Personal Rating: "Interesting but not entirely compelling"
Personal Rating: 5/10
Genre: Point and Click Adventure/Psychological horror
In Greek mythology and the Homerian epics, madness is similarly thought of as a punishment from God, or the gods. Thus Hera punishes Hercules by ‘sending madness upon him’, and Agamemnon confides to Achilles that ‘Zeus robbed me of my wits’. Thanks to the Greek physician Hippocrates (460-377 BC), madness first became an object of scientific speculation.
So Serena (a short point and click adventure set in a single setting - a lonely wooded cabin) opens with a man waiting for the arrival of his wife. As we point and click on various items strewn about the incredibly run-down cabin (a not-so-subtle metaphor used to display the clarity of the mind of its main protagonist) cracks in the veneer begin to surface. Without going into too much detail its suffice to say gamers should expect to see exactly where this story is headed within the first five minutes of playing (the game roughly lasts about 40 min before concluding).
Whilst it's an interesting experiment that comes along with some pedigree - Josh Mandel of Space Quest fame handles the narration of the main character. My mine gripe is that he is probably not the person who should have handled these duties. He comes across as stilted when the script calls for emotional variation and I didn't buy it for one second. The woman who handles the wife's duties comes across as robotic in her line delivery even when called upon to display hysteria and it feels like both are reading from a script as the voice-overs just don't flow naturally. Yes - I realize this is a free little title that probably didn't have the budget to hire professional actors - but having professional voice actors onboard would most certainly have been more beneficial.
I was also not mad about the main character voicing his thoughts about every single little thing we click on. Yes we may be dealing with a descent that's crux is akin to an emotional ship-wreck but having studied basic psychology at Uni before switching, I get that we are mearly an observer inside another man's fractured mind but instead of drawing me in to the complexity of a mind unraveling I was left distanced and more and more annoyed as the tale progressed.
Short and bleak this tale of love, loss and misery is thankfully over quickly. I would hardly call it a "love-letter to the adventure gaming clique" as there are far better examples out there but as a mild diversion you may end up enjoying it more than I did since I can't say I was overly impressed.