April 27, 2012
At long last, the tantalizing conclusion for one of more interesting PNC series on the internet. A creation of partnership between Mateusz Skutnik and Karol Konwerski, the Covert Front series focuses on Kara’s stealthy adventure through traps and trickery while uncovering the ongoing mystery of Karl Von Toten’s disappearance and his unknown creation that may changes the fate of their world. Not to mention that Kara’s enemies are already hot on her trail, hoping to find Von Toten first before she does…
The game is afoot!
Oh, wrong genre… Moving on.
All in all, Covert Front 4 promises answers to series’ questions and it didn’t disappoints, even though it also left several new ones up to your interpretations. Deus ex opus it is not, but is it the Covert Front game we all have been waiting for? It definitely is, even though it is marginally different and a bit refreshing than the ones that came before it.
Beautifully muggy and that’s all you need to know. Soft earthy colors, ornate details, and elaborated architectures rule the game in every scene, bringing the world to life through their intricacy without being dominating. Such is the talent of Mateusz Skutnik to ground anything mystical and fantastical down to earth, making the atmosphere of Covert Front eerily realistic. This is especially true with some of more interesting revelations are brought to light, easily propelling the espionage genre into realm of science fiction. The graphic also lends to the game, clearly highlighting objects and areas of importance so navigations and puzzles are easier to handle than many clunky PNC games you can find on the internet.
While the game shone with brilliances, it pales in comparison to the marvelousness that is Covert Front 3′s sheer variety that perfectly compliment its depth. While Covert Front 4 isn’t no slouch when it comes to art style and atmosphere, it simply felt bit hollow in areas where it failed to create a sense of depth and immersion in ways where the very colorful and vibrant settings of CF3 succeeded. It is a bit difficult to feel that you’re actually venturing through different areas when the tones and atmospheres of art style felt very similar, causing the variety in the game to dull.
That is mostly due to situational writing and plot that bring the game to life where it failed to fulfilled its untapped potentials, which will be discussed more in later sections of this review. Even so, this game is gorgeous and that’s all you need to know.
9.2 / 10
Just as haunting and beautiful as the other games in the series. Soothing and unnerving soundtracks quietly dominating the game backing by well designed sound effects. Not to mention that solid voice acting of Kara didn’t detract from the experience.
The only complaint I have about the soundtrack that it isn’t very thrilling, but that’s just me. For the espionage stealth genre, do we really need Hollywood-caliber soundtracks? Even any high-tense non-melodic soundtrack can compliment the series just as well. As far as we’re concerned, we ask for nothing more.
10 / 10
A bit of mutated creature that is difficult to classified. It is not a failure in anyway. It is not a mixed bag either. Nor it is a huge success, even if it is very very good. The navigation is easy and clean, the puzzles are neither extremely difficult nor painfully easy, the menu system is a huge upgrade over the slightly clunky version of CF3. So what keeping this title from reaching the upper echelon of PNC gaming?
Once again it is the case of unfulfilled potential, failing to provide a nice of variety where CF3 succeeded at. Despite the interesting twist the game offered in the late-middle of second chapter, many of the navigations and puzzles felt like they’re artificially inserted there to extend play time and to constantly nudging us into right direction instead of stopping us and forcing us to think about where we need to go many times along the way.
The game’s first chapter in the airfield was the right step in direction, having us tracing down intel to certain address in Libson, but the game turned for weird after reaching the city in second chapter. I was turned off a bit when we found the address so easily, without any assistance of maps or locals. Not to mention that I thought the location would be guarded, making for a nice opportunity to sneak into the house for some sleuth-like inspection. After the smart shift in puzzle for a time, we were then lead to easily find the location of Von Toten by weird deus ex machine. Then for third chapter where I headed deeper into city, meeting military resistance. I wish there could be more to this stealth navigation, slipping through the army that is combing the city. The end puzzles leading to Von Toten are quite nice, though bit lacking in establishing a sense of satisfying payoff. At least we were treated to well directed cutscene at the end.
Covert Front 3 made better uses of its setting, knowing how to play out certain situations using certain kind of tools or skills. Covert Front 4 teased that for a while, but never played out its hand as effectively as CF3 does.
Even so, the unfulfilled potentials couldn’t bogged down what made the game so good: the wondrous airfield, huge city that is easy to navigate (a success considering how challenging that has to be), wicked twist in the middle of game, puzzles that are well designed and can hurt your brain. The whole experiences are constructed well as expected of Mateusz, even if the experiences felt bit shallow with missed potentials.
At least, I will always remember this game for THAT TWIST and some nice tributes, too. For those of you complaining about how difficult it is… if you’re not paying attention to the whole series and what this puzzle ask of you to do, then I pray for your sad sad soul :D
8.5 / 10
A satisfying conclusion that tied up the whole Covert Front story nicely, even if it left some plot holes and unanswered questions. What I love about the game is that it answered and concluded the story of Von Toten and Kara without any needed personal resolutions. The mission is over. That’s the vibe I am getting from the game and it is no less than satisfying.
Even so, there are areas of plot and details that bother me:
- Kara landing onto airfield… with German army already there? Why wasn’t she detected in first place?
- How could Kara find the address in Libson so easily without use of map or local? Was she that well trained or what?
- When Kara first stumbled upon the address, how did she get inside after getting passed out or knocked out? There were no guards shown at all, considering the importance of that location.
- How could the building where Von Toten is in be shimmering like that? If it is artificially created, then how come the army didn’t notice that? They couldn’t have ignore the beams or ripples of energy emanating from it.
Finally, what of the “Organization” that may have kidnapped and keeping Von Toten locked up? To not hear anything of it after being teased about it in three previous games is bit of a slap to the face. Considering that we finished the game having found Von Toten, lack of resolutions about the Organization is the biggest letdown of all. Not to mention that Von Toten’s machine may have fell into German’s hands considering that they’re combing the city, even when Von Toten clearly stated that he didn’t want it to happens. Another missed opportunity.
Even so, there are much to like about the plot with Kara being her usual stealthy self and Manfred being constantly hot on her tail. The final payoff in the end with Kara and Manfred is brutal yet effective. If you didn’t expect Kara to do that, then you forgot that she’s a badass secret agent :D Another of stand out is, of course, the mid-game twist, putting into questions of possibly everything around her and her future. The final scene with Von Toten and Kara is extremely fitting, given the espionage sensibility of the series.
Even with lot of clunky plot details bogging down the game, what I get from this experience that the story certainly went out with a high note.
9.2 / 10
As you can see, Covert Front 4 is an ambitious game that have a lot going on to live up to its expectations. It met most of them while falling well short of several others. Because of this, Covert Front 4 failed to snag the title of “Best in the Series” from amazing Covert Front 3. But don’t go ignoring this game… it may stab you in the back for your attentions when you at least expect it to and you would still love this killer.
I had a lot of fun with this game despite its shortcomings. It may not be one of the greatest games I ever played, but it is one of more enduring endings I have bear witnessed in PNC gaming. The adventures of Kara may have finally found its ending, but in our imaginations would she continues to thrive well into her future espionages.
A perfect end she very well deserved.
9.3 / 10
When we last saw Kara, protagonist of the Covert Front series, the turn-of-the-century badass espionage expert had just escaped a Zurich prison compound, and hijacked the plane that would take her to her next destination: Lisbon, Portugal. She remains hot on the trail of Karl Von Toten, the German scientist whose discoveries could tip the balance of this alternate universe’s World War. It’s time to save the free world. Karol Konwerski, Mateusz Skutnik, and the rest at Pastel Games bring you to the climactic finale of Kara’s mission in Covert Front 4: The Spark of Life, another episode of wonderful point-and-click adventuring.
Use the mouse to interact with the scene, clicking on an area when the icon changes to a hand to indicate you can do something there, or that there is something to be picked up. Some scenes are wide, and can be scrolled over by moving the cursor to the sides of the play screen. Kara’s inventory is stored at the bottom of the screen, and clicking on an item will either activate it, or ready it for use. And considering you’ll have lugged half a Craftsman tool chest of items by the end of the game, it’s pretty convenient.
Analysis: It has been a while since we’ve gone into the world of Covert Front. By our calender, she’s been flying that plane for three years now! Still, the time in development was obviously well spent, since Covert Front 4 is another polished entry in what has become a classic casual gaming series. The style of the installment has clearly evolved with the developers own, creating a work that fits perfectly with its predecessors, while undeniably exploring new, even fantastic, ground. The tone and quality is set in the first minutes of gameplay, as Kara coolly fixes her malfunctioning aircraft and sets down on an enemy airfield without breaking a sweat. Skulking about in rural daylight is a different kind of tension from the dark alleyways and creaking mansions Kara has explored in the past, but you will still look over your shoulder at every chirping bird and creaky door.
All the hallmarks of the series return, for good or for bad… mostly good. The uniquely shaded art-style once again perfectly captures the seedy cloak and dagger atmosphere of a world at war. The puzzles are as deviously conceived as you would expect from the makers of Submachine (and some of the screens late in the game definitely have the feel of that series). They’re heavy on the hot-spot hunting, but having to examine every screen for hidden alcoves and secret compartments is exactly what you would expect from a spy game. Still a little more guidance would have been appreciated, though especially, for one particular puzzle where an action must be repeated several times for an effect to take. Additionally, the sound effects and well-placed sparse bits of music are perfect at keeping things ominous, even if the voice-acting is a little bland.
Covert Front 4: The Spark of Life is not for beginners, either to adventure gaming or to the series. Even those who’ve played the previous installments might want to run through them again to refresh themselves of Kara’s universe and mission. Still, it is definitely the finale that the series deserves and that fans have desired. The only thing missing is “Kara Will Return in…From Lisbon With Love“, at the end of the credits, but perhaps that would be asking too much.
Prologue: Airplane Trouble
- After the opening credits, you’ll be in the cockpit with Kara. There’s a red light flashing on the console. Try the lever below it a few times and something will fall out underneath it. Not good.
- Look under the console (click the bottom of the screen). Take three things from the component that fell out, and take the lightbulb-looking thing to the left as well. Now to do some quick repairs.
- The red resistor goes in the socket with the other two like it. The fuse goes in the hole in the bottom of the device towards the upper right. The radio lamp goes in the socket next to the other radio lamp near the top middle.
- Now what to do with the blue resistor? Use it to bridge the gap between the two wire ends in the middle right.
- Now click above and to the right of where you set the blue resistor to return to the console, and trip the switch below the lights again to get things working again.
Chapter 1: The Airfield
- Scroll back and forth at the long area with the mouse cursor. There are five things of interest here: from left to right, the entrance gate, a tower, the plane you landed in, a tank truck, and the far right wall.
- There’s nothing you can do at the tower or entrance gate because of all the soldiers around. So let’s go to the far wall at the far right. The fence goes around the whole airfield, good to know. But zoom in on that dumpster-looking thing.
- Take the paper and look at it. A password! Good to know. Now back out and check out the plane. Zoom in on the propellor, then the hatch to the right of it. Open the hatch and take the rag and handle inside.
- Zoom out twice, then click near the lower left of the plane to look under it. Take the two wires. Now zoom out all the way.
- Look at the tank truck now. Zoom in on the hatch on the front of the truck. Two sliders are up, so slide them down, then click the handle to open the hatch. Inside, attach the two pieces of wire to the two terminals of the battery (marked + and -).
- Zoom out, then in on the hatch on the side near where Kara left the free ends of the wires. Use the spouter handle on the triangular notch to open the spout, then stick the cloth into the hole. Lastly, click the wire ends to make sparks until the cloth is ignited.
- The tower is now unguarded! Go there. You can’t use the car since they didn’t leave the key, so zoom in on the tower door. Look at the console below the speaker and enter the eight-digit password from the document. (It’s different every game.)
- Then zoom out and flip the lever. If you got the password right, the door will open. Go inside and up the stairs, then enter the red door to watch Kara clobber a soldier.
- Take the hat (middle left on the console), the photograph (far left on the console), and the envelope (on the floor). Also, open the top drawer towards the left, and grab the key inside (you won’t see it until you zoom in on the drawer’s interior).
- Look at the envelope; close it and look at the address on it. Leave the room and look to the right. Take the uniform where it’s hanging. Now go outside the tower and use the key on the car parked outside.
- You’re on your way out!
Chapter 2: Lisbon
- Click near the lower left of the city view (it says “R. do Regedor”). Pass through the arch in the middle-right to get to Campo de Santa Clara (“Campo” means “street”, by the way).
- Approach the green-colored house to the left and click the doorbell to watch a slightly weird cutscene that (somehow) ends with you in a sparse room with four walls and no door.
- No door… just a weird console. No door no door no door no door… aargh, all I can think about is door. Enter “door” on the console. (Left lever is clear, right lever is enter. Note that it’s missing a T while you’re there.)
- It did something? Back away and turn around to see a door! But it’s locked. Someone has a weird sense of humor.
- Maybe it’ll work again. Try “key” on the console to make a key appear on another wall. Take it and use it to unlock the door.
- Look outside… okay, THAT is weird. The sign above says “Karl von Toten’s study room”, so maybe that’s significant. Also, grab the T key on the ledge.
- Go back to the console and put the T where it belongs. What can we summon now that we’ve got a T? How about Karl von Toten himself? Type “karl von toten” (don’t forget the spaces) and pull the right lever.
- It… worked? Talk to him in his chair and he’ll vanish. Turn around and you’ll find the door now leads somewhere sensible. That was really weird… let’s just leave for now. Click the bottom of the screen, then the front door (top middle).
- Now look at that storage shed towards the right. Open it and take the crowbar; it’ll be very useful. Now backtrack, go inside the green house again, and click the LEFT edge of the screen this time to face a new door.
- Inside the new door is a rather unremarkable but vaguely familiar room. Look in the pipe on the right; you’ll see something glinting out of reach. Use the crowbar to snag it; it’s a small key.
- It’s too small to open any door… how about the mailboxes in this room’s foyer? One of them’s got a broken lock, but it’s empty. Keep trying the small key on different mailboxes until you find one that works– more specifically, the cluster of boxes on the right, third row from the top, second box from the right– then take the door handle from it.
- Back up and turn right again. You’re facing the study door, but you don’t need to be in there anymore. Go up the stairs to the attic door, and open it with the door handle.
- Climb out the window and up onto the roof. Hey, what’s that weird flickering house towards the left? Click it to look at it, then backtrack ALL the way to the view of the city you started the chapter at.
- Inspect the nameless green building near the fountain. Go straight through the arches to the end of the chapter.
Chapter 3: Karl von Toten
- You can’t approach the soldiers, so head down the alley to the right. Take the bronze coin (“cachet”) from the bucket, then back away to the original view. Now turn right and head down that path.
- When you reach the grating, pry it off with the crowbar and go down that passage. It ends at a lightbulb pointing at a blank wall…? Weird.
- Go back one screen and note the hole in the contraption. Set the cachet in and watch the new passageway appear as the light turns on. (How does that even…?) Go that way.
- Go right and stop at the blue force field. Look left from there and you’ll wind up looking at a fusebox. Sever the wires with the crowbar, then back up one screen and enter the doorway. Click on the man at the desk and watch the cutscene.
April 10, 2012
April 7, 2012
January 6, 2010
Wrapping up 2009 means ranking over at Jay’s. Once again we’re going strong and last year was very fruitful, you can tell by our share of games in Jay’s nominations. This year we got 7 nominations in three categories and I’m not telling you to vote for our games, because the whole collection is astounding, I’m just letting you know in which categories you can find our games ;). Nothing obligatory, there are lots of good games there. Just saying where we are.
So, there they are:
- adventure (Submachine 6, Covert Front 3, the Fog Fall 2);
- escape (the Great House Escape);
- point and click (Bermuda Triangle Escape, Mandrake 1, the Scene of the Crime);
Remember to check out all the games before voting. You can vote only once per day, so make sure you’re voting for those you like best. I’m not saying ours. ;)
July 17, 2009
Kara is still looking for Karl von Toten. But in the process to her surprize she finds someone completely different. Or maybe he finds her?… This time we travel to Zurich, where we have only one night to explore the city and it’s mysteries…
It’s been long two years since the previous installment of this series. I have to say this one is opus magnum, not only it’s the biggest game I’ve ever created, it took longest development time as well. But that you probably know. With that taken off my chest, now I can devote myself to creating Submachine 6. Phew. Enjoy the game and don’t forget to comment!
Covert Front series:
- Covert Front episode 1: all quiet on the covert front
- Covert Front episode 2: station on the horizon
- Covert Front episode 3: night in Zurich
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