Friday, 26 September 2008

Little Game with Big Content

Title: Little Girl In Underland
The Ivy (Erin Robinson)
Release date: 7 september 2008
Playtime: 5 minutes
Size: 7.3Mb

It's not really a game. Actually it's an interactive movie. But one with lots of humor. What else to expect from this author, who also made Nanobots and Spooks.

Always good for stunning graphics and, just like in Damsel, you can't do without the audio. No less than 10 voice actors were used to give the funny characters an even more funny voice. Again a perfect example of what audio can do to a game. Turn it off and the game isn't interesting anymore.

The story is based upon American McGee's 'Alice'. Just as evil but much funnier. It's a story we've all heard once: the girl who became very little and wandered around in a fantasy world in search of her way back. But in this case it's no fantasy world, is it? The communist regime is real (yes still) and the enemy is in everything. But it's up to Little Girl to fight it. And she will of course.

If you can spare 5 minutes, play the game. Your download will probably take longer. And if you wait long enough, after the credit roll you can unlock the bonus material.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

The sound of distress

Title: Damsel
Strange Visitor Productions
Release date: 25 september 2008
Playtime: 15 minutes
Size: 57.3Mb

A prince, a woodcutter and a dragon is what's needed to get the damsel out of her doorless tower. Are they any help? Not really. On the other hand. She couldn't have done it without them. Because they make the game to what it is: a fifteen minutes of fun.

With great, nice, clean graphics this game is a must play. With not too difficult puzzles it just something to get your mind off your daily business.

The best feature of this game is the voices. Although you can download the game without the voice pack, I'd say it's not an option. Download the full version and you'll see what real voice acting can contribute to a game. Windpiper, ElaineMC and Jesse Cox did a tremendous job here to give a voice to the characters. Especially Jesse as the prince made me laugh out loud. Together with the music of TwinMoon and the animations of Pijin Pastrana the game is complete. You can tell it's not the work of newbies.

Negative points? It's short. But that's on the other hand the positive side. With the subtitle Stress on the Tress this was the first chapter of more to come. The production team announced to have enough ideas for several situations and locations for Damsel to get out of. I just can't wait. I'm always prepared to help a Damsel....

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Questing with a smile

Title: Smiley's Quest
Release date: 22 september 2008
Playtime: 25 minutes
Size: 1.3Mb

Another oldie, or should I say new one? After a development time of over 5 years, the game is finally released. Not that it took that long to develop, it took that long to be found again. And then parts 1 (another part 1?) and part 2 were already released, according to the homepage of the author (although number 2 is not listed..).

After you wake up having had a nightmare, you realize it wasn't a nightmare at all or you're still dreaming and the police is at your door. So what else to do than take your money and run....

The game isn't very difficult. There are some logical puzzles in the sense that they are obvious and well hinted. When I reached the map with the car I though: not another police-quest clone... but it's not that bad. You don't have to drive for hours to find your destination and there aren't hundreds of option. Just 4 locations, close together. That saves a lot of annoyance.

What I particularly liked in the game was the switch to the house to find the meteor. A nice combination of logic, nice graphics and good navigation. Well done! Also the fact that you can choose two routes in the game, the easy way and the hard way, although you don't know which one is which when you have to choose.

The key-part combining puzzle might have been more of a challenge. The parts were quickly found and put together, the encrypted letter (very obviously hidden) could have been made more difficult encrypted to extend the game play. The trick in this case was the speed with which is was presented.

Overall it's a nice, fun, solid game that's not too difficult and has graphics that aren't messy and good to look at. Not brilliant, but nice. Not the huge downloads I've seen lately, a good sense of humor (buying a car can be very easy sometimes) and several dead bodies (a good game can't do without) and resurrections. So a good start of what could become a series. Or already is..? Curious what number two will be.. eeehh, number three.. no four... oh well.....

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

An island with melted cheese

Title: Nedy's Adventure
joecarl (Jose Carlos)
Release date: 18 september 2008
Playtime: 25 minutes
Size: 23.2Mb

This is an updated version of a game released in 2006.

The start of the game is very promising. A 3d leader that suggests there's a state of the art adventure coming up.... not.

With an intro in black and only text is nothing wrong. And the scene in the plane is also ok. Apart from the fact that you need to play a multiple choice quiz with questions that have nothing to do with the story to gain a key. And the fact that you jump first and then start wearing a parachute... (?). Other than that, the dropping was well presented. But after the landing I quickly lost interest. Not that the screens are messy or the characters are moving like boulders but the story for some reason isn't presented right.

There are too much sidelines in the story that have nothing to do with the plot. Would Jose stick to the facts and tell the basics of the story it would have been great. But I hate the quizzes with or without the multiple choice and questions/riddles that don't even touch the subject we're dealing with: solving the island mystery.

I think the riddles/quizzes were introduced to extend the game play. I wouldn't have missed them if they weren't there. Other than that, the puzzles are logical and very good solvable.

The music, relaxing according to Jose, is a bit too relaxing. Be careful not to fall asleep. It has no addition to the game, just background noise. And the English grammar and typos don't add to the joy of playing. Don't get me wrong: the game is good. The basics are: graphics, story. But not the way they are presented at the moment.

Monday, 22 September 2008

A flower that needs to grow...

Title: Flower Girl
toonaholic (John Sullivan)
Release date: 17 september 2008
Playtime: 10 minutes
Size: 36.7Mb

From the start of the game I was captured by the graphics style of this cute little production. My first thought was the resemblance with another kids game: Freddi Fish. The game itself isn't much but the character you meet along the way make up for it. You'll explore the area, which isn't big but want to know what's behind the corner: what will be the next character and what will it look like.

During the intro you'll get a good presentation of the graphics capability of the gamemaker. His spellings and grammar is lacking but not too bad to become annoying. The music is present but could have been made more in line with the game: more dramatic during intro, cheerful when wandering around and more serious when talking to characters. In the present form it's a nice way to get rid of the silence but doesn't really contribute.

Like said: the puzzle isn't much. Actually there isn't one. You just walk from place to place bringing items back and forth, resulting in other items. There are some hidden 'treasures' but there were some moments in the play that I couldn't quite follow. Maybe toonaholic had more in mind and didn't proceed with it (I still don't get the squirrel part) just to finish the game.

Then the size: it's a massive 36.7Mb compressed (67.2Mb uncompressed) and I wonder where that huge size comes from. The world you play in isn't that big, there isn't a great amount of animation and the music isn't that complex to eat up all those bites.

But all in all for a first one it's a polished graphics beauty but needs much more of a story and puzzle. This part is one for the kids. But I can't wait till Flower Girl grows up ...

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Another 45 miles to go.

Title: Revenge In Parelly Point
Release date: 15 July 2008
Playtime: 40 minutes
Size: 2.6Mb

My first thought when I started this game was: Sonny Bonds is back! I'm sure it wasn't intended that way but every move in this game feels like the earliest Police Quest.

And I love it. The best thing about this game isn't the adventure. There isn't much to figure out. At each point you'll get a clue and hint on what to do next and who to visit or where to go to. But the exact location isn't given. And that's where the fun starts.

In a cleverly constructed street system you drive around and must visit place to perform your next action. A lot of them aren't even needed to complete the game but make the game more fun: think about the environment and clean some rubbish. Or get a burger at the drive-through after you figured out how to get your money. Great fun!

Accompanied by great sound effects and nice scores taken from other sources, the game doesn't get boring for a long time. Although there could have been more puzzle elements, some less clues and more interaction at locations, the story is very well presented. Told in a way that captures the player and with a plot that isn't too obvious. You can feel the author is a great story teller.

This one is a must for the fans of the ancient Sierra adventure, especially of the police-type. Hopefully this one will be extended some day with more locations or get a sequel that hold even more sites to play in and more miles to cover in traffic. Drive carefully!

Monday, 23 June 2008

Janitor phone home

Title: Space Quest IV,5: Roger Wilco And The Voyage Home
AgentBauer (Peter Engel)
Release date: 15 June 2008
Playtime: 90 minutes
Size: 65.2Mb

Another adventure with the famous janitor in the main part. To fill the gap in the story between the original part IV (Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers, 1991) and part V (Roger Wilco in The Next Mutation, 1993) Peter Engel wrote another story.

The graphics are familiar, ripped from various SQ games so there's not much credit to give, other than that they're used well. With the exception of some graphics that didn't fit in the game, resolution wise. Then I refer to the character insets you see during the admission to the academy. The pictures are too 'real', not pixely enough like the other graphics. But that's the only negative thing I could come up with.

The music, the story, the animations. It's a fan made sequel, and a fan it must have been if you look at the work he must have had to rip the graphics, characters and backgrounds. Almost as much as drawing it yourself.

It's a believable story with lots of humor and of course the clumsiness of Roger. And a lot of good puzzles. Puzzles that need some thinking and revisits to places you've already explored. Some of the items you need are well hidden that makes the search for them even more challenging. But by reading the hints and comments that are given in the game the pieces will fall in place and Roger can go home. Or not? Because in part 5 he wasn't home. He was starting his training as a cadett. To know how he got there, you need to play the game. A must for Space Quest fans. And all other adventurers.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Nothing butt the naked truth

Title: Reality-on-the-Norm: Au Naturel
Release date: 18 May 2008
Playtime: 10 minutes
Size: 2.4Mb

The games is released some time ago already but I thought I'd wait until all discussions were done with. Because there was more to do about the acceptance of the game than there was to do about the game itself. And I still don't get it.

Let's be honest. The game isn't about the graphics. Being a Reality-On-The-Norm game, it's all in a downloadable pack for you (except for some extended parts here and there). It isn't about the story. It's the standard get this from there and bring that to here. I'm not really that impressed by the game.

The real fun of the game isn't in the game but in the world you play in. Just look at things, browse, try and have fun. Laugh about the humoristic responses, the twists in the dialogs, the monologues of the bum, the beer drinking of Death. That's where the power of the game is. That's where I had fun.

And the nudity? Oh well, as a publicity stunt it's a nice addition. Personally I don't bother. You'll get a huge warning at the start and you can choose if you want the private parts to be covered or not. And I don't understand all the commotion about the nudity. I was more shocked by the visual effects of the explosion in the Yahtzeebrand. But I never heard anyone discuss that. Why not? Because we see that every day, right? Kids be warned!

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Time to clean up.

Title: Laundry Day
Release date: 8 june 2008
Playtime: 5 minutes
Size: 4.3Mb

New to the game producing business this game started more as a test case. See what the reactions would be, how it's received by public and fellow developers. Because the game hasn't been added to the database yet, there has been only a few reactions.

You're playing Chris and before he goes on his date he needs to do his laundry. No candy bars because you have just enough money to do your laundry. That is, if you can get your laundry to the laundry room. Then you notice inflation also hit student dorms.

The game is (very) short but the level of puzzles is good and funny. With an inventory not found in the average adventure game it has an original touch. The story is well presented and the player isn't left without clues.

The graphics are the minor side of the game. That is to say, the graphics that are there are good but very small making searching for objects pixel hunts. Pity because there's more than enough space left to provide for larger graphics.
Not all objects are interactive leaving less possibilities to error in your puzzles. Besides that it can be confusing that you can't look at some objects, but use them anyway making the confusion bigger. But then again, it's a test case.

The intro music is nice, the 'puzzle' music gets annoying after a while so it's a good thing it's only a small game. Overall well done for a first one, I had a laugh for a few moments, and hopefully in the next one the screens aren't too clean.

The captain sings a different quay.

Title: Dread Mac Farlane
Release date: 30 april 2008 (FR)/20 may 2008 (EN)
Playtime: 70 minutes
Size: 63Mb

Another game from Marion, who has a thing for Peter Pan. First was the French version and a month later the game has been translated. And if you like Peter Pan- or Neverland stories, you can't miss this one!

The filesize is a massive 63Meg but it's worth every bit. The story is about a girl, Dread, who wants to be a pirate. During the game you'll learn about her past, present and future, her relationships with her father, mother, Peter Pan and all other well-known characters through well designed puzzles. Not too hard, not too easy, just right. It all fits in the type of game: it's an interactive comic book.

The original was a comic book and has been converted into an adventure game. With beautifull graphics, full of detail. During some conversations you get to see the characters in closeup and then you can see the real quality produced and the time and effort put into it. Accompanied by a very well balanced soundtrack, from the "yoho and a bottle of rum"-tunes to the squeeking birds, this production could fit easily into a commercial range.

So, no negative points? There are. What I found less pleasant was the storyline. You jump back and forth, from present through a flashback into history, back to the present and back again. After returning from the second flashback I lost track and it took me a while to pick up the story again. The difference between 'real' world and her imaginairy world is sometimes very little. But then again, isn't that also the case in real life? Maybe in the book it's easier to follow (I haven't read it), in this adventure I found it harder to cope with.

So what more can we wish for with this exquisit addition to the AGS games database? Well, I think this game would be perfect for an audio version. Let Dread have a real voice and let her speak up! I wonder what she would sound like...

Thursday, 29 May 2008

May MAGS madness?

Title: I'm not crazy, right? - The Cell
Release date: 25 may 2008
Playtime: 15 minutes
Size: 4,7Mb

An entry for the May edition of the MAGS competition with a conspiracy theme. Well, the only entry so we have a winner here! And a winner it is... or actually, can be.

You're Rolf and without knowing why, captured for five years already. But not much longer! You're going to escape. Easier said than done. But you have a secret weapon! A gift! You can 'feel' things.

The game has good, original graphics. The story is nicely build and there's an user action that you don't encounter in the everage adventure game: the 'sense' action. I think it's a bit overused but it's an original addition. The whole games is a big escape-the-rooms themed hunt for the exit. But the puzzles are too easy. The clues of them are already given during the intro of each room. So it's not much of a puzzle, it's more an excercise. That makes the length of the game on the short side. A pity because the game has much potential.

The puzzles could have been extended a bit more to enhance the gameplay. For instance the orb could have been more interactive (let the player do the work), the picture lock could have been with inventory items (collect images and apply those to a lock-pad) and the teleport pads could have been between rooms, not just a moat of goo (first get some items or solutions/hints elsewhere before proceeding). Now it's all done for you in a textual way and that eliminates a bit of the gameplay.

I'm just suggesting here because I very well realize that this was a timepressured effort and under those circumstances very well done. Certainly your first game.
The extras are great, certainly in the sewer maintenance area where you can do more than you have to. Good animation and good distraction. Some very bloody animations but if you don't mind the colour red and some violence, you'll have a good time here. Well used opportunities to extend the gameplay.

The author already said that there might be more episodes and I hope they will be under less pressure, have a bit harder puzzles and more user interaction. But to start your series this way is not mad ... eeehhh bad...

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Your dream turned into... an adventure game

Title: Feuersturm 2: Der Unheimliche Zug
Author: FireOrange
(Tobias Schmitt)
Release date: 13 may 2008
Playtime: 30 minutes
Size: 7Mb

The fourth game that was released within a week is one in German. Also the sequel to a series of many and, Andrew already predicted that, I missed the first, so, as also recommended by the author, I played that one first.

It's the same author as from the Second Moon series (published under the name das Tobi-AS) and having played these, I was pleasantly surprised.

Feuersturm is completely in the Lucas Art style, unlike Second Moon which is mostly photo manipulation, with the well known interface. With help from Loma, Raymann and
BlueGryphon, the game has decent made graphics and very good sound quality of the opening dialog. The game is completely in first person view and the navigational arrows in the screens remained, but less obvious. Improvements on all points here.

The story is based upon a dream (or maybe a nightmare) and all plays around the time of a firestorm, destroying and changing the world as we know it. You have been sleeping for 60 years and you're now looking for your brother (still). The story itself is fairly easy to understand but the fact that it's a non-native language for probably most of us makes it a bit harder. Add the fact that this is part 2 (without part 1 you wouldn't even know what was going on) and the technique of flashbacks and you're lost. At one point I didn't know who I was or where I was in the game. Furthermore is one of the first puzzles in the game a password puzzle. You need some knowledge of the language there. My tip: try this site (also without adventure games good fun) and you'll be closer to the solution.

An English translation (if there will be any) will make it easier. It doesn't take the joy away from the playing because there are a few pretty good puzzles in the game that don't need any translation. What struck me most was the fact that every action has it's unique response. Not the standard: "not now" or "you can't do that here" but good responses to your action that made the puzzles even more enjoyable and playable. The scenes aren't overcrowded with items, but also not empty to make it look like a rush-job (which this game clearly isn't).

My conclusion: if you have a reasonable German vocabulary and you like a few good puzzles to solve with good graphics and sounds, this is a game to play. And if you're stuck at some point because you don't know the meaning you can always try interglot to find out. If that doesn't help, the game might turn into a nightmare for you.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Looking for a puzzle?

Title: Cosmos Quest II: To Find a Sun
kinanev (Ilia Kinanev)
Release date: 12 may 2008
Playtime: 120 minutes
Size: 79Mb

To play this game, it is advised to play part 1 first.

Two years after the release of part 1, it now time for the sequel. One of the critiques of version one were the difficulty of the puzzles (illogical) and pixel hunting (objects not being very visible). And so, after having played the first one, my expectations of the sequel were very high.

Since the graphics are stunning, the sound effects and musical score are brilliant, one can only hope for a perfect game.

I can only say: I'm very disappointed! The graphics are again superb. The quality of backgrounds are really fabulous. The music that accompanies it, brings you in the right, futuristic mood. The story is very well build up, from intro to finish. It's a great atmosphere that one can get lost in for several hours. But you're rudely woken by the devilish illogical puzzles. By the almost not to complete arcade games. And that hurts!

The story continues where part 1 stopped. And almost immediately the player is confronted with a puzzle that's hard to solve. The player has to make assumptions, has to try and error and needs some luck to make up for the logic. I won't spoil anything but I can only say that it wouldn't have to be that hard if only some things were explained: the abbreviations on the panel and the plates on the floor. That's all needed to make this obstacle less frustrating. And some logic: on your way you cross two plates. Why doesn't the first one have the same effect as the second? But I'm talking too much detail here.

And then there are the arcade games. I counted four (I include the run-for-your-life one) and they were all of a level that one can question. Seeing the games as standalone, they'd be of a perfect level. You need at least several tries to reach your goal. But the problem here is that I'm an adventure gamer, not arcade. In general, I don't like arcades, at least not inside an adventure game. And certainly not of this level.

I play with two different type of mice: one optical and one trackball. The first for the detailed work, the second for the comfort of use. But both were very unsuitable for the games presented here. I admit, it's all a matter of taste and what's amusing for one isn't for another. It's a matter of taste. In my case: not my cuppa tea.

Now for the pixelhunting. There weren't that many objects that could be missed (although I'm 12 points short of the perfect score, so maybe these are the hidden objects..) but that's all compensated with exits. On planet Kusur you can go so many directions.... if you could only find them. You have to walk along every edge of every screen to see if there is one or more exit and even mid screen there are sections you can go and don't see (believe me, there are!). A bit more nuance, shadows of clearer footpaths could help out here. It's ok to wander around and explore but it shouldn't become an obsession.

The sad thing about it all is, is that it's a great game. Like said, graphics are superb. Sounds and music are nice to hear. Story is well build and told but all is overshadowed by the level of the puzzles. And that's a pity. But there's good news!

The last sentence of the game was: To be continued! So there will be a part 3! And let's hope that what wasn't learned from part 1 and returned in part 2 won't be back in part 3. But that's only for the puzzles, all the other elements are right on track!

Shoot! It's a mighty darn piece of work.

Title: Shoot, I Got Abducted!
Author: Ben304
(Ben Chandler)
Release date: 13 may 2008
Playtime: 15 minutes
Size: 1Mb

3 days. That's all it took for Ben to create this wonderful piece of work. The graphics, the music, the puzzles, the humor, the gamelength. It's all there and it's all balanced.

You're playing
Bob Cornhusk and are abducted by an alien. Captured in it's spaceship it's up to you to get out again. Use the objects, characters and most of all your fantasy to escape the room. It's a game for all type of adventurers, since the puzzles aren't too hard. Not the type of immediately solvable, but also not the 'I could never come up with that' type. An adventure games as it should be: explore, try, look and most of all, have fun. Because the humour in this game (I name Bessie for instance) is fantastic.

The only minor thing about the game is the language used, an Australian southern drawl, which makes that some of the dialogs can't be understood completely but that doesn't take away any of the game play. And the music, from Hillbilly style to John Denver's Take Me Home distract you from that.

Ben wouldn't be Ben if he'd already added a fourth day to the production process and granted most of the users wishes: In the updated version the intro is skippable, you can save and load a game now and some bugs were removed.

It takes some skill to make such a game in such an amount of time. I couldn't even do it in three years. Hopefully Ben has many more days to spare.

Friday, 16 May 2008

Are you infected yet?

Title: Infection - Episode 1 - The Ship
Author: WHAM
(Tomi Kahkonen)
Release date: 7 may 2008
Playtime: 30 minutes
Size: 97Mb

From someone new to the game making scene you don't know what to expect. I must say that the quality in general of the new games that were published recently by newcomers was of an extremely high standard. This one is no exception.

The game was released some time ago already but version 1 contained such bugs that it effected the game play and continuity of the story. But Tomi did a very good job in addressing the comments from several players and released an update within a week. Version 1.1 is very well playable.

Based upon the templates of Beneath A Steel Sky, the controlling is a bit strange at first. Most is done by right-clicking (mind you, the inventory is the other way around) and walking through doors is done by clicking beyond them. But after a five minutes of playing, you don't know any better and it becomes second nature.

I won't tell you the story about Owen who finds his spaceship in problems. You can read it here. I won't tell you because it's what Tomi Kahkonen does best. And it's what ranks this game amongst the best: the storytelling. The object of the game is to save your spaceship from damage caused by a lunatic who's roaming the rooms with a syringe, infecting all lifeforms he encounters. Along the way you can meet the 'dude' several times and it's up to you to get rid of him. How and where is for you to find out. Some parts have a more arcade-like impression than adventure, although the update to version 1.1 took some of the arcade style away. I'm not disappointed.

From the title page until the credits you're captured by it. The graphics are somewhat less but in this case it doesn't matter. It has a bit of a nostalgic feeling. Think of it: a story of the future with graphics from the past. What more do you want? And who cares about the graphics in this case? It's only to support the epic.

There aren't any difficult puzzles in the game, making it suitable for both beginner and experienced player. It's more an interactive storytelling where each time it's clear what's expected of the player. There are no puzzles crossing each other so you can solve one problem at a time.

The voice acting is OK, although some parts have a bit less good quality, especially Ellie's part. Apart from some of her lines, which seem to be read from script instead of acted, it's done in a convincingly way. The accent of the captain made me think of Schwarzenegger. Add some accurate sound effects, a retro sound composed by
Tony Caven and the story is complete. Well.... actually not. Because this is just the first of hopefully many more to come.