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.