Adventure Gamers Awards
Treading in the footsteps of such notable literary giants as Lewis Carroll and Neil Gaiman, Forever Entertainment’s Violett is a beautifully illustrated tale of teenage willfulness and the consequences of sticking your nose into mysterious corners where it doesn’t belong. Though clearly inspired by the classics, however, Violett fails to live up to its forebears with its flimsy story and characters, relying on pretty visuals and often tricky puzzle design to compensate.
Introduced via a stylish opening cinematic, Violett is a lanky, awkward teenage girl whose parents, when not busy arguing with each other, have just relocated the family to an isolated house somewhere in the countryside. Seeking refuge from their constant squabbling, Violett spends her time alone in her room. That is, until a mysterious glint coming out of a dark mouse hole catches her eye. Reaching in, she finds a strange amulet and is pulled into a miniature world of fantastic environments and odd creatures living right behind her walls.
Once she’s crossed over, a chance encounter with a fairy gives Violett the ability to manipulate certain objects telepathically, which becomes a staple of the gameplay. While navigating through the point-and-click environments, Violett does not need to be in physical contact with objects to pick them up or move them (though she does need to be in close proximity). During the course of the adventure, she’ll find and piece together segments of the amulet, which came apart upon her arrival, granting her additional powers such as short-distance levitation and the ability to withstand fire.
While the plot setup contains a heavy dose of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (with a dash of Coraline), the storytelling aspect of Violett sadly doesn’t continue much past the introductory cinematic. Little attempt has been made to weave an engaging narrative: interactions with the bugs, moles, birds, and other small creatures who inhabit the world are limited to “Bring me this amulet to open that gate” or “Give me the ingredients to make the soup.” Progressing through the game becomes a rote matter of solving all of an area’s puzzles to proceed to the next, with neither rhyme nor reason given for doing so. Apparently Violett knows she’ll be transported back to her home once she’s run out of rooms to clear.
As there is no map or fast-travel feature, backtracking becomes a bit of a chore. I frequently had to find an item in one area to use in another, only to return to the first area again later on for something else, passing through all in-between locations each and every time. It’s not so much that she’s slow – Violett moves at a fairly brisk clip – but each time you’re forced to retrace your steps you’ll need to repeat every action and watch each climbing/jumping/etc. animation all over again. It’s not a major flaw, but an option to fast-forward past some of these repetitive sections would have been welcome.
It turns out the only way for Violett to finally return home is to defeat the evil Spider Queen, who rules over the denizens of this magical land. Along the way, Violett will find manuscript pages scattered in various locations, providing details on the strange and whimsical citizenry with a bit of superfluous – though quite welcome – flavor text. While I assumed that these were entries in Violett’s personal journal, the in-game documentation reveals that they were actually part of her uncle’s diary. Who was her uncle? When did he enter this wondrous world? Was he able to escape? What happened to him? I never did find answers for these questions, and they never seemed to cross Violett’s mind in the least, as she never comments on discovering her uncle’s diary in this strange place.
With such a rich canvas of oddment races under the yoke of a tyrannical ruler and a diary providing insights from beyond the Void, it’s too bad the developers didn’t flesh out this world to any further degree. Everything is presented as a matter of fact, with no background or running exposition to build on it. The game’s primary focus has instead been placed squarely on its quality presentation and on puzzles that require an active imagination and, in some cases, a great deal of patience.
Violett’s graphics feature a top-notch hand-drawn aesthetic, lending a suitable air of magical realism that helps achieve the all-important suspension of disbelief. Environments are constructed of household items proportionately enlarged and arranged in such a way as to be functional. Fences are made of pencils and matches; staircases are constructed of books stacked in a spiraling sequence; garden gnomes become towering statues with menacing grins and threatening expressions. All are illustrated with lush colors and a neat, clean style that gives the game a crisp, vibrant appearance.