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Backlogged

Published on September 19th, 2014 | by Chris Scott

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Backlogged: The 39 Steps

Over the last five years I’ve bought a lot of games via sales on Steam, Xbox Live, and PSN that I’ve never got around to playing. Backlogged is an attempt to rectify that while chronicling my thoughts on those titles in a more informal approach.

As I’ve mentioned many times before, I love a good story. Because of this, I have an awful lot of adventure games backlogged. One of those adventure games is The 39 Steps, and while looking through my backlog, it was literally the next game down on my Steam list below the weird KGB adventure I started with. And while I have no intention of sifting through my games in alphabetical order, something about The 39 Steps drew me in.

The marketing for The 39 Steps indicated that its source material, a novel by John Buchan, was a major influence on Ian Flemming’s James Bond character, and being as this was an adaptation of that, I felt I couldn’t go wrong. I mean, I like James Bond and intriguing spy stuff, so an adventure game in that vein seems right up my alley.

But calling The 39 Steps an adventure game is a bit misleading. It isn’t really a game but rather a mildly interactive visual adaptation of the novel. The 39 Steps doesn’t require much of its players other than their attention. Aside from some limited scene exploration where you find things and the occasional series of sequential mouse movements that bar narrative progression, The 39 Steps mostly just takes you for a visual and auditory ride through the book.

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This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, just not what I was initially expecting. Once I came to terms with what The 39 Steps really was, I buckled in and allowed the story to take me where it would. And it took me some places.

The story starts with Richard Hannay returning home from a mining expedition to find a London that he doesn’t necessarily feel he fits in anymore. He doesn’t have much time to dwell on his place in the world, though, as he is quickly thrust into a matter of international intrigue that could set the world on a path for war. Framed for a murder he didn’t commit, Hannay is forced to go on the run. Chased out of London, he heads for his ancestral homeland of Scotland and dodges his pursuers in a series of adventures. Eventually finding allies, he reveals the plot and sets out helping the British government to thwart it.

The story falls apart a bit toward the end, but for the most part I was engaged enough by the narrative to forget that I wasn’t really doing much of anything, outside of mouse clicks here and there. The entire thing took roughly four hours (complete with a 100% achievement progress) broken up into chapters that take about 10-20 minutes apiece. And while I can’t recommend it as a great adventure game, as an interactive experience that tells an engaging story, it’s well worth your time.

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