Emerald City Confidential
Whenever someone brings up The Wizard of Oz, the 1939 film starring Judy Garland is the first thing that comes to mind. Attached are memories of camp and oddities, including songs sung of going off to see a wonderful wizard, desiring a brain, and a creepy ode to a lollipop guild. So if one were to propose throwing in a bit of noir to the mix expectations tend to range from disastrous dialogue or the perverting of childhood characters, both of which surprisingly, are disproven by Emerald City Confidential.
What many may not know, The Wizard of Oz was merely the first book written by L. Frank Baum in his 14 book Oz series. Emerald City Confidential takes place well after the chronicles, while staying true to the series’ established mythos (a sure plus amongst hardcore Oz fans). Petra, Emerald City’s exclusive PI, returns to her office after a failed attempt in exposing the schemes of the Lion, who after finding ‘courage’ has evolved (or de-evolved) into a crafty corrupt lawyer.
A knock on the door is received from Dee Gale who employs the detective to track down her missing fiancé. What started as a simple missing person’s case spins out of control as Petra finds herself thrusted into a storm of political controversies and unpleasant dips into the past, all the while being manipulated by familiar faces at every turn.
By and large, Emerald City Confidential stands tall as a title that is attentive to a wide range of gamers. For beginners to the genre, the game consistently alerts you to all given objectives while the hints are generously served up through optional peeks into Petra’s notebook. While the interface is simple, and the puzzles aren’t too difficult, veteran point-and-clickers will still find the obstacles involving. This includes boss fights, using magic spells, and uncovering hidden buttons for unlocking concept art. Both sides will agree that the game’s use of auto-save over having to manually save progress is a real lifesaver.
ECC maintains its gritty tone linked with consistent strengths in dialogue and situations (almost Whedon-esque), brilliant voice acting, and never submitting to the franchise’s mainstream rep for cheesiness. Although a noir Oz may seem awkward to swallow at first, gamers realized that the choice in style compliments the story’s point in expressing the unrealistic nature of the ‘happily ever after’ sales pitch.
While it can be appreciated that the experience is long and savory, a number of gamers may quickly find the visuals to be dulling. The base drawn artwork is fine, but the character models are only provided a fixed number of animations. Coupled with almost no attention to lighting, there are rarely any moments where the eyes perceives any notion of depth. This has ECC coming off as a long amateur Flash game, while other times a pit develops in the gut for the designers’ negligence of tapping potential.
Despite the flat graphics, Emerald City Confidential is an example of a worthwhile title that is commonly overlooked. Even if you’re uneducated in the books the game may do well in invoking interests for future readings. If not, you’re still left with an impression that isn’t without a degree of respect.
Eight out of ten
- Well written story and dialogue
- Fantastic voice acting
- Unique gameplay for its genre
- A must-play for fans of the source literature
- Flawed choices in art
- Gameplay at times really holds your hand throughout