Monday, March 28, 2011

Comments on Dr Jekyll -- "Jekyll & Hyde" (bitComposer, 2010) PC Game

So I've recently been working away at the Jekyll & Hyde computer game released by bitComposer just in this past year. It all opens with an animated prologue that got me genuinely interested in the game it preluded. It wasn't terribly complicated, but it was good, the narration was dramatic, the story was interesting, and I liked how it was made to look like drawn illustrations from a book.

Upon actually starting to play the game itself, however, that feeling of anticipation was quickly eviscerated. But at least more animated sequences popped up after I finished certain sections of the game, so I got a little bit of something to enjoy.

Click here to see the prologue and the beginning of the game, as uploaded by someone on youtube.

Now, the first animated sequence didn't actually show that much of Jekyll. The 3D Jekyll in the game also looks completely different from the animated one. Like all the rest of the objects and scenery, he's pretty basic - neither exemplary nor horrible - just a man with brown hair wearing a blue suit who looks just Jekyll enough to not incur complaints (at least, not from me). Hyde is similar - he's sort of a typical interpretation of Hyde, as large and hairy and muscular as expected, worthy neither of praise nor scorn in his design.

Up to this point, I haven't yet seen Hyde in the animated sequences (or if I did, he was too bland to remember) but Jekyll did finally appear in greater detail, and boy oh boy was he unexpected! I just about fell out of my chair laughing when I first saw him, but then I just became disappointed. Here, have a look at what I saw:

My first thought was "oh HELLO Ralph Bates from Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde! My, you're looking just as ridiculous as usual with that poncy effeminate hair! But you seem a bit more wimpy than I recall, and, I have to ask, what is with that bowler hat?"

Don't see the resemblance? Just look at them side by side. They've even got the same butt-chin!

My guess is the hat's been added to cover either his massively combed-over bangs or the giant bald spot that I reckon the comb-over was meant to hide.

However, despite their enormous similarities, I believe that in terms of character Bates' Jekyll and bitComposer's are miles apart.

First, I don't think Jekyll really ought to be a hard character to make a decent design of, even for someone who knows only the basics about him. He can be almost anything a creator wants him to become. He's been all sorts of different ages, he's been fat and thin, black and white, his hair's been red, brown, black and white and grey, and facially he's had everything from mustaches and beards to stubble or nothing at all. He's even been a woman. He has the potential to be molded like clay into a variety of different forms and still retain his essential Jekyll-ness.

However, he has to have that Jekyll-ness to him in order to pull it off. To me, what makes a Jekyll really work is strength of will and determination. He's dedicated to his passions and dreams and he will stop at nothing to pursue them: toiling long hours, neglecting his health, duties, love and social life, even putting his life at risk. He can be fearful and cowardly in other things, and he can crumple like wet paper at times, but when he's in his element he stands tall and firm.

"But if I transform, my receding hairline might show..."
That is something that I just don't see in the image that bitComposer made for him - I hear a good Jekyll character in the performance of the voice actor who reads his lines, but I don't see that in the drawing. He looks hesitant, weak-willed, unsure, cringing, wavering. Not to mention he's also badly drawn (I have seen Jekylls made on Deviantart a hundred times better) AND he has that stupid hair and that stupid hat. Never mind the drawing quality, those alone are two strikes against him being a convincing Jekyll, but he might not have been "out" of the running to be one if he's just gotten the right feel across to me.

See, Bates was able to do it even with his poncy haircut working against him - he played the role with such seriousness and dedication that I found it surprisingly easy to ignore his sleek black womanly tresses and really believe him as Jekyll. Bates didn't let that hair keep him from playing a pretty believable, strong-willed, dramatic, emotional, and sometimes even intimidating Henry Jekyll. He didn't let the hair own him - as it easily could have done - instead, HE owned the hair. He wasn't perfect, but he worked it.

So that's what I have to say on the subject of Jekyll from that game. I've been taking notes on my experience while playing the game since I began, so I'll do a more in-depth review and commentary on it in its entirety some time in the near future. Oh gods, there is so much to be talked about - the puzzles, the controls, the inventory system, the story, the challenges, the quicktime events... let's just say that bitComposer's Jekyll isn't the only thing that left me baffled.

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