A lot of games out there are just like all of the others. Point-and-click adventure games with puzzles that help you solve a giant quest and everyone lives happily ever after. Aftermath Media realized there was room for something new, and their finished product is Tender Loving Care: A Dangerous Prescription ... for fun! While it's not an adventure game per se, it has enough adventure elements to warrant a review, and most definitely mature adventure fans should give this unique game a look.
Plot: Six months ago there was a car accident. Michael was driving the vehicle; his six-year-old daughter Jody was sitting in the passenger seat, without a seatbelt. Out of nowhere, an oak tree comes into view. The next thing you know, Jody crashes through the front window, blood everywhere. She didn't survive. Jody's mother Allison did not take too well to this sudden death. To put it in layman's terms, she flipped out. In her mind, Jody is alive, the accident did not happen. Everything is fine. Poor Michael, having to put up with Allison's problems for six months, living with incredible guilt of being the cause of her daughter's death. A suggestion by the family's psychologist was to bring in a psychiatric nurse to help heal the problems. This is where the game opens up. Kathryn, a gorgeous, mysterious lady, pulls into the driveway of the farmhouse, claiming to be the nurse appointed to stay here for a few weeks, or months, depending on how much work is needed to be done. At first, her ways of treatment seem odd. As the game progresses, you start to wonder who this woman really is. A twisted story of sex, lies and sanity awaits. At times it seems the subject of sex and nudity is pushed too far. Some players may not want to see a naked woman throwing herself against a window for everyone outside to see her. On the other hand, maybe some of you may get kick out of that kind of stuff. Because the plot is deep and well thought out, it gets a grade of B+.
Graphics: There is not much I can say about the graphics of Tender Loving Care except that they are nothing special. Movie scenes are full motion video with a black line every other line (as in Sierra'sPhantasmagoria 2) and are slightly pixelated. Exploration scenes, when you are looking for another TAT quiz to take, are 3D-rendered and quite nice. However, it is incredibly slow to move from scene to scene and to a close-up. I often found myself waiting five seconds just to move closer to a laptop computer to see what e-mail had been received. The game does get credit for the amount of exploration and interactivity. It was nice to see what was going behind the scenes, digging deeper than actually needed, and everything is portrayed realistically and effectively. Because of the flaws in the graphic system, the game is rated a C+ in this category.
Sound Music and Acting: Since TLC is an "interactive movie," it should be expected that the acting would be acceptable at the least, and it excels in this category. Actors consist of Michael Esposito (Michael Overton), Beth Tegarden (Kathryn Randolph), Marie Caldare (Allison Overton), and John Hurt (Dr. Turner) as the main characters, and each and every one of them has done a fantastic job. John Hurt, being the more experienced of the group, seems to have done the best out of the four, showing happiness, anger and confusion through the course of the game. Music and sound effects seem to be placed in just the right areas. It seems, for me at least, that sound effects would come a little late. I would open up a drawer and then a few seconds later the sound of a drawer being opened would be played. This could be due to the fact that the game's engine is slow. Tender Loving Care is rated an A- in this category.
Puzzles: The game doesn't exactly have puzzles, at least not of the kind that you may be familiar with. Basically you are placed in the game to try to help Dr. Turner out in healing the Overton family of their psychiatric problems. You are shown a video clip of what is going on in the house now and then asked questions about what you think about what you just saw, as well as some personal questions about yourself. After this you are thrown into the game environment in search of the next TAT quiz, and the process continues. The "puzzles" in this game (or the lack thereof), get a grade of B.
Final Grade: Tender Loving Care is not a typical adventure game; in fact, Aftermath Media is not even categorizing it as a graphic adventure. Instead, it is considered an "interactive movie" similar toPhantasmagoria but with a design twist. It is definitely original, and we felt it deserved a fair review on our site. I must say I thoroughly enjoyed the game, and an added bonus, and a credit to the designers, is that it is replayable--there are many paths to the end and a few different endings. I must say that I did not try the other solutions, but have talked to people who have, and they are all unique and thrilling. If you are tired of the run-of-the-mill adventure games produced this year, you will most definitely want to give Tender Loving Care a chance.
Final Grade: B+
CD ROM (as reviewed)
8 MB RAM
2X CD-ROM drive
8 MB free hard drive space
16 MB RAM
DVD-ROM drive and MPEG2 decoder card
8 MB free hard drive space