It’s 2035, and Buenos Aires lies in ruins in the wake of a hostile takeover by a paramilitary organisation when twenty-something Christian comes to his senses in a dilapidated hospital. Suffering from post-traumatic stress-related amnesia, he thinks he is still in 2015 and takes a while to grasp his situation: he is a prisoner of the notorious Colonel, and an important one at that, though he cannot recollect why. But despite his disorientation, Christian has enough presence of mind to understand his precarious situation, and embarks right away on the titular goal of the freeware prelude Reversion: Chapter 1 – The Escape.
Chapter 2 – The Meeting is the first commercial episode of the proposed six-part Reversion series, set in the immediate aftermath of Christian’s escape. Erstwhile fellow inpatient Victoria agrees to help Christian track down the mystery scientist whose photo is the only link to his past, and sets him up with über-geek Pablo, a member of the secret resistance plotting against the militia. Considerable legwork and Pablo’s resources bring Christian somewhat up-to-date with the convoluted premise of the series, but just when things appear poised on the verge of a breakthrough, the game wraps up with a ‘to be continued’.
Developed by indie Argentine studio 3f Interactivo, Reversion follows Christian as he pieces together the events that led to the fall of Buenos Aires – and the possible role he played in it – and presumably will go on to devise a way to reverse the disaster and restore control to the legitimate government. The hour-long free first chapter limits the backstory to an exposition on the plight of the city and focuses on Christian’s escape from the hospital, which now serves as the militia’s base. The Meeting is a half-hour longer and divulges more of the plot, including a fairly significant lead into Christian’s past and what (at present) appears to be an oft-rehashed premise involving time travel and world domination, even as the protagonist diligently unlocks a multitude of doors and containers en route to the all-important scientist.
The political turmoil in the city is credible and intelligently incorporated into the plot: as with any dictatorial coup, there is a deep sense of discontentment among a local populace, including many forcibly conscripted soldiers, and this fear and frustration seem to be coalescing towards active revolt, evident in the few conversations Christian has with other characters. On the other hand is the whole sci-fi aspect of the story, glimpsed in the fleeting segments with the Colonel. It is apparent right from the start of the series, given that twenty years seem to have elapsed during Christian’s coma and he hasn’t aged, that a technological marvel involving time manipulation has allowed the militia to wrestle control of the city. But it remains to be seen how intricately this concept is meshed into the otherwise realistic story, or if the superpower is wielded as a weapon greater than a plot device.
The best part about Reversion so far is that it cuts straight to the chase. Christian is a man of action, and does what he must without getting bogged down by details – or lack of them. This sets up a continuous flow of familiar and easy inventory- and conversation-based quests which lead linearly from one to the next without springing any unreasonable – or even unexpected – twists. Each episode's title spells out the one-note agenda Christian has for that chapter: in part one, it was to escape from the hospital; this time, it is to meet the scientist. All activities are geared towards achieving this narrowly-defined goal, and barring a very brief encounter with Maria, a young militia woman mourning the death of her soldier boyfriend, there are no diversions along the way to add depth to the overall story or its characters.
In keeping with the basic emphasis of the story, Christian's tasks involve the likes of replacing dead batteries, figuring out simple codes, and digging graves. His acquaintances are only vaguely helpful, and for the most part he ventures alone in this dystopian city now bereft of citizens, who have either been drafted by the militia or have fled in fear. But this traditional point-and-click adventure doesn’t capitalise on either its fascinatingly morbid scenario or its smart, resourceful lead, and ends up with only one truly enjoyable quest – the discovery of Pablo’s hideout. The rest of the time your objectives are predictable and run-of-the-mill. There are neither big revelations nor any genuine suspense that would force the languid pace, and nothing about the journey so far grips hard enough to make you hold your breath for the next installment. The episodic breaks happen just when you have done your job and are ready for your reward, and the dull payoffs are woefully anti-climactic.
Built on the Wintermute engine, this game is bug-free and easy to navigate. There are only a few locations: besides a revisit to the hospital, The Meeting features an abandoned subway system, Pablo’s hideout, a militia graveyard, a couple of houses, and the disintegrating, graffiti-riddled Faculty of Engineering at the local university. In a departure from the first chapter, here each new location spread across the city is added as the story evolves and can be teleported to using a GPS device. There are 8-10 hotspots per screen, all described aloud by Christian, though only a few are actually usable. Left-clicking and holding the cursor over a hotspot brings up the interactive options – look at, use and/or talk to. A hotspot revealer is always on call, while the extremely generous hint system tells you outright what to do next, though in Chapter 2 there is a time lag of a few minutes between consecutive hints. Hotspots are not deactivated once exhausted, but the game is straightforward enough that you usually know what to do next and don’t have to waste time with random clicks and guesswork.Continued on the next page...