Reviews March 14, 2010

Belief and Betrayal

Reviewed by: Brandon Trost
System: PC
Genre: Adventure
Rated: M
Players: 1
Cost: $29.99
Release Date: 06/10/2008
Publisher: Lighthouse Interactive
Developer: Artematica

Jonathan Danter’s life is easy. Working out of his apartment suite in New York City, he spends his days traveling the globe interviewing the rich and renowned and his nights eating pizza and watching his enormous TV. But when a London inspector gives him a call, he becomes wrapped in a web of intrigue. His uncle, long thought dead, was working for a secret organization under the command of the Pope – and he was just found murdered. Only with the help of his uncle’s friend Arthur and his daughter Katrin, can Jon uncover the truth.
The premise of Belief and Betrayal sounds extremely similar to the plot of a popular Dan Brown thriller, and indeed, its atmosphere and structure echo it. But rather than appearing like a shameless ripoff, the game feels more like a faithful homage, inspired by the novel and trying to capture its stronger points. It does so admirably, and while the game can be somewhat bland, it has its moments.
The game is a standard point-and-click, utilizing item combination puzzles and dialogue trees to flesh out its story. While most of this is completely ordinary, it throws two curves. Unlike other adventure games, Belief and Betrayal allows the player to hold the space bar and see what items in the background can be interacted with. It removes much of the obnoxious brute forcing of other games, but it also removes some of the strategic appeal. While it’s nice that it isn’t necessary to click everything on the screen to see if it has a purpose, showing exactly where the important objects are also hints heavily at their use, ruining some of the puzzles.
Belief and Betrayal’s other distinguishing factor is utilizing multiple playable characters. Jon and Katrin will often split up, search for clues separately, and rejoin to compare notes. An icon in the corner of the screen allows the player to switch between the two, collecting important objects for when they meet up again. If an item doesn’t have an immediate purpose, it’s likely something used by the other character later. It does add a refreshing layer of depth, although it feels squandered at times. If the two weren’t confined to separate areas and could switch back and forth to use their separate tools, some of that potential could have been realized.
Graphically, the game is far from impressive. While it’s no eyesore, it looks dated, though thankfully not so badly as to be terribly distracting. It takes a while to get over being able to count the polygons, though. There are also some irritating glitches, which, if rumor is to be believed, are due to incompatibilities with Vista. Otherwise, the backgrounds are well designed, and the atmosphere is effective for the “religious thriller” feel.
Although the music isn’t memorable in any way, the voice acting is actually impressive. The worst of it is merely uninspired, and the best is very solid. In particular, the actor portraying Jonathan has a lot of promise, showing off a wide range and adding life to the more dull moments. A quality script helps tremendously, making the playable characters personable and empathetic. Jon has the feel of a cocky reporter, confident from years of rubbing shoulders with the elite, cracking the occasional joke to help him deal with a situation he doesn’t understand. Katrin is a somewhat stuffy researcher, trying to track down the murderer of her friend and coworker, focused on solving the mystery.
In the end, although it gains points for effort and charm, Belief and Betrayal is unremarkably average. It has its innovations, but it doesn’t rewrite the genre. Instead of shooting for the stars and falling, it sets its sights rather low and hits its mark. The story is decent, although clichéd, and it telegraphs its twists and turns far in advance. It may be worth a playthrough for a die-hard adventure fan, but anyone else can pass it by without a second thought.

Gameplay: 7
Standard point-and-click. Although the swappable characters add a layer of depth, it’s nothing out of the ordinary.

Graphics: 6
The models are dated, and the polygon count is easily in the double digits. It doesn’t hinder the experience greatly, but it does nothing to help it.

Sound: 7
The voice acting is surprising, but the music is bland and pointless.

What’s New: 4
Swapping characters and seeing the interactive items is a nice plus, but otherwise it’s just a point-and-click.

Replay Value: 3
The twists are pretty obvious the first time through, so there’s not much incentive for a second beyond hearing the dialogue again.

Final Score:
5.4