As someone who has been watching an unhealthy amount of Lethal Weapon lately, seeing a game like The Apartment allowed me to role-play a little too close to Detective Riggs than I’d care to admit. An action-adventure game with physics puzzles and scenes of psychological distress?? Hell to the yeah, it’s Riggs!!
First and foremost, I have to say this game was the kind of breath of fresh crime-scene air that I’ve only felt with LA Noire and the first Condemned game before that. This was my feeling for the first three-quarters of the game. The final quarter… well, I’ll get to that!
In this game brought to us by Shattered Mirror, players take on the role of detective James Sachs, the lead investigator on a murder case. Gameplay is part walking simulator, part physics puzzles that make you want to eat your own hands in frustration.
Riddle Me this, Mr. Riggs
One of the main elements of The Apartment is its use of said physics puzzles. I know I made reference to them being frustrating earlier but there’s something far, far too satisfying in solving them.
For instance, one of the first puzzles we come across is the case file conundrum. We find the clues in the case files and have to come up with the similarities between two cases. Thus, finding a connection and leading us ever closer to catching the culprit!
One key point of doing this is story narrative. These puzzles not only drive the story, but also force the player to pay attention and engage with it. There’s no skipping through dialogue. You have to listen and connect the dots or else you’ll be doing this all over again. Trust me, I talk from experience. I think this was a very interesting take on the game. Although it can become quite frustrating being bounced back to the last checkpoint if you fail a puzzle a few times, it made me follow the story and hang on to everything the characters were saying.
The two rooms puzzle also deserves some mention. The devs and anyone who has played The Apartment knows the rooms I am talking about. Damn you for making these, by the way. I lost 30 minutes trying to figure out what to do. I must admit I am one of those players that throw things around the room when there are physics elements to a game and yes, I did somehow manage to throw the horse statue through a wall. Yes, I did get angry.
The Story of a Broken Man
Alongside the detective story is the underlying narrative of a broken man. We see glimpses of James Sachs’ life and where he is mentally at the moment. The Apartment again draws parallels with the new Lethal Weapon Series.
Martin Riggs and James Sachs have a lot in common and I’m not talking about excessive drinking. They’re both mentally wounded men, and we see that through the psychological-horror elements of the game. This has been the first game in a long time that has had me on the edge of my seat holding my breath.
The whole team over at Shattered Mirror have done a fantastic job creating a real character and a beautifully constructed world to show his turmoil. The apartment shifts and changes as we progress, showing how our character’s mind has been warped over time and allowing us a glimpse of what’s going on inside his head. This is my favorite part of this game and I think the team behind it have nailed the broken-man character down… Figuratively.
Not Getting His Deposit Back
One thing that has to be clear is the beautifully detailed environments that comprise The Apartment. As you can see from the screenshots I’ve littered around this article, the developers have done a fantastic job in sculpting the world around James Sachs. Below I will show a before and after shot of the apartment. You can decide if he’s getting his deposit back.
Another important point to make about this game is the use of transitions, which are almost seamless and help maintain the immersion. One minute you’re freaking out and running down a burning hallway as you frantically check door handles; next thing you know you’ve stepped into the police headquarters and you realize that it was all in the character’s mind. They really help keep the flow of the game going and make the player uncertain about what could be around the corner.
The Apartment Gets Lethal
I mentioned before that I liked three-quarters of the Apartment and now I’ll briefly get into that. Unfortunately, if I were to explain it in detail I would ruin the ending. The final leg of the game takes a turn from walking sim with physics puzzles, to something straight out of Call of Duty but with a clunky S.T.A.L.K.E.R feel. We go from frustratingly trying to solve puzzles to going all guns blazing. It just felt out of place!
I would have loved to see James fall further into his despair and no, there is no pun intended there. The ending just felt rushed and out of place. Even the voice-acting seemed out of place towards the end. Since we’re talking about audio, one thing to quickly mention is that some dialogue audio fluctuates. I think this is something the developers may need to polish. Oh, and at one point I did fall through the world…
My biggest issue with the game was its pace. In the beginning, this title drew me in so well with its dark gritty feel slowly turned into some sort of Hollywood showdown at the end.
Rent or Avoid?
Despite the ending, I still enjoyed The Apartment. I think the character development for James was great and the level design suited the atmosphere perfectly. The story and puzzles fit perfectly together to keep the player focused and enthralled in the story. Put all these elements together and I think there’s a nice little game here. I say little but, depending on how well you fare with the puzzles, this will take you a few hours.
It took me six. I did get quite angry.
Want to see inside the mind of a broken-down detective on the hunt for a serial killer? Want puzzles that make your blood vessels writhe like a drunk on the dancefloor? Well, the Apartment may be for you!