What is uniqueness worth? I suppose that’s one of those subjective things that depends both on the individual being asked and the unique object in question; if we’re talking about a three-headed wolf that can breathe fire, that’s way more awesome to me than a ladybug with unique coloring. The Experiment, or eXperience 112 as it’s known in some places, is unique in several ways, but that uniqueness is more on par with the ladybug than the fire-breathing wolf. That’s to say that almost everything that it does to stand apart ends up being gimmicky and cosmetic to the overall detriment of the game.
It’s not a bad game by any means, and I hate to give that impression, but you quickly begin to realize that its gimmicks aren’t worth their cost in convenience. See, in The Experiment, you don’t actually control a character. Instead, you’re guiding the main character (always the same one) using lights, snooping around computer files like some kind of crazed hacker, and moving security cameras to answer “yes” and “no” to her questions. On paper, this sounds like a great idea—in practice, it’s far more tedious than you’d think.
The first problem is the camera. The whole “controlling another character” gimmick means that you can only see through security cameras, many of which don’t work or are positioned at awkward angles. This lends a certain bit of credibility to the whole thing, but this credibility comes at the cost of convenience. It can be difficult to see certain areas, and having to constantly close out of cameras to open up other cameras as the main character moves is a chore.
Movement is yet another problem. There isn’t really any pattern to which lights the main character can and can’t see, leading to situations where you’ll click on a light in front of her and she’ll somehow manage to completely miss it. Other times, you’ll accidentally click on a far-away light and she’ll walk right to it. Some lights can inexplicably be seen from behind doors, while other times you’ll see the light turn on in front of her (proving that it’s visible) and she’ll ignore it entirely. This lack of consistency when guiding her undermines the uniqueness of the “controlling an external character through lights and cameras” element of the game and prevents it from ever becoming fun.
Outside of movement, there’s not much love for the camera gimmick; I can only recall one occasion where I got to answer “yes” or “no” to actual questions, since the other times it appeared as though my answers were completely disregarded. Your job boils down to clicking lights and solving puzzles for the first 80% of the game, and while the puzzles are actually interesting on many occasions, getting to them can prove frustrating because of the main character’s slow movement speed and the necessity of running around for what amounts to a number of fetch quests. These fetch quests are worsened somewhat by the main character constantly reminding you of what you’re supposed to be fetching until it becomes grating and drives you to the edge of madness. The next person to use the word “bathyscaphe” around me will suffer a fate worse than death, because she would not shut up about the bathyscaphe and I’m so terribly sick of her telling me about the bathyscaphe.
That brings me to the last 20% or so of The Experiment, which takes place shortly after the bathyscaphe sequence. You can always tell when a game is about to jump the rails and get ugly, because it’s almost always followed by a sudden gameplay change. This comes in the form of an over-the-shoulder camera that gives you a first-person perspective; while this alleviates the frustration of having to constantly open and close cameras (though you still can, if you hate yourself and enjoy massive doses of tedium), it also highlights just how slow the character’s movement actually is. In addition to the new camera view, you’re also given a “pheromone pack” toward the end that has to be used in a specific way, and this factors into a timed sequence where you’re forced to move the camera to target specific things and shoot pheromones at them (oh yeaaaaaaah). For this to actually work, this section would have to come with a manageable camera, but it swings around wildly and is far too unruly for this portion of the game to work at all. The last bit of the game introduces too many new mechanics too suddenly for the game’s good, and this ultimately ruins the promise that the earlier portion of the game had, despite its flaws.
A large portion of the game consists of rummaging through emails and personal files in the accounts of various people involved in the story. This is actually one of the better parts of The Experiment, since it allows you to get a feeling for the individual personalities of the characters. It’s also kind of funny how promiscuous and jealous and hilariously sex-crazed everyone apparently is. That aside, going through accounts and figuring out passwords and decoding various messages is definitely one of the better parts of the game, and one area where it definitely lives up to the uniqueness it promises.
Graphics are… strange, I guess. This could pass for a Playstation 2 game, and the effects on cameras (such as a thermal sensor and night-vision) are actually pretty interesting. Unfortunately, since you’re the person behind the camera you’re never able to get a full-screen view of the graphics; you’re constantly sharing screen real estate with files and folders and multiple camera views. What’s there is pretty enough, though.
The music was the first thing I noticed, because I liked the opening song. After that, I didn’t notice the music at all. In fact, I’m not even sure that this game has music after the very beginning. It probably does, but if that’s the case, it’s so unremarkable that it can obviously be completely ignored.
I usually start these reviews by writing about the story, but I honestly have no idea what to think about the story in this game. On one hand, the way everyone interacts is interesting and worthwhile. On the other hand, the overall plot takes a sharp turn near the end and eliminates too much of the mystery that had made everything interesting up to that point. This is one area where your opinion of the story will depend on what you look for in games, and opinions could vary wildly. For what it’s worth, I liked it a lot at first. Not so much near the end.
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