Ceville [PC]

29 Mar 2009  by   Paul Younger
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It’s important that we ask ourselves what we actually want from a game before we delve right into it, and although we might individually feel rather immune to the marketing techniques of game publishers, it’s in the box art and blurb that our first impressions are made.

It appears that the design team behind Kalypso’s new point and click adventure, Ceville, understand this concept. After a few hours at the helm, it’s easy to see how this game could have easily become a Fable 2 clone, with an edge of realism to its adventuring blade.

But in doing so, the developer would have dulled that blade, as this is very much a return to classic point and click gameplay that really benefits from a light-hearted, comedic approach. By adopting a cartoony, caricatured styling, Ceville is free to deliver its jovial, Pixar-esque storyline without any expectations of realism or grandeur getting in its way.

And plot is the real strength of Ceville. The game opens in a wonderfully cinematic sequence in which you, taking on the role of the eponymous anti-hero, are unceremoniously dethroned by the Faeryanis populace. Escaping from this rebellious rabble is the exciting task that teaches you all about the gameplay, and serves as a refreshing and entertaining reminder of the delights of point and click adventuring.

During this inelegant escape, we come to learn about Ceville and his self-serving, iniquitous ways. Rather unusually, out protagonist here is from the Basil Fawlty school of charm – a rancorous, egotistical fellow of spiteful disposition who will go to any lengths to achieve his own selfish ways. This is actually a powerful motivator, as it’s immediately obvious what your role in this game world is.

If Fable 2 had any faults, it’s the lack of direction you’re faced with for a significant part of the game. In Ceville, we learn very early on that the main character is massively unlikeable, yet intriguingly loveable, and his motivation – along with your purpose – is clear and very easy to follow.

You quickly discover that the successor to the usurped throne is the evil magician Basilius, who’s even worse than Cevillie is, so even though the self-centred main character’s intention is simply to recover his power, there’s a strong undercurrent to the plot involving saving the lives of the very people who cast Ceville aside.

The drama inherent in this clever storyline carries the game a long way. But the ancillary characters are equally important to the game’s enjoyment. Chief among them is the high-spirited, altruistic young girls Lilly. Not only does she provide a valuable guide around the world of Ceville, but she acts as the counterpoint to his despicable disposition. They’re constant cross and change of vivacious opinion delivers some superbly entertaining banter, and ensures any gaps in the plotline are well and truly filled by engaging characterisation.

During the quest you encounter plenty of these energetic characters who are all properly fleshed out with their own agenda and strong personalities. The lisping demon, the zombie pirate and the narcissistic paladin all offer up amusing and purposeful antagonism for Ceville and Lilly, and keeps the gameplay moving along a nicely winding path toward the next big plot point.

A 3D adventure isn’t a particularly taxing undertaking for even a mid range modern PC, so Ceville – with its cartoony sheen – really doesn’t demand so much from your computer that’ll cause it to struggle. Despite the easy going polygons, however, the scenery is varied, vibrant and rarely repetitive, giving a depth of structure to Ceville’s world.

Each new area brings with it enough of a uniqueness to ensure that the inherent item hunting of a point and click adventure doesn’t become too monotonous, and the interaction mechanisms are careful not to telegraph every aspect of interest and thereby spoil the puzzles. But neither is it a particularly laborious job checking out every corner of the often busy environments, so the younger demographic this game is clearly aimed at can extract a lot of entertainment without hitting any attention sapping walls.

You’ll also have to separate up your playable characters at certain points, and switch between them to solve the conundrums blocking Ceville’s path to renewed dominance. These moments are particularly enjoyable, and demonstrate the clever logic puzzles the game is genuinely capable of delivering. Indeed, it wouldn’t be unpleasant to have seen this aspect of play expanded to form the core of Ceville’s entire gameplay, but perhaps that’s something we can hope to see in any sequels.

With a good 15 or more hours of gameplay, Ceville does struggle to keep the momentum going, however. At times, particularly as the plot begins to deepen as it reaches the midpoint, we’re subjected to increasingly lengthy cut scenes. The gameplay struggles to provide the necessary story advancement through interactivity, and feels as though it’s forced to resort to taking the events out of your hands and kick the story along a bit.

Although it does work for the ultimate good (being Ceville’s excellent story) these extended cinematic sequences are rather jarring, and could easily cause the younger gamer’s attention to wander away from the computer. Sacrificing a few of the more intricate moments of drama, and shedding a section of amusing, but ultimately unnecessary, banter would have helped to maintain the game’s vital impetus.

Still, at least the voice acting is of a much higher standard than most computer games manage to muster, and this helps keep you involved in the plot a lot longer than the game often deserves.

If you pine for the days of the point and click, or you’re looking to help your young ‘uns progress into the more involved world of PC gaming, Ceville is a natural and generous choice. Already there are a number of bug fixes available, which is no bad thing (assuming you overlook the fact that the commercial game needed them so quickly), and it’s undeniably one of those games that – even through moments of disinterest – will steal a more hours than you’ll expect.

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