Review for Blue Wednesday
Blue Wednesday uses charming graphics, transcendent music, and a simple, keyboard-button interface to involve the player in the life of Morris, an aspiring young jazz musician. According to the Buff Studio developers, “It's not a fancy, glamorous story. We tried to express dreams, love, and failure through jazz – things we all go through, can go through, and have gone through.” Except for one frustrating mini-game, they achieved their goal.
The stylized, well-crafted graphics inject realism into this game. The clutter of Morris’s apartment is the perfect home for a frazzled musician. It is strewn with laundry, and a piano holds court in the center of the room. When Morris leaves his apartment, he becomes part of a living, breathing neighborhood that bustles with people. My favorite location is the jazz club with its dark, subdued colors -- perfect for an intimate, melodious evening.
Yes, jazz is the soul of this game. It is the impetus that drives everything. Listening to the varied, creative tracks allowed me to empathize with Morris. I connected with his desire to move forward and his fear for the future. The quick tempo of the enchanting music pulls us forward despite Morris’s often pessimistic attitude.
Unsatisfied with his menial job at the supermarket, Morris is frustrated with his life. He yearns to be a musician, yet he is afraid to fail. (This is a feeling I have experienced too.) It is communicated with succinct sentences: “Yay. I’m so excited to go to work today! Probably an arrhythmia or something.” The cutting, sarcastic, unvoiced dialog communicates his feelings quite effectively. After getting fired from his job and a dissuading call from his aunt, Morris auditions as a pianist at an Evans City jazz club called Bird’s. During the audition, he meets a beautiful saxophonist named Angela. Whether Morris succeeds at his audition and explores a vista of new possibilities depends on whether the player can master the mini-games which spice up the story and augment its interactivity. They make the player the fulcrum in Morris’s personal and professional development. These challenges strengthen the narrative in much the same way that each individual patch augments the warmth offered by a winter quilt. If individual patches are shoddily made, they will lessen the quilt’s warmth. Fortunately, these mini-games are very well-made -- though playing the piano can be a frustrating experience.
Guiding Morris through the PC version of the lovingly illustrated world of Evans City is as easy as pressing a button. The player uses the F “button” to interact and the arrow keys to move. If you press F while close to an object like the shower stall, Morris will take a shower when prompted to do so. You utilize the arrow keys to ensure that the indicator lands at the top of the gauge’s arc where hot and cold water meet, so that Morris completes this task. Another example: during a movie date with Angela, pressing F while sparks are near a heart will increase the heart’s size and the couple’s affection. When you press F next to a character with a speech bubble, that character will speak to Morris. The player does not select conversational topics, as in many other adventure games, but dialogue still drives the story. This particular narrative stands on three pillars: music, melancholy, and hope.
The piano challenge is the first and most frequent interactive activity the player will encounter. You must press the falling letter keys when they get to the squares so that the tune will play coherently. If not, Morris will strike a sour note, and too many of these will mean starting over, plus a scolding from your band-mates. Some players may be able to deduce the musical pattern. However this was beyond me, and my reflexes weren’t up to the task of pressing the button at the right time. I relied on outside help to conquer the piano segments.
The other mini-games are easier. Morris’s first task at the supermarket is to bag groceries as the items cross the scanner. His second task is to stack the shelves with variously colored soda cans, achieved through a sliding-tile-like game, using the arrow keys to find a path which avoids dented cans. The player also helps Morris and his band produce an album by assembling a series of puzzles, which feature scenes from the game. For example, one puzzle depicts an exhausted Morris falling asleep at his desk. You select a puzzle piece and guide it to its apparently proper place using the arrow keys, and the game then alerts you if the placement is correct.
Blue Wednesday effectively uses its mini-games to involve the player in Morris’s professional and personal development. It succeeds in telling a warmhearted tale filled with hope, love, and resilience that revolves around, and is supported by, a phenomenal jazz soundtrack.