Reviewed: December 31, 2007
Released: November 13, 2007
Future Games, a Czech-based game developer, was founded in 1999. They are the minds behind the horror adventure title Black Mirror and the adventure title Nibiru: Age of Secrets, both titles doing quite well worldwide. Here it is late 2007 and Future Games presents us with Next Life known as “Reprobates” overseas, another adventure title that treads the line of a really bad dream and an island paradise…or not.
You play as a Bohemian man named Adam Raichl, who two minutes into the game dies in a bone crunching collision with a tanker truck only to wake up in a cabin on a god–forsaken island. He soon finds out that he’s not the only one stranded here. He is joined by various people from different nationals, though mostly centrally around Europe.
Next Life is a 3D adventure set on a remote island where you must find out what the hell is going on. If you like the show LOST, then this title will appeal to you. Everyone that shows up on this island all believe that it is a different year than yours, but they all seem to end up here after an accident of some sort.
I’ve played many adventure titles in the past but none have tried my skill or patience like Next Life has. I have been a long time fan of the Myst series and more recently the newest Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie games.
The Interface of Next Life is as about streamlined as you can get, albeit a few control hitches. The game screen looks a lot like you are watching a widescreen movie on a full screen TV. The black bar at the bottom is reserved for you inventory and the top one is reserved for a lonely flashing white line, which oddly translates into Main Menu. You have a slender endurance bar at the top right of the screen under the black bar. The bar slowly depletes as Adam runs or does anything remotely strenuous. You regain your endurance by one of several means. You can either have Adam stand in one spot and walk away from your computer for a bit, drink water, eat crackers and fruit or sleep.
Since Next Life is a point and click adventure, you pretty much play with the mouse only. The only key on the keyboard that is utilized is the “E” key. Pressing “E” will reveal every exit in the immediate area to you. This actually comes in handy as there are no obvious markers on where to go. When you run your circular cursor icon over a location or item that is accessible to you, the cursor changes to the respectable action. If you find an item or location its name is shown in the top black bar, so you know where you’re headed to.
Unlike most adventure titles the mouse controls are oddly limited to the left mouse button. Most adventure titles utilize the right mouse for interacting or viewing items, but not in Next Life. I spent a good part of my time playing wondering why the right mouse button didn’t work. You can converse with your fellow island inhabitants by clicking on them during various times throughout your experience. You actually have to talk to them to help you get around the island ad solve each predicament as you come across them.
Next Life is actually broken up in a set of days where you have to do a certain amount of things before you progress through the story. This is something that I saw in the latest Agatha Christie title not all that long ago. One of the first things I noticed was that it takes Adam forever to go anywhere. I know if I was in that situation then I would be moving a little faster.
The really strange part about Next Life is that every night the bell in the bell tower chimes three times and everyone stuck on the island falls asleep. Even creepier is the fact that once you wake up, you find that everything that you have picked up that day is missing. The items you pick like in pretty much all adventure titles are used to help you get pass a certain obstacle. However just one item might not be enough and you have to use the combination system to create something new. A perfect example of this would when I had to combine a stick, hook and rope to make a grappling hook.
There isn’t much action to be had in Next Life, except for hitting an annoying guy in the back of the head with a stick. There are a few moments where there is a sense of urgency, but those are during the nightmarish dream sequences. The dream sequences give Next Life its surreal and very creepy vibe. No matter if you are on the island or in your dream, it is all too real.
The dream sequences while being a change of pace throughout your journey are often one of the most frustrating parts in Next Life. Next Life has to be one of the hardest titles I have ever played since Myst puzzle wise. The puzzle that is known as the Spinning Lights will literally take ‘til your “Next Life” to solve. I’m pretty sure that I’m not alone when I say “Save File, Please!”
But that puzzle is just the beginning of the puzzle madness. Whoever was in charge of creating these mouse-breaking obstacles has got to be one of the fastest mouse clickers in the world. Once you get past these obstacles one way or another, you delve deeper into the world of Next Life and soon spiral towards the somewhat open ending. I’m thinking maybe a sequel in the future, but if this is the only title to be released then that would be fine too.
The graphics of Next Life are pretty decent. They did a decent job on making the island flora and structures look pretty believable. A few things looked a little unrealistic at times but overall not too bad. The character models are actually pretty good. Future Games delivers Next Life’s photorealistic graphics with its own in house AGDS3 engine. This allows for the face emotions and more realistic cloths and character animation. You will notice early on that if Adam has to go up a multilevel terrain to a higher location he literally stop and turns 90º to make the next step. Also I found that there are in my opinion way too many clicks required to get from one side of the screen to the other in these cases.
As mentioned above, I said that the character models were actually pretty good. And there are actually a couple of partially nude women throughout your journey, that and the numerous panty flashes. I’m seriously not making this stuff up. There a few cutscenes throughout Next Life that I actually liked, especially the last one which I pretty much predicted was going to happen. The cutscenes were only used primarily in times of chaos and that all was needed.
There was one thing that I really did like about Next Life’s game design. Unlike most adventure titles, the fixed camera angles were never the same from day to day. Each day you wake up to the same locations, but from a whole new perspective. I really wished more adventure titles used this perspective. The one thing that I think that could have been improved was the option to change the screen resolution in game. I played the nearly the entire game in 1024 X 768 resolution on my 1680 x 1050 monitor to only find out by pure curiosity that there was a Engine Setup in the game’s directory.
The sounds of Next Life are probably one of its greatest flaws. The environmental music and sound effects were okay and the Main Menu score was a little creepy in a way but easy on the ears. The voice acting however was not. The accents while okay were heavily stereotyped and that took away from my enjoyment. I mean it’s nice to hear a mixture of accents, but not if they were overdone.
There were subtitles that were viewable but even they were often far from what was coming out of their mouths. On one particular day, there is a pretty nasty storm and I did like how it sounded complete with thunder.
Value wise Next Life is an okay title. It took me nearly a day or so to beat, largely in part to those nerve raking puzzles. The mysterious nature of Next Life had me drawn in to the very end. As I mentioned above there is a definite LOST vibe throughout the journey. There were more than a few times where I was unnerved by some of the things I had to do, but that is what makes this title good.
I really liked the cutscenes and the game itself ran perfectly on my system without a hitch. If you like LOST then I highly recommend this title. Next Life retails for $30 dollars.
All in all I was impressed with Next Life. Future games did take some risks with some of the gameplay elements and I think they succeeded. I really like the player’s changing perspective of the island form day to day and I liked the panty shots *cough*… I mean the nicely done character models. The puzzles while brutal were straight forward and to the point.
One of my favorite sequences involves a falling elevator on a nightmarish construction site. While the puzzle may have you cry mercy, they are still a challenge to even the hardcore gamer. I highly recommend this title if you are looking for a good LOST inspired adventure. Even if you don’t like LOST, I highly recommend buying this title.