Since the game is short, I’ll keep this short as well. Serena is a free game that can be downloaded from Steam, and apparently it was made by 5 different developers and was some sort of collaboration between developers and people who like point-and-click mystery adventures.
So what’s it about? It’s about a man who is waiting for his wife in a wood cabin, possibly out in the forest from Evil Dead somewhere. His wife’s name? Serena, of course. The cabin is dark and the sunlight shines through every window. The game’s story is about their relationship. From looking at their photograph together, to the man having whimsical memories of every characteristic in the cabin, from the kitchen table to the books, to the chairs, bed, cooker, contents of their bedside tables and the rug. You click on these items numerous times, because a lot of exposition has clearly gone into each 1, until they start to repeat themselves. After a short while, it might feel like you’ve seen and heard everything and don’t know what to do…the answer is in going back to every item, especially the photograph on the kitchen table. Eventually the picture changes…as does the man’s behaviour and his memories of his dear Serena, leading to the ability to see and hear more things.
At first glance, this might look a little like Gone Home. It isn’t. This game is much, much smaller in exploration scale and you can only move around by clicking, so your mouse is your primary controller. Due to the game’s incredibly short length, there is also no save option. Either you start the game and complete it the whole way though, or you leave and then start it from scratch. The cabin’s design is nicely done, but from certain angles, it doesn’t look well insulated. The lighting in this game is very good, and the graphics are nice with some good textures, even with the drained colours and slight sepia tone. The controls are very simple, but also passable at best. To the point that this isn’t really a game but an interactive story. The music is possibly the game’s best characteristic. It’s lovely in places…but also frightening when it needs to be (Yes, there’s a little bit of horror here, and due to the quiet, mundaneness and atmosphere, it does feel tense as it progresses). The story itself is…good, but not great. I already had my assumptions as to what’s happening as the man’s character develops through his personal belongings, and in a way I’m thankful that my predictions didn’t come to pass. The ending is powerful, and in general it is a dark story.
Would I recommend this game? Only if you have an hour or 2 to spare and have steam. It’s good for a free game, but in reality, if you had to pay more than a few quid for it (due to its length and lack of gameplay/puzzle solving), I think it would receive a few complaints or bad reviews.
Overall rating: ** out of 5 (1 star for gameplay, 4 stars for music, 3.5 stars for graphics, 4 stars for art design, 3 stars for story)