An FMV game with a talented cast, Vegas Tales is well written and performed but is a little rough around the edges. The Finger Guns Review.
The FMV genre is really blossoming right now. A genre that was once considered dead and buried is seeing a real resurgence, world wide. What’s quite interesting is that the only thing that many of these games share is the use of filmed footage because the genre has also become incredibly diverse too. From Rom-coms to thrillers, mysteries to cheesy comedies, the FMV genre is encompassing a lot these days. The latest of these games, Vegas Tales, is expanding that horizon further. It doesn’t fit into the “interactive movie” corner of FMV gaming that so many titles have adopted. Instead, it has more in common with Telling Lies, acting more as player guided exploratory conversations than a movie.
The premise for Vegas Tales is pretty interesting: Mr Davenport, the owner or the Bellflower Casino Resort in Vegas, is dying. He only has a few months left to live. Having dedicated his life to his casino, Mr Davenport has never had the time or inclination to make friends or raise a family. This is where the player comes in. Mr Davenport has asked you to interview 4 potential candidates, all of whom are being paid to speak to you, under the guise that you’re an author writing a book on the Bellflower. Your aim is to question these 4 potential heirs to find out if they have any secrets to help make Mr Davenport make an informed decision.
On paper, the 4 heirs that Mr Davenport has selected are all kind of suitable, at least via his own twisted logic. I guess it must be difficult making a short list if you’ve got very few human connections because almost all of these are total strangers to the hotel owner. There’s Ashley, a magician who has been performing her act at the Bellflower since it was last renovated. Then there’s the accident prone Mallory who has bounced through life with misfortunate colouring her every experience until she arrived at the Bellflower. Third on this list are the Goodly family, made up of Alice, Walter and the youngest and targeted heir, Sara. The family spend their annual holiday at the Bellflower to relax after spending the rest of the year doing massive amounts of volunteer work. Lastly, we have Todd and Becca, a newlywed couple that are spending their honeymoon at the Bellflower. The casino owner hopes that this connection – having spent the happiest moments of their relationship there – will make the loving couple a decent owner of the resort.
This game is called ‘Vegas Tales’ for a reason and the Sin City is renown for it’s wild and outlandish stories. Needless to say the 4 potential heirs are not at all what they initially seem like. They all have a secret they’re hiding and it’s your job to interview these people to tease out that nugget of truth. Some of these are obvious while others can really catch you off guard.
Every interview starts with a handful of broad topics to talk about. As the interviewee answers these questions, anything they say of interest opens up a new topic of conversation. For example, if one character says something about spending some time in prison, “Prison?” becomes a topic to choose from. Select that and you’ll pursue this line of questioning. These are all presented in a list on the left hand side of a pretty rudimentary menu screen.
Playing Your Cards Right
The characters you get to grill in Vegas Tales are all colourful cards and thoroughly engaging people. There’s some real depth to these characters, brought together by a well written script and a talented cast of actors that really lean into the roles.
Kim Rhodes (Supernatural, The Suite Life) stars as the abrasive Ashley. She’s forthright, bold and despite her profession as a magician, is nor much of a people person. She’s not afraid to say some shocking things and her general demeanour makes it difficult to determine if she’s telling the truth or simply trying to get a rise out of you (the player/interviewer). While she says some despicable stuff, she’s strangely lovable. Kim plays this down the line with a dead pan face that really sells a character that’s easy to like but difficult to trust.
Katie Marovitch (Kingpin Katie, CollegeHumour) plays the hapless Mallory, a character that runs on a knife edge between endearing and mildly annoying. Through some fault of her own, Mallory has found herself in some of the most unfortunate situations I’ve ever heard committed to film. In one example, she went to a bank dressed in a costume when a group of bank robbers wearing similar costumes tried to rob the place. She ended up being arrested alongside the criminals. Her whole life has been one disaster after another and while it’s ultimately quite sad, there are a few moments of schadenfreude to enjoy here too. Katie nails the foppish character here to a tee.
Isabella Blake-Thomas (Secret Society of Second Born Royals), Kimberly Brown (Halloweentown) and Daniel Kountz (Youthful Daze) all have great chemistry as the Goodly family. This trio comes across as wholesome, pure and maybe a little too good to be true. Rather than being the virtue signalling type, Sara Goodly lets Alice and Walter talk her up, both of which are obviously brimming with pride over Sara’s achievements and charity work. The interview with this trio has one of the most shocking revelations within Vegas Tales that smartly plays with any preconceptions you might have of the family. The acting of these 3 comes across as both pure and likable yet very obviously hiding something just beneath the surface is excellent.
Finally we have Todd and Becca, the newlyweds. Their issue is more obvious to spot than the others but that doesn’t make it any more fun to spend time with. Daniel Rashid (Stargate Origins, Beast Beast) and Katie Baker (What/If, Liza on Demand) have a bristling energy as they bounce off of one another.
The main cast is topped off by Tim Russ – Tuvok from Star Trek: Voyager! – who brings a kindly energy to the roll of Mr Davenport. When I think “casino manager”, I don’t see the friendly face of Tim Russ but he really does bring a warm feeling to the role.
Together, the key cast and a decent script make for some engrossing conversations. Even when you’re not digging in to their past to find the foibles, they’re all colourful cards that are entertaining to spend time with and with dialogue trees you’d like to exhaust.
The Rough End of Vegas
It’s a shame that some bugs, rough edges and unfortunate design decisions take the shine off of the entertaining narrative core of Vegas Tales.
For a game set in a Vegas hotel, the actual set that each person’s interview takes place in fails to portray that feel. The same blue couch in front of the same blank backing is featured in every characters discussion. It feels plain and drab to be part of a high end Vegas hotel. A bit of green screen to present a different background would have been far more appealing.
There’s some limits to the conversations in Vegas Tales too. There’s one particular conversation point for each character that will progress the overarching narrative. The only issue is that when you do find this one particular topic, it locks the rest of the conversations off. If you happen to stumble across this by accident, you then won’t be able to check out any other narrative routes you might have wanted too without replaying the game.
This is another aspect of Vegas Tales that feels out of touch. Most modern day FMV games allow you to skip scenes you’ve already seen before. That’s not the case here. There seems to be a way to skip sections in the PC version of this title but that patch doesn’t seem to have reached the PS5 version. If you want to see all of the 4 endings in this game, you’ll have to replay the whole game 4 times or manipulate the save files to skip to the end points.
There’s a few bugs in Vegas Tales too. On two separate occasions, I clicked on a topic and instead of triggering a video, the screen went totally black. This black screen just hangs there. After closing the game and reopening it, it had saved in a position as if I had watched the video. If I wanted to watch these scenes, I’d have to replay the game.
This list of issues, combined with a lack of panache in the menu presentation, doesn’t totally ruin Vegas Tales but certainly puts a dampener on the quality script and acting talent on display. A little more attention to detail on presentation, and a patch to fix the bugs, and Vegas Tales could have been another high quality FMV game in a wave of high quality FMV games. Instead, it’s a passable collection of interactive conversations that are caught in the wake of much better titles.
Some quality acting performing a fun script that features colourful, interesting characters is gambled away with some drab presentation, a few glitches and some out-of-touch design decisions. FMV game fans will still get something out of Vegas Tales but it’s an ‘also-ran’ in a genre that’s improving with every passing month.
Vegas Tales is available now on PS5 (review platform), PC, PS4 and PC.
Developer: FMV Interactive
Publisher: FMV Interactive
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, a copy of the game was purchased. For our full review policy, please go here.
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