Episode two of The Council by Big Bad Wolf games, the narrative adventure game that redefines the genre with RPG mechanics and consequences for every choice, has just released today, May 15. Hide and Seek continues the story of Louis de Richet as he deals with the dramatic results of his actions in episode one. He must continue his investigation into the disappearance of his mother, Sarah, while dealing with the newly-arrived Spanish head of state, the finally-revealed Lord Mortimer, and the quickly-forming factions on the island.
With brand new areas of the mansion to explore, along with new characters who bring dire news and shocking revelations to the island, who will you side with? Who can you trust? And how will you find Sarah de Richet? The choices are yours after all, but will you make the right one is the question.
If you have read my previous review on episode 1, we will know how much I really enjoyed it. I was extremely eager to get my hands on ‘Hide and Seek’ as quickly as possible, and with the powers that are Thumb Culture, I received my review copy a whole week before release (Thank you, Bastion!) hence giving me ample time to really scrutinize this narrative adventure.
In the opening scene we are given a little recap on segments that had happened in episode 1, If like me your memory is unbelievably poor! So, here we finally meet the elusive Lord Mortimer, but just when you thought you could cozy up beside the fire with this filthy rich old dude accompanied by his well-groomed beard and drink brandy over a nice Cuban cigar, everything is cut short as he explains there’s been a terrible crime commented right under everyone’s nose. A murder! – dum dum duummm! Naturally, I won’t tell you who got murdered, although if you have been playing episode 1 then you may have guessed, but these lips, fingertips? are tightly sealed.
You are then assigned to take on the mysterious and difficult task of finding out who had the gall to murder someone in such an affluential establishment as well as trying to find your mother in the process. You are given permission to search all bedrooms of the guests for clues into the murder of…this person, making for some quite awkward interactions. Personally, this is why I really enjoy games like The Council, pretending I’m Miss Marple. Searching every nook and cranny for any scraps of evidence, piecing them together and nailing the culprit! In The Council, this isn’t always such an easy task especially when I come to the tower room later on, which happened to be where my mother was sighted. Here she left me clues and some of the puzzles weren’t the easiest in the world to solve, that’s a good thing by the way. Although the murder investigation kicks things off, the majority of the episode is spent delving into the disappearance of Ms. de Richet/Mother. It’s a nice turn for The Council, as her missing presence looms large over everything else going on.
Deciphering codes, passages from the bible and analyzing works of art made me think of Dan Brown’s book ‘The Da Vinci Code’. I could see that maybe one of the developers was a fan of this book maybe? Either way, I really enjoyed this aspect of gameplay, it was very well done and kept me invested. It lends me to believe that we are dealing with the Illuminati here, given all the clues and the secretiveness.
You do spend a lot of time trotting down the very familiar ‘vaseline coated’ hallways as you explore the guest’s bedrooms, which can get a little tedious at times. I found myself going around and around in a circle trying to find my way to a particular room I needed to go to, every door and staircase lending to nowhere, paranoid I’d find the twin sisters from The Shining around the next corner of my frantic running about, until I finally found the correct unlocked door to enter. I do wish the map was more detailed so to help others abstain from these frenzied, paranoid laps…or does that just happen to me?
While the overarching story of The Council continues to captivate, the gameplay falters a bit in Hide & Seek. The RPG-light elements of the title still give it a unique taste, but they aren’t as utilised as much as they should be here. You don’t spend a lot of time interacting with others this episode, and as such, you can’t really break down their strengths and weaknesses in an interesting way. Instead, you’ll spend a lot of time pouring over documents and artifacts, which fits with who Louis is, but it’s far from engaging.
Your skills will have uses that extend far beyond your conversations with fellow guests this time. With 15 diverse skills to use and invest in, players are free to uncover The Council’s mysteries how they see fit, with wildly varying consequences depending on their methods. The results will forever alter the life of Louis de Richet, of those around him, and shape history as we know it. Dum dum duummm! (sorry, I just had to use it one last time)
I rather have a love/hate relationship with The Council’s graphics this time around. In my first review of episode 1, I passed over things like how the words don’t go with the character’s lips and how it could be rectified with a patch. Unfortunately, nothing was learned from that this time around regarding the many characters I was faced with. When first presented with these noble individuals, their constant jittery ‘I just had too much coffee’ bodies, continuous strange neck stretching and Louis persistent scratching of his head where I thought I would have to give him a flea bath, did annoy me…for a while…and then these faux pas become quite humourous! I actually feel like it wouldn’t all work without it.
The Council still retains that beautiful, artistic and authentic background work that I find myself at times standing around soaking it in. Again, the developers did a great job representing the mixture of Baroque and Romantic architecture that make up Lord Mortimer’s estate and a lot of the art featured hanging about are pulled from real paintings that transport you to an art museum, including squeaky floorboards! Even in the larger, more open spaces, there’s a lot to take in. Lord Mortimer’s office has so much going on that you could spend an hour just reading about his family history. Big Bad Wolf has really gone above and beyond to bring you into the world they’ve created.
Let’s cut straight to the chase here. The voice acting in The Council is quite poor and that’s mostly from the man himself, the itchy Louis de Richet. His voice can go from lacking very little emotion to over-reacting to the most mundane things. The rest of the characters could definitely do with some work and its quite obvious that none of them were all in the same sound booth together. Having said that, I have always enjoyed the small details of sounds in The Council like walking down the hallways, hearing the soft creak of the floorboards under my feet, the crackle of the fires or standing on the open balcony listening to the birds or the roll of the ocean. The same soft orchestral tones from the previous episode are present this time around, which are apt to your surroundings.
One of the many reasons I enjoy The Council was the many choices you have at hand. Don’t like the outcome of something you’ve said or done? You can go back to a saved checkpoint or start over and try again, see what other outcomes you can gather by doing something different. One of the fun things I like to do with games like this is to get a friend or family member to play it and see how different or similar they chose their path or how they react when it comes to the crunch of the quick-minded confrontations! It’s most definitely a game you can play over again or watch with curiosity while someone else plays.
Even though I didn’t feel like it was as good as the first time due to a slow start and a little mundane room searching and less interaction with others, I did have a really good time as I knew I would. I’ve been careful in this review to not give much away, but I’d highly recommend ‘Hide and Seek’ especially for all the wannabe crime detectives. I look forward to seeing how this story pans out and if the developers actually do fix some of the characters…their life’s matter too!
The Council ‘Hide and Seek’ receives a Silver Thumb Culture Award
Disclaimer: We received a digital copy of the game to carry out this review