Overall Score 55%
This week’s review features a title that I would not really class as a game. It’s interactive fiction. Imagine reading a graphic novel, but being able to make decisions for the protagonist at various points in the plot. Not life changing decisions and not even choices that would seriously change the plot in any significant way, just a simple selection of some pre-determined responses that might have a slight bearing on the dialogue and interactions between characters. That’s pretty much Heileen in a nutshell.
The reader follows the tale of Heileen; a 18 year-old girl from the city of Liverpool in England, and her adventures that ensue when she is removed from her comfort zone and made to escort her merchant uncle and guardian on a sea-faring trip to the New World. Accompanying the plot is a storyboard style graphical representation of the characters and locations through which Heileen’s adventure unfurls - climaxing in a life and death finale that sees her life turned upside down, and leaves her confronting a brave new beginning.
The story will probably be appreciated by the kids and early teens, but somewhat curiously contains a few bawdy references that only older readers might spot. There’s a non-graphic depiction of violence and flirtatious behaviour and for the most part, characters manage to keep their clothes on. In fact the story is centred for a large period on Heileen’s observations and approaches upon and by the various men that she finds herself suddenly surrounded with. Strangely, it does seem to me that the developers were a little confused as to the demographics of their target audience. Regardless of that, there’s no content that I can see that would outwardly offend even the youngest or most conservative players, yet there is plenty of innuendo and implied sauciness.
At various times during the story, a “quest” may be unlocked depending on the dialogue choices that are made. Again, depending on further choices the mystery or task may be solved or left unsolved, yet the plot chugs along in a mostly linear fashion regardless. Solving these quests will net the player points and they will be awarded a rank upon reading the story to its conclusion based on the amount of points accumulated. After 4 play throughs, I ended up at the same ending each time despite making different choices in each.
The cartoon style, cell shaded graphics are quite attractive and add to the immersion factor as do the limited number of good quality sound effects and music. Although there are no significant animations, character portraits will move around, appear and disappear, as well as emote responses. It’s bit like watching a puppet-show with captions, actually!
There are lots of save game slots available so that you don't need to read the whole story in one sitting, but if you choose to do so, you won't need much more than an hour or two at the most. Options to control nearly everything including sounds and music as well as fullscreen and windowed mode are easily accessible and functional.
Replay value is questionable, and overall longevity definitely suffers from a lack of various endings, and linear nature of the story as a whole. There are a few scenes that may only be accessed through specific dialogue options, but these simply act like a siding that runs parallel to a railway line, with the player shunted back onto the main line before long. Heileen doesn’t really have the feel of a “Choose your own Adventure” book where the readers choices have a distinct effect on the way the story plays out. At $20, I think that Heileen might just be a little overpriced as well.
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