Acolyte – Review
Follow Genre: Narrative, ARG
Developer: Superstring
Publisher: Superstring
Platform: PC
Tested On: PC

Acolyte – Review

Site Score
8.0
Good: Interesting ideas, good story
Bad: Some obtuse puzzles
User Score
0
(0 votes)
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The concept of ARGs (alternative reality games) is one that doesn’t get explored as much as it deserves. Immersing players into a world by making them interact with themselves is a unique and intelligent approach that works especially well for puzzles. Acolyte acknowledges this and tries its own take on the formula, presenting players with an AI helper that will send them on internet explorations and much more.

Story

Acolyte’s story follows the player, a QA tester for the tech enterprise “Nanomax”, who is tasked with finding bugs in their newest product. Said product is a complex AI helper named Ana, capable of aiding users in their day-to-day life. However, amongst the player’s tasks, one particularly stands out, catching the mysterious Error 51 and rooting it out.

Soon enough, said error rears its head around, causing Ana to bug out and produce an error log in binary. Upon finding out what the binary code uncovers, the true investigation will begin. Aided by Ana, the internet, and a Nanomax ex-worker, the player will have to figure out what the log’s message truly meant.

Overall, the game is rather well-written, although the characters leave a bit to be desired. Due to the game’s length and how the narrative is approached, most side characters get very little development. This is especially obvious with one of the side plots, which falls mostly flat due to the lack of attachment to the extras.

The flow of the story is particularly remarkable, providing options to explore the narrative without altering its parts. In order to do so, the game always provides several options to continue the plot. Upon exploring further, you’ll uncover more information and even gain access to alternate endings.

Graphics

The game’s graphics are good but simplistic, simply featuring the model for Ana herself alongside a handful of backgrounds and chats. Overall, the images provided in the game serve their purpose and are generally high quality, but they’re not a highlight or particularly noteworthy. It is also worth noting the game’s resolution settings seem to not be properly implemented, breaking the sizes of the UI and models when changed.

Sound

Similar to the graphics, the game’s sound design is rather good but not a focus of the experience. Players will spend lots of time outside of the game, not really taking in the soundtrack or paying much attention to it. The SFX are designed in such a way that they fit what could be expected of an app, further adding realism to the experience.

Gameplay

Acolyte’s gameplay is rather simplistic; players will simply obtain clues by investigating the several leads available and present the results to Ana. Upon finding a correct result, Ana will then proceed with the story, providing new leads to chase. In order to find the information they require, players will have to explore webpage source code, solve ciphers, or even analyze metadata.

In order to keep players engaged and point them out in the right way, the game does provide hints as to what is required to be done, oftentimes even telling the player outright. However, cases with hardly any information to solve the puzzle are also common, often sending the user on a wild goose chase. A particularly good example of this is when the player is tasked with finding additional information on a picture, where the metadata is empty, and they end up needing to use another never before mentioned method. Luckily, even despite these outliers, the game is generally easy and nobody will be left out. Although it would have been better if they weren’t needed at all, some user-made guides are also available for the puzzles, making the game beatable even for less tech-savvy people.

It is worth noting the game is not exactly flawless on the bug front. Even disregarding the previously mentioned issue with the resolution, it is all too possible to trigger dialogues intended for later by throwing around random phrases. In such cases, it is possible to lock out events, leaving players unable to obtain achievements or even outright progress. A good example of this is players being capable of bypassing the binary choice at the end of the game by simply triggering the dialogue twice, although in that specific case the results are rather innocuous.

Conclusion

Acolyte is an interesting game that will make certainly entertain those interested in a unique immersive experience. Not presenting much difficulty and being beatable in around 3 to 4 hours, the game is welcoming to any type of player. Sold for $10.99/€/£8.99, the game is rather cheap and worth a shot. Those still on the fence can play the free demo first.

Personal Opinion

“I don’t have much to say about Acolyte. I like its ideas and think it does a pretty good job, although it could clear up some stuff. The moment where I was expected to check html code was surprising to me, because up until then nothing of the sort was required. Now, I’m a programmer and have done my fair share of web design, but even that being the case, my thought process was “This can’t be the solution, they cannot expect everyone to open the element view and find stuff”. This ends up happening a few times, with the approach to the expected solution not really being telegraphed and requiring some previous experience from the user, which I believe could be solved by adding a pair of lines to the game.”

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