Brilliant game that overcomes its flaws
Rarely do I encounter such immersing games like Keepsake. I’m a big fan of roleplaying and adventure games, but lately it seems to me all good ideas are worn out, and most games are mass produced for “fast-food” youth generation, to be short lived entertainment and then discarded away. Keepsake is not one of those games… I admire games that become a wholesome experience while you play them, and then stick with you for a long, long time after. Which is exactly how I feel for this great adventure before you dear reader.
To hold on with the praises, Keepsake is not a perfect game, but I’ll try to describe why I feel it’s perfectly flawed in its own way. This is a fully adventure oriented game, with interesting plot and numerous challenging logical puzzles to be solved. To start with the good sides – I’ll say that the game looks downright beautiful. I really dislike the overzealous “colorful-messy” style that most games nowadays take and I’m happy that Keepsake is quite the opposite. The graphics are crisp, clean and most of the times impressive so some scenes will really take your breath away. Since our plot takes place inside a magical academy mostly, you will see some fantastic vision of architecture, from cold, terrific looking marble and jaw dropping statues to intricate details of tapestries and many various emblems and finally lush and vivid gardens and plants. I really can’t emphasize visual experience enough and the hard work that was input in that department. The camera angles are fantastic, often moving with you in different directions and changing seamlessly between different perspectives – for example that bird perspective when you walk in the academy entrance is fantastic in illustrating the size and monumentality of the building itself. Top notch job of designers and programmers, really.
The game interface is simple, intuitive with nice distinction between usable items and papers, books and general clues to solving some riddles. They each have their little image which is fuzzy before you discover them, but it’s great since it kind of offers both incentive to find them and also a hint where they might be. Sound stage is pretty good and voice acting is mostly excellent, if not the top tier. Story is intriguing with just the perfect balance of mystery that keeps you going further. There are just a few characters in whole game, but they are all expertly done with much background story to make them more realistic. As a really big plus I’d like to mention the really inventive hint system that gives you hints and advices and ultimately solves a puzzle if you can’t handle it on your own. This way even beginners in adventure games will be able to finish the game, because some parts are pretty hard. And puzzles are mostly thoughtful and well-executed offering plenty of challenge even to experienced players. The whole story, characters, general atmosphere of the game adds much to addictive gameplay and unique experience. Really, I couldn’t put down this game until I finished it in several days.
Are there any bad sides? Naturally, nothing is perfect. First of all – the game suffers some minor bugs, even when you have 1.6 version of patch (don’t think of playing without it) installed. It crashed once or twice for me so nothing serious, but there seems to be problem with dialogue volume in some cases – at one moment it’s just too loud and then suddenly shifts to quiet. Also in few dialogues the audio was missing entirely even though game correctly displayed subtitles. But these are minor technical nitpicks and almost don’t affect the gameplay at all. Along with technical stuff - one option that is missing here is loading save games directly from a running game (you have to quit and then load at startup) but I think this was an intentional decisions of the authors to prevent solving some puzzles with “load-try-load again” abuse - which is fine by me.
If you like classic adventures with loads of items in your inventory to combine and play with, and loads of NPC’s to talk to then you might be little disappointed with the gameplay system of this game. You can’t use items wherever you want and whenever you want, they are actually automatically used when you do something right or find a correct spot at correct moment. It all comes down to expectations - if you are prepared that Keepsake is an highly atmospheric game with little characters and Myst
-like logical puzzles then you will enjoy it greatly. Some of the puzzles are really hard (but not mind-crushing like some in the Myst sequels
) but since there is excellent hint system – you can surely solve them. Even though Keepsake is a pretty solitary game, your sidekick Zak helps you a lot with adventuring and keeps you company most of the game. A few more characters wouldn’t hurt though.
All the minor nitpicks aside, I’d like to mention one problem that from my experience brings the game down a notch from perfect. Even though you almost have full freedom to explore various parts of the academy, it’s a pretty linear and little too scripted experience when it comes to puzzle solving. Meaning: certain actions and certain puzzles need to be solved in exact sequence. If you are like me and avoid using hints before you try out everything yourself, you might find yourself stuck soon enough. For example, I spent a half day solving a puzzle and even had the correct solution to it – before I realized that some other action was needed before this puzzle should be solved. Basically there will be a lot of running around, to trigger certain events on one spot so you can solve a problem on the completely other side of the academy. That makes the game all the more difficult and possibly a little frustrating, but again, the grand hint system jumps in to direct you visually where to go. One thing is certain – you need to have required an amount of patience for adventure games, a will to overcome challenges and ability to immerse yourself in the story to fully enjoy it. If that’s your type of thing – then you will love Keepsake.
The Bottom Line
I can’t recommend Keepsake enough to any adventure hungry player out there. It offers breathtaking visuals, a simple and effective interface, an immersive story, challenging puzzles and a really enjoying experience overall. Some minor technical nitpicks and some mishaps in the puzzle-solving system might reminds us that nothing is perfect - but will never deter from savoring the game like a glass of good wine. Sit back, relax, prepare your brain cells for some work and challenge and enjoy this beautiful game as much as you can…