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Theresia (DS) - Point and Click and Die


Areala

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I had to have it.

The minute I laid eyes on it in my local game store, I knew that it was coming home with me. If there's one thing I'm a gigantic sucker for, it's horror-themed games. And as soon as I took Theresia off the shelf and read the description, I knew there was no chance I was leaving the store with exactly the same amount of money as I walked in with. No chance in hell.

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Theresia is a point-and-click adventure game developed with more...mature...themes in mind. We've seen a number of these in the past, even going so far back as the NES. Shadowgate and Uninvited are both excellent entries in the adventure genre, with enough annoying puzzles and creepy ways of meeting your demise that they can keep gamers like me entertained for hours. In a way, Shadowgate especially served to bridge the gap between the text-only adventure games like Colossal Cave and Zork of the early days, and the graphical mouse-based ones like Myst and The 7th Guest that stepped in to take their place once processors got a bit faster and memory got less expensive.

The problem with Shadowgate, Uninvited and many others is that to make a mistake in those games is to seal your fate. There's no life bar: if you don't raise your shield in time, you die. If you drink the poisoned water, you die. If you forget to put on your clothing after waking up in the bathroom stall and walk outside, you...well, that doesn't kill you, but it does get you arrested for indecent exposure, probably one of the most humiliating ways to end your adventure before it even has begun. So the fact that Theresia features a life meter might make you think that it's easier, that it gives you an advantage over those older incarnations, and makes things a bit more fair. Indeed, you might be thinking to yourself, the game also provides you with elixers to heal yourself should you take too much damage, allows you to save anywhere (with three slots to boot), features a fully-working automap, and permits you to reload an old game at any time, so therefore it must be simpler. You couldn't be more wrong.

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As previously mentioned, Theresia is an adult-themed point-and-click adventure dealing with some very, very dark themes. In fact, when you first begin the game, you don't even know anything about yourself. The manual is deliberately vague, only barely setting the scene and omitting any backstory that you might have been able to use to meta-game with in your new world. When you wake up, you can't remember anything about yourself, nor how you got into this horrible...school?...asylum?...(prison?) to begin with. All you know is learned by looking at yourself: you're a young caucasian girl. And boy do you have a headache...

Theresia combines puzzle solving and corridor walking with the storyline of a world gone terribly wrong, and characters who are all fundamentally flawed, some in ways that are darker than midnight in Central Park. As you comb and pick your way through your location, you start to uncover some terribly uncomfortable truths. First of all, you appear to be completely alone. There's no one else here, and the place contains signs of having been previously inhabited but abandoned a long time ago. The building is in complete disrepair, with hallways that have collapsed, shelves that have been knocked over, doors that have been broken off their hinges, water that has pooled in dark puddles, thick layers of dust that cover every surface, and an incredibly stale quality to the air you are breathing. Oh yeah...and then, there are the remains of some very unlucky individuals who have come before you. Rotting husks of men, crucified to the walls. Splatters of old, blackened blood on the floors. Dead bodies tossed into rooms with seemingly casual indifference. Instruments of torture, clearly never intended to be "just decorations." Whatever happened here, it was bad...very, very bad. And as if all the passive gruesome nasties aren't bad enough, someone (or more likely, several someones) have seen fit to booby-trap the whole place. Electric shocks, glinting steel knives, sharp razor blades, shards of broken glass and other hazards are just waiting to damage the unwary interloper who doesn't carefully examine her surroundings before making her moves. The importance of being sharp-eyed and looking at everything cannot be over-stated: often, descriptions of items will contain subtle hints about the relative safety of interacting with them. Thankfully, you'll find small vials of elixers that will ease your injuries as you explore, as well as 2x4s that can be used to poke and prod areas that may contain traps to give you a heads-up. You also carry around a very special amulet, one that allows you to draw blood from yourself in order to provide insight on what needs to be done to pass your current obstacle. Unlike most humans, it seems that your own blood doesn't bother you. In fact, you rather like it, and being slashed with a dagger or scraping an arm across a broken window doesn't put you off from further exploration. You don't know why...you just kinda like being hurt. Maybe you'll figure out why as you explore.

The worst part is, as cruel as your amnesia sounds, it's nowhere near as bad as the memories that slowly start to return as you investigate your surroundings. Bits of paper, hidden diary entries, and small items stashed in holes in the floor or between the pages of books all serve to jog your consciousness, awakening memories of your mother. And how much you love her.

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Really love her. Yes, in that way.

Then there are the dreams...where bad things keep happening to seemingly good people...at your hands.

Theresia makes "Saw" look like "The Care Bears Care-A-Lot Special" in terms of utter depravity. It's rated M for a reason. Do not play it if you aren't prepared to travel into some very, very dark places.

The game itself is actually two stories in one. Finishing the first storyline allows you to play a second story, focused on another character who is in similar circumstances and must also escape from a run-down prison(?) where she is being held. Only by completing both stories and overcoming the puzzles they contain will you finally be able to put all the pieces together and learn the full truth about the disturbing events that brought you to these places.

The DS handles the tasks of playing and storytelling with great finesse. The dual-screen system is set up to allow you to see the map as you navigate the hallways and corridors of the place where you've been trapped. Item descriptions and images flash on the upper screen, while the lower one tells you what happens when you use them. Finding something that jogs your memory results in the playback of an FMV sequence that often utilizes both screens. The game doesn't have a whole lot of music, but what little it contains is used to the fullest effect, heightening the tension when shocking discoveries are made. And for some great, eerie voicework, listen to your voice as you chant out a small prayer while squeezing your amulet to draw blood and clear your thoughts. Sound effects are relatively mundane, but perfect for getting the job done. Metal shrieks, water drips, wood cracks, doors creak, and your footsteps through the halls change their sounds depending on whether you are walking on stone, wood, metal or another surface. Play with the lights off and the headphones on and you're in for quite a disturbing bit of game time.

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Clearly, Theresia is not for everyone. The game carries an M (17+) rating for a reason, as insanity, torture, genocide, and other disturbing themes all compete with one another to make you glad you don't inhabit the world for real. It's not a constant, "breathing-down-your-neck"-style of horror, like Resident Evil. Rather, it's the slow, creeping, "am-I-going-insane?" effect that Konami used in Silent Hill that makes you breathe a little faster and break out in a cold sweat. I jumped several times just from setting off a trap, and the memories found in the journals and witnessed via the FMV sequences take you to places that you often do not want to see. At the same time, the story is well-designed and works to draw you in and keep you immersed in a terrible world that you just don't feel right leaving until you learn the truth. If you're looking for a game that will transport you to Happy Pony Land with lots of nice pictures of rainbows and teddy bears, you'll want to pass on this one.

On the other hand, if you enjoyed the likes of the Clock Tower series on the Super NES and PS1, Rule of Rose on the PS2, Phantasmagoria and Scratches on the PC, or just enjoy games where your puzzle-solving skills as opposed to your reflexes and arsenal of weaponry are what will keep you alive, Theresia will be right up your alley. Just don't send me the bill for your counseling sessions afterwards. After all, maybe you really do love your mother. Just like that...

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What a great medium to have this on. I'm going to try this one but I don't know how long it's going to keep my attention. I wasn't always so swift with these games that require common sense but with age comes wisdom so I'll give it a shot. My school work has prevented almost all my game time.

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Hmmm this look's interesting. I wasn't aware that the DS even had this type of a game available for it. I usually only see DS game's which cater for a much younger audience whenever I'm in my local GameStop or GAME store.

I am a complete light weight when it come's to horror stuff but I still enjoy it so I'll look out for Theresia next time I'm near a game store.

Could be fun to play over Christmas. :)

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I've beaten this game more than once, and it's wonderful! The storyline leaves you thinking, though. Still, it's a great game that's lasts a long time.

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