Absin review — Ghosts of the past

There is good reason why the pixel art style has risen in popularity in recent years. Some developers use it to emulate the visual appearance of games from the 8 and 16-bit era — or to realise their vision with the often limited budget of independent developers. One of these games is Absin, a missing persons mystery brought to us by Ryan “Fransis” Miller.

In Absin, you take the role of a private investigator tasked with finding a missing woman. Tyler, the victim’s father and the patriarch of an old aristocratic family, invites you to the family manor. Coincidentally, a ball is to be held at the manor within twenty-four hours, and all suspects are either guests or part of the family’s household.

Meeting old acquaintances.

Absin is a point-and-click adventure. The interface and controls are simple; mouse input for  movement, clicking to manage interacting with hotspots and an item bar is all you need. What sounds a bit like a digital version of Cluedo turns out to be quite a bit grimmer.

Absin is not a cheerful game. Most of the characters are flawed, if not outright terrible people. Nevertheless, everyone is willing to speak to you. You will spend quite some time chatting with everyone to find out more about the missing young woman, but also about her family, the manor and its current inhabitants.

The other half of your investigation consists of traditional inventory puzzles. There are a number of key items scattered throughout the mansion that give you access to more information and/or unlock new places. Thankfully, Absin keeps it simple and abstains from absurd combination puzzles, as it is ultimately about its story, not puzzles.

Interrogating the guests.

Visually, Absin uses the aforementioned pixel art style. The overall bleak atmosphere is in tune with the game’s atmosphere and tone. Some rooms and hallways feel a bit too large and empty, but Absin compensates for that with a fitting score and individual sprites for all characters.

Your investigation is likely to only take an hour. Interestingly, it is entirely up to you to decide when you want to end it. Once you are done snooping around, you can join the ball and move on to Absin’s finale.

You can do that right after the start, after exhausting all dialogue options and searching every room, or at any point in-between. Depending on your choices and findings, you will receive one of three endings and maybe learn a little bit about your protagonist.

Whta's in the pool?

The writing in Absin is generally good, if a bit heavy. Some of the bits of dialogue — especially the one from the introduction — could be right from the script of Max Payne. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing and the prose never gets too purple to break immersion. Absin takes on topics such as homophobia, drug abuse and depression, which adds to its bleakness.

Despite its short length, you should spare some time when you decide to dive into Absin. The game does not offer a save function and has to be completed in one go. While not generally an issue, this limitation is frustrating when the game crashes. Thankfully, this only happens rarely.

Some characters are friendly, most are not.

Absin is an interesting mystery adventure game. Its short length works mostly in its favour and its open structure is a somewhat unique approach to the traditional point-and-click adventure. If you like dark adventure games and have an hour to spare, give it a try.

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