July 28, 2015 10:00 AM | John Bridgman
Frankenstein is possibly one of the most timeless tales of both science fiction and horror. Dealing with subjects on such a broad scope and yet so personal, it resonates deep with its reader and has had a long-standing impact on media. Thus it only follows to see it thematically and narratively inspire other works of fiction. One such tale, Belladonna, by the appropriately named Neckbolt, is at times beautiful and at others quite chilling, as suits a work inspired by Shelley's work.
Belladonna tells the story of a newly reborn creation, a mix of woman and clockwork, who has just returned from death. With no memory prior to waking up on the slab, you make your way through the family castle of Doctor Wolfram von Trauerschloss, and his late wife, Belladonna. You collect journal pages and solve puzzles in the lovingly well-drawn castle, and piece together the tragedy that befell the residents of the castle.
The puzzles you face in this point and click adventure game are simple. There's a minimal challenge, with the only obstacle really being whether or not you picked up the right objects in your exploration, and the game indicates clearly what can and can't be interacted with. Sometimes you need to combine two or more items to solve a puzzle, but even those are relatively straightforward. A word of warning to prospective players, though. There is a puzzle in this game that involves poisoning a cat, and this may be uncomfortable for some.
This game looks really good. The characters have a sort of unnatural feel in the way they move, and there's still a sort of grace in their animation. The stylized aesthetic also helps cement this uncanniness, while the castle itself is far more visually mundane. It contrasts the characters well with the world around them and reinforces their lack of belonging. The backgrounds are well-drawn and generally speaking interactive objects are easy to spot, and large enough to avoid pixel-hunting.
Your character, for being a reanimated corpse, has some surprising personality to her. This is brought out through her decent voice acting, though it is perhaps a bit inconsistent on some lines, as well as the writing itself. She talks about objects you click on, and speculates and theorizes about them in a charming way. She also has a habit of naming statues and similar objects throughout the castle, which warms you up the character and would be the basis to the achievements in the game, except they are non-functional.
The story itself is somewhat sad, especially as the realization of what occurred dawns on you. It's suitably tragic and it does an acceptable job of touching on some of the questions you would expect morally and philosophically of a work inspired by Frankenstein. It was a more authentically mature game than I was anticipating at first, and for that I am quite pleased.
Belladonna is a very good, but somewhat short point and click adventure game. It combines some pleasant yet uncanny visuals with a decent story for an experience that you can get through reasonably quickly. Its content, especially regarding the cat, may turn some players away from it, but if you're looking for something a bit macabre and mature, you will enjoy this, as will I think point and click fans who aren't worried if the puzzles are a little bit too easy.