 2013

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Buy The 39 Steps


About This Game

Prepare to experience the original man-on-the-run thriller in a completely new way. This is a digital adaptation of John Buchan's incredible book (inspiration to Ian Fleming's James Bond!). Be transported back to 1914 London, where Richard Hannay finds himself framed for a murder he didn't commit. Now he must escape the Capital and stay alive long enough to solve the riddle of The Thirty-Nine Steps. There are secrets to be discovered, locations to be explored and - above all - an incredible tale to be told in this ground-breaking interactive novel.

Key Features:

  • A new form of entertainment, merging the worlds of literature, gaming and film into one visually stunning storyline.
  • Faithfully constructed using the original - and best-selling - John Buchan text, first published in 1915.
  • Hundreds of hand-painted digital environments, and authentic materials from 1910s Britain.
  • 8 different storytelling mechanics, 25 collectible items and 16 awards to be unlocked.
  • An original soundtrack by Si Begg and theatrical voice performances, including Ian Hanmore, Greg Hemphill and Benny Young
  • Created in Unity4, with a playtime of 5-8 hours.

System Requirements

Mac OS X
    • OS:Windows XP
    • Processor:2GHz Processor
    • Memory:2 GB RAM
    • Graphics:DirectX 9 512MB card
    • Hard Drive:2 GB HD space
    • Other Requirements:Broadband Internet connection
    • OS:OSX
    • Processor:2.2GHz dual core processor
    • Memory:2 GB RAM
    • Graphics:GPU 128MB+
    • Hard Drive:2 GB HD space
    • Other Requirements:Broadband Internet connection
Customer reviews
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Mixed (22 reviews)
Mostly Positive (828 reviews)
Recently Posted
Geek Fresh
( 10.3 hrs on record )
Posted: July 1
This digital adaptation of the John Buchan adventure novel is an enjoyable production. The visual effects are wonderful; the art is beautiful and provides vivid illustrative context to support the narration. The voice acting is also really good. I will add that there are no puzzles to solve -- its limited player interaction and use of odd gestures to move the story along place it firmly in the visual novel realm. I recommend this for any player looking for a laid back, rich, and intriguing storytelling experience. You won't be disappointed.
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( 5.8 hrs on record )
Posted: July 1
I thought I was buying an adventure game adaptation of the book, my fault for not reading the description well enough, but it only cost pence on sale so it didn't matter. The 39 Steps is visually lovely, has a great ambience and the voice acting is very good but I have to wonder, as others have, why you'd bother. The story is very heavily abridged and the plot takes the odd wierd leap due to lack of detail. As much as I enjoyed the actual journey, I'd rather read the book. Or watch the movie, which includes a cameo by John Laurie of Dad's Army fame. I'd love to see this company make an adventure game, from a book by all means, because there's heaps of potential here but I'm struggling to see the point of this. You don't do anything other than click to advance the story. Yes, there are some bizarre gestures required on occasion, but they're pointless. The "adventure" tag should be removed from this listing, too. As for paying full price for it, there's absolutely no way. I look forward to seeing more from this company but only 5/10 for this one. High production quality but lacking substance, despite the great story from Buchan. Recommended for the experience only when deeply discounted.
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( 5.0 hrs on record )
Posted: June 26
Product received for free
Note: There are spoilers in the updated parts of this review. So if you don't want read on I will say this here is a 7.5 out of 10 for me only being knocked down points for some things that would not bother others. Also this to me is an audio/visual pc book experience. It is clearly not a game. Still a really worthwhile product and it has me hoping for more things like this in the future.

I have always said no to audio books but this here is what I will say yes to. I am totally caught up in the story and having imagery plus audio and information on the characters to refer back to as you play is just thrilling especially if you have a poor memory like I do. I also like the artwork thus far. Simple but perfectly fitting this. As for the opening door mechanic where we use the mouse to do different actions I think something different would be better but it isn't taking away from the fun I am having. Also in going through this story on Steam/pc unlike with an audio book or regular book you get achievements which are a nice little touch and looking back at them will also help remind you of what you did or are doing. Anyway for some reason tonight I decided to start from the top of my gaming library and when I saw what this was going to be early on I thought I would quit but no it is 3:35 am and I am going to continue on. This so far has been like a good book which is very hard to put down. So far through almost an hour of this I recommend it to others. As for what to pay for it well if you think the game will make you happy then it is worth buying at whatever you think a reasonable price is. Now back to the story for me. : )

Update #1: In my second session playing this game I found a few things odd that need fixing and that is some lines of audio are repeated twice when they are not supposed to be. It took away from the experience I was having as it had been perfect up to that point. Also when the one chap, Marmaduke Jopely. had his car stolen and is let go he says, "I'll get you!" It didn't seem to fit how he would act. It just seemed out of place. Also not sure if this was in the second session I played or not but there was a part where the audio didn't match what was said in text. Continuity is important and this is something that can easily be fixed. Hopefully the developer will take a look at this. Now on a plus I have to say in regards to the menu music I like it. Also in regards to other audio the sound effects in the game are very good too. I am referring to the rain falling, the sound of feet scampering, etc. You don't get this in a regular book or audio book. Again I really like this story telling format.

Update #2: Well I have completed the game and enjoyed it thoroughly. I liked one part of the ending where the main character, Richard Hannay, whom I played said he was joining the war but he felt he had already contributed the most he could to anything related to it. I chuckled at what he was saying because part of me initially thought he was probably right but then again with his new ranking giving him more influence and if it and the thing he did with it helped win the war in any way well that might top what he previously did as he did not stop the Germans from assassinating the target they set out to get. Also in regards to the ending the music well it just seemed out of place so I got to knock this down a notch for that. Finally instead of talking about a next story and thanking us for playing the game it should have ended differently. I like how you rolled the credits and then saved that last speech for the end but then to put up what you did after it just seemed wrong and cheesy.

PS: I checked the box saying I got it free but it very well could have been in some bundle too. I am not sure.
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( 10.4 hrs on record )
Posted: June 24
Product received for free
this game is great. Of course If you like visual novel type, you may want to pass this game but believe me, this game has some nice idea and excutes very well
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( 4.2 hrs on record )
Posted: June 19
The 39 Steps is a "Digital Adaptation" of the classic early 20th Century spy novel of the same name, by John Buchan.

The game closely resembles a visual novel in form, although rather than offering dialog choices or decision trees often seen in visual novels, the 39 Steps instead offers a number of different methods of interaction and multimedia presentation of the different scenes.

The graphics in the game are quite beautiful in places. In my opinion they get better in the second half of the game, with outstanding painted landscapes mixed artfully with what look like computer drawn sections.

The game makes clever use of different visual effects throughout, with moving backgrounds, animated portions, photographs, short videos, and textual effects. The graphical presentation is excellent.

The characters in the story are all fully voiced with convincing English and Scottish accents (unsurprisingly, given where the game was made). I'm not an expert on the period so I don't know if they're historically accurate, but they are definitely professionally done.

The game features occasional sound effects to emphasise actions and events in the story to good effect. Music, too, is atmospheric and suits the storyline well; the music in the closing credits deserves a special mention, reminding me of "The Dead Eyes Opened" by The Severed Heads. It's very cool, indeed.

The game plays similar to a visual novel, but with much more variation in presentation. Unlike most visual novels, however, there are no real choices for the player to make. It is possible to skip some of the text and investigation sections, but I don't know why anyone would want to do that.

Interaction with the game is also different from any other visual novel that I've played, with different sections requiring mouse rotations, clicks, and gestures. It felt a bit weird at the beginning, but I became used to it quickly and it worked well enough.

Not having read the original novel I don't know how closely the in-game text matches it, but the story kept my interest throughout. I wouldn't play through it again, although that's more a consequence of the type of game, rather than the specific content. I did notice a very small number of grammatical errors; I'm not sure if these are present in the original novel text.

The 39 Steps is not so much a game, as such, but rather a multimedia interactive experience -- a digital adaptation, as the developers claim.


+ An interesting story presented in an original manner
+ Beautiful art
+ Atmospheric music, professional voice acting, and good sound effects
+ Clever use of visual effects to enhance interaction with the story
+ Steam achievements and trading cards

- No replayability to speak of
- A very few grammatical errors
- Retail price seems a bit high

I'm very impressed with the 39 Steps and I'm glad that I took the time to play it all the way through. Given that it only took a little over four hours for me to complete it and I don't plan to replay it, at full price it doesn't pass my own personal value test, but it's often available at deep discount or in a bundle, and at only a few dollars at most, it's a real gem.

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( 5.2 hrs on record )
Posted: June 13
A pleasant jaunt through the Scottish countryside, with some intrigue and "based on a classic spy story" rep to boot. Short on gameplay, but really good voice work.

For extra difficulty, set language to "Gaelic."
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( 7.9 hrs on record )
Posted: June 12
Read the book.

Edit after finishing the game:

This is a novel digitalized. It is very well digitalized, the art and illustrations are great, the voiceacting is very well done too. Sound effects and music are great too.

What are the negatives then? Well the game is boring. There's just no point in making such a game out of a novel. The "puzzles" you have to solve are made of arrows you have to draw. You only click around a tiny bit, most often you just read and read. Parts of information about the environment, characters and the story.

The game itself is.. pointless. It doesn't feel like a game, at times it feels even more tedious to go through than it would be to just read a thick book.

Either no puzzles and the price should be way lower, or way better puzzles that actually intrigue and interest one to continue and find out more about the story than just to get it over with.
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Thunder Wing
( 10.8 hrs on record )
Posted: June 12
This game is not for everyone as it is little more than an interactive story, but even if you don't normally like interactive stories, if you enjoy a good plot you might want to check this out.

This is not normally my genre of game, but the plot sounded interesting so I thought I'd check it out. I later read the book and I have to say, this game is very true to the story, and it presents it in a fun and interesting way as point and click minigames.

As for the story itself, if you don't play this game, at least read the story (if you like books). The author did a very good job at putting together a captivating espionage thriller (not my normal book genre either) about a man that ends up on the run from some dangerous people because he helped a stranger.
The main character is very resourceful and has quite the interesting adventure being on the run, and is not too long into the story accused of murder and on the run from the police as well.

I wouldn't likely play this game again unless I wanted to recount that adventure, but I could also read the book if I wanted to do that.

Replayability is limited, but I still highly recommend this game. John Buchan wrote a great story and the devs made a very stable app with an easy to use interface to present it.
Helpful? Yes No Funny
( 3.6 hrs on record )
Posted: June 10
Product received for free
This is a very, very good a digital adaptation and the thumbs up goes to the devs for their work, especially for the stunning hand- painted backgrounds and historic material (photos) used in the game.
For the story itself - well, it is interesting, but it gets so far-fetched, that if it were a book, you'd probably stop reading it at one point because a good idea for a story is not enoough to make a good book.
Game is short enough to finish it in one night and my advice is, that you do just so - finish it in one go, dont think too much about the story and let it run in the background afterwards for the cards to drop.
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( 6.1 hrs on record )
Posted: June 7
I don't remember how this ended up in my Games Library. I thought I got it as part of a Humble Comics Bundle, but I may have gotten it as part of a Summer Sale. It sat in my library for a year before I installed it, and then a few weeks ago I decided to play it... and then I uninstalled it without finishing it.

There's so much to like for a game I found unfinishable. The visuals are beautiful. The narration is good. The problem is I'm not interested in the politics of 1908 Great Britain, and I'm also not used to a lot of the terminology, so I was spending as much time on Wikipedia as I was in the game. They need some sort of overlay system that you can click on that gives you word meanings, but instead of doing that they made the game in the original vernacular of the novel (which okay, cool for fans of the author), and also in Welsh, IIRC? I just feel like if you're making three editions of a visual novel and English is being marketed as your "approachable" one, you may want to put some work into making it approachable.

I tried so hard to like the game. Most of the reviews are very positive, and I know this is an acclaimed visual novel, so I was anbsolutely certain that I was missing something. I put in hours, waiting to see if the plot hooked me once I got further in. I finally had to admit that while this is a masterfully done visual novel, it's not for me, because as a reader I'm not going to enjoy it if I find the plot boring. With traditional games, there are other hooks to keep you involved if you don't like plot (falling for a character, loving a battle system, etc). But for a visual novel, the plot is the point, and the plot didn't hook me.

Also, it does some weird things making it more "interactive" with mouse gestures, which made me laugh a little. It's a visual novel. I'm fine with hours of clicking.

All in all, I'd recommend this to people who are fans of the eighteenth century spy drama and are familiar with the politics and terminology of that era. Otherwise, it feels like you need to do homework to finish the game. I wish there was a "mixed" recommend button, because a hard "no" seems a little severe here.
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Most Helpful Reviews  In the past 30 days
7 of 7 people (100%) found this review helpful
10.8 hrs on record
Posted: June 12
This game is not for everyone as it is little more than an interactive story, but even if you don't normally like interactive stories, if you enjoy a good plot you might want to check this out.

This is not normally my genre of game, but the plot sounded interesting so I thought I'd check it out. I later read the book and I have to say, this game is very true to the story, and it presents it in a fun and interesting way as point and click minigames.

As for the story itself, if you don't play this game, at least read the story (if you like books). The author did a very good job at putting together a captivating espionage thriller (not my normal book genre either) about a man that ends up on the run from some dangerous people because he helped a stranger.
The main character is very resourceful and has quite the interesting adventure being on the run, and is not too long into the story accused of murder and on the run from the police as well.

I wouldn't likely play this game again unless I wanted to recount that adventure, but I could also read the book if I wanted to do that.

Replayability is limited, but I still highly recommend this game. John Buchan wrote a great story and the devs made a very stable app with an easy to use interface to present it.
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2 of 3 people (67%) found this review helpful
6.9 hrs on record
Posted: June 6
Depending on the classification you choose, The 39 Steps is either incredible or inadequate. As a visual representation of a novel, it's sublime. As a "visual novel", it's subpar.

I've never read the novel nor seen the movie/stageplay/etc, but I now understand why this tale has been adapted in so many forms. Trapped in an intriguing espionage narrative, the protagonist must use his wits and fists to solve the mystery... and, more immediately, to survive. All the while you experience the dread of a man on the run, not knowing who to trust or where to turn. The ending is anticlimactic (though it may have been mind-blowing a century ago), but this story is focused on the journey and that it delivers well.

Of course, if you just wanted to hear a good yarn, then you could read the novel, so the developers accentuate the tale with gorgeous visuals and terrific voice acting. Nick Underwood (portraying protagonist Richard Hannay) is the standout, seamlessly moving from accent to accent as Hannay adopts disguises to flee from his pursuers. The lighting effects, the haunting score, the use of shadows all blend together to create a perfect atmosphere of tension.

Unfortunately, only the character dialogues are voiced, but the rest of the text regularly serves the mood, appearing quickly during sudden revelations or rotating slowly during moments of panic, for example. The developers did a wonderful job incorporating several forms of storytelling, including humorous silent film-esque animated segments to relate stories-within-the-story... which makes the gameplay missteps all the more frustrating.

As I said earlier, The 39 Steps greatly succeeds as a visual presentation of a novel, but spectacularly fails as a game. The worst part is that the developers were clearly trying to play up those aspects. There are quicktime-like events requiring you to move your mouse in certain directions, allowing the player to share in the experience of... washing up... opening a box... opening a door... but not during any of the action-driven sequences, missing a prime opportunity to enhance the immersion.

For every room with multiple hotspots, there are a dozen transition screens with only one button. It says ENTER or DOOR, but it might as well read "click to continue". Meanwhile, much of the side content is presented as white text on otherwise featureless black screens. Tie those details to objects or characters in the room and you have the framework of an adventure game. Instead, the "player" receives an unfiltered info dump, followed by the opportunity to click CLIMB (and only CLIMB) in order to progress the story. Obviously it's impossible for real choice to exist within a set story structure, but a little more of the illusion of choice would go a long way.

In the end, I recommend The 39 Steps for what it is - a visually and aurally pleasing piece of high drama - and warn you about what it's not - a game. That said, with only 5-6 hours of content and the "replayability" of a novel, the $15 price point does seem a bit high.
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1 of 2 people (50%) found this review helpful
Not Recommended
0.2 hrs on record
Posted: June 7
I really wanted to like this game until I ended up actually playing it. I mean, I could see how it might be fun to play on a laptop during a long flight or something. But honestly I played this game for 10 minutes and was so bored out of my mind I had to quit.

I'm not saying it can't be a good story, but for someone who likes to read (a fast reader at that) this is an incredibly slowly drawn out story with crappy navigational mechanics that involve swirling your mouse around clockwise and counterclockwise to either skip or go back a previous line in the dialog (of which there is no shortage).

Also this game goes waaayyyy too far into detail with the setting and the background of the characters. When a new character is brought in you literally have to hear their entire lifestory before continuing. Personally I have no idea how the developers of the game were able to see development of this game through - and there were a lot of people in on this project something that is made abundantly clear in the title sequence.

On a positive note, I really like the simplistic art style and theme. It makes it stick out and deserves a good storyline. A+

To really quantify it, what really ruined this game for me was the unnecessary overabundance of character and setting detail and also how slow it plays.

My advice to the game devs? Go write a book. It'd be great :)

I'm really sorry that I cannot recommend this game unless you have all the time in the world to invest in a story line that gives you ALL the details with slow gamplay. Side note: My grandmother would enjoy this game. No joke.
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Most Helpful Reviews  Overall
76 of 81 people (94%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
14.8 hrs on record
Posted: January 25, 2015
This is a Visual Novel. That means there are no real puzzles, no real gameplay, and it is just the story. If you like point and click adventure games, a visual novel isn't a big step backwards from that sort of thing. You just don't get the puzzles that come along with the adventure genre. So when you want a totally relaxing time of just visualizing a story a graphic novel will succeed in doing that without making you have to think much about solving any puzzles. The 39 Steps is probably one of, if not the best visual novels I have ever played. It adds a lot of extra background and lore to explore within this as well that most visual novels don't contain.

The 39 Steps is a classic thriller novel that has been adapted to this medium in such a way that it feels like a big time studio was behind it rather than an Indie team. This political thriller takes place in Europe, mostly in England and Scotland, You are a man that stumbles into a bit of a political conspiracy by chance, which forces you to eventually run for your life and solve the mystery before your life is ruined.

The quality of the artwork is superb. The menus and user interface are clean and slick. There are no bugs, no glitches, and everything is done in a professional way. You can "add a bookmark" at any place in the story to the point that you can do this after every line of text presented. Making it simple to navigate back to where you were. The story is also broken up into about 20 segments so you should never find yourself lost along the way. You can have 3 profiles as well. I think it would be difficult to play this without feeling like this is how a visual novel SHOULD be done. It is as good as it gets for this genre. Adventure fans not familiar with the visual novel genre may just find that this will convince them to try more due to how well made it was.

It has hand painted watercolor artwork that looks extremely realistic, and is a wonder to gaze upon. You feel like you are inside the rooms the story brings you to, the landscapes outdoors that you are stomping through, and they are so well done that you may even feel the sun shining down upon you while you are lying in a field trying to hide from your pursuers. Behind all these backdrops are well placed sound effects to give the right atmosphere. Things like horse's hooves clacking away, the coughs of patrons in a restaurant, and the footsteps of a cobblestone street. Combine that with a perfectly toned musical score to crank up the tension when it is needed, or simply set the stage for some mystery, all aspects of a well done story are in place from a technical standpoint.

The game is mostly done in written text, as all visual novels are, but there are many scenes of the story that give us voice acting. The voice acting is professional. Believable for all times voices are used, accents feel genuine, and the characters all give the right inflections for the tone they are trying to convey. It is some of the best voice work I have heard in a game, and spectacular considering that it is an Indie title.

Besides the voice acting, there are even a few video scenes done in that old time English cartoon way of film and presented in the silent film format. The solid black characters on solid colored backgrounds riding a horse and carriage, or an old Model-T, where you only see the whites of their eyes and teeth. Showing stories being told as they take a trip from one area to another as they are recounted to other characters. There are 3-4 of these and they are an amusing break from the reading. Between these and the voice additions you feel like you get to take some breaks from just reading quite often.

Besides the presentation being top notch, The 39 Steps has an interesting view into the time period in which this novel takes places (1910's). You are able to click on scenes that give you closer looks at objects where you can read letters, look at objects more closely to give you the more intricate details of their design, and most importantly you can read several newspapers from the time period. These newspapers aren't all fictional either. The relevant articles for the story purposes are highlighted, and can be read from an easier view text form, but there are dozens of interesting historical stories and advertisements from the historical time period. You can find articles on politics, the era's fascination with the new flying “aeroplanes”, and I even spotted an article talking about the aftermath of The Titanic in which passengers had taken them to court trying to retrieve lost belongings from America.

The 39 Steps offers an intriguing tale in a visual novel format. Professionally made, great design, and quite satisfying. Achievements are simple to get as they are given by following along with the story so it is an easy 100% game. I would recommend this to any adventure fan looking for a casual story experience. I believe you could finish this game in a few hours (My playtime is way off it didn't take nearly that long). Possibly around 5 hours or so if you spend any time reading the many newspaper articles that are presented for you to browse. Hopefully this group makes more classic adventure titles in this format because they have done a superb job with this one!

NOTE: I had never read this novel before playing the game so I cannot tell you how much you might enjoy it if you have. I enjoyed it immensely having not read the book prior to playing the game. I can only assume it would be less enjoyable to someone that has already read the source material beforehand, as it is to me almost every time I watch a film after reading the book first. ;)
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68 of 73 people (93%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
6.6 hrs on record
Posted: September 7, 2015
Original example of how a novel can be transformed into a game

The 39 Steps is a unique interactive visual novel, developed by The Story Mechanics and first released on Steam in april 2013. The game is based on the novel with the same title by John Buchan, which got quite well-known thanks to its being the inspiration for Ian Flemmings James Bond books. The novel tels the story of Richard Hannay, a bored-to-death gentleman who all of a sudden finds himself in the eye of an espionage storm. Buchans story has its flaws: some plot-turns come across as unbelievable, but the characters are drawn very fine indeed, as is the time period against which the plot evolves.

Buchans novel is followed very closely in the game, which does an excellent job in transferring the overall feel and atmosphere of the period and place during which the action takes place: London, Scotland and the English countryside early summer 1914, just before the outbreak of the First World War. The developers achieved this by using a brilliantly designed and executed visual style, with a lot of hand-drawn images.

Actually, the story is told in several different ways, all with their own level of interaction. The narrative part of the novel is being projected on the screen, with the player having to click through the different lines. But the game manages to introduce variety even in this simple mechanic: the tempo of the clicking varies: sometimes a screen is held onto longer, while at other times clicks has to done much faster. Dialogues are being voice-acted in a very convincing way, some self-contained stories are even being projected as short movies. There is some point-and-clicking too, although this is allways clearly indicated and not designed as a challenge or puzzle. All in all, the variety in interaction between player and game helps a lot to draw one into the story.

The awesome visuals and interesting storytelling are accompanied by a soundscape that mostly stays in the background, punctuating some important actions without drawing any attention to itself. A bit more of these, and a more convincing musical envelopment would have painted the period even better I believe. But this is only a minor quibble. More problematic are the click-and-drag actions one has to perform to unlock doors or achieve other minor tasks. These feel tucked on, and do not integrate well within the overall concept.

Highly recommended to anyone interested in visual novels, in literature or in artistic games in general. It's a real shame this development studio hasn't released any more games yet.
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79 of 90 people (88%) found this review helpful
6.7 hrs on record
Posted: December 14, 2013
The 39 Steps is (as most have previously stated) an interactive novel, and NOT a game. There are some elements of interactivity in the form of mouse clicks and even "drawing" patterns with the mouse from time to time, but that's about it. That said, if you know going in you're going to read and occasionally watch/listen to a story, you shouldn't be disappointed.

For the most part, I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the story. I would sit down and play one of the 20 or so "chapters" at a time. Having them broken down into 10-15 minute chunks like this helped and allowed me to play at my own pace. The art is very well done, though there is really no actual animation. The voice acting is well done and the ambient sounds and music are a plus.

Being that the story is set prior to WWI (and that I'm American and this is set in the U.K.), some of the dialects and terminology were a bit tricky to follow, but not so much that it detracted form the story itself. Other than that, my only real complaint is that the ending seems somewhat . . . abrupt. I certainly won't spoil anything, but I felt that another couple minutes of gametime could have wrapped it up a little better.

All-in-all, the playthrough was an enjoyable experience and I'm looking forward to The Story Mechanic's next project.

My personal rating for what it is: 7.5/10
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56 of 62 people (90%) found this review helpful
9.1 hrs on record
Posted: March 4, 2014
The 39 Steps leads you on a journey through lush hand-painted backgrounds, moody music, and excellent voice-acting. You are Richard Hannay, a well-to-do British gent living a boring life in London in 1914.

Calling 39 Steps a game seems to be doing it a disservice, as it is more of a interactive story that just has you along for the ride. There are points in the story where you 'control' the protoganists action, but you have no real power to affect the momentum of the narrative. The story is gripping, though, and these attempts to insert a more direct hand in the game are infrequent.

I have never read the source material, so cannot say how well it holds up to the original. The 39 Steps stands well enough on its own, though.

Achievement hunters interested in 100% games will find this one easy to complete, as achievements are awarded through story progression and are impossible to miss. I'd recommend not reading the achievement list before you start the story, though, as they could spoil some future events.

So, if spy thrillers are your thing, grab up your pipe and your brandy and dive into this one.
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48 of 52 people (92%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
6.9 hrs on record
Posted: January 31
“I believe everything out of the common. The only thing to distrust is the normal.” ― John Buchan, The 39 Steps

The Thirty-Nine Steps is originally an adventure novel and an ancestor of the spy thriller genre, written by the Scottish author John Buchan in 1915 - the first year of the World War I. It has long been reinterpreted into various other media - including Alfred Hitchcock's famous 1935 silver screen interpretation. But it is the first time we see Buchan's famous action-hero, Richard Hannay in a video game, thanks to Story Mechanics' initiative with a project of reinterpreting literature as narrative video games.

Here at the start of his adventures, Richard Hannay is a wealthy and able English gentleman with considerable social standing. He was raised in South Africa, became a successful mining engineer and took part in the Matabele Wars. He also served as an intelligence officer during the Boer War. He is realistic, self-sufficient with a diverse set of skills and means. Just before the events of the game, Hannay returns to London, only to find the routine life of a Londoner to be devastatingly boring. Just as he was about to give up on the capital, he is visited by one of his neighbors at his apartment in London. The neighbor reveals himself to be Franklin P. Scudder, a freelance spy and asks Hannay's help with a dangerous political plot. Finding himself in a web of lies and intrigue, Hannay quickly becomes the target of a manhunt, and starts his escape towards the Highlands of Scotland. Will he ever be able to clean his name and prevent a dangerous plot that would spell doom for all Europe?

The 39 Steps is a retelling of the original novel without nearly any content cut down. The atmosphere is a wondrous success weaved out of water color environments, characters displayed as foggy silhouettes and tales that belong to characters reenacted by shadowy silent motion pictures. The display is wholly elegant and thrilling, appropriate for the tone of the narration. Voice acting is marvelous - with nuances, accents and even vocal exclamations. For the part of the presentation, you are in for a feast.

As for the gameplay, on the other hand, the same cannot be said. Yes, the game is basically a visual novel but the player's participation in the narration is close to non-existent. The game could even be categorized as non-interactive considering all you actually do is some clicking to do to reveal environmental details or some mouse movements to draw certain shapes for Hannay to interact with things now and then. There is nothing you actually do, decide or participate in. You click and watch as the story unravels. On that part, one could actually prefer reading the novel rather than playing the game, but the amount of labor put into display is certainly admirable.

For the last verdict, I'll bite and recommend The 39 Steps, considering newer generations prefer watching the story through a screen rather than actually reading it. You just have to know what you are getting yourselves into before buying it. The 39 Steps is not a game; it is a beautifully arranged digital story book, and one that I can safely recommend if you are unfamiliar with the novel and/or bear no intention of reading it.

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73 of 92 people (79%) found this review helpful
2 people found this review funny
13.4 hrs on record
Posted: October 19, 2014
Thats how some books in modern time may be presented. I dont like the plot though. "Its a pure Sir Henry Rider Haggard and Conan Doyle", very childish story without meanings. All what these gentlemans do is drink whskies-and-sodas and smoke. "I smoked in a vhsir till daylight, for i couldnt sleep". Nice voice and language perfomances with some scottish accent.
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48 of 55 people (87%) found this review helpful
6.0 hrs on record
Posted: July 16, 2014
One thing that I love about video games is how they can take a story I've already heard several ways, and turn it into an entirely new experience that's just as engaging as if I was hearing it for the first time. The 39 Steps by The Story Mechanics is the first in what they call "digital adaptations", which fall somewhere between a visual novel and a radio show. The idea if simple, but the execution highly stylized and the pacing tightly wound to make what could have been a dry collection of text a surprisingly compelling and intense narrative piece.

I shouldn't have to tell you what The 39 Steps is about (as I imagine most should be familiar with the classic novel and numerous film adaptions and spin-offs), but as a refresher it follows Scottish man Richard Hannay, recently retired and now lost in a series of humdrum days and occurrences. All of this changes when a stranger barges into his life and revels a German plot that if carried out could throw the world into a war the likes of which it had yet seen. Shortly thereafter the man, now revealed to a spy known as Scudder, is found dead in Hannay's apartment, leaving him the only one alive with the knowledge of what is soon to unfold, and the only person who could possibly prevent it.

While the narrative of The 39 Steps is as intriguing and thrilling as ever, it's the way that it's told in this instance that makes it worth revisiting (or checking out for the first time) as opposed to numerous other formats you could choose. The Story Mechanics haven't settled for a simple text format in retelling Josh Buschan's tale, instead using a collection of visual tricks and clever insertion of backstory to create an brilliant interactive story that far exceeds the simplistic adaptations that have been experimented with in the past. Fantastic use of camera angles, deliberate placement of text to draw your eye toward parts of the watercolor backgrounds, and excellent voice acting from all parties make it incredibly easy to get swept away in the plot even during the slower, some may even call mundane, moments.

The only real instances where The 39 Steps falls a tad flat are the awkwardly implemented gestures that sometimes accompany moments like opening doors or reading letters. They were obviously intended to make the game feel more like, well, a game, but they're shoehorned in in such a way that feels tacked on an unnecessary. Thankfully they're infrequent enough that they never amount to more than a bit of a bother nor take but a few seconds to complete.

Though some might scoff at the emphasis on exposition and almost complete lack of traditional gameplay, those that can appreciate The 39 Steps for the bit of interactive fiction it is will be rewarded with an exciting and wonderfully paced tale of spies, murder, and more than a few close shaves. Having no real idea what to expect, I was very pleasantly surprised with the end result of The Story Mechanics's first attempt at a "digital adaptation", and it has gotten my mind spinning thinking of so many other books I'd love to see turned into future games. Hopefully this is only the first to come.

You can read more of my writing on Kritiqal.
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