Gadget: Invention, Travel & Adventure (Synergy)
Gadget: Past as Future (Cryo)

Review by Orb

This is not your usual game. It's an eerie world of motionless bodies and looming machines. Gadget is probably the best treated among the titles directed by Japanese artist Haruhiko Shono. It has been rereleased in an upgraded package by Cryo Interactive, which took over distribution from Synergy Interactive. Probably the biggest misconception about Gadget is that it's a game. Gadget is much more interactive fiction than game; it is more like a big brother of the graphic multimedia novel Sinkha than a true, pure adventure title. It was experimental when first published and as such bears greater resemblance to performance art than game, if you will.

The game starts off in the bedroom of a hotel. As gameplay progresses, the player discovers that a comet is heading for earth and uncovers a plot by a team of scientists to escape. The game goal is to collect a series of gadgets to be used as part of the plan to escape and in the process discover the secret of the scientists. The story itself is a well-written thriller; however, be warned that some of the dialog is so esoteric as to be surreal.

There are characters all over the place but no voice acting, just text below the game screen when you click on the characters, although there is a bit of voice used several times in radios and telephones. You can, however, repeat all dialog, good for not missing any of the plot. There is very little music to speak of, mostly the sound of drums and violins in cutscenes to denote the train moving or the urgency of your mission. Because of the lack of voice acting (and music except in the majority of cases for the beating of the train), the air is oddly emotionless, which is actually a striking touch. What little music there is is so airy and light it has no melody and is more a series of translucent sound effects.

The graphics and style of design are simply what you are playing Gadget for. The hotel has the look and feel of Kubrick's Overlook Hotel in the film adaptation of The Shining. Much of the game has a very surreal feel to it; much movement from location to location is implied rather than stated.

There are unusual cutscenes, mostly of game progress; unfortunately, the majority of them are of the main train you're on moving to the next stop, which quickly becomes redundant. There's a lot of watching the same or similar train animations.

There are no puzzles to speak of. There's not a gameplay direction to figure out. You are directed and moved in a most linear path and disallowed any movement choices that don't go story-forward, often moving to a location by a cutscene in the game itself. There is really nothing to solve here. You're moved through the mystery by the sheer fact that you can't go in a red herring direction. Additionally, you are supplied with a duraluminum briefcase to store collected gadgets but do not control it in any way—it appears when needed, and only the right gadget will move when clicked on. Pretty much idiot-proof.

There is also quite a bit of the same fun equipment found in L-Zone to fiddle around with.

I did find it bizarre, therefore, when all of a sudden, most of the way through the game, Shono drops in a real, live puzzle. Guess which kind? Yup, it's everyone's favorite—a maze, where you are allowed to control the direction of the current craft you're in and move around.

There is also a companion art book by Shono called Inside Out with Gadget available for $30 at Amazon.com.

Gadget is less of a game and more of a performance piece, similar to and perhaps more cleverly designed that Laurie Anderson's Puppet Motel. Despite the lovely design, this just doesn't have enough of the usual adventure elements to enthrall the player in the usual gaming manner. As a performance art piece, or elaborate interactive fiction, it succeeds on a high level. Just don't go into it expecting a game, and you won't be disappointed. The End

The Verdict

The Lowdown

Developer: Haruhiko Shono
Publishers: Synergy Inc., Cryo Interactive
Release Dates: 1994 (Synergy), 1998 (republished by Cryo Interactive)

Available for: Macintosh Windows

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System Requirements

Mac:
Power PC
Mac OS 7.5 or later
16 MB RAM, 24 recommended
4X CD-ROM drive
16-bit audio card

PC:
Windows 95/98
Pentium 133
16 MB RAM, 32 recommended
4X CD-ROM drive
SVGA graphics card
Soundblaster 16 or compatible

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