Indie games are largely hit or miss. Sometimes this is because a game might be of overall great or poor quality. Other times, it's because it's geared towards a very specific audience. Then there are those that are a combination of the two. Scheherazade, a computer game from Black Chicken Studios, falls into that third category. Its gameplay and feel will appeal to a specific minority of gamers, but with questionable overall quality.
Scheherazade tells the could-be interesting story of a daughter of a pair of archaeologists who never returned home from an adventure. The game's prohibition-era setting along with its globe-trotting college freshman heroine Scheherazade 'Sadie' Keating set this game up for what should be an interesting playthrough. Sadly, it falls far short and its (promised) 100-hour length proves more tedious than enjoyable.
The game is set up as an adventure viz novel. The end result is way too many conversation screens with too little actual interaction with the game's player choice mechanics or basic exploration options to break things up. In fact, this game gets so dull so quickly that the player quickly stops caring about things during the very first "mission". While some of the characters and situations might carry some appeal, the product as a whole is dull and unappealing.
In addition to the story of Sadie going off on an adventure of her own is the game's underlying dating sim mechanic, which manages the relationships she has with the game's various NPCs. While it does have an effect not only on gameplay but also on which of the game's reported 11 endings, it's a largely undesirable gameplay mechanic that is far too drawn out.
Presentation-wise, Scheherazade provides the promise of a good looking and sounding game, but leaves the player wanting. Backgrounds are nicely drawn, and the period-inspired maps are appealing to the eye. The characters themselves, however, are visually disappointing. They're drawn in an anime style, but look like an amateur, or at least somebody who is still in art school, drew them over the course of a weekend.
One pleasant aspect of this game's presentation is its soundtrack. Highlighted by the kind of 1930's-era jazz one would expect in a speakeasy, the music gives a play session of Scheherazade much more longevity than it should have. The track selection does seem fairly limited, but players shouldn't need worry about turning down their speakers after a while. The game gets tired far sooner than the music ever would.
Viz novel games, especially those with dating sim elements, appeal to a very specific audience. The adventure spirit of this game should broaden that appeal to other casual PC gamers, but it does so at the detriment of its own good. Overall dull and of questionable visual qulaity, Scheherazade is one of those games that just doesn't cut it -- especially when one sees its $25.00 asking price. It's simply too expensive for what it is: a glorified flash game made by a hobbyist.
Final Game Guys grade: D+
(GamersGate provided a copy of this game for review.)