To people of a certain age, point-and-click adventure games hold enormous nostalgic appeal. Millions of people fondly remember the quirky blend of comedy, puzzles, and absurd fun from the likes of Monkey Island, Maniac Mansion, King’s Quest, and their ilk.
The Great Fusion draws its inspiration from the classics of the genre. But it somehow manages to pull the worst that the point-and-click adventure has to offer, with thin dialogue, illogical puzzles, and a need to read the designer’s mind to get anywhere.
It’s hard to recommend, but the low barrier to entry and copious referencing of graphic adventures gone by make the game at least worthy of consideration.
Puzzles are the most egregious among The Great Fusion’s crimes against good game design. The trouble is not that there’s seldom any logic to solving them, but that the process by which you arrive at a solution is pure speculation. Nothing is ever as straightforward as it should be — a criticism that you could easily level at the entire graphic adventure genre, but which is particularly pertinent here.
The Great Fusion forces you to take wild stabs in the dark. If you get stuck during the early stages, you can just pull up main character Max’s phone for a hint. At some point that option disappears, however — “you’re on your own,” the game tells you, just as the puzzles get more nonsensical.
Trial and error should not be a requisite strategy for completing puzzles. Yet it comes up time and again, starting with the very first puzzle of the game — which tasks you with getting your landlady to leave by calling her phone. Inextricably, only one dialogue option at each level of the conversation works.
I could forgive this if the alternatives brought genuinely funny responses, but some of the jokes come across like an elephant being forced through a straw.
Clever developers long ago devised a method of giving hints without using a hint system. They used dialogue between characters and cheeky descriptions of objects. The Great Fusion sometimes seems to be appropriating such a technique, but it bungles it more often than not.
It may be simply down to a poor translation — there are grammar and spelling errors throughout the script, and probably more serious issues of meaning lost in the transition from the game’s native Spanish. But in English it stinks of clumsy, amateurish writing.
The Great Fusion tries to be topical, with a story laden with fallacious ideas about copyright laws and income disparities. Its nightmare scenario about a society transformed by incompetence might have some merits, but it’s so opaque and unnuanced as to border on painful.
What should be a rollicking journey through a future corporate dystopia, where creativity and culture have been all but squashed and piracy has become a worse crime than rape, instead devolves into poo jokes, unlikable characters, ill-thought-out scenarios, and terrible imitations of pop culture heroes.
Classic adventure fans may enjoy a meta-game of spot the reference — there are dozens of nods to the best of Sierra and LucasArts, along with Revolution Software’s Broken Sword and several 90s point-and-click adventures. It’ll be more entertaining than the writing, I guarantee.
I found the game’s caricatures of Woody Allen, Quentin Tarantino, and Larry Laffer (from Leisure Suit Larry) especially stomach-churning. When LucasArts tackled pop culture in their 90s adventures, they did so with panache and a remarkable appreciation for the idiosyncrasies of their subjects. Much of The Great Fusion’s dialogue — in the English translation, at least — bungles even the most fundamental traits of Woody Allen’s public persona.
That’s not to say it’s all bad. The game often tries too hard to be funny, in a hit-you-over-the-head fashion. I get that when you take away all artists’ ability to earn a living — however modest — our perception of what constitutes “art” may degrade to a much lower standard, but do you have to take the shit analogy so far?
Sometimes, however, they get it right. Max’s insane boss, who promoted a cat to a vice president of the company, earns a few laughs, as do the corrupt policemen and the cameo from engineer-turned-prostitute Catalina. But these moments aren’t common, and they, too, could use attention from a professional writer who could flesh things out and tie it all better together.
Beyond the uneven writing and illogical puzzles, The Great Fusion actually offers a very competent experience. The hand-drawn characters and backgrounds look fantastic, with personality oozing out of every object and just the right balance between detail and simplicity keeping the visuals from seeming too busy on a phone screen.
There are loads of short comic-book-style cut scenes spread throughout the adventure, which fill in the gaps in the plot (to some extent) and tease out more of Max and his mate’s personalities. It’s here that you can see the ridiculous leaps of logic behind the synopsis, too. It’s best not to play The Great Fusion with a critical mind — if you let it take you for a ride, you’ll enjoy it far more.
None of the characters are voiced; dialogue is delivered in speech bubbles. You don’t have to adventure in silence, though, as there’s a light-hearted, upbeat soundtrack behind every scene.
You move around by tapping on the screen. If there’s an interactive object nearby, a small blue circle briefly appears over it. Tapping on interactive objects brings up anywhere from one to three icons that correspond to the classic verbs look, take, and use. Your inventory, meanwhile, lives in an expandable drawer just off the left of the screen.
It’s a huge shame that a mechanically-competent adventure title is so stilted by poor writing, illogical puzzle design, and a terrible translation. The Great Fusion isn’t a bad game, but it’s mediocre on so many levels that you don’t have much motivation to push through for the few shining lights.