At first, we assumed that Beautiful Desolation it was a kind of lost game of the late nineties. Its isometric perspective and visually spectacular pre-rendered scenes immediately evoke the tastes of the original Fall out and Planescape: Torment to mind, and this comparison has been cemented with user interface, voice acting, and scenes. Unfortunately Bella Desolation hasn’t seen fit to drag the gaming history or gaming world of her ancestors, opting instead for a confusing and somewhat frustrating mess of a port.
You see, in its original incarnation for PC, Beautiful Desolation was a point-and-click adventure with pre-rendered backgrounds, rather similar to the 1999 classic. The longest journey. Here, however, on Switch, he switched to direct control of the protagonist. And, to be completely right, it doesn’t work. At all. Your character changes speed and direction according to their original path, which made sense when circling it was a simpler matter of clicking where you want to go and seeing the character move here, but not here. The correct path is often a bit obtuse when presented in this way,
This lets you brutally force your way around environments that are simply not designed to be navigated in this way, smashing against invisible walls in an attempt to determine the precise path that the game will allow you to take. If it looks unenjoyable, you’re right! And this is it constant, seeing you struggle with this control system for the entirety of this game 15-20 hours – and it would probably be closer to 10 hours if the flipping controls worked.
We can’t overstate the impact of this decision on our experience with the game – if we weren’t reviewing it, we would check back almost immediately after realizing just what a slogan even the simplest ambulance would be. It’s the puzzles and challenges that are supposed to be challenging, not just crossing a screen!
And it’s a shame, because deep down every other respect Beautiful Desolation is, at worst, interesting. The story, seen set in the distant future in a world that is both beautiful and – yes – desolate, is wildly funny. It’s certainly far from perfect, with some pretty off-kilter and unnatural dialogue, but that feeds into the rather delightful strangeness of the proceedings, that tint of the other will only get you through decent sci-fi.
In fact, the tradition here is well thought out and a great deal of love has gone into crafting the world. Here, “The Penrose,” a bizarre and alien structure, appeared in South Africa ten years ago and has accelerated the advancement of science by many, many times. Your playful character, Mark, remains suspicious of the artifact and makes a helicopter with his brother to check it out. They get mixed up, there’s an accident, and end up jumping forward into a post-apocalyptic South Africa and set out to explore barren but beautiful places that perform what ultimately amounts to a series of research missions. There are mini-games but very little combat, and what is in the way of boxing can be completely avoided.
The potential of the point and click genre – although this is not a real point and click because of the controls mentioned above – does not seem particularly well realized here while looking in vain to look for a viable way forward. It’s the visual spectacle that will make you play, since the “puzzles” are rather anemic and the story is told in such a distant way that we find it very difficult to be attracted to. Personality seems to have a focus on the plot. consistency, and that personality isn’t really much for us – a little too busy to be extravagant to be sympathetic. The ambiguity and general strangeness of conversations and scenarios are not really rewarding enough to persevere.
It’s a shame that the game is so full of problems, because there’s a germ of something beautiful here. It’s not even well suited to the Switch, though, even due to the huge path problem. Visually it’s not bad either in handheld modes or in docking, but it stutters in both – and pretty bad. Of course, this isn’t the type of game that needs tactile reflexes, but you’ll find yourself looking with a deep sense of desire at the 60fps PC version with its control scheme that actually works, and it won’t detach you from any atmosphere or narrative fascination cutting through fairly long charge screens too often. Maybe this is a game that can shine on the right platform, but it doesn’t fit well with the Switch hardware.
We were, as you can understand from the body of this review, consistently frustrated with Beautiful Desolation, another ambitious and beautiful looking game that the Incarnate Switch just wasn’t an acceptable way to experience it – shades of Genesis NoirThe port (although it was better). It’s particularly unfortunate because this is exactly the type different that the Switch needs, but needs to run better than what is offered here. If you can get past the problematic controls, overload and weak performance, you may be able to get into Beautiful Desolation. There is a lot to like in its world-class construction, stunning backgrounds and interesting premise. But we got the impression that he just asked us to neglect way, too many problems for the privilege.