Electronic Theatre In-depth Review: The 39 Steps: Collector’s Edition

Having already been made available via digital distribution services (under the guise The Thirty-Nine Steps), The 39 Steps: Collector’s Edition comes to retail with a budget price tag, courtesy of Avanquest Software Publishing. An unusual production, The 39 Steps: Collector’s Edition is less a videogame […]
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Electronic Theatre ImageHaving already been made available via digital distribution services (under the guise The Thirty-Nine Steps), The 39 Steps: Collector’s Edition comes to retail with a budget price tag, courtesy of Avanquest Software Publishing. An unusual production, The 39 Steps: Collector’s Edition is less a videogame than an interactive novel, and to that end it’s fairly unique in the industry at present.

Once having completed the installation process, fraught with Avanquest Software Publishing’s archaic registration prompts and toolbar installation suggestions, the videogame begins in a very cinematic fashion. The art direction is sublime, with silhouettes of imposing gothic buildings, whiskey glasses and murder weapons perfectly setting the scene forElectronic Theatre Image a thriller. The 39 Steps: Collector’s Edition is of course an adaptation of John Buchan’s popular novel, and as such the adaptation could well have been handled with little grace. But this isn’t a console version of The Da Vinci Code: this is a piece of software designed with purpose.

Given this source material and the effort of establishing an interactive retelling of the tale, there’s unsurprisingly a lot of text in The 39 Steps: Collector’s Edition. The mechanic used for progressing through it is somewhat awkward at first, but is a device created with the intention of avoiding the need of a mouse pointer. In order to advance the text the player must rotate the mouse clockwise or anticlockwise to reverse. This separates moments of calm from those of interaction, as when a cursor does appear the player is invited to take part in the adventure.

This interaction can be solicited in many ways, from moving location to exploring rooms and examining objects. The team at The Story Mechanics have taken some clever steps to flesh out the story, adding incidental detail by way of objects and subtle environmental detail that truly enhances your perception of a given situation. Simple nods inElectronic Theatre Image a specific direction will offer clues that will heighten your suspicions; an inventive and effective device that fans of the novel will surely welcome.

Each chapter of the novel provides a new instance with clues from previous events having an impact on your perception of each new scene. It’s entirely possible to progress through scenes without discovering all the available clues – and without this hindering your enjoyment of the story, too – but The Story Mechanics have put enough sign posts into the visual design to ensure that, should you be paying due care and attention, it’s unlikely that you’ll miss any of the subtle nuance offered by the environments and objects within.

On that note, it’s pertinent to offer The Story mechanics commendation for the visual direction of The 39 Steps: Collector’s Edition. The art is frequently fantastic, with environments that are filled to burst with character presenting an even greater argument about who lives/works/travels there. The highlights addressing interactive Electronic Theatre Imageobjects and the text placement is near faultless, while the pacing of these elements is most certainly aiming for a relaxed play time even at moments of tension.

Many suggest that books are typically better than motion-picture due to their ability to present and much stronger sense of character development. The 39 Steps: Collector’s Edition, however, proves that the interactive medium can be more valid than either when used in an appropriate fashion. The 39 Steps: Collector’s Edition introduces characters with ease and subtly establishes their personalities through incidental detail that may appear superfluous at first, but quickly collates into more than just a seemingly unrelated newspaper, wallet and map of the British Empire: these are artefacts of personality. And herein resides The 39 Steps: Collector’s Edition’s majesty: it’s not a videogame for everyone, but it’s a videogame for everyone eager to pursue the notion that the interactive medium can enhance narrative structure.

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