Belladonna is a simple and very short point-and-click adventure game that leans heavily on the legend of Frankenstein and his monster. You awaken at the start of the game, wrapped in bandages, utterly alone with no memory of who or where you are. The brass hoop and giant clockwork key turning slowly in your head tells you that you’re not entirely human, but in order to find out more, you’ll have to explore the manor you woke up in. Thankfully, whoever lived here before was kind enough to tear out their diary pages and leave them for you to find. The story slowly unfolds as you wander through the house, but the game is extremely linear. It leads the you by the nose to the next place you need to be, instead of allowing you to stumble and work it out on your own. It’s almost as if Belladonna was afraid to be too challenging, so it erred on the side of caution, leaving players with unsatisfying gameplay.
The exposition in the journal pages is more than a little clunky; the characters jump to conclusions with very little information or even motivation to do so. There’s little more reasoning behind character decisions than the plot requires. The good scientist’s descent into madness and the choices he makes are so sudden and drastic that they catch the player off guard, leaving them wondering if they’ve missed a part of the story. The characters, in spite of the lovely voice acting, are so 2-dimensional that they become impossible for players to connect with and give no reason for them to care what happens. In fact, the only NPC I cared about in this game was the cat, and that doesn’t go well.
The game also doesn’t allow players to change any settings, even restricting the more basic controls, such as volume. This might be easily overlooked if not for a key bug I found while writing this article. You may be wondering why there aren’t any more screenshots of the game, when normally we try to have several. This is because the same button to take a screenshot through Steam (F12) causes the game to suddenly, and without warning or confirmation, delete the current saved game. No longer able to load our previous playthrough, we’re left with the daunting decision to play through this dry, bare bones game again, or just throw our hands up and walk away. I chose the latter.
The biggest problem Belladonna faces is that it’s far too short. It’s easily finished within an hour and there wasn’t much to explore or see. We’re led from room to room as if on rails, and every puzzle was already solved for us in the journal pages players find conveniently in the room we need them. Then, right as the story begins to hit a good pace and the player is being drawn into the world, it stops abruptly, as if we ran into a brick wall. The game ends so suddenly that we’re left feeling as if we’re playing a prologue, or perhaps the beginning of an episodic style game. The sad thing is, there doesn’t seem to be any more to it. I can’t find any indication that Belladonna shouldn’t be judged as a full, standalone game with no sequels planned, and on that it fails to perform. Belladonna is, simply put, forgettable in every way.