Aren’t there times when you just want to sit back, relax, and put on something simple to pass the time? “All” video games are hobbies, but many do not meet that premise because there is no one who can rest in the middle of a game of Call of Duty Dominion. Cowleyfornia Studios’ first game, Sarawak, fits this profile as it is an easy mystery-narrative adventure.
The protagonist of this story is called Mia and the name of the game comes from a region in Borneo that she has to visit to investigate to prevent her mother from assuming the blame for the death of an Oxford professor, the other scene of the departure . It is a story with many puzzles that works like an interactive novel and is littered with various puzzles that are always associated with the text.
This design and the use of the medium make the story of Sarawak more exciting, but always without losing its simplicity. The player steps directly into the role of Mia and must make decisions about how to face challenges and have conversations. To gain a little more depth, he draws pictures that can also be browsed a little.
The plot manages to keep the intrigue going through the chapters, and while everyone is thinking of finding the answer to this great dilemma of whether or not the woman is guilty, she also knew how to find oxygen spaces in auxiliary stories where she was other less important characters appear. All this additional content surrounding the main argument gives reasons not to always look for the shortest path, and that is very positive. There are times when you deal with a branch that you know is not the right one and do so on purpose to see where it leads and what it adds to the whole.
The puzzles are the other basic element of the games, but they are much less present in the gameplay than the narrative interaction. There are some that complicate life a little, that will purposely confuse you, and others that are very simple and that you will finish in the blink of an eye. The good thing is that everyone you encounter is original and unique, and not recycling someone else who has already surfaced before. When you consider that Cowleyfornia Studios was always easy at first, the balance is pretty good.
One of Sarawak’s strengths is the visual impact it creates through both its artistic design and finish. We have already seen in other games like Over The Alps how good it can be to use the image properly to tell the story in key moments. It manages to break through the densest reading sections, and by working together, you are sent from side to side so you never get tired of reading any part. In this other aspect, too, the study has reached an extraordinary balance.
From the minute you don’t have a clue who Mia is, the game begins to pull a thread that catches you and leaves you expectant until the end arrives. It’s not that it’s one of those who tag you and make you play day after day because this short and exciting story can be ended in one session. And the best is just as good as the happiest it leaves you. Sarawak has about a couple of hours of departure, as long as you use it up slowly. Also, after discovering the ending, there isn’t much reason to think about it a second time. But when you consider that this is a small project by a newly established and independent studio, it’s not a problem at all as these two hours are pure joy.
Don’t expect a great graphical adventure from Telltale Games, things don’t go that way. It offers an ideal place to experience a mysterious adventure that casts a spell on everyone and you participate in it with its resources for stories, images, texts and puzzles. Sarawak is a couple of hours of sheer onscreen pleasure.