Cinema Rosa | Review

Factfile
Developed by:Atreyu Games Pty. Ltd
Published by:Atreyu Games Pty. Ltd
Released:2019
Format played:PC (Steam)

From The Developers

“The Cinema Rosa is a story-driven adventure game set in an abandoned cinema. Explore a unique, art deco cinema filled with dark mysteries, puzzles and ghosts. Can you bring peace to these haunted hallways and bring back the Golden Age of Hollywood, or will the cinema fall into ruin and decay?

Uncover the history of two lovers who bought the cinema as a passion project, before things went downhill. Follow the story of their relationship as it unfolds alongside the story of the cinema’s decline, the two stories working as parallel narratives.

The game explores themes of loss, romance, nostalgia and regret, aiming to take the player on an emotional journey through the psychological effects of a relationship.”

VG Almanac Says

Cinema Rosa falls into the ‘walking simulator’ genre of games. I’ve never particularly been across this sector, and indeed the games cited as a reference point by the developers are unfamiliar, and so I come at this with a fresh pair of eyes.

Finding yourself facing a ramshackle old cinema, you enter the dilapated premises and set in motion a series of puzzles that both explore some of the back story and seek to rebuild the cinema back to its former glory. The action is presented in a first person viewpoint, control by way of WASD keyboard input, with E to interact and F to toggle your flashlight. An onscreen cursor, controllabe with the mouse, lets you move your view around the screen, highlighting objects of interest. Effectively then this is an FPS variant on the old point and click games, a genre I enjoyed immensely in my youth.

Set within the confines of the cinema, action essentlially boils down to a series of single room puzzles. Entering the foyer, locked doors are set either side and in front of you, detritus and furniture strewn around the floor, giving a sense of the level of dereliction. Locating the switch that powers the lights triggers the first set of doors to open, allowing you access to the next room and thereby the next puzzle, with subsequent trials developing in a similar manner.

The puzzles themselves are generally straight forward and logical, with a couple of exceptions. Often it is simply a case of scouring the environment to locate an item before placing it in the one position in the room in which it fits, which magically brings the scene to life, furniture levitating back into place as the building gradually regains its lustre.

Other puzzles are a little more obtuse. An early example involves a piano and whilst a single clue is provided, the remainder of the solution seemed to rely on simple trial and error. Similar examples presented later in the story, the use of keypads to gain entry to locked doors at the mercy of my relentless button mashing until they gave way, or a tile based puzzle, for which I could find no frame of reference for a solution, beaten by random selection, relying on memory rather than IQ.

But even where the solution seems artifically elongated, each puzzle is soon solved in short order. Indeed often the only barrier to progression is finding the items you need to examine. The cursor is particularly finickity at where it needs to be placed to register an item of interest whilst the text that pops up when you do find something is a pale yellow, meaning that I often missed my visual clue and had to laboriously sweep the screen to find what I needed.

This process isn’t helped by the lacklustre visuals. Appreciating the game is set in a run down old building, there is little in the way of graphical flourish, room layouts and items often indistinct from one room to the next whilst the whole presention is dark and dingy, flashlight on or not. Rooms feel sparse too. Beyond the items you need to progress, each room tends to have one or two other pieces to interact with, such as computers, phones or discarded wine bottles but in almost every instance, they are entirely pointless. Other items are simply background graphics, making the interaction in each scene extremely limited beyond the bare bones of what is needed to progress. There are some nods to classic film buffs but in some of the decor and even some of the puzzles but those without the context to appreciate the references will likely be left cold.

This simplicity of approach and absence of meaningful interaction adds up to a disappointingly brief adventure, clocking it at just a couple of hours. And with little in the way of interaction beyond the puzzles, there is little reason to go back once you have finished. Now I don’t mind a relatively brief game if it leaves a lasting impression. Indeed as 40-something working parent, my gaming time is ever more resticted and a short but memorable run time is often appreciated. But the brevity here is offset by an underwhelming story. Oh, it tries. Rooms are littered with newspapers and hand written notes that seek to explore some of the back story of the main character. Completion of puzzles is also often reliant on entering a dream sequence, the voiceover reliving a very personal, poignant moment to our protagonist. Presumably these scenes are meant to generate an emotional response from the player but I never really got what they were going for. On the one hand, Cinema Rosa feels like a creepy horror or ghost story. On the other, it seems to want to be a love’s lost type of affair but it fails to hit the mark on either count.

Under the hood, there are some annoying bugs. More than once I turned a corner, only to magically emerge from a dream sequence elsewhere in the hotel. Now in the hands of master story tellers I might have felt this was deliberate. But each time it happened at random, always brought me out at the same place and never once led to any kind of plot development and I have to conclude therefore that it is simply poor programming. Similarly visual prompts are a little clumsy. Having opened a door, hovering the cursor over it I would expect it to now prompt me to close, however the ‘open’ command remains. Petty? Sure, but if you’re going to have on-screen instructions, at least have them make sense. The save mechanic is bonkers too. There is no manual save and effectivley no auto save. Instead the game has a set of predetermined checkpoints and key chapters in the story meaning that if you exit and return, you don’t know exactly where you are coming back to and what you had completed. Adding to the complication, items that you may have picked up or interacted with before exiting magically reappear and so if there is any material gap between play sessions you will likely have forgotten whether you still need that particular item and why, when you do get it, it doesn’t seem to do anything, yet still triggers the same voiceover as if you did.

As plus points the music is generally good, evoking a keen sense of dramatic atmosphere where appropriate. The voiceover work for your character is excellent too, pitched just right to give you a sense of emotional heft that the underlying game so often fails to match.

Verdict

Too short, too simple and not enough to do. Cinema Rosa doesn’t quite seem to figure out what it wants to be and whilst it is an interesting enough diversion, for just a couple of hours gameplay, this simply doesn’t represent value for money.

4/10

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