Serena: Herald of the point-and-click renaissance
Was it a good idea to play Serena at midnight, after three glasses of wine, in a darkened room? Probably not. Even though Serena lasted only forty-five minutes in the same darkened, dusty cabin, I thought I’d be relieved when I got to the end. But the end…well, in the interest of this review remaining spoiler-free, let’s just say it’s not a happy one.
The point-and-click-genre has been going through a bit of a renaissance lately, with Telltale Games’ Walking Dead and Tales from the Borderlands series delighting gamers around the globe; so the release of Serena, developed as a joint effort between fans of point-and-click games and developers, is fortuitous. Serena takes place in a cabin in the middle of nowhere, with grimy windows that you can’t see out of, everything around you brown and dusty to the extent that you can practically feel the stale air. You’re waiting for Serena, your wife (voiced by Sarah Wilson), whilst simultaneously being not quite sure where she went. As you explore the cabin you’ll come to realise that it’s ‘a (twisted) love letter to the adventure game community’ both metaphorically and literally.
Playing Serena on International Women’s Day was a bit perverse. It’s told mainly from the point-of-view of her husband (voiced by Josh Mandel of King’s Quest fame) – who, by the way, goes unnamed (if I were to engage my literary degree here I could analyse that to hell and back) – but Serena’s voice does worm its way into the narrative in snatches of conversation and longer letters. The brief snippets tell you more about Serena than her husband is able to communicate – her frustrations, her dreams, giving you the chance to assess how valid her husband’s growing anger is towards her absence.
Starting off as the doting husband, putting Serena on a pedestal, through clicking on the objects more than once his perspective starts to alter, progressing from adoration to anger, denial, then resigned sorrow and apathy. Serena is the more stable character of the two, and I was happy to see that there were no cheap tricks with the photograph of her: her face didn’t turn angry or demonic, it didn’t start to melt as you got angrier. Throughout the game, returning to the photograph, you’re presented with a normal woman with no attempts to demonise her, the only person turning unreasonable being you, the husband.
Despite the discovery at the end of the game, to which some gamers have attributed a variety of meanings, I don’t think Serena is a helpless victim. I think she’s a woman who knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to leave when she turns from a wife into a mother-figure, the responsibility always shifted onto her to massage her husband’s ego and get nothing in return. It’s odd that it’s marketed as a horror point-and-click as the atmosphere, although unsettling (it did make me retrospectively unplug my headphones), isn’t scary; finding the words to describe exactly what genre it fits into is tricky.
But the best thing about Serena? It’s free. At just 45 minutes long, it only takes about 10 minutes to download from Steam, so I urge everyone reading this article to experience it for yourself and find out where the hell Serena has got to.
Image courtesy of www.diaboliquemagazine.com.