I love adventure games, as it was probably the first genre I got hooked on when I started playing computer games. As the genre goes it’s always nice to see an original IP pop up in the App Store, so I was pretty excited when I ran across The Passenger. After playing and finishing it, however, I’m not quite sure how I feel about it. There are certainly some nice points to the game, but ultimately it felt too basic and more disappointedly, way too short. I’d still be more than happy to see a sequel, but the game will need a lot more meat to produce I viable franchise.
You play a man looking for something. I don’t say that to be flippant, because the truth is that after watching the intro a couple of times and fully playing through the game, I’m still not 100% sure what’s going on. Thankfully it doesn’t make any difference in your ability to play the game, but since it is an adventure game it would be nice to comprehend the story behind the adventure. The cut scenes have no dialog, and while that technique can sometimes be quite powerful it just doesn’t work here, at least not for me. It seems like you chose or were forced to leave your family, so I’d gather that you’re either looking for them now or trying to complete whatever task required your departure.
In terms of game mechanics The Passenger harkens back to the good old days when Sierra Online reigned supreme with such franchises as King’s Quest and Space Quest. To move your nameless protagonist you just tap on the screen where you want him to go. When you stop in front of an item of interest it will emit a yellow glow. It would be nice if the glow would happen even while you’re walking past it, but the hint is still nice. To interact with said areas you can either tap on them or drag an item from your inventory on top of them, depending on what is required. You can also drag inventory items on top of each other to combine them.
In addition to the typical “use this item there” type puzzles, there are a few of what have now come to be termed “mini-games”. I like the concept, but most of the mini-games are either too difficult or pretty much hand the answer right to you. One of the games appears to be impossible short of blind luck, and a “Simon” style game is hard to play because the colors make it difficult to discern when an object is flashing. A better balance on the mini-games is definitely needed.
Overall, though, the biggest issue with the game is its length. Once you muddle through the “impossible” mini-game, the whole experience probably doesn’t last more than half and hour. The includes a couple of places where it felt like there was needless wandering, which might have been done simply for the sake of increasing the game’s length. As much as I’d be interested in seeing a sequel, I really think part one should be beefed up a bit first.
The visuals are certainly a highlight of the whole experience. The style is more “polished sketches” than anything, but it manages to work really well in this case. The color palette is kind of earthy with few bright colors, but in combination with the drawing style creates a unique look that is a pleasure to behold. The sound effects are few and far between, though decent enough when they do emerge. I like the music, which is a low key piece that almost has a bit of a melancholy tone to it.
I enjoyed the passenger, but in the end it felt more like a trial version than a full-fledged game. Besides being too short the mini-games needed some work, and it would have been nice to at least have the option for some captions to know what’s going on in the story. Still, with the trickle of original intellectual properties showing up for iOS devices in regards to adventure games, I’m willing to give this the benefit of the doubt that should a sequel arise it will make up for all these shortcomings. Naturally, though, I wouldn’t complain if they just expanded this first outing some more either.
Overall Score: 6/10
App Store Link
This game was played on an iPad 2 running iOS 4.3.5.