A Golden Wake is a slice of historical fiction based in the Florida land boom of the 1920s. After Alfie Banks loses his job at his father’s real estate agency in Manhattan, he moves to Miami to help George Merrick open up Coral Gables and make his father proud. This point-and-click adventure title uses real historical and local figures and bases its events around the Jazz Age, the Great Depression, and two landmark hurricanes. You are a man put in a desperate situation as he repeatedly tries to follow his true American Dream, and you find yourself making unthinkable decisions because you feel for him.
For a small game from a one-man studio, the details are closely attended to. It is fully voice acted with Alfie’s character sounding like a spot-on Rob Lowe impression. The writing is everything you could ask from a period piece, down to corny one-lines like, “Ain’t that just the berries?” The graphics are basic, reminiscent of the pixellated adventures in the 1990s. The developer hit exactly what he was aiming for though the occasional attempts at adding pupils look a little…kooky:
The game is easy by point-and-click standards–and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. For you to make it through your average adventure game with little to no trouble at all, you must follow whatever convoluted logic the creator had while in development. If you can’t get into this often impossible mindset, the only thing you can use is luck. Here you get your options narrowed down and clear tasks asked of you by the self-appointed movers and shakers Alfie works for. Even better is locations disappear from the map of Miami as you finish and find everything you needed to. This means that if you start to take the “click all over the screen and hope for the best” approach, you won’t waste your time somewhere with nothing to find.
Though I appreciate and respect the authenticity in the details, especially considering this title comes from a one-man indie studio, it becomes grating after a while. For example, each time you leave your sales office, you must stick around while Alfie walks to his lemon of a T-Bird, waits for the engine to turn over, and then watch it crawl out of the dusty parking lot. When working within a genre often filled with wrong turns, missed chances, and careless mistakes, you don’t want to sit through a repetitive and unstoppable animation before you can backtrack to the right place. Some of the descriptions are unneeded. At the beginning of the game, Banks put his hat on his desk. If you clicked on it, he went on to explain that he sets in on his desk because the office doesn’t have a coat rack. Even though said hat played as a catalyst for future events, I still didn’t need to know that.
Technically it was great despite its simplicity. Occasionally I had to restart the game because the text windows started exiting out automatically before I could read them, but it wasn’t a hassle. You can save any time, and the load times are snappy.
For the story alone, I would have to recommend it. It is a small piece of history that I honestly wasn’t aware of but now want to read everything about. At one point you have to persuade William Jennings Bryan to do promotional work for you. Where else can you do that? It is short and more effective for it. If you have any interest in the subject, it is worth playing through with a walkthrough merely to enjoy the pacing and writing.
I read some customer reviews and many said this wasn’t their favorite from the publisher which has me pretty excited to play the others I have waiting for in my library. If it gets better than this, I have a fun few weeks to look forward to.