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November 2, 2009
Facade 3
Meet Grace and Trip. These guys are real freak-shows

I was searching for some fun independent games this past weekend, and I stumbled upon something very interesting. The game I found is called Façade. What sets Façade apart from the pack is the unique way you play the game and interact with the characters.

The premise is that you are an old friend of a couple (Named Grace and Trip), and you’re returning to their house after ten years to visit. You can navigate the house with the arrow keys and interact with objects using the mouse, but the most important feature is how you talk to the characters. At any time in the game, you can type an message using the keyboard and talk to the characters. This is  a really great concept, and is very engaging… when it works.

Facade 2
The system works reasonably well

Grace and Trip react very realistically a majority of the time. They accept complements, are offended by harsh criticism, and pause awkwardly when you aren’t making any sense. The expressions of the characters are also very impressive, and while the graphics aren’t especially high quality, the faces of the characters still manage to convey emotion very well. When the game works, it works well.

Of course, such an ambitious project is bound to have it’s flaws. All of the game’s downsides come directly from the downsides of the engine. I found that there were many times where the characters would act awkwardly after I made a completely reasonable statement, or just completely ignore me, which was a tad frustrating. After Grace talked about how she loved painting, I asked her if she wanted to be an artist. She glared at me like I was from another planet, and Trip just gave me the evil eye. You don’t really have as much influence on the characters as the game wants you to believe. Sometimes I feel like I’m not trying to please the characters, but rather trying to please the system. That’s not a good thing by any stretch of the imagination.

Facade 4
Yeah, Trip. Jesus Christ.

Façade is certainly an interesting experience, but not a perfect one. The system works better then I expected, but I wasn’t surprised when it faltered. It’s funny to mess with Grace and Trip, and very difficult to win. It’s a little bit clunky, and the presentation is pretty awful, but the game is clearly more of an experiment than it is a full video game. It’s certainly worth checking out if you’re interested.

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