Return Null: episode 1 & 2 – Review
Follow Genre: Click-And-Point Adventure/Indie
Developer: Michael Lückgen
Publisher: Digital Tribe
Platforms: PC
Tested on: PC

Return Null: episode 1 & 2 – Review

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Good: Gameplay is fun, innovative way of telling a story
Bad: Story itself is often cliché
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There are many ways to read, but what’s better than reading while gaming? That’s what the makers of Return Null must have thought when they created their three part click-and-point adventure of which the first two parts are already released. We tested episode 1 and 2 and while we had fun doing so, it wasn’t always as perfect as we had hoped.

Return Null 1 x 2

Return Null’s first two episodes let you play as Jack Drebin, a special agent trying to prevent an act of terrorism in a dystopian futuristic world from happening. Not everything goes according to plan though, and as the mission goes terribly wrong, our main character loses his (presumably pregnant) wife who was also working on the case. Consumed by guilt and no longer able to function normally within society, Jack loses his privileges as special agent and finds himself left with very little to live for, until he decides to seek revenge for his lost love and ends up discovering that there is a lot more going on in the city than he initially thought. From underground rebel forces to the Local Security Force’s own dirty secrets, nothing is what it seemed to be before.

Return Null looks, plays and feels a lot like a visual novel, so one would expect a strong narrative. Unfortunately the problem with the game is that, like a lot of other modern media, it often heavily relies on stereotypical and cliché stories and characters. The main issue with Return Null though, is that it doesn’t explore these storylines or personalities past their stereotypical qualities.

Return Null Story

Jack’s character is the typical ex-cop who lost his love interest due to a professional mistake, but the story never gives us any reasons to care other than “she was his wife and he must have loved her”. Her death happens within the first five minutes of the first episode and very much feels like the “stuffed in the fridge” comic book trope (a term referencing how female characters are often killed off solely to further the male character’s narrative). The couple of frames showing Jack going through a depression are not convincing enough to really leave an impact, and would probably only be effective if we hadn’t seen this storyline so many times before. The main story deals with the dangers and effects of using (and abusing) technology in a dystopian universe, and while this offers a lot of room for interesting ideas, Return Null never really surprises. Don’t get us wrong, Return Null doesn’t necessarily have a bad storyline (especially not if you aren’t overly critical), it’s just never original enough to feel refreshing or captivating. And for a game relying so heavily on its story, that’s disappointing.

Return Null Graphics

The game’s soundtrack is more than decent; background tracks are tense enough for the game’s genre, and sound effects are usually quite good. Gun sounds are not very believable, but the game contains very limited gun fights so this isn’t really an issue.
The game is not voiced, but dialogue and narrative are displayed on screen in comic book format. Descriptions are usually quite clear, even if they can sometimes come across as quite cliché.

Return Null uses three different graphical styles. The first one includes hand drawn backgrounds with static characters, the second consists of close-ups of characters’ faces used during dialogue, and the third style consists of panels that focus on actions or are meant to include more detail. The hand drawn backgrounds are gorgeous and the detailed panels are of very high quality. The static characters however don’t always look the best, and often clash with the detailed backgrounds. Overall, Return Null’s graphical style is reminiscent of the art used in comic books or visual novels, and this works great for this type of game.

Return Null Gameplay

As a click-and-point adventure, Return Null finds a great balance between taking you along for the ride and expecting you to do things yourself. The story doesn’t progress unless you actively talk to the right people or use the right object. Often, you’ll need to investigate areas and make clever use of your inventory to make progress. This is where the game shines, as it really makes you think and forces you to explore. The downfall when it comes to this is that the game world isn’t really big enough to allow for full exploration. All problems have one set solution, and there aren’t any objects to be found that aren’t useful at any point. After a while, you realise you’re better off just picking up anything you come across instead of thinking critically anymore. Objects also have a set purpose in the sense that you can’t use the scalpel you found to threaten someone to get your way, since it was put in the game only to cut through the cables in the next room. These are minor details that make the game feel very static. Gun fights work through the click-and-point system as well and this means they’re not terribly exciting. However, Return Null has a very comic book-like feel to it and the option to interact with items and environments really adds to the story, elevating it from potential mediocrity.

Return Null Sound

Return Null’s first two episodes offer enough to do to keep players entertained, and while its story is often cliché and based on stereotypes, it is interesting enough to provide an incentive to keep playing. The game has a decent soundtrack and graphics are nice to look at. For the price, it’s not a bad game to pick up, but if you’re expecting a masterpiece you probably won’t find it here.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
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I'm a 24 year old gamer with a passion for RPG's, and the gaming community as a whole. When I'm not gaming, I can be found cooking, reading, or with my partner and pets. Currently on: PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, PC and 3DS.

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