REVIEW – Pendulo, the Spanish adventure game studio founded in 1994, came of age in the 2000s with the Runaway saga. In the 2010s, it won us over with Yesterday and Yesterday Origins. So it was with complete confidence, we launched Vertigo, a loose adaptation of Alfred Hitchcock’s cult film. But let’s not try to maintain the apparent suspense and say it straight away: the result doesn’t really live up to our expectations.
First, we think it’s essential to make one crucial point clear: despite appearances, the official character, the developers and the press releases, this Vertigo game is in no way an adaptation of Alfred Hitchcock’s film of the same name, which was shown in Hungarian cinemas under the title “Vertigo”. The era, the characters and the script are entirely different, and only a few “meta” quips link the film to the game. For example, one of the characters watches Cold Sweat in the cinema at the beginning of the adventure and later refers to it as his favourite film in an innocent dialogue.
Nothing to do with the legendary Hitchcock film
As for the „vertigo” in the film’s title, i.e. the fact that both the film’s hero and the video game’s successor suffer from Vertigo, this is just another reference. This phobia, which was a dominant factor in the 1958 classic, does not play the same role here and is more anecdotal.
The game’s Hitchcockian quality is primarily due to the general atmosphere, which is reminiscent of the Twin Peaks series or Alan Wake. Moreover, the main character here is also a very troubled writer. In the introductory scene, Ed Miller wakes up on a bridge, sees his car plunged into a cliff, finds that his wife and daughter are dead, and then sees that his own father has thrown himself off the bridge. The problem is, his father died years ago, nobody is found in the wreckage of the car, and Ed has been a known bachelor for years.
All of this is enough to question the mental health of our hero, who must work with psychotherapist Julia Lomas to separate truth from fake facts, sort out our hero’s memories, and clear up more grey areas. Both characters are playable at certain game stages, and Sheriff Reyes is investigating the accident.
Your grey matter brain cells will not be disturbed here
Although the variety of viewpoints makes the scenario relatively interesting, it has almost no effect on the gameplay, which remains minimal in all cases. A few movements in a relatively confined space, a few objects to observe here and there, a few dialogue choices that rarely have any natural consequence, and that’s it! As for the “action”, there is no shortage of the inevitable “Quick Time Events” a la Quantic Dream or Dontnod Entertainment, such as pressing the A button or twisting the gamepad arm to simulate on-screen action.
These real and fake interactions are all the more disappointing because, in addition, it often doesn’t even matter whether you mess them up or not. It’s just that they stimulate the player in the most basic way possible. The icing on the cake is that the game also has a lot of boring dead time when virtually nothing interesting happens.
Alfred Hitchcock’s: Shopping
I really don’t understand why the brave Spanish developers thought it would be so cool and exciting to play as Ed Miller as a kid and have to put away… groceries! Putting paper towels in the cupboard, putting vegetables in the fridge and bread on the table using QTEs: gosh, it was all so exciting!
To be fair, though, I should add that we were allowed to perform hypnosis on Ed in a significantly more creative twist to the game. This allowed us to relive specific altered memories previously recalled by the hero and explore inconsistencies to restore the truth.
Unfortunately, these phases are extremely linear. All you have to do is go to the right place on the timeline indicated on the screen (so the possibility of rewinding or fast-forwarding the plot is redundant) and click without thinking on the various interactive zones that can be discovered during the scene so that the game can silently unfold the plot. It’s the plot that saves the game from disaster, as the story does have twists and turns, most of which are impossible to predict (except for the final twist, but that’s understandable).
The artwork in Vertigo is also commendable. The distinctive “faces” of Pendulo Studios can be found, which helps you remember the different protagonists and instantly and unconsciously capture their personalities. In addition, the adventure would have benefited from being presented to us as an animated film rather than a game. It is difficult to ignore the various flaws in the game. On the not very powerful PCs, you can experience slowdowns (even if there is absolutely nothing extraordinary on the screen), various ugly bugs (text that pops out of the screen, a scene that suddenly goes dark, a character that becomes invisible for a few moments…) and too many loading screens, so Vertigo is not the pinnacle of programming.
You won’t get the“vertigo”
With Vertigo, Pendulo Studios has abandoned the puzzle adventure game genre to slide into the side of slightly interactive fiction in the style of Dontnod Entertainment. Initially, the project looked promising, but slow-moving events, a lot of dead time, a lack of actual gameplay and bugs killed our enthusiasm. It’s also pathetic that the Vertigo license was only used in the title; the story has nothing to do with the Alfred Hitchcock classic.
The game is not a complete waste of time. It has its merits, especially in terms of the twisting script, the visual world, the direction and the characterisation of the characters. But there is no genius here, and there is a good chance that, unlike the film by the master of suspense, this game by Pendulo Studios will soon be forgotten.
+ Almost constant tension for a well-constructed plot
+ Interesting characters
+ Excellent soundtrack
– Extremely stiff animations
– Almost no challenge
– Lots of moon time
Developer: Pendulo Studios
Genre: adventure game
Release date: December 20, 2021