Point-and-click adventure games are in an interesting spot these days. There’s definitely an audience for them, but it seems that developers go out of their way to make them only cater to that specific crowd. Those who don’t have an affinity for finding hidden messages in game manuals or using an inventory item on every applicable spot on the screen can find them obtuse to the point of being frustrating and inevitably not worth playing. Violett by Forever Entertainment attempts to marry this polarizing play style with something that’s more palpable to the masses; as to whether this works or not is a complicated discussion indeed.
Violett follows a little girl as her family moves into a new home off the beaten path. As they start settling in Violett’s parents get into an argument, sending the lost girl into her room to sulk. While growling on her bed, she notices a flash in a hole in the wall that sends her into a curious and wondrous world. Unsure of her surroundings, she eventually discovers that completing an amulet is her ticket home. Scared and alone in a bizarre place, she sets off to find some missing gems; if it sounds like a modern day retelling of Alice in Wonderland, you aren’t far off the mark.
Rather than having players wander aimlessly trying to find their way, the pace of Violett is structured in a way that almost feels level-like in design. Most areas are accessed through a hub world that is akin to an M.C. Escher painting of looping staircases and warping doors. Once within a new locale, your goal is to poke around until you find the way to each gem for the amulet. There’s plenty of random clicking going on, but you’ll eventually surmise that you have to set off a chain of events in a Rube Goldberg machine-like manner to find your way to the previously unreachable area. The game does a good job of showing you a hand icon when something can be interacted with, waylaying some frustration in a genre that often stubbornly leaves you to your own devices. Even if you can’t do something at a particular point, it’s worth nothing Violett shaking her head because you’ll need to come back to it later.
While you constantly find yourself wondering what to do next, there is a neat hint mechanic that alleviates those issues if you don’t have the patience. At any point, with no penalty, you can hit the button and the game will point you in the right direction. It in no way just hands you the answer, but it is often a firm enough nudge to keep you going. There are four hints per area, but you can’t access the next one until a timer bar fills up. This forces players to think intuitively instead of spamming the hint button in the hopes that it will teach them how adventure games work. While certainly helpful, it never alleviates the feeling that there isn’t really a logic to adhere to in this game.
It is assumed that if you plan on picking up this game, you know what you’re getting into. That being said, the biggest knock against Violett is that while it offers two control schemes, neither of them feel intuitive. The game suggests you play it using the touchscreen and, as sensible as this choice is, it has a sluggish level of responsiveness. You can also opt to use the left analogue stick to move and the right one to access a pointer, but this too feels laborious because it moves too slowly. Even for a game that is based around patience and observation, this is still a detriment.
The bright spot, and a very good reason to play Violett, is the lavishly detailed lands our heroine finds herself in as she tries to make her escape. You constantly find yourself in awe as you look upon places that are based on real-world locales like bathroom sinks and train depots, but filled with novelties like a giant caterpillar with a man’s face fencing with spiders, or a mirror that lets poor Violett see upon her parents at home, wondering where she is. It’s dripping with detail, which often rewards players with little orbs strewn about for their effort. It’s part and parcel with the adventure genre, but always an endearing inclusion.
At its heart Violett is a classically designed point-and-click adventure, warts and all. It tells an interesting tale in a world filled with oddity and excitement, but it's told in an unintuitive manner that only the most stalwart fan of the genre will likely stick with. It tries to cast its net wide by offering a clever hint system to help players survive its obtuse nature, but nevertheless only the most patient will try to come back out of the rabbit hole.