If someone were to tell me I'd be required to use my social skills in a game, there are a few conclusions I might draw. I'd think they meant coordinating a group effort in something like Left 4 Dead or restraining my temper against adolescents suggesting I "probably work at Hooters" (it's happened, folks).
What wouldn't cross my mind is the thought that I'd have to be reading body language and facial cues to determine my next action. But wouldn't you know it, The Act involves exactly that.
The Act is a wonderfully drawn, cartoon-style game that tells a simple story of love. But wordlessly wooing the lady in question is a lot harder than the simple storyline, and game mechanic, sounds. Players control Edgar, the protagonist, with a swipe to the left or right. Typically, a swipe to the right moves Edgar closer to his lady. Move too fast and she winces at your boldness. Move too slow and she grows bored and will walk away. She's a fickle woman, that Sylvia.
Subtle movements can make a world of a difference, but other sequences in the interactive comedy require drastic changes in behaviour to match the setting. The Act is sometimes complicated, sometimes intuitive. But paying attention to cues, both obvious and obscured ones, is key to reacting appropriately to them.
The Act isn't always about pursuing the woman of Edgar's dreams. Edgar gets himself into some weird situations, where he has to fight off his boss or navigate a hospital bed in full speed down the hospital corridors. At brief moments, it'll feel like you're playing Temple Run, swiping left and right to avoid obstacles.
Edgar's forays into a Mr. Bean episode are exciting moments that break up the more complex scenarios where players have to read other characters' expressions correctly. Sometimes this means mimicking people's behaviour to fit in with the crowd. Sometimes you have to juggle different priorities, making sure to keep a balance and keep everyone happy. There's a lot of acting involved in The Act.
Background music alternates between jazz and orchestral, always remaining cinematic. It's used both for effect, putting you in the mood of the character and the setting, but also to help guide your behaviour. Tenser music gives the sensation that Edgar is moving too aggressively. Certain sounds will drop to indicate that Sylvia is relaxing from anger. But even with the help, her mood can be difficult to turn around.
If you were to tell someone: "Here's a game that's an interesting look at behavioural studies," they might not immediately jump into the app store to buy it. But The Act is a test of your ability to read social cues, and to respond to them appropriately. Fortunately for the game — and unfortunately for real life — you get three tries and infinite continues to get it just right. Who knew socializing could be so difficult?
The Act ($2.99) [iTunes App Store]