Great voice work
Choose your own direction
Façade is not just any freeware game, but one that pushes the boundaries of video games, and tries a different approach at engaging the gamer. One in which you are the catalyst to the action that unfolds on screen, and through your actions, you will ultimately influence the events that will occur. However, not in the ways that video games have done so in the past, but in a more active role that is AI driven combined with mental simulation. It is through the role that you choose for your character in Facade that brings the events that take place to a more personal level. Whereas in most games, the story is driven by the action on screen, Façade takes a different approach. Instead of focusing on the external events that are occurring, Façade focuses on a more personal element with the characters of Trip and Grace, a married couple who have invited you over to their apartment. Soon enough, you begin to witness that not all is happy in Trips and Grace's marriage. The choices and actions that you make throughout the course of the game will have an impact on what happens later on, making this a more interactive story than others before it.
Façade was created over a 5-year period by Andrew Stern and Michael Mateas, two computer scientists whose goal as stated on the homepage was to make Façade “an artificial intelligence-based art/research experiment in electronic narrative – an attempt to move beyond traditional branching or hyper-linked narrative to create a fully-realized, one-act interactive drama.” The game was soon released in 2005, when the awards and praises began to pour in. Façade even won the 2006 Slamdance Independent Games Festival, and would pick up two more awards during the next two years. The game would soon be a staple as the next step in gaming; as some sources of media have said. That sort of statement has been a dividing point between the different sources of media that has reported about Façade, but no-one can deny the amount of exposure the two authors of the game have received and the impact that this experimental game has achieved in the two years since it has been launched. If you are interested to read about some of the comments made about Façade, look on the homepage. The sources are arranged down the page and one of my personal favorites to see, is the TV interview the two developers did with CBS5 which you can see here: http://firstname.lastname@example.org
In Façade, you play the role of Grace and Trip’s friend, who has been invited by Trip to their apartment to socialise, since it has been a long while that all three of you have hung out. However, as soon as you arrive, you begin to realize that both Trip and Grace are not happy with one another. Both are arguing with one another and their true feelings and thoughts about one another begin to emerge. As their friend, you can either help them in confronting what is on their minds, or you can simply not help them at all and watch the entire situation disintegrate, the choice is up to you. This is what makes Façade, such a unique experience for any gamer, you can be someone who is helpful who helps Grace and Trip, or you can simply let the couple argue, and misinterpret what they are saying about one another and see what happens. Ultimately, you are in control of what happens to Trip and Grace by the “advice” you give to them, but you are only a small part of the experience. As you interject with your thoughts and questions, Grace and Trip will express their thoughts and desires in real time, if you do not say anything or do anything Grace and Trip will lead the topic of discussion. It is up to you whether you wish to be an active or passive participant and ultimately may help determine whether the two stay together or break up.
You get the choice of picking your characters name from a default list when the game first starts. There are some of the more familiar names, and then some other more obscure names in the list. Some different dialogue options emerge, whether you choose to play as a male or female in the game. It is also great to see that whichever name you choose will be spoken throughout the game, both by Trip and Grace. Every single name is used with the rest of the spoken voices as the game is playing. All the actions that occur within the game involving your character are seen through a first person perspective. In order to communicate with Grace and Trip, you type what you wish to say and finish by pressing the Enter key. Alternatively, if you wish to get either Trips or Graces attention, you can use the mouse button and hand cursor on screen to click certain objects so that Trip and Grace may react to them. This also applies to picking objects up as well, which will cause either Trip or Grace to react to the object that you are holding.
What makes the game so intuitive for the gamer is the large scope of recognition Trip or Grace will display depending on what you say to them. The system is not fool proof, and there are times when Grace or Trip may not understand what you are saying, but often if you phrase a certain question or statement in a certain way, they will understand what you are saying and react to it. This can either be a general statement you might make such as referring to the painting on the wall, simply by typing “Art”. Alternatively, you might type in “How about some drinks Trip?” to get Trips attention on serving some drinks for you. On the other hand, you might make the comment “Do you feel rich Trip?” to get Trip to talk about the apartment itself and what his definition of being “rich” really is. There are different opportunities and phrases that you can use in the game, and the fact that more often than not the AI will recognize what you are hinting at.
Although Façade does not look like the most graphically impressive game out there, the focus of the game is definitely not on the graphical area of the game. Although the characters of Grace and Trip look quite nice compared to the apartment itself, what is more impressive to see, is the way the two react during the course of the game. Different emotions are conveyed by the expressions on their face - from shock, to sadness, and even anger. When you see these expressions in the game for the first time, you will be quite amazed at the attention to detail which Trip and Grace convey. What makes this even more impressive is that the actions you convey towards of them, or simply that what you say to either Trip or Grace triggers the different expressions and it is just impressive to see it happen as you are playing the game.
Another area that is also impressive to see and listen to, is the voice work for the characters. Both Trip and Grace’s voice actors do a superb job in voicing their lines and conveying emotion. These are not two-bit amateur actors who are saying the lines, but professional ones, in which you can hear the degree of emotion when they say their lines and how they react to accusations and express their feelings. You really begin to feel for Grace and Trip, as the game progresses because of the strength of the voice work in the game. All around it is a solid effort, and praise needs to be given to this particular area of the game, along with the rest.
One final note about the framework of the game, is after you finish up with the game, a stage play of the actions that took place in the game will be generated in the stage play folder of Façade. This is a nifty feature, as you can see what you did during the course of the game - from what you said, to the actions you did. It is also handy to show off to others who play the game, and to see what they accomplished within the game, compared to what sorts of things you did.
Façade is a game that the New York Times has quoted to say is “The Future of Video Games.” Newsweek commented by saying “Façade takes character to a new depth… trying to push boundaries of both gaming and AI". While Edge Magazine said, Façade is “A bold move forward in portraying the emotional lives of digital characters.” The question that remains, is Façade what a lot of the gaming media has said it is? Revolutionary? The next step in gaming? The future of gaming? In my opinion, Façade is an interesting experimental game that almost seems like one of the next logical steps for gaming to travel. Does it accomplish all these tasks? Not quite, simply because of the shortness of the game and the limits that Façade has, in terms of what you can do in the game. It is not a flawless game, but it does come pretty close. The only minor concern I had, being that you must exit the game in order to replay the game once again. Other than that, Façade lives up to the praise that is given. Apart from a few minor concerns, it is a game that any gamer should try out to see what was trying to be accomplished by Andrew Stern and Michael Mateas. I also am optimistic for their next project entitled “The Party” which will be a commercially funded game, one of the first of its kind to receive funding for the type of game they will be creating. It will keep the style of Façade, but in a new setting. I highly recommend you check out Façade, and see what all the talk is about with this fantastic and innovative game.
Review by: DeathDude
Safe for ages: 15+
1GB free disk space