Adventure Game Girl

Arfle barfle Gloop? A nerdy girl in a pixelated world

Monday, 7 July 2014

Mata Hari "Betrayal is Only a Kiss Away" (2008)

The REAL Mata Hari in costume
The Real Mata Hari 

Well, I had high hopes for this game. It's one I'd had on my wishlist for awhile. I'd not read anything about apart from having websites suggest to me that "you like x, y and z, so you'll like this" and I'd seen some screenshots that made me interested.

Firstly, if you didn't know, Mata Hari was a real person, her real name was (Margaretha Geertruida "MargreetZelle MacLeod) but she was mostly knwn by her stage name Mata Hari which comes from the Malay meaning, mata 'eye' and hari 'day', as a compound meaning 'sun'. Mata was an exotic dancer from the Netherlands, who was thought to be a spy. She seduced men and got secrets out of powerful people this way. She is said to have lived 7 August 1876 – 15 October 1917, when she was executed in France by a firing squad under charges of espionage for Germany during World War 1. 

As you can imagine, the real story of Mata Hari is an interesting one in it's self, but sadly, that excitement and intrigue fails to come across in this game. What follows will involve some spoilers, be warned!

Firstly, I found the interface rather clunky to get on with. Any new interface in a game can be awkward, but I never quite felt right with it, even by the end of the game. It was also never explained anywhere (though originally the game may have come with a manual, but I got the direct download on Steam) It was also never explained that I could gain extra points by looking around for things, and gaining Spycraft, Wealth and Skill points. I only discovered this at the very end and felt duped. I realised I was gaining Skill Points every time I did a train journey the non-direct route but that was about it. Spycraft points are gained through investigating and noticing other things outside of the missions which actually explain what is happening. I found ONE of these randomly, and never found another. It was a pixel hunt thing for that one, so no idea how to get the rest. Wealth is gained through doing dances, and I only did the bare minimum of those, because the less said about that mini game, the better...

Train route mini-game
Ok I will explain the mini-games. The whole game relies heavily on mini-games. Repetitive and dull mini-games. There are three types, varied throughout, but repeated, and a couple of others that aren't done to death. The first is the train based mini game, where you have to pick a route on the trains to avoid the people trying to catch you. As you travel more there are more people to avoid, but you do get options like "safe stations" and to put some of them out of order. Paying it once is fun, but it gets very annoying very quickly as you have to travel a lot. You can learn about the direct routes to all cities from fellow spies, but you gain no skill points that way.

Infuriating dance mini-game
Secondly, my most hated, the dance mini-game. In this, you have to help Mata perform by moving your mouse to a circle when a musical note reaches the centre of that circle. Sounds easy yes? Well.. it isn't. Nobody has a mouse THAT responsive, and if you wave your mouse a bit too far and overshoot you loose points. And you have to move it between 4 fixed points at speed and accurately. It's insane. I nearly stopped playing from sheer frustration when I came to the last dance I had to do, there is no way I would have continued "for fun". Most mini games you can skip, but I saw no option to continue and skip on the dance game. I HATE when adventure games force you to take part in a skill based puzzle or action puzzle. If I wanted to play that kind of game, I would. I play adventure games because I like to use my brain alone, not my response times. I'm heavily medicated nowadays for reasons I won't go into here, but sharp mousing skills are not something I'd say I possess.. I think the game would have been more doable if it had been pressing say the WASD keys or using the numpad, but accurate muse movement makes a game awkward and unplayable.

Rotate wires...
Now rotate some pipes!
The third repeated mini game is the "turning pipes or wires to complete a circuit". Lucky for them, I like this sort of puzzle, but it was dragged out in some variation regularly. 

The other mini games were less repetitive and thus more interesting, like rearranging books on a shelf to solve one puzzle, using a cipher machine to decode some messages, altering chemical levels in a factory and walking a certain route around a room to avoid upsetting some rats!

Other than the mini-games, the game involved on very little in terms of inventory or interrogation, which are normally key to an adventure game. I felt more like a bystander than part of the game somehow. I felt eternally disconnected from Mata and the storyline. I'm not sure if that is mostly because I MISSED a lot of storyline due to not knowing to look for more, but I feel so frustrated my the mini games and the overall clunkiness of the way the game worked, I don't feel inclined to play it through again any time soon.

To it's credit, the game has wonderful graphics, smooth animations (for the time) and the music and sound effects are good. The puzzles felt superficial and tagged on, and the mini games were infuriating

Would I recommend this game? Well, only not the hardcore gamer who wants to have played EVERYTHING or a sadist who enjoys failing in badly written mini games, or a fan of the history of 
the real Mata Hari, otherwise I would advise you to steer clear and play something else.. 

To finish with, here's some larger screenshots so you can appreciate the beauty of the visuals in this game.

A screenshot to show the gorgeous graphics 

Mata Hari in Marie Curie's lab!

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I’m useless at these "About Me" things. I’m an artistic type with goffick leanings who sits on her arse all day due to chronic illnesses. I'm a mad cat lady and I'll try my hand at most crafts. That will do for this little box! :D
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