Adventure games are my go to genre when I want to get lost in either an amazing story, immersive world or hopefully both. Adventure games are about delivering a story with an incredible narrative that carries you through the game and keeps you engaged. First person adventures games have gotten a lot of attention recently because numerous games have been able to to deliver very strong games by utilising emotional narrative with high quality writing and immersive environmental design. Unfortunately for Mindfield Games P.O.L.L.E.N.(Pollen for short) fails to achieve the critical acclaim of the adventure games that have come before them.
Pollen tells the story of an unnamed character that’s sent to Saturn’s moon to investigate a corporately owned base studying a thing called “The Entity.” The game starts with you finishing up a personality test in front of a computer. You need to answer the last few questions to continue to get your employment at RAMA Industries.
The introduction then leads to the interior of your lander approaching the moon on Saturn, Titan. Once you land you begin to receive different instructions over your intercom. The first directions want you to turn on a generator to re-establish the com link on Saturn’s moon. After you successfully turn on the generator you begin to hear com chatter from a team that is still working on Titan and they are particularly distraught that RAMA has sent another agent against their requests. The narrative quickly makes you realise that RAMA Industries would like you to work as a dark agent and try to keep your objectives secret from the other team that is still working on Saturn.
Pollen’s introduction sets the tone for the rest of the game beautifully, but quickly fails to live up to its own hype. All exposition is delivered via audio logs, and cassette tapes found throughout the environment. Audio logs have become a tired of way of carrying a story especially since you are forced to stand still next to the cassette player to listen to them.
You also don’t encounter any of other humans during P.O.L.L.E.N all story telling is told through intercom. While this has worked incredible well in other games, for some reason here it seems very counterproductive. You quickly learn that “The Entity” is causing people at the research base to go insane, and to kill themselves or one another. You never see these actions actually happens, you arrive at the scene late and need to look at clues to try to figure out what exactly happened. Without ever experiencing the effects of the “The Entity” firsthand, the impact of Pollen’s premise is greatly diminished.
P.O.L.L.E.N.’s primary mechanic is an unexplained ability to travel between two alternate versions of the research base. You can actually leap forward into the future, where the Entity’s effects have killed all the researchers except for one. This “travel” allows you to transition in time in order to solve puzzles, which include bypassing locked doors, or returning to the past to get past debris. Unfortunately there is no explanation or reason as to why you are able to travel back and fourth through time. I feel that if they would of incorporated that into the story it would of brought in a new element that would of helped to carry the story further.
P.O.L.L.E.N.’s visual design is absolutely beautiful, especially when running the game on ultra settings, but the games falls short as soon as the narrative method fails to give it the substance that a game of this nature demands. The game is relatively short, can be completed in about 3 hours. I would recommend this game if you enjoy the first person adventure genre but keep in my that you’re not going to enjoy the story and will feel that this game could of been so much more!