J.U.L.I.A.

 [youtube id=”ETqeakFb6bI” width=”633″ height=”356″]

J.U.L.I.A.

I am so glad I decided to not provide you with review scores reader dear; so absolutely delighted. Summing up J.U.L.I.A. in a simple score would have been utterly impossible. Even deciding on what I really thought about it turned out to be pretty taxing. Better though to start at the beginning.
J.U.L.I.A. is a science-fiction game, casting you as Rachel Mannors, the sole survivor of a space expedition gone spectacularly wrong. Rachel, an awkwardly 3D modeled yet decently voiced character,  is woken up from cryo-sleep by J.U.L.I.A., the spaceship’s AI, only to discover she’s all alone in a malfunctioning ship light-years away from Earth and apparently stranded in a solar system with dully named planets. What’s more, something has gone spectacularly wrong on said planets. Something that eventually led to the death of the rest of the crew and the endangerment of alien life.
gameplay screenshot
Truth be said, J.U.L.I.A., and that’s the last time I bother with these fullstops, has a very interesting, if slightly melodramatic, plot. A proper science fiction story to be precise, that isn’t afraid to touch upon important matters and never fails to be atmospheric. What’s more, JULIA is one of those very rare games you can’t simply describe with a screenshot and a genre categorization. You’ll have to go on and play it (its demo at the very least) in order to fully understand its gameplay; you know, just like back in the old days, when reading a review and looking at some pics in a magazine simply left you bewildered…
At its core though the game can be described as a choose-your-own-adventure styled piece of interactive fiction with an interesting graphical GUI and a ton of mini-games thrown in. Needless to say, the text adventure-y parts of the game are by far the best. They are well written, brilliantly supported by the graphics and cut-scenes and -especially towards the end- by a fantastic map system. The problem though is that these section are pretty short and essentially without any challenge to speak of.
gameplay screenshot
Most of the challenge is to be found in the aforementioned mini-games and, sadly, this is where JULIA‘s main problem lies. The vast majority of mini-games on offer are ridiculously easy and feel largely unconnected to the game’s setting and the situations at hand. What’s more, the difficult ones are usually both too hard and badly explained, making for a gaming experience that ranges between dull and frustrating.
On the other hand, I am really glad I played JULIA. Despite its shortcomings, it’s a very brave, very ambitious and definitely innovative game with a strong focus on telling a story that’s actually worth sharing. I do believe it’s the first step in the right direction; a diamond in the rough, an impressive new way of approaching interactive fiction and an idea that has to be nurtured and supported, if only to give the devs a chance at perfecting their formula.

Verdict: A flawed but unique gem.

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