Accidental Queens has become one of my favourite studios ever, as they seem to understand how to use this interactive media for telling stories in unique ways, while also provide messages to the audience in calm and approachable manners. This can already be seen in their previous projects, the Lost Phone games, which I highly recommend for their clever storytelling and gameplay. Alt-Frequencies takes another approach by switching out the phones as the core concepts and instead uses a radio this time. I was puzzled at their new direction, but I ended up pre-ordering this title. And I am glad I did.
Radio Ga Ga!
The team behind Alt-Frequencies has previously dealt with problems of identity and harassment, but has taken a slightly new direction this time. To not give away too much spoilers, this time the story is about general human rights in a democratic world. It is more political with its setup than the previous titles, but never in a forced or shallow manner. Everything is presented through clear ideals and the game even explores multiple perspectives, while still providing a clear and important message of its own. It is lovely that the developers try to present as much context to the matter as possible, while still being upfront and respectable with their own take on it.
The morale is strong and the message is well integrated, but how it is all played out aesthetically, is just as great. Everything is told through radio channels, and it is very reminiscent of old shows using only audio to tell stories through sound effects, dialogues, and monologues. The atmosphere is further enhanced by the different types of content creators, such as the news reporters, political debaters, and strange entertainers. There are a lot of cheesy elements in this setup adding to this mood, with my favourite being the strange toothbrush commercial that is over the top. I also simply enjoy hearing the hosts’ varied reactions to whenever you comment with something that they have no idea on how to reply to.
However, while they each have a their own quirks, I cannot say I remember any of the hosts. This is rather due to them taking a backseat to the overall plot, but it is a shame that the significant characters to the story are also forgettable. I mainly remember the dog for barking in agreements or disagreements in political debates, and that is about it. Still, it does not change the fact that the discussions of false free will are wonderfully done, and made more entertaining through this inviting and cheesy concept. This story even has a supernatural element to it that adds to the atmosphere and story. It might not be Accidental Queens strongest work, but still engaging, unique and fascinating. Maybe they should start their own podcast?
Story Score: 8.5/10
Listen and learn
The concept of this title is that you now have acquired a special radio. It is a traditional FM unit interestingly enough, and one you have more interactivity with than any other ones before. You can change between channels and the game automatically lets you tune in to one, but you can also interact with the hosts. You do this through recording their statements or questions, and can then play them for other hosts to listen and react to. Through this concept, it will become severely important to pay attention to what they ask for or if they have information valuable to you.
This is actually a pretty clever setup for a puzzle-title, as you will have to listen to everything they say, and due to a strange force that is relevant to the overall plot, everyone repeats themselves. This makes it easy to get involved in what is being said, note down clues that might come in handy, and always be able to find the right elements to record. The game is never stingy about when you give the right records to the correct shows, but will still require you to listen to the clues so you know exactly what is required in order to proceed.
Although, the game is not difficult and with only a handful of stations to deal with, this is definitely a manageable title. I honestly struggled only at the end portion, before I realised how silly I was to not pay fully attention. The game is broken up into five chapters, with one tutorial included. These segments are uneven in length, and it can feel off to not have a consistent flow throughout the playthrough. Luckily, these are only minor gripes, as the game provides a decent challenge and you can always skip dialogues if you want to.
Sadly, there are some other minor oddities that I still question. You can only hold one record at each given time, and while I never needed more to progress, I simply wish I could hold onto more in case my answer was wrong. I am also questioning why I could not alter the frequencies for more immersion, when the game relies heavily on such a unique technology. However, that is really it for the problems I have with this title, as Alt-Frequencies knows how long it needs to be and is a sweet experience that makes me actually nostalgic for the traditional radios. An audio concept I hope will be revisited.
Gameplay Score: 7/10
As a clever idea, the visuals are made to be simplistic. You only have a radio on a table and pleasing colours all around, with the shows’ logos being presented in the middle. I believe this was done on purpose in order to give the game more focus to the audio and be more relaxing. Although, I will say that the mobile version looks much better and actually reminds me of an app that you would have to fondle with in real life, which I do find very immersive and charming.
Because of the minimalistic visuals and this being a game surrounding a radio, voice acting will be severely important and all are strong here. All of the characters have clear personalities in their voices, and truly feel like they are trying to reach the audience in their own ways. This is all made more hilarious when they are being excessive with their setups, as it is all beautifully made to be cringy and authentic to how radio shows can be. Again, it is all believable due to none of them going overboard, but just enough to be entertaining. A wonderful addition, are the close captions for helping those not able to hear well to also enjoy this title. How considerable of the team!
Then there is the music, as the hosts do need a break every few minutes. Alt-Frequencies soundtrack is varied and ultimately neat, changing between punk rock, pop, and easy guitar to name a few genres. I really do love how all of these fit within the themes of the game’s story and setup subtly, giving this title a lovely tone even here. In fact, the songs themselves are truly catchy and something I could see myself listening to on long car rides due to their variety in notes. The effects of static sounds and muffled frequencies are just the creaming on top of this lovely presented game.
Presentation Score: 9/10
This change seems to have done Accidental Queens well, and I am surprised by how different, yet familiar and solid everything is. Telling the story through radio shows and puzzling together clues on how to get further, really made this into an immersive experience, and I am glad the visuals are not highlighted to make the audio less of a focus. It is a short game that is easy to take a breather to, and since you can now get this in a compilation with the teams two other titles, I would say there is no reason to skip on this. Accidental Queens knows how to tell a story through interactive media and create wonderful immersion, even with only the audio to go by. That is saying something.