Review by Orb
Mode is a lost-in-the-shuffle, long-forgotten FMV title
published by Corel in 1996, at a time when it was just about to
shut down its game publishing arm. Corel also published Cassandra
Galleries, a favorite puzzle game amongst adventure gamers.
Mode has that funky MTV-in-the-80s feel. But it has none
of the overly pushy attempt to be cool that MTV's game of similar
ilk, Club Dead, had. Mode is designed almost like
an interactive art installation. And the number of paths the story
can take, the method of communicating to characters within the
game, and the style of the game itself really bear this out.
The story is a really well-defined yet simple mystery tale. You
have arrived at a fashion and art party hosted by Vito Brevis,
a mad genius artist-type. You have crashed the party and must
find a way of securing a Dome, a silver lapel pin signifying you
are "in," one of the invited, beautiful people. Part
of the fun of this game is experimenting with the various story
paths and character interactions to acquire the Dome, or in trying
to play the game through as far as you can without getting bounced
from the party for not having a Dome. These story branches actually
cause the game to become more elaborate and defined, and I found
myself becoming more intrigued by the characters and the story
as I tried different things and sent myself down the different
directions the game can take.
But the acquisition (or not) of the Dome is just one small part
of the overall story. There is a deeper mystery that begins to
unfold as the story progresses regarding who Vito Brevis really
is and what his real intentions are.
The thing that makes Mode an exceptional lost jewel of
an FMV adventure title is that the developers used a method of
communicating with characters the likes of which I have not run
across before. What is this device, you ask? Something called
a "Mood Bar." The Mood Bar is a colored strip that runs
along the bottom of the screen. The colors in the bar start at
a deep fuchsia and move through reds and blues and greens. When
a character communicates to you, the player, you do not respond
using prewritten choices from a standard conversation tree; instead
you pick the "mood" of your response. These choices
totally change the outcome of the game. Entirely different things
happen with same characters based on the mood used to speak to
This system lays in an element of surprise as to how the conversation
is going to turn out, and it is surprising to see that something
one character accepts as friendliness, another will dismiss as
mindless fawning. I was bowled over by this whole system and found
myself exploring to see how I could make conversations change
the game and the game's outcome. The game has 11 different endings.
I was able to find seven of themsome were short, some were
very elaborate, all were entertaining.
I was also surprised by the quality of the actors. Unlike many
FMV games, the acting in Mode is well-done and consistent.
As this is really the main focus of the game, it serves Mode
well to have this important aspect crafted so well. The game
is played in the first person, and as my descriptions imply, it
is completely character-driven.
There are also points in the game where the opportunity arises
to actually use the dome pin on a character, and what occurs
is almost sci-fi. Barman, I'll have an LSD chaser with that Budweiser!
The music is cheesy techno, played in short, repetitive loops
that don't detract but do give the environment a clubby atmosphere.
There is a game-within-the-game that is presented at the party
as an art piece, an interactive machine called the Mode Machine.
This machine also has a bar, but this is made up of the word "mode."
If you rearrange the letters in the correct manner, you are able
to access more of the background story. Each letter also has an
interactive element where you can click on images to make different
things happen. It's a little hard to explain without seeing it,
but it's a bit of a cross between pop art, modern art and performance
art. Whatever the hell it is, I liked it.
There is an ongoing fashion show, which also has the air of performance
art, hosted by a stand-up comedian clown in a suit who becomes
more intoxicated and belligerent as the night wears on. Each time
this section of the party is visited, what is featured on the
stage changes, and this occurs throughout the game. In one instance,
a garage band comes on stage, one member wheeled in by a nurse
who covers her ears with a pained look on her face as they begin
to play. How many times have you wanted to do that with a garage
Don't get me wrong, a lot of this game is kitschy and strange.
But I felt myself inexplicably drawn into it and completely entertained.
Usually I am not a big fan of character-driven FMV, but I loved
Jeff Green, the primary designer for Mode, still has a
really interesting website
up for this game. The website also features information on another
Anamatics game called Midnight Stranger, which also used
the Mood Bar, as well as some pages regarding a now-defunct interactive
web portion of Mode called Club Mode. There's also an email
address where you can request a demo of Mode.
I think the Mood Bar was a clever idea that was simply marketed
poorly and underpromoted by Corel, which at the time was giving
up the gaming ghost. This is evidenced at the very least in the
design of the box cover, a photo of the main character wearing
his Dome, which comes off like a picture of someone's waiter looking
up at the sky, all bland grays and blacks and whites. The game
itself is quite colorfulwhat were they thinking? The initial
plan for Mode was quite the over-the-top dotcom starburst.
There was to be a huge online crowd, with major companies such
as Donna Karan and Air Canada sponsoring sections of rooms in
the game, and Corel had pledged the bandwidth and was planning
to spend $40,000 a month on the project, including new portions
of the game to be released with regularity on CD. Obviously, this
all fell through, and Corel pulled out of the gaming biz. I'm
sure there's a really entertaining dotcom bust story here somewhere.
This is a very playable collector's game, and your best bets
for getting yourself a copy (if this at all piques your interest)
are eBay or
Developer: Anamatics Multimedia
Release Date: March 1996
Four Fat Chicks Links
486 DX 66
8 MB RAM
2X CD-ROM drive
8-bit Sound Blaster or compatible sound card
Mouse and speakers
8 MB RAM
2X CD-ROM drive
Where to Find It