A New Beginning: review

The Butterfly Effect should always be on the mind of a time traveller. First, it was a mildly entertaining movie, but second – and perhaps most importantly – you need to be aware that the slightest change in the past could alter the future drastically. For example, stepping on a butterfly in 1935 could make Hitler your grandmother (maybe). The point is you should try to be subtle. Unfortunately, subtlety is hardly at the forefront of a point and click adventure.

A New Beginning jumps between the viewpoints of two characters. The first of these is an incredibly bland, retired algae specialist. The second character ramps up excitement a touch as she is a time traveller, trying to stop a global eco-tastrophe that has occurred in her time. Forget power stations – they’ll kill us all apparently. Algae power is the future. It’s an interesting plot for a point and click game to cover, with the time travel angle allowing you to cover a great variety of environments, which is always a plus for this genre.

Why the time machine rematerialised halfway up a waterfall is anyone's guess

Like all point and click games, A New Beginning is riddled with moments that mean you fiddle with everything in the room and on your person to try and solve an obscure puzzle. You know, the kind of thing that the Time Travel 101 Handbook states not to do. There are several occasions where you’ll force the oddest things together to try and make an answer materialise, or randomly click through conversation trees to spark the correct reaction.

Unfortunately the ‘point and pray’ style of play is a genre problem, so it seems a bit unfair to completely bash A New Beginning because of it. Having said this, it is clear that the game is not natively English, and this may have translated (or not as is the case) to some of the puzzles. For example, at one stage we were trying to rile a bouncer by causing a group of protesters to chant a tree hugging slogan that will also hurt him on a personal level. We found out earlier that he was sensitive about his lack of hair, but unfortunately there was not a dialogue option to convince the crowed to yell, “Look over here Mr Baldy No Hair”. After we finally resorted to trial and error and tried all four crowed slogans, the one that worked had the key phrase “clear cut” in it. In hindsight we can sort of see what it’s getting at, but it certainly isn’t the obvious hair related wind-up.

There are other occasions where the translation looks to have been covered by the work experience drone. Subtitles frequently mismatch what the characters actually say. The context and meaning are the same, but the different words are enough to jolt your brain out of the realm of make believe and into error recognition mode. We also found at least one prompt where the game offered to let us “Esamina” the view. There was also the time when a character was shocked to learn about a reactor meltdown and exclaimed “Fiddlesticks” aloud, when the scenario perhaps called for a different F word.

Everything is this exciting in the life of an algae specialist

As far as game mechanics go, A New Beginning stretches beyond the usual single click fest. Each clickable area has a context sensitive menu that allows you to examine, use, drink, operate or perform any number of other actions depending on what you click on. It’s great because it adds layers to what you can do. In some cases, four clickable areas in a room might offer you ten interactive options to consider. Whilst it feels innovative, you may struggle with it initially because it fights against a long history of point and click convention. You’ll start to click things and wonder why you haven’t made an impact before you remember you need to hold down the mouse button before you select a different option.

Fast travel is a very welcome addition to the game, and something that we hope becomes mandatory for all point and click games in the future. It may be nice to casually stroll through a new area for the first time, but as soon as you realise this area will become a commonly used corridor, your enthusiasm towards seeing it again quickly diminishes. If you double click on an exit in this game, no matter where you are in the room, you’ll instantly go through to the adjoining area. No more seemingly endless jaunts around the same old locations.

Hand drawn environments and characters feature throughout the game and look very impressive in the static screenshots. Each environment and person is unique and looks like they have been ripped straight from a comic book. Unfortunately, things don’t look quite as impressive in action. The animations judder and look as if they need a few more frames added to make each step and motion smoother. Whilst the game isn’t about bold and flashy animation, the effect is very noticeable and adds to the weight that pulls the game down.

Fossil fuels will destroy your hometown and kill your family

A New Beginning suffers from the usual point and click genre issues, such as the lack of replay options. You’ll occasionally find a puzzle where the solution seems completely unreasonable and you’ll go mad in the same few areas for a little bit. On the plus side, there are a lot of different environments to experience in the game, so you’re not constantly going over the same place with your pupils pressed into your monitor. It certainly isn’t a bad game. If you like point and click affairs, you’ll probably find A New Beginning a refreshing experience. There are a few things that hold the game back, such as fairly terrible voice acting and the occasional subtitle errors that can be distracting. Get past that and you have a game that adds a pleasant level of variety into a genre of games that are starting to feel very similar.

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Written by Anthony H

Anthony has been playing games for far too much of his life, starting with the MS-DOS classic Mario is Missing. Since then his tastes have evolved to include just about anything, but his soft spot lies with shooters and the odd strategy game. Anthony will inspire you with his prose, uplift you with his wit and lie to you in his biography.

One comment

  1. dominic tuttle /

    I have just completed A New Beginning.
    I enjoyed the challanges and I liked the concept of saving the worl. I think it is a good teaching tool and I would hope that there may be other games along the same. I would rate this game as 10/10

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