Although we are now accustomed to gameplay with an increasingly complex structure and more stupendous graphics than reality itself, there are still those in the heart who reserve a special place for the works that have made it possible to reach current standards. There is no better example than point and click graphic adventures, of which the largest representative still remains Monkey Island, whose style and charm still resist today. VirtuaVerse was born from the love of Theta Division for this kind of story, combined with a sincere interest in the cyberpunk lodging which goes well with the philosophy of these. And although the player's interaction is reduced to a mere sequence of clicks on the screen, the graphics, narration and sound compensate for this simplicity with a depth which is astonishing the more you dig deep. Without getting lost in too much chatter, let's find out what this curated title has to offer that, between one puzzle and another, can truly make us waste whole days. However, not always in the good sense of the affirmation.
An undeniable charm
VirtuaVerse brings us into a narrative context that embodies without shame all the canons of the cyberpunk style: we are in fact in the not too distant future, where an AI has taken total control of the world and pushed society to connect to a single neural network. The latter, like a drug, allows man to optimize his existence (or "user experience", as everyone calls it) and achieve a genuine, but simulated, sense of continuous well-being. While most people enjoy their fictitious lives, we are called upon to interpret Nathan, an outcast who refuses to adapt to the system and lives by selling modified hardware and software. The sudden disappearance of his girlfriend Jay throws our protagonist into a bigger and bigger mess, among illegal hacker gangs, technological cemeteries and realities from which it is not so easy to escape. If all this sounds familiar to you, it is because it probably is: the plot of this game certainly does not shine with originality, and very few events remain etched in your memory. Everything else, however, is another matter.
From the very beginning, the artistic and graphic style strike with an upright of wonder and a reversal of nostalgia. Every single corner of VirtuaVerse's world has been built with a meticulous care, from the amount of detail on the screen to the uniqueness of each environment. Advertising signs, shops, murals, alleys on the streets: every inch of the map is designed to be different from any other place, but above all faithful to the canons of cyberpunk. There is no lack of references to the great classics of the past and the relics of the industrial revolution, with cabinets that replace video games and holograms that scream the 70s and 80s from all pores. If you love this current, you immediately feel at home here. And if the settings are not enough to convince you, then it could do it very high level soundtrack produced by MASTER BOOT RECORD, which with its pressing rhythms favors total immersion in the experience and constantly accompanies the player's journey. Even if you are not passionate about this style, it is difficult to contest the charm generated by such a combination of graphics and audio, which conveys all the love of Theta Division for his work. But we can't just get lost in the setting for hours on end: we have puzzles to solve.
We are facing a sea of possibilities ... and I forgot how to swim
Just like Monkey Island and other titles that have characterized point and click over time, here too the whole advancement in the story is based on solving numerous puzzles. And we are not talking about small riddles or trivial questions of logic, but of real manic processes with sequences of dozens and dozens of steps, where attention to detail and dialogue is required which goes far beyond current standards. Of course, those who are used to the genre already know what to expect, but who is not? Get ready for the most frustrating, intricate and laborious undertaking that has ever existed to try to convince a homeless person to let you rummage in his dumpster. Every single element on the screen could be the key to solving the next puzzle, or a distraction that takes you totally out of the way. Normally we can only applaud the works that push the player to hone their observation and deduction skills, but here we have to take a step back. And this has to do with another great virtue of VirtuaVerse that here, however, it collides in the most disordered way possible.
The world created by Theta Division is, as I have said several times, full of details. And we can interact with all these: right away, in fact, our beloved mouse pointer allows us to analyze almost every point on the screen, allowing us to obtain valuable info on the world, ironic comments on the life of the future or new objects with which to enrich our inventory, all perfected by aexcellent Italian localization. The latter can then be combined with the environment to unlock a whole set of new feedback, opening the doors to hundreds of different possibilities. This is where the donkey falls, and falls heavily on it. Very often, in fact, VirtuaVerse puts us in front of so many opportunities and so few clues that it is almost impossible to guess the right solution to move forward, except being literally a database for analyzing and processing information. The exact sequences that we have to carry out to solve the puzzles are in fact too much, too specific to justify the presence of so much freedom of play. As a result, missing a detail as trivial as the color of a restaurant's dishes can lead to whole hours of unnecessary effort, while reviewing the infinite options available, hoping that one of these, miraculously, will work. Yet another demonstration that, very often, "a lot" can easily become "too much".
In conclusion, VirtuaVerse is a journey that lovers of cyberpunk, technology and graphic adventures can only love. It is a small artistic masterpiece, one of those in which the love of the authors translates into a fascination for the players, capable of leaving a more than positive impression from the first sequences. Two other excellent points in favor would be the original puzzles and the enormous freedom of interaction, the combination of which, unfortunately, generates more frustration and a sense of bewilderment than what is useful to experience. Those who manage to overcome this wall, however, will find a world full of personality who knows how to highlight every characteristic feature of the cyberpunk genre.