Perils of Man
If you’ve been missing a sense of mystery in video games, you’ve come to the right place. Perils of Man is a traditional adventure game for iOS platforms with an enigmatic tale at its core. You play as Anna Eberling, a sixteen-year-old girl and the youngest in a long line of successful inventors and scientists. However, Anna’s father, Max, and great great great grandfather, Thomas, both disappeared from public life in the prime of their careers. Why? That’s for you to find out.
For her birthday, Anna’s mother gives her an old shoebox from her father Max, which contains a purple glass vial with something unidentifiable in the center. She has always been curious about her past: how her father left a banquet and triggered a fire alarm right before the ceiling of the building collapsed, why he was always unnecessarily wearing sunglasses, and what, if anything, Thomas Eberling has to do with it. The glass vial sparks her investigation inside her missing father’s mansion where only she and her ghost-obsessed mother live.
Perils of Man is a very traditional adventure game in which Anna collects objects that seem to have little purpose in the present, but have very important purposes in the future. To solve puzzles you use objects picked up in one room on other objects in another room. The first major one involves trying to get an old mechanical diorama to work, an heirloom of Thomas Eberling. Activating the diorama reveals an important plot point that hints at the context of Thomas’s disappearance, without revealing why it happened. Some of the objects used in puzzles are intuitive, others are much less so. There are occasionally more complex puzzles that stray from the typical “combine A with B and use on C,” like one that involves the Fibonacci sequence. In typical adventure game fashion, Anna has a comment or line of dialogue on almost anything you tap on.
The presentation is cartoonish and all the characters are somewhat exaggerated (Anna’s mom seems like she was a reject from The Addams Family). The setting of a creepy mansion is appropriate for this kind of mystery tale; it feels in many ways like it’s taking an old English mystery novel and translating it into a game. One of the nice touches I noticed was instead of static transitions from room to room, Perils of Man has very smooth dynamic transitions from one room to the next, making it feel like everywhere you go is interconnected.
Perils of Man's intriguing story is the main hook. The puzzle elements are tricky and satisfying, but it is the curiosity to know what's revealed next that propels the game forward. It starts off with perplexing premise, and the conundrum only gets deeper and darker as the game goes along. With the resurgence of narrative driven games like The Walking Dead and Gone Home, it’s nice to see more of these types of games. So if a good old-fashioned mystery is something you’re interested in, Perils of Man should more than satisfy that itch – provided you’re comfortable with adventure games. The first chapter of Perils of Man is available now, but the full game is expected to roll out in the next few months on iOS for $4.99. Chapter one (which is the demo I played) is free on the iTunes Store, and is described as approximately 10% of the full game.