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Review of Perfect Tides by Doom

Stars - 20

Rating by Doom posted on Mar 20, 2022 | edit | delete


Far from perfect


What could possibly go wrong with a game designed after Sierra’s classics? A lot, as it turns out. I know that Meredith Gran, who is a well-known comic artist, is also a long-time adventure fan, and the retro design of Perfect Tides is intentional, yet I failed to find a game here. I read some feedback following the release, and many praise it for a) nostalgic early Internet era, and b) the protagonist they can relate to. Not the actual story, gameplay or even possible message behind Mara’s experience as a teenager - and for good reasons, as there’s a surprising lack of any plot, puzzles or moral behind this, em, media. Yet somehow it is generally accepted as a great game.

Which is all the more surprising as I found Tides to be a failure both as a character study and a nostalgia trip. Despite I also grew up during the 1990s-2000s and spent a lot of time surfing Internet rather than socializing, I can’t and I don’t want to relate to the character of Mara - hardly a misunderstood teen writer with the heart of gold, but rather a lazy, autistic, selfish and simply dull girl as it seems, lacking any skills or ambitions. She is constantly checking a forum and chatting with a couple of online friends (and that’s all nostalgia you’ll get, don’t expect anything even remotely resembling the magic of Hypnospace: Outlaw), but never - writing. And I doubt she could write at all: her messy room shows no signs of literature, she has limited interests and poor sense of humour, she hates classes, forgets to do her homework and takes no participation in school activities unlike her close friend, and at the end of the day (year, to be exact) she learns practically nothing.

The story starts (and ends) on a tiny remote island near New York, a gay resort inspired by the real-life Fire Island where not much else happens after summer ends - and we’ll witness it as we’ll get to play through all four seasons. A bunch of locals spend their lives either sitting at their homes and waiting for another holiday season, or pursuing careers at “the big land”. There is hardly any community to speak of, this strange enclave society consists mostly of lonely and unmotivated people who show no signs of social life, including Mara’s own dysfunctional family.

Mara herself is ready to break up with those few friends she has as soon as she learns that they are moving away from this boring island. Although her friends are not much better, be it a gay writer who lives on the outskirts in a huge mansion and spends days lying on the floor doing nothing, or a couple of punks from the mainland who just wander around - you guessed it, doing nothing. In fact most people she meets are either misfits or lowlifes who are mainly attracted to Mara in a sexual way. Which usually feels more disturbing than comic since it’s a 15-turning-16-looking-12 year old girl we are talking here.

To be honest, I didn’t think any part of this game was funny at all, despite people tend to find it amusing. While some of the pixel animations made me smile simply because they were so good (praise to the animators!), Mara’s awkward mumbling as she tries to maintain dialogue or tired Nazi jokes on every occasion (she’s Jewish, so she’s afraid of Nazis, get it, get it?!) are examples of poor writing in my book, and the rest of the game mostly consists of hollow conversations, conflicts and Mara’s inner experience, not even remotely funny. All this really hurts the game, because, as I wrote, there is no game to speak of.

While visually Tides comes close to a mediocre Sierra adventure (the art is hit-and-miss, with some screens looking nicely detailed, and some - very generic), gameplay-wise it lacks any challenge, and it feels kinda surreal with the oldschool interface attached. If not for a couple of puzzles and pixel hunting instances, it could’ve been easily misplaced for a visual novel. A plotless novel, that’s it. There’s basically no story development! Our protagonist either creates a stupid situation out of thin air and tries to resolve it (but usually just suffers and cries in agony) or, like her friends, wanders around aimlessly. One might say: “Duuude, that’s what teenagers usually do”. But I’ll have to disagree since me, my friends and many other people I know also happened to be young.

Even this one game offers at least two characters who are always busy doing something useful, be it part-time jobs, various extracurricular activities or simple friendly gestures. Why are we stuck with this annoying girl? We are not even allowed to influence important events, despite it supposed to be part of the gameplay. Yes, we’ll make a bunch of choices along the way (some of them hardly influence anything at all), yet the scenes crucial for Mara’s relationships with family and friends are always played as cutscenes where she immediately starts acting like a douche. By the fourth season I got so tired of her and her environment that I couldn’t care less if she would fix anything in her life or not. There are no victims here, really, only one stupid teen.


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Time Played: 5-10 hours
Difficulty: Very Easy

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