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Next Life (Reprobates in some regions) is a third person point and click adventure with one of the most intriguing mystery stories in gaming. It tells a tale that weaves its way around romance, sex and nudity. But unfortunately it fails to deal seriously with characters on a human level. What might have been meaningful and enlightening tends more towards voyeurism.
While talking on his mobile phone in his car, Adam Raichl crashes into a petrol tanker in a fiery explosion which no one could survive. So how come he then finds himself waking up in a strange bed on a beautiful island completely unscathed? As he explores the island, he discovers that it is populated by people from different parts of the world - and different time periods. When the bell tower on the hill rings three times, everyone falls asleep instantly and all have bad nightmares of the things they fear the most, and sometimes when they wake, people have disappeared.
The characters are a really interesting bunch - some are likeable, and some... not so much. There's New Yorker Dorothy, who works as a secretary in the twin towers - the last thing she remembers was there being a small fire somewhere in the building, but only a small one, certainly nothing to worry about. There's Izmael, who believes the island is a kind of purgatory and that only constantly praying is going to save anyone now. There's Yukiko, although that's probably not her real name - she can't or won't talk, so no one knows her story.
I would have liked the game to have had much more dialogue, and I feel that the back stories of the characters could have been developed in much more detail than they were. I think many adventure games suffer from the opposite problem of having too much, so perhaps the developers deliberately kept it short and sweet to avoid this issue.
The gameplay consists mainly of finding objects and solving believable puzzles like moving a rock which has fallen and blocked a path after an earthquake. There were an awful lot of puzzles which required me to go to one side of the island to ask someone about something, and then go back to the other side, which was tedious. Adam moves very slowly, which made it even more tedious.
When Eva arrives on the island, Adam is instantly attracted to her.
At various points, there were also mini games, and although many people have angrily slated these, I really enjoyed them. I liked the way they broke up the gameplay. Only one frustrated me, and when I found out I could save my progress, it quickly became less frustrating.
Before long, everyone on the island seemed to be falling in love with each other. At first I thought this was a key development in the game, and that the answer to the mystery might have been that they were all brought to the island to ‘find' each other. When Eva arrives on the island, Adam is instantly attracted to her. However, as her last memory is of being attacked by three men, one of whom put a chloroformed rag over her mouth, she is unsurprisingly distrustful. Adam reacts to this by making a series of wholly inappropriate comments, to which Eva responds with active dislike and asks him to leave her alone. Way to go, Adam!
I feel that if sex is going to be included at all in a game, then it needs to be included properly.
Although there are no sex scenes in Next Life, it is obvious that the developers were thinking about sex quite a lot while making the game. The female characters seem to spend half their time wandering around the island in their underwear - the excuse being that it's so hot - and the other half taking showers that Adam happens to walk in on. In some scenes where they've actually managed to keep their clothes on, they've decided to sit in such a way that their underwear is clearly visible.
This kind of virtual voyeurism doesn't do much for me - I feel that if sex is going to be included at all in a game, then it needs to be included properly. A group of (mainly extremely attractive) men and women, stuck together on an island with nothing to do, wandering around in their underwear, and none of them even kiss throughout the entire three CDs? Come on, pull the other one.
At the end of the game, Adam manages to inexplicably walk off into the sunset with Eva, glossing neatly over the fact that every time he spoke to her he'd made a complete arse of himself and that she obviously couldn't stand him. Very unbelievable. She was obviously just playing hard to get, right?
Next Life's intriguing story kept me going when the tedious backtracking and slow pace made me want to switch off. However, I thought the story's resolution was very disappointing and I would have liked to see more character development. If you're a patient person, it's worth seeing what Next Life has to offer, but I fear the game will frustrate most people long before they reach the finishing line.
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