Monday, March 24, 2008

Let's get this party started...

While I was away, some really important games were released in the adventure genre. Some in very unique ways. In particular, I am talking about the new Sam and Max series by Telltale Games. Hooray for episodic adventure! When I found out about this in 2006, I was very excited to see what it would be like. This weekend I took my very first spin around the series through Gametap. I love Gametap. Get more adventure titles Gametap! They have a pretty good selection of classic games, as it is...and I will be making a lot of use of my membership for this blog.
Anyway, I decided to compile my thoughts about Episodes 1 and 2 of the first season into one sort of mini-review article. Here are my impressions:

Sam and Max Season 1 Episode 1: Culture Shock

In Culture Shock, Sam and Max get a call from Bosco that there are former child TV stars putting up a video display case in his store. When Sam and Max investigate, they discover that a brainwashing ex TV star named Brady Culture is behind it all. Interesting premise.

Playing through this first episode is what made me remember how much I love adventure games. I was so excited to play a good third-person adventure. I was really impressed that Telltale chose to stick with mouse-only driving. There’s something about keyboard controlling that damps the impact of a deep storyline for me. I did think that the fixed camera angle led to a claustrophobic feeling, but I can understand why they would want to do it that way as it did help me remain focused.

The characters were really well acted, and at times the writing was hilarious. However, the sound on the dialogue was sometimes a lack of a better word). The quality of the dialogue audio really stood out against the crisp clear music in the background. So that definitely made it more noticable. But, for me, it was a minor gripe. It didn’t make me want to quit playing.

The puzzles consisted of mildly challenging inventory puzzles, and a couple of good dialogue puzzles. It wasn’t at all difficult, but I found that not to be a deterrent. In fact, I think I enjoyed the game so much more because I always had a clear idea of what to do, and the solutions to the puzzles were very intuitive. Not to say I run from a hard puzzle. They were integrated very well into the plot, so I always felt like I was participating in the main plot. They were organized into three themed puzzles that led to a “boss-puzzle”.

Overall, this was a very fun game. It restored my belief that this genre is on an upswing. Subsequently, it made me want to begin this blog. On to # 2.

Sam and Max Season 1 Episode 2: Situation Comedy

In this episode a TV talk show host names Myra has trapped the audience in her studio and refuses to let them out. She’s forcing lame gifts on them. I found this very funny.

Many of the features I loved about the first episode made an encore appearance in Situation Comedy. There were also some improvements. The sound issue with the dialogue from the first episode was totally improved, so that was one less distraction.

The situations and puzzles in this episode were more fun, I thought. The TV studio parodies of popular TV shows were hilarious. So the puzzles are arranged in this episode, much like the first episode. There are three tv themed puzzles that lead up to the boss-confrontation puzzle with Myra.

Overall this episode felt shorter to me, but that might just be because I recognized a pattern and I did less exploring of the environment.

I want to play more of these. I intend to play them all, but my next blog will be about revisiting one of my favorite older games The Last Express...

Happy Adventuring.

Friday, March 21, 2008

From the tiniest acorns....

Adventure Games, how do I love thee, let me count the ways....

In general, I love pc and console games. I can't recall a time in my life where I wasn't fixated on one game or another. My earliest recollections are Centipede and Donkey Kong on the big arcade machines that were at my corner store while I was growing up. My experiences with those inspired me to beg my parents for an NES until their ears bled. I won, as I expected. Never underestimate the combination of obsession and patience in children.

I was not the owner of a computer then, I didn't even really have access to one outside of school (however, I did have some brief but fabulous experiences with Infocom games on the Apple II at school). So my first real graphical adventure experience was on the NES. It was a game called Deja Vu. In Deja Vu, you awaken from being drugged in a bathroom stall, and must solve a mystery set in a hard-boiled, noir-style environment. I couldn't believe they put this in a game. It affected me in ways I couldn't really describe to the people around me. It was like a book, but I could affect the outcome of the plot! And despite my lack of being able to entirely solve the mystery (that game had to be broken), Deja Vu lit my fire for adventure games. I didn't know that they were part of an established genre at the time. Perhaps that was for the best.

Then came Maniac Mansion. It had been released for quite some time before I got to play it, which was in the very early 90's. I was playing on an old Tandy 1000 at my then-boyfriend's house. I was so excited to find another story based game to immerse myself in. I skipped a few days of school, just to go over there and play it. This event opened my eyes to the amount of these games available to the realm of computer gaming. This is when my desire really took root.

So began the many years of lusting after the King's Quest boxes (Especially KQ 5, which had the most heavenly blue packaging). After a significant time pining away, I finally saved up enough money to get my first computer. My life changed forever. I went out and bought as many of these games as they had on the shelves. This was the mid-90's so what I was able to buy was mostly FMV cheesiness and the games from the studios of Lucas-Arts and Sierra On-Line. I was in love. I called in sick to work. I refused to leave my apartment. All I wanted to do was lose myself in these delightful stories. Sometimes they were so cheesy I felt a little guilty. I loved them all the more. Someone had to. I know I wasn't alone there, too.

I started haunting websites catering to the adventure gaming audience. For a little while, I contributed articles to Adventure Gamers. AG was and still is one of the most authoritative sources for adventure game news and related writing. I loved that. But then life got busy, and I had not quite the same time to indulge in my (relatively introverted) hobby. I hung up my writer hat and put my collection of games in storage. But now, I find myself with a special opportunity. I have more time for my hobby, and there are a lot of fantastic-looking games coming out, or released in recent years. I am also feeling the burning urge to play through a lot of the classics in my collection.

So it is time for me to begin this blog. I'm going to indulge in one of my most delicious obsessions, and I'm taking my trusty blog with me as I delve deep into the current trove of adventure games. How good (or bad) are the new games? Do the old games hold up? Was FMV really the stinker everyone thought it was? I intend to find out.

Happy Adventuring.