The iOS App Store is so full of clones and shovelware that when a genuinely original concept comes around that tries to do something unique, you can’t help but root for it to succeed. React Entertainment’s The Act is one such concept. It’s the latest in a string of games that have straddled the fence between interactive storytelling and games, finding itself in the company of games such as Heavy Rain, Asura’s Wrath and Dear Esther.
The Act is essentially an animated film revolving around Edgar, a humble window washer, and his attempts to woo Sylvia, a clearly out-of-his-league hospital nurse. The developers call it an interactive comedy, and your control over Edgar is minimal. As each scene plays out, your only involvement in the proceedings is determining the approach he adopts to take the scene to its predetermined conclusion. Depending on the scene, you would either have to control his expressions and gestures or perform various simple actions.
All of this achieved using only left and right swipes across the touchscreen, where swiping in one direction will perform actions in contrast to those performed when you swipe in the other. How much you swipe is also important; a light swipe leads to a more subtle and incremental behavioural change in expression, gesture or action, but swipe too much and the result is more drastic. For example, if a subtle swipe brings a gentle smile to Edgar’s face, a long swipe will result in hearty laughter.
Even though the story is extremely linear and there is only one way each scene can end, determining how a character makes his way to that end is an interesting proposition. Sadly, it turns out that the gestures required to achieve that end are also predetermined, so you will keep failing till you perform the gestures the game wants you to. The entire gamut of behavioural options eventually comes to naught because only one of them actually gets the job done, and finding it is often a frustrating process of elimination. Even when you do realise what you’re supposed to do, the difference between swiping too little, too much and just the right amount is often too minute to be able to accurately pull it off on the first attempt.
The Act features the charming classic animation style and through all the drudgery involved in progressing through the story, it is the animation that stands out as the only bright spark. Animation is of the highest quality, but sadly, there isn’t a lot of it. The Act is criminally short, and even with all the trial and error involved, you’ll quite easily be done with it in less than 30 minutes. I guess that’s all 99 cents gets you.
The Act is quite unlike anything else out there, but its execution leaves a lot to be desired. It’s still worth a look in purely for the animation and its unique concept, as long as you go in with tempered expectations and approach it as an interactive movie as opposed to a game.