Point and click games appear to be making something of a resurgence, and Ceville the tiny tyrant is the latest new face to enter this longstanding genre. Unlike most adventure game leads, Ceville’s evil personality offers a refreshing perspective to the storytelling.
The citizens of Faeryanis have had enough, and have ousted Ceville from his throne. You start out by avoiding your captors then learn that magician Basilius – an even more villainous individual than yourself – is going to rule the land unless you do something about it. For much of this quest you are joined by Lilly, a young girl who is Ceville’s opposite in every respect. The two build quite a rapport and complement each other nicely; her niceness juxtaposed with Ceville’s mean disposition.
Set in a world that can best be described as a light-hearted medieval fantasy fairytale, you meet a number of interesting characters along the way. There’s Ambrosius the likeable narcissistic paladin with great hair, an undead pirate, suited Dwarfs who are harvesting the Elvin forest for profit, and one of my favourites, the lisping demon looking for the perfect dungeon location.
Initially, Ceville impresses on many fronts, thanks to the bright graphics and the superb voice acting. The writing is rarely laugh-out-loud funny, not nearing the level of wit found in the Monkey Island series, though it is pleasant enough and mildly amusing. For me most of the fun is in the situation comedy that places the characters together.
As is common with adventure games, you must scour the environment for items to add to your inventory. These are often combined to address a particular situation, and therein lies much of the game’s challenge. In the past this genre has suffered from some games having an unnecessarily complicated user interface and interaction mechanism. However Ceville takes a dynamic approach whereby hovering the pointer over an item will automatically change the on-click action to pick up, examine and so on to save you from tediously trying every variant. Surprisingly the game is still challenging, and you’re left only needing to do battle with the game’s puzzle logic, as opposed to the added complexity of interface eccentricities.
You can also press spacebar to see all the interactable objects highlighted, but it’s more fun to explore a scene yourself first. Despite these steps taken to help you, it’s a fairly safe bet you will still run into difficulties. To progress through a plot sequence, a specific set of items has to be utilised in the correct order, so not picking up one is enough to leave you wandering around aimlessly. Of course, this kind of thing has become an expected norm in this genre, but as with A Vampyre Story, these days more should be done to dynamically prompt you if you’ve not been making any advances for more than ten minutes. I would expect most people to quickly refer to a walkthrough at least two or three times to prevent what feels like endless frustration.
On occasion playable characters can be separated and you will have to work through a section while switching between the two by clicking their portrait in the corner. This feature is a little underused but offers a welcome exploration into new territory. The final areas of the game require you to switch between Ambrosius, Ceville and Lilly, a particularly difficult segment, as you need to send items to each other and some of the steps are quite obscure.
After a few hours play I felt Ceville was one of the most polished adventure games in recent years. The game engine is fully 3D and copes well with puzzles, walking around, talking and even delivering seamless cut-scenes. The camera is largely static, but does move across the scene as you near the edges, which is a nice touch, as is the occasional flyby.
Unfortunately cracks do start to appear deeper into the game. There are some awkward moments and a few bugs, one of which I experienced in the final stages so game-breaking that I was left with no choice but to reload a saved game. Luckily the autosave feature works well and you only lose a maximum of five minutes, but a lack of thorough testing can really undermine the experience. Another example of this is the playable characters’ conversation overlapping with a background character’s chatter, rendering both inaudible. It’s also too easy to accidently skip a cut-scene by clicking a mouse button.
Despite the wonderfully rendered environments, the pacing does deteriorate a little around the half way stage, with a few scenes dragging on too long. There is also a general sense that proceedings should be a little more unpredictable and funny than they play out (the Show Star scene is one such example). The ending itself feels a little abrupt, though it will take you something in the region of 15 hours to reach it.
Ceville is enjoyable, but at the time of release requires a few patches, and as a result hasn’t scored the 8 it may have otherwise got. The best part of this adventure is the characters, with Ceville, Ambrosius, the undead pirate and the lisping demon all possessing the potential for further development. I would welcome them back in a slightly more humourus and random comedic sequel.