The Act Review

The Act tells the classic story of a lovable underdog falling for a girl and having to overcome obstacles in order to get her attention. But here, you have to swipe left and right on the screen to make the hero overcome the obstacles. The Act is a top-notch cartoon masquerading as a game, and unfortunately the two parts never quite come together in harmony.

The underdog of the tale is Edgar, a window washer at a hospital who one day spies the nurse of his dreams through a window. But before he can confess his feelings for her, he has to make sure his oaf of a partner doesn’t get them both fired, and avoid a security guard as he makes his way through the hospital to meet her.

Be cool, bro, the boss is onto us.

Like in old timey cartoons there’s no voice acting in The Act, but the characters are wonderfully expressive, and you can always figure out what’s going on in the story. It’s also downright delightful how the music matches what’s happening onscreen. If this were just a cartoon short like the ones shown in the theater before Pixar films, it would be an endearing piece of cinema. It’s almost a shame they turned it into a game.

If you’ve played arcade classics like Dragon’s Lair or Space Ace, then you know the basic idea behind The Act. At many key points in the game, you take control of Edgar and help him achieve whatever he needs to achieve in the scene. But to do that, the only input available to you is to swipe left or right.

For instance, in one scene Edgar masquerades as a doctor and needs to blend in while interacting with a group of real doctors. Your job is to make sure he laughs and scowls at the appropriate time in the conversation. Swipe left and he smiles. Swipe left again and he giggles. Once more, and he doubles over with laughter, slapping the speaker on the back. Respond to the other characters appropriately, and you move on to the next scene. Act inappropriately– like cracking up too early during a joke– and you fail, making the scene start over.

Hey gurl. How you doin’?

The gameplay amounts to figuring out exactly when to swipe, in which direction, and how often. Finding the right swipes requires you to read the characters’ body language– which is great– but all too often it also requires trial and error, which is annoying. Because there’s no indication of how exactly how Edgar will react to your swipes, you’ll inevitably end up failing each scene several times before you succeed. When your actions become more nuanced later in the game and your failures reach double-digits, it becomes pull-your-hair-out frustrating.

Another problem with the game is its length, or lack thereof. The Act may have excellent production values, but it only took us about 30 minutes to complete from start to finish– and the majority of that time was spent failing and replaying scenes repeatedly before we could move on.

The idea behind The Act is a great one– a high-quality, playable cartoon. Unfortunately, they’ve fallen short here. We’re sure that without the gameplay elements The Act would be an extraordinary animated short, and we wish they let you watch it all by itself once you beat the game. But they don’t, and the lackluster gameplay and too-short length are enough that we can’t recommend buying it.

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