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Désiré Review

One of the most common phrases regarding entertainment will always be: imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

It’s hard to watch a movie or listen to music that doesn’t feel at least partly inspired by some other director or musician. Some creative pieces can take this a step too far by outright plagiarizing the thing they set out to imitate, but some are capable of doing it with a more honest approach that feels genuine.

Désiré is one such game.

From the beginning, Désiré does little to hide the fact that it is a true point-and-click adventure game in the same vein of Monkey Island and other LucasArts masterpieces, but it doesn’t do it honestly. This is most evident in just the first few steps of the game where you find yourself on a beach next to a beached boat named “Le Chuk”. Later, you find a computer on your bedroom floor with diskettes of “LucasArts” games scattered beside it. You don’t get any more blatant than that! That’s when I thought that the game was going to be similar to Monkey Island in tone and nature. Oh, little did I know...but I’ll get to that later.

First and foremost, I would like to talk about one of Désiré’s best assets: its music. The game boasts an impressive hand-drawn art style, and we’ll get to that, but there is something so very captivating about the music that plays behind the visual art. The man behind the music is Loïk Brédolèse and there’s nothing overtly incredible about it, it’s just a beautiful piano melody that feels much more in-tune with the game’s theme than anything else. Plenty of games have a soundtrack that feels grating after a short period of time, but Désiré has the opposite effect. Instead, the music feels like a vital piece of the atmosphere and finding the loop is nearly impossible. I don’t intend on overselling the music at all, but it’s just magical and stuck out to me the most.

Back to that whole “hand drawn” bit: Désiré is, well, hand-drawn…and it shows. The backgrounds are all beautifully crafted in black and white. Items in the world aren’t highlighted, which makes them hard to find in the environment, but that’s what makes the rooms and streets all feel organic and lived in. The animations for the characters are very much inspired by LucasArts, with flapping mouth talking animations and everything. Each aspect of design brings me back to the good ol’ days of adventure games. The set pieces are all very well planned and work for the mechanics that need to be employed.

Because of this color deficiency, Désiré can have a very bleak outlook on life which makes him be very blunt with his dialogue - this can be very startling.

The black and white design, or brown and grey to be more precise, isn't just an artsy design choice - there's actually a story behind it. The main character, Désiré, is colorblind. It’s clear that this is a means to explain why Désiré sees the world as polarizing as black and white, but I respect the fact that the developers decided to put a reasoning behind it.

Because of this color deficiency, Désiré can have a very bleak outlook on life which makes him be very blunt with his dialogue - this can be very startling. The writing in Désiré is very matter-of-fact in that it doesn't dance around certain ideas and does little in the way of being subtle. This isn’t just with Désiré, but it actually reaches to every other character as well. One second you'll be talking about something seemingly innocent and the next you'll be talking about something closer to the side of vulgar. To be fair, the game illicitly states at the very beginning that the game is for ages 16+ but that doesn't make the tone jumps any less jarring.

As an example; very early on in the game, Désiré admits to an old man friend of his that he “likes boys”. This in itself is obviously not the part that is startling; it's how the sentence is delivered. The conversations between Désiré and most others can be very unnatural in a means to get the story moving in a desired direction. Désiré admitting his same-sex feelings to a crotchety old man seems like it could have been handled with a little more delicacy or, at the very least, a better attention to realism. Typically an admittance, or even desired admittance, of this magnitude is something that is much more planned and less of a casual bombshell dropped on an acquaintance.

Since the game is primarily a French title, some of this delicacy may have been lost in translation, but it's hard to say for sure. Not only is the conversation abrupt and sometimes crass in nature, the story itself can be a bit much as well. For instance, one of the main objectives in the first act is to take a picture of a rival student in the midst of an ...unsavory act complete with “*fap* *fap*” - a story objective not found in any LucasArts title that I can remember. The ideals and plot points of the game get increasingly more absurd and over-the-top in a way that closely resembles a different game. You see, at first I started making quick connections through style to Monkey Island, but alas, it’s not Monkey Island that it draws inspiration from but from that of Leisure Suit Larry, which can be taken as good and bad. A series of events that plays out in the game’s second chapter is the biggest homage to Larry Laffer I’ve seen.

Tonally, the game is very sporadic as it never finds a specific tone and sticks with it.

The game goes into some very, very dark and occasionally outright bizarre scenarios that seem out of character for someone like Désiré and the game as a whole. Tonally, the game is very sporadic as it never finds a specific tone and sticks with it. At one point you’re helping someone out because you’re a seemingly kind person, the next you’re doing some very horrific stuff. At first this was off-putting but I grew to understand its weirdness and, in turn, began to respect it. Once I thought I knew the direction the game was going to go, it took me for an unexpected turn (case in point: the first setting of the third chapter). Once the shock and awe of these settings and objectives wore off, I was immediately drawn into seeing what was to come next.

With any good adventure game comes good puzzles. For the most part, the puzzles are very simple, yet rewarding. For example, there’s a walkman in your bedroom but it doesn’t work. A few steps away, you find batteries. Huzzah, a working walkman. Things like that make sense and are greatly appreciated and welcomed in this genre of games that generally take absurd brain logic in order to solve. There are a few puzzles later on in the game that weren’t nearly as fun that required you to answer questions about stuff that most people won’t know so a lot of it is just guessing. Another puzzle requires you to follow the right path of dialogue which tries to be like the Monkey Island insult sword fighting, just a lot less fun and engaging.

For the first portion of the game, the puzzles were all very straightforward. Until I hit a ...snag. I hit a point in the game where I couldn't do anything. This wasn't a matter of just not “getting” a puzzle, or not finding something needed for a puzzle, it was an actual bug preventing me from doing so. After about 30 minutes clicking on everything more than a few times, I decided to just go to bed in order to revitalize my brainpower. Maybe I missed something? Fortunately, I woke up to find a newly released patch that fixed the exact bug that held me back. Unfortunately, that meant I had to retread my movements in order to get back to same spot I left off.

This went for a while longer until I got stuck again. Turns out, I hit another snag and could no longer progress. Good stuff. After clicking everything I could multiple times over, I resorted to finding a thread on the Steam forums - all in French - and tried to figure out this solution. Luckily, Steam forums allow developers to voice their opinions and suggestions when it comes to solving bugs and issues. After posting to the thread, the head guy behind the game, Sylvain Seccia, helped me through the situation. While messaging back and forth trying to fix the situation, the problem seemingly self-corrected and I was able to get past a part the game wouldn’t let me access. I hit one more weird bug at the start of the next chapter too, but I wised up and began saving more often so the retracing of steps wouldn’t be as awful.

Setting aside the issues I had with the game’s inner workings, I can confidently say that Désiré does things that most games lack: make an impression.

I debated whether or not I should put any of this “bug” nonsense in the final review. I didn’t want it to sway anyone’s desire to play the game. However, I figured it in everyone’s best interest to be honest and tell you about it. With any luck, when you read this review in the far-flung future of a month or two, the bugs will be all out and you’ll have a pest-free experience. Just know that if you go into it now, you might have small chance of restarting!

Setting aside the issues I had with the game’s inner workings, I can confidently say that Désiré does things that most games lack: make an impression. Whether or not I remember this years in the future as being a game that bugged out on me numerous times or a game that had THAT as its set piece for its third act, the game will leave an impression regardless. It’s stilted attitude towards touchy subjects can be off-putting, but that’s how Leisure Suit Larry was. I must stress however, that Désiré is much more “poetic” and thought provoking than Larry’s sex-obsessed mind.

It’s hard to recommend Désiré. I imagine that the game won’t be for everyone. Some people might enjoy its unique outlook on the world; some might find it abhorrent. Regardless, it’s an experience that definitely had me second-guessing a lot more than I thought, which says a lot about games these days.

7

The Verdict

At the end of the day, bugs aside, the game is very competent. Désiré looks beautiful and sounds spectacular. The story, however stilted and outright bizarre as it may seem, is something that’ll stick out years down the road when I think of it. Just remember to save your progress often to avoid any retracing.

James McKeever
Written by
May 14, 2016
Published in Adventure

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When not playing video games, James is usually found playing video games. When he simply does not have time for video games, he goes to a thing called "Job" where he makes money to feed himself and his wife and to buy more video games. Since he was too scared to use the controller himself at the young age of 3, James started his gaming career as a "navigator" of sorts instructing his father when to jump in Super Mario Brothers. Since then, the fear of controllers has subsided and James can now jump freely, circumventing the middleman.

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