Abducted is a point and click sci-fi adventure that parachutes you into a hostile and unfamiliar world. Getting abducted by aliens is the oldest story in the book, but it’s a narrative that hasn’t been explored very often in video games. Originally developed for iOS, Sunside Inc. is attempting to upgrade the experience for PC gamers.
Considering it’s called Abducted I was hoping to play through an actual alien abduction: I expected spotlights, low-flying UFOs and anal probes. Story-wise however, the game is all about what happens after abduction. The Early Access release features an unfinished single player story mode and, in what might be a nod to Ripley in Alien, the playable characters are all women. Any comparison with the films pretty much ends there though because at this stage the game doesn’t do a great job of putting you on the edge of your seat.
The thing is that point and click makes sense on an iPad; after all it’s a touch screen-only device. However, it doesn’t translate particularly well to PC. It’s a slow and imprecise way to control your character and together with a fixed camera that can cause problems, any tension or suspense in the game is largely undermined. Sure, point and click can work, but games like Broken Sword have an interesting narrative and puzzles with depth. Right now, Abducted doesn’t have much of either.
Most of the story is developed by interfacing with an alien super computer your character has built into her arm (I don’t know whether it runs iOS or Windows). There are a series of questions you can ask it to learn more about your surroundings. It sounds cool but in practice it means staring at a screen packed with scrolling text; it’s like being lost in space with only MS-DOS for comfort. Some players however might appreciate the slow and thoughtful nature of this aspect of Abducted, and there is also a range of in-game objects you can click on and read about.
“Sure, point and click can work, but games like Broken Sword have an interesting narrative and puzzles with depth. Right now, Abducted doesn’t have much of either”
Your character is equipped with some superhuman powers which enable her to emit a pulse of laser energy, create a protective force field and telepathically manipulate surrounding objects. Using points gained throughout the game you can upgrade these abilities, but doing so doesn’t make them behave with any noticeable difference. Combat is equally lacklustre as enemies are encountered infrequently and tend to either be too easy to beat or too deadly.
The puzzles are delivered via a series of “terminals” dotted around the alien world which are unlikely to put much of a strain on your grey matter. You can choose to hack into these terminals or access them by inputting the correct keycode. Successfully doing either will open a new part of the level for you to explore. “Hacking” is a bit of a rich term for what boils down to playing Snake as a mini-game; it’s fun the first few times but it gets old quickly. Inputting the keycode involves a kind of spot the difference game where you’re required to identify the correct symbols from a bunch of similar looking ones.
One definite improvement over the iOS original is the vastly superior graphics: at times, Abducted looks great. However, this good work is undone by some primitive concept design. Rather unfortunately, there is one particular alien that looks like it was modelled to resemble The Scorpion King. It might have been scarier to just feature Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson himself rampaging through the galaxy dropping the people’s elbow on unsuspecting space explorers.
“Most of the story is developed by interfacing with an alien super computer your character has built into her arm. . . it sounds cool but in practice it means staring at a screen packed with scrolling text; it’s like being lost in space with only MS-DOS for comfort”
At the moment Abducted feels more like a mobile game than it does a PC release. Fans of the original may be keen to explore this upgraded experience, but ultimately it doesn’t give newcomers that much to keep them interested. The final product may well improve on what the game currently has to offer but at this stage there’s some distance left to run.