Belladonna – What We Think
A one-man project from Swedish developer Niklas Hallin aka Neckbolt, Belladonna is a classic point-and-click adventure inspired by the gothic literature of Poe, Le Fanu and most especially Mary Shelly, with just a hint of steampunk – or rather wind-up clockpunk – to liven things up.
Starting off with the hoary cliché of a character waking up with no memory or sense of identity, Belladonna’s protagonist at least has a good excuse, as by all appearances she is a reanimated corpse (complete with a wind-up key in the back of her head). Her story, and the game’s central theme of a love triangle between a mad scientist in the Victor Frankenstein mold, his neglected wife and her maid, are revealed through various journal pages scattered through a decaying castle.
Thanks to some solid voice acting from Tess Baines, our protagonist is likeable and charming, voicing her thoughts aloud as she wanders around solving various inventory puzzles; particularly endearing is her habit of assigning names to the various inanimate objects (gargoyles, statues and the like) she encounters, many of which also include references to amuse the literary-minded.
There are a few indicators that Belladonna is a low-budget, one-man project – mostly the occasional grammatical error in the explication-heavy text, but overall this is solid effort – and even the more awkward elements add to the game’s charm. The protagonist’s animation is admittedly stiff, for example, but then again she is a walking corpse animated by clockwork gears.
Some Assembly Required
The game’s puzzle elements are standard inventory puzzles of the same kind we’ve seen in point and click adventures for the past 25 years or so, but thankfully they all make sense within the context of the story, and in the unlikely event that you get stuck, your protagonist will more often than not give you a clue as she thinks out loud. If anything, the puzzles could be a little more challenging.
In any case, the puzzles are primarily there to drive the story, which besides the obvious Frankenstein comparisons (both the book and the various films, as portrayed in the game’s laboratory scenes), features a murder mystery and a rather sordid love triangle. It also ends in with a dark twist, or rather with no twist ending where you might have expected one.
Frank ‘n Stylish
With its comparatively simple puzzles and short length – it can be easily completed in less than a couple hours – Belladonna does feel a little like the first act of a story rather than the entirety of one. And the twist/non-twist ending leaves you wanting to see what happens next. Hopefully, Hallin has more to come, but in the meantime, this is a solid little adventure game in the classic mode.
Watch the trailer for Belladonna below: