The Twenties Roar in A Golden Wake

Though most Adventure games focus on exciting careers like space exploration, freelance police work, and whatever the hell George Stobbart gets paid for, there are a growing number of games about more mundane activities. Phoenix Wright shows us there’s nothing more thrilling than the life of an attorney (who flagrantly disregards legal precedents and does no paperwork), while Moebius: Empire Rising provides a stunningly accurate simulation of what it’s like to watch paint dry. Now, for those of you who’ve always wondered what it’s like to sell real estate (in a boom period. To simulate the current market you only need to start sleeping in your car), Wadjet Eye and Grundislav Games have created A Golden Wake.

Alfred Banks is the son of a Manhattan real estate mogul, and he has every intention to live up to his father’s legacy. Unfortunately, the Winter of 1921 isn’t a great year for sales in New York, and his firm – the firm his father built – needs to let someone go. Alfie is their best salesman, but when his two coworkers frame him for fraud, he finds himself out on his ear. This may be a blessing in disguise, however, as it frees him to head down to Coral Gables in Florida, one of the fastest-growing markets in the nation. For a sharp-witted salesman, it could well be a gold mine.

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Alfie has a number of tools to help him strike it rich in the land boom. On top of the wit and conversational skills you expect of a point-and-click protagonist, he wields a powerful sense of “salesman’s intuition” that allows him to analyze a person’s appearance and body language to get a vague understanding of their personality. From there, it’s a simple matter of telling them what they want to hear – though it’s your job to make the final leap and figure out what that is. If you fail at that, you’ll have to find alternate methods of persuasion. The game doesn’t just concern itself with the pitch, though – you’ll also have to connect buyers with a home that suits their needs, and even perform home inspections.

A Golden Wake offers a fascinating look into one of the defining periods in America’s history, with its story and characters based on real people and events. For those familiar with the period, this is a story rife with dramatic irony. The real estate bubble is set to pop in a scant four years, and the Great Depression looms in the coming decade. It’s a long way up for Alfie, and an even longer way down.  Fortunately for him (though maybe not in terms of karma), he’s not above playing a little dirty. Whether he can play dirtier than the mob and politicians who dog his steps, though, remains to be seen.

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A Golden Wake is an AGS title, and it certainly works the part. Francisco Gonzalez, the man behind Grundislav Games, has a lot of experience working with the engine. His backgrounds capture the art deco look of the roaring 20s quite effectively using very few pixels (a look complimented by period-authentic jazz). His sprites are also nicely detailed, though their movements seem a bit stiff. They don’t scale to match the resolution of the backgrounds, which can be a little jarring, but that can be fixed by running the game using DirectDraw5 rather than DirectX9.

Though it’s not quite finished yet, what I’ve played of A Golden Wake is excellent. It combines old-school adventure sensibilities with unique sales-driven mechanics and a well-researched historical setting. Point and click nuts, Jazz hounds, and history buffs will find a lot to love when the game releases this Fall.