Review by odino

"So Fond"

Let's get this out of the way first: Sunny is great!

Sunny is the game's protagonist and what a character she is. We have had losers in Larry Laffer, a real hero in King Graham, and the odd cartoon characters in those LucasArt adventures. Never have we had a blonde, totally blonde, 17-year old teenager as a lead. Form the looks of this beautifully designed game we can only be amazed by her beauty which at first sight does not seem to be matched with any brains. Her main concern after being stranded at this tropical island by a crashed cruiser is that her friend Kimberly may be doing things without her, such as accessory shopping, picking new designer shoes as well as finding new fashion clothes.

Now when you read the title you might think of an annoying teenager that will immediately ruin the game. Maybe for some people this will really be the case. It appears to be a hate-it or love-it kind of situation, but one is intrigued on how she will handle this situation and her early encounters with the surroundings are almost the best part of the game. At first she does not really grasp what is going on around here, why there are pirates in town and why the cell phone does not get reception.

Sunny's early attitude is the funniest I have seen since LucasArt stopped making adventure games. "I can't face him without putting on make-up" and making "dumb blonde" jokes herself almost reminds me of the show "So NoTORIous", where Tori Spelling was poking fun of herself and her image. Sunny is almost a Tori Spelling but later we find that she gets smarter as she gets used to the situation. However, enjoy those outbursts and random wise-cracks while it lasts.

The beginning will almost be over too quick for your liking. The discovery of having to stay the inn sharing a room with a pig, not being able to shop at a luxurious mall, and finding only pirate townsfolk around this part of the world clearly does not sit well with Sunny. After a while the story shifts to the actual issue with the island. Why is it still a pirate island? The writer, Steve Ince (from Broken Sword fame), does a decent job to keep the story interesting. Many characters are introduced who will stick around for the entire game, and most still having a purpose by that time. On the downside, all these characters are cliches and the accents they were given does not help either. From the beautiful pirate captain to the handsome mayor, and throw in a voodoo priest and tribe chief for good measure, not forgetting the evil pirate with henchman, and we have ourselves an extreme cliched cast.

One of the best things I have noticed is that the game may look like a kid's game at first, it also contains several mature situations. It may not be filthy in any way, but it still surprises the player to have it pop up when it does. Sunny will make comments about TV, movies, music and all sorts of themes that are well-placed and make one feel closer to her as a real person rather than just a game character that performs your actions. There is something for everyone in the humor which will delight the player for most of the game. And when Sunny does not make the jokes then the rest of the game is laden with references to folklore, pop culture and Hollywood productions.

The gameplay will not surprise anyone how has played a point-and-click adventure before. The cursor is easy to use and the hotspot system works perfectly fine. Having only two or three choices in the action menu makes it simple to try things, yet the sheer amount of items and length of the game does not get let down by this one bit. Most puzzles are easy to solve, with plenty of items to fill your inventory. Most solutions are still a "use item" or combination sort, with some actual puzzles and old-school tile mazes, but you also have several action mini-games to solve. These can be skipped if desired, something that will please almost every player. Whoever said that adventure games need mini-games? It seems that the Nintendo DS has started some bad trends. These games merely interrupt the adventure and most of them are uninspired if not extremely annoying.

Let's move on to the graphics. They are gorgeous, no doubt about it. I cannot stress this enough how amazing it looks. The characters may need some work but those locations and the island view surely take your breath away. Each corner of the screen is detailed with adding a bird, smoke, colorful plant, insects, anything that suits the area. Never is there a dull moment when looking around the monitor. At one point the game shifts to night mode, but unfortunately only a few locations are accessible to visit during that time. If you are not won over to at least play the game for the graphics then I guess there is really no way to enjoy it. As mentioned earlier, the characters are not as detailed as their surrounding yet still look decent, in particularly Sunny has been ensured a good look even in this cell-shaded version. Cutscenes are replaced by comic- book style storyboards which are naturally cheaper but still come across really well done.

The game unsurprisingly offers a full voice cast throughout the game. The main characters are well done even if their characters are too cliched. The music is a little bit disappointing in a way that there are not too many variations and repetition is the main con. The same tune will play in many areas throughout the entire game. The ambient sound is well done, however, as well as the sound effects. Walking near a river almost gives you a feel that it is close-by.

Naturally the game is not without some flaws. The loading screen is the worst of all. Each location takes a few seconds on a fast machine, and one has to think why. It could probably load the game into memory. Having checked out the game folder, there is one particular large file that may be at fault for slowing down read-access. Nevertheless, this will annoy you early on and the more you walk around the more loading screens you have to endure. The second biggest flaw is that there is no map to instantly travel to a location. This appears to be by design since many events occur as you go and the game wants you to travel through areas rather than skip by, but I still find it inexcusable in a game where traveling is so important and takes up most of the time. On the other hand, double-clicking on a spot will make Sunny run and double-clicking on a location name will instantly go there when possible. This slightly improves on this issue yet it still makes it rather tiresome, especially since some parts do not have the next location in view right away.

Another minor problem with the game is the linear story. It feels too forced for the most part. No freedom is given to explore on your own and figure out what could be done to advance your situation. Almost always will you know what your next challenge is. The game requires you to know why certain things have to be done before you can achieve them. For example, attempting to take an item at one location to early will result in "do not know what to do with this, yet" response until you have spoken to somebody else first.

These few issues do not spoil the game enough to make for a great adventure. I highly suggest you seek out this modern adventure gem not coming from Telltale Games and I hope to see more not only from Sunny, but from the French development team as well. At the time of writing they are working on a DS and Wii version of 'So Blonde' which is different than the PC release. I do not know more information but it is surely something to look out for!

Did I mention, Sunny is great?

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 06/10/09

Game Release: So Blonde (EU, 10/10/08)

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