Wednesday, August 26, 2009
The fall is already beginning. I think we are expecting a hot day tomorrow, the last gasp of summer. I think that in a couple of more weeks, sitting for hours in front of the screen will feel like a welcome activity. So this blog will become a bit more active then.
Hope you are all having a nice summer!
Sunday, July 5, 2009
Anyway, I ran across this little video of someone interviewing the actors on the set of Phantasmagoria. Enjoy.
Monday, May 11, 2009
This year marks the 10-year anniversary of the release of Amerzone: The Explorer's Legacy. I decided it might be fun to take a little time playing through all of B. Sokal's games. Up until this point, I've never finished one. So it will be fun to play through them all and write them up.
At the start of Amerzone, the player makes their way up to a tower wherein resides Alexandre Valembois, former explorer of Amerzone. He has been making some recent attempts to gain grant money to travel back to Amerzone. Upon entering his home the player finds him gasping at a table. He's been clinging to his last breath to charge the next comer by with a quest. The egg of the white birds must be returned to Amerzone. Many decades ago, he took the egg to show off to the European scientific community, and it made him a laughing stock. Unfortunately, his removal of the egg was the beginning of Amerzone's problems. Since they discovered it. One of this fellow explorer's and friends, Antonio Alvarez, has become a ruthless dictator there and the people and culture have withered under his grip. Can the egg help to reverse all of this loss and despair?
The English version of Amerzone was first released by publisher Casterman in October of 1999. The Microids developed title was also released to the Playstation console at a later date. Even though the game is 10 years old, it is still a worthy play. The graphics are very good. It is a little foggy looking during the video parts. Still, the scenery is delightful to behold and the environments are fantastic. I loved all the strange creatures I encountered. The game is point-and click and entirely in the first-person perspective.
The puzzles are either inventory-based or light mechanical puzzles. They are not overly difficult. The challenge was just right, I think. There are only a couple of times where exploring the environment feels like a bit of a maze, though not an outright maze. I didn't enjoy those parts, but fortunately they are not protracted.
The sound in this game really takes the cake. The soundtrack is nice and unobtrusive, and the environment sounds are perfectly executed. Good sound really matters in making an experience enduring. I feel like the age of the graphics is offset by the clarity and appropriateness of the ambient sound.
There is very little character interaction, which I usually dislike. This time the world is so alive with creatures that I feel the absence of human characters very little.
One of the focal points of Amerzone is the Hydrofloat. It is an amazing vehicle that is a boat, helicopter, plane, submarine and sailboat. It is fun using it to access all the different parts of the world.
The game is short, which I didn't expect. However the ending is poetic. It all adds up to a satisfying experience that is more fun than challenge.
I traded for my copy on GameTZ, but this game can still be bought in stores and is available for download on The Adventure Shop. I also love stalking ebay for older titles like this.
There are some more in depth reviews at Adventuregamers, Just Adventure+, and Gameboomers.
Thursday, April 30, 2009
Poor Poirot. He can never seem to get away for a personal holiday. Mystery follows him everywhere. And so it has to Smuggler's Island, the setting of Agatha Christie: Evil Under the Sun.
Released in October of 2007 Agatha Christie: Evil Under the Sun (EutS) is the third game in the series designed by Lee Sheldon for aWe Games and published by The Adventure Company. I have played one other game in the series, Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None, which I didn't enjoy, but I still wanted to give this game a try. I'm glad I did.
The setting is Smuggler's Island just off the coast of Leathercombe Bay. A popular spot for wealthy Brits to get away from the hustle and bustle of mainland life. Among the vacationers is the popular actress, and unfortunate murder victim, Arlena Stuart. What unfolds there is a spontaneous mystery that plucks the famous Hercule Poirot out of his relaxing vacation and plunks him right into a whodunnit with all his fellow guests on holiday.
The story of EutS is told in a very interesting way. Basically the events are being told from the memory of Poirot to his friend Hastings as a way to pass the time during an air-raid curfew. The character the player plays is actually Hastings, playing through the memory of Poirot. Sometimes, Hastings will say something Poirot never would, and a funny conversation will happen of camera between the characters. It added a levity that the last game in the series I played did not have. It was welcome. In my opinion, it's always good to chuckle a bit during a serious game.
It helped, too, that the voice acting was top notch. All of the sounds in the game were good. The ambient sounds supported the scenes without being too noticeable. The music was very well-composed and suited well to every scene.
Poirot as a character was very well modeled and animated. And he put his hat on and off depending on whether he is in or outdoors. The other character models in the game were very good, but they were animated poorly. Most of the walks were very strange looking, like they had a stick up the rear. And when they talked they could have used a lot more facial expression.
The background art in the game was fabulous. It was immersive and beautiful. The island was fun to explore and I never felt like it took too long to get anywhere because the player can double-click warp to the next screen. Kudos for that!
The puzzles were average. Some of them were really interesting. I got concerned the devs would put a maze in there, but we were spared that sort of thing. In fact, Poirot humorously refuses to go galivanting about. This made EutS much more enjoyable.
Overall, I liked it. I wouldn't say it's a classic, but it's definitely worth a try. I played this game on my Gametap sub, but you can purchase it just about anywhere games are sold online and they also have it at Big Fish Games and The Adventure Shop.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Monday, April 20, 2009
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Saturday, April 11, 2009
Dracula Resurrection was published in 2000 by DreamCatcher. From the start, it was clear that developer Canal+ Multimedia had grand plans for this storyline and characters. At the time of the release of Dracula Resurrection, they already had a sequel in production.
The storyline is a continuation of the events in BramStoker's famous Gothic novel. Dracula has been temporarily defeated. Mina still has Dracula's blood coursing through her veins, and it's beginning ot call her. She feels an overwhelming desire to head back to Transylvania and takes off, which throws her husband, Jonathan Harker, into a frenzy of concern. The player takes the role of Jonathan, headed into the cold, harsh lands of Transylvania to get to Dracula's castle and rescue his wayward love.
For nine-year-old game, I was really impressed. The graphics were really not bad. While the game is first-person point-and-click at every point the player can turn 360 degrees and take in everything in the scene around them. It adds a great deal of immersiveness. The character models are amazing. I wish the animation lived up to the amazingly detailed models and textures. It was just ok, rather stiff and sparsely done. There were a few really exciting, well directed cutscenes.
The scenery was interesting. Every time the player climbs stairs there is an animation played of going up or down stairs. This takes a second to load, but seeing the stairs is better than the click (poof) stair climbing that was in so many games at this time.
The story was alright. Dracula is a great story universe, and they managed to bring all the atmosphere and loneliness of Johnathan Harker's character to the table. It felt a little stunted, but it's obviously a setup for the second game in this series, which I haven't played(but it's on the list).
The puzzles were pretty easy. Mostly inventory-based and some very light mechanical puzzles. Enjoyable overall and not detracting too much from the story...which I enjoy, but I know some others do not.
The had solid sound design. Music was supportive of the design and the sound effects were always appropriate and well placed. Very polished. There aren't a lot of voices, but the voice-overs were pretty good. There are no tracks of Jonathan explaining items in the game, so it feels pretty lonely sometimes...but that serves the subject well.
Overall, pretty good. If you can stand playing older games (which I never seem to get sick of, takes me back), Dracula Resurrection is one to try. It has to be run in Win98 compatibility mode though, so be warned. It will not work if you don't set the compatibility. I purchased this game as a part of a compilation “Vault of Darkness”. It can be found on ebay or gametz.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
I just wanna take the opportunity to say that I would squeal like a 12-year-old girl at a Hannah Montana concert if this comes to pass.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Monday, April 6, 2009
It's 1729, and there's been a murder on a colonial island on which pirates used to lure unfortunate ships to it's shores and raid them. There's talk of treasure, a curse, and of a dark history surrounding the family that enjoys power and privilege on Dead Reefs. The crown has sent Amadey Finvinerro, an investigator, to conduct an inquiry in the death of the Baron's son. But something far more sinister than murder is afoot, and it's up to Amadey Finvinerro to uncover the truth.
Released in 2007, Dead Reefs is the first third-person perspective offering from Canadian developer, Streko-Graphics and publisher The Adventure Company. The start of the game got me very excited. I love history and I was really looking forward to exploring the setting.
Right off the game is rather user-unfriendly. The developer chose to make the game keyboard control only. This is kind of hard to get the hang of, but once I did there were few problems using the controls. The only thing about the keyboard control was that it felt stiff and like a console-port, which detracts from the overall enjoyment.
The graphics are not bad. The colors are somber and washed out, to add to the atmosphere. The game is in real-time 3D and uses the Virtools engine. The problem is, You cannot change the settings. That was really annoying. Really, the models aren't much improved over what was available in games in 2002, but the textures are high quality and the overall effect is very polished. In this game, I don't think that real-time 3D added anything exciting. In other kinds of games, being able to walk around everywhere is more exciting, because things are spawning and trying to kill you. Even in some other adventure games, there's interaction between the NPCs going on which you can catch and that makes such freedom exciting. Gabriel Knight 3 is a good example of that type of design. In Dead Reefs, it just feels like a lot of walking around and trying doors that go nowhere. Not fun at all.
The game sounds pretty good. Only a couple of times did the sound effects feel repetitive. Music was sometimes comic in style which really clashed with everything in the game, because there was very little humor. There was an understatement here or there, but really no attempts to lighten the mood. Voice acting was above average. Which is all I really have to say about it.
Sometimes I didn't care for the puzzles.
I actually got pretty frustrated and used a walkthrough from Gameboomers. There are a good variety of puzzles represented in the game, but the inventory-based ones were rather illogical at times. The mechanical puzzles were enjoyable. Then there were a couple of mazes...*shudder*.
The gothic-style story has multiple endings. From what I've read about it, there are a number of dead ends but I didn't encounter any.
Overall, I am disappointed. I was so excited with the premise, and there's so much richness to draw upon from this era of history. Also, drawing upon Lovecraft, there is a wealth of emotion that could have be inspired, but feels faint. Sometimes the characters are interesting, but there's not really enough interaction with them, and there's a lot of walking around trying to figure out which door to use and listening to the same line of dialogue over and over again as they are all locked. This detracted from the story elements. I didn't have any fun. Oh well they can't all be classics. Your mileage may vary.
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Host Master and the Conquest of Humor is an old-school point-and-click style adventure mini-game extravaganza. It's been posted all over the net by now, but I just had a chance to play it. It's pretty awesome. Especially if you are a Tim Schafer fan, like myself. Go check it out!
Monday, March 23, 2009
It's only in a limited private beta right now, but if you want to check out the website there's an overview and some cool concept art.
Anyway, I'm also playing Dead Reefs and hopefully will have an article up about it in a couple of days.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Oz is just not the same as it was when Dorothy blew into town and landed her house on the Wicked Witch of the East. The culture of Oz has faced down the threat of the Phanfasms and the resulting war brought about an Oz-wide ban on magic without a license. The prohibition on magic has fueled fiery underbelly of Oz with bootleggers of magic items and other proponents of corruption.
This is the world of Emerald City Confidential developed by Wadjet Eye Games and published by Play First last month. This is my first time playing a Wadjet game and overall it was really enjoyable.
The art style was great. Cute cartoon characters on an art deco-ish background. Every part of the city had it's own color palette just like in the books. Petra was a really adorable character for such a hardened ex-military detective. The devs really took the time to be detailed with the animations. For instance, Petra is in a fitted skirt, so they animate her riding side-saddle on a horse, like a lady should. It was a great detail, and one I think could have been easily overlooked. There is also a collection mini-game that rewards the player with concept art sketches of the characters.
The writing was very, very good. Honestly....I can forgive a lot of things for good writing. After all, narrative is the whole point of this genre as far as I am concerned. ECC is funny and I chuckled out loud several times. It's quite linear, but for me that isn't a problem at all. I very much enjoyed the new versions of the characters and their background as to how they ended up where they are. The female characters are strong and interesting, which I always consider a bonus.
Gameplay was straight forward and pretty easy. Mostly inventory-based puzzles. Petra sometimes casts magic spells and they are actually items you use from the inventory. It reminded me of Zork: Grand Inquisitor (I think, it's been a while) The puzzles are logical and there is an in game hint system if you just aren't feeling it or get stuck. Being published by Play First, Emerald City Confidential does feel more casual compared to some of the more hardcore, puzzley adventure titles I have played. I didn't really mind this at all. It let me focus on the story and was relaxing to play.
This game sounds great, for the most part. The music was very well done and never seemed to get in the way, though I did turn it down a little to hear the voices more clearly. Speaking of the voices, the voice-over work is top notch. My one gripe here is that they voice files are over-compressed and they sounded a bit low grade. I assume this was to keep the download size smaller, but actually I'm not sure why. I would have enjoyed higher quality voices and would have spent the extra hard drive space on it. It would be cool for Play First to give an option here.
My other gripe is the ending. It feels very abrupt. It's also quite predictable and could have been a bit more challenging. Even though it sort of undermines the satisfaction, it doesn't cast a shadow over the whole experience.
Overall, I have to say I really enjoyed this. It was an adorable story and felt pretty polished. I can tell that a lot of hard work went into Emerald City Confidential. This game makes me want to play the other titles in the Wadjet Eye Games catalogue. But don't take my word for it. There are more reviews at Game Set Watch, Adventuregamers, Gamezebo.
This game is only available as a download from Play First.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Friday, March 6, 2009
However, now there are a lot more resources for people trying to run these very stubborn games. A great site I found is the VOGONS: Very Old Games on New Systems forums. Advice from this site helped me figure out how to get the installer patched and running under DOSbox. I spent the first half of the day attempting a popular VDMSound method that didn't work for me at all. Anyway...after a lot of cursing and frustration I finally did get the installer working and the game installed. Now I have to tweak it to see the interactive bits...but the hard part is over, I think.
Update: RIPPER is up and running full screen with sound. :D Thanks VOGONS!
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Saturday, February 28, 2009
I honestly can't believe this. I never thought an FMV game would be made in this day an age. And it's pretty decent too. Casebook Episode 1: Kidnapped was published in November for digital download by New Zealand developer Areo. In it, you play yourself, as a forensic detective aiding your partner Detective James Burton. At the start of the game, you are responding to a report of a kidnapping. Little Greta and Harry Birchermann were kidnapped from their bedroom in the Birchermann house. Detective Burton gives you a rundown and a camera and sets you loose in the first crime scene, the kids' bedroom.
The camera must be magic, because it also collects trace samples just by taking pictures of them. When you have it full, you go back to the mobile crime lab van that you drove to the crime scene. Then you upload the evidence to a computer and play a series of forensic-themed mini-games. When you are really on to something( meaning you collect the right sample), Det. Burton will go interview a suspect or lead and the game plays a nice cutscene. When you get enough clues to significantly progress the investigation, a new crime scene is unlocked and new tasks are set before you.
For the most part, the video portions are of very high quality. The cutscenes of the interviews with Det. Burton are of the highest quality. The scenes where you are following the detective or he is talking to you are of lower quality and slightly blurry, though they enabled the mouse so that you can look around. That little detail does add something to the realism. The heavy compression is probably due to restrictions on download size at some distributor's websites.
The non-video parts of the game where you investigate the crime scenes also suffer from intermittent blurriness. It was hard to see the things I was supposed to see sometimes. However, there was no chance of getting stuck, because Areo has included an innovative hint system. Whenever you feel like you don't know what to do next you can press the “I” key on the keyboard and it will activate the “Intuition” feature that will point you camera in the right direction. I found I used this too much though due to lack of definition in the scenes.
The story was fun, though I felt it could have used a little more suspense. Maybe some cutscenes of the scared children would have added more to the sense of danger. Overall there could have been deeper intrigues. I felt like the outcome of the story was easily predicted save for one turn of plot. The music supported the noir-style scenes well and didn't distract me.
I would have liked it to be a little longer and deeper, but it's pretty cool that they expect to make more episodes and I'm really looking forward to the next one.
Conclusion: This is an interactive movie along the lines of Tender Loving Care or Tex Murphy if you subtract
puzzles and comedy. It does stand on it's own and was a fun experience. I want
to play the next episode as soon as it comes out.
Next up: Emerald City Confidential
Thursday, February 26, 2009
It must be hard to be a man of reason set upon a breeding ground of superstition to conduct a murder investigation. That is the case with the protagonist of (Murder in) The Abbey, Brother Leonardo de Toledo. The setting is medieval Spain at a Franciscan monastery, Nuestra Senora de la Natividad. The gatekeeper, Anselmo, has been murdered and Leonardo and his novice, Bruno have arrived to gather evidence for the abbot. The abbot wants Leonardo to search for clues that it is the Devil or a demon. So armed with his trusty crucifix and his less-than-brilliant sidekick, Leonardo sets out to gather empirical evidence and thus the investigation begins.
This is another game I have been wanting to play since its publishing by The Adventure Company in August 2008. It’s the first game I have played by Spanish developer Alcachofa Soft. One of the reasons that piqued my interest was the animation style. For the subject matter, which is very drama-oriented, utilizing a comic almost Disney type style was an intriguing concept. I think doing this game the usual way with photorealistic style, would have been cliche and the game wouldn’t have stood out to me. It’s the same reason I was taken with the early Broken Sword games. Secondly. I loved the movie The Name of the Rose, which is an adaptation of the book of the same name by Umberto Eco. This game draws heavily from this influence and to give props to Eco they name an important character after him. So lets get to the good and bad:
For me, the music was one of the best features in the game. Every area had it’s own orchestral score and there were a lot of choral tracks. The songs fit the scene nicely, in periods of exploration the melodies were minimal and relaxing and in parts of action the music would crescendo and support the feeling of excitement. It was just right. The graphics were beautiful. A mix of 3D characters with 2D rendered backgrounds. The effect was of a cell-shaded cartoon. It was pulled off in a very polished way. Sometimes the lighting was gorgeous.
I also enjoyed that the light would change with the times of day ( a lot of 2D games don’t bother with transitions like sunrise and sunset). And inside all the areas the light would also change it’s quality according to the time of day. Most of the puzzles were inventory-based, and for the most part they were logical. There were a couple of harder more mechanical puzzles. The voice-acting, for the most part, was very high quality and added greatly to the polished feeling of the game.
For the first quarter of the game, it felt polished and wonderful...if a bit slow. I don’t mind a slow game as I like to relax and immerse myself into the game world. Then I started to notice the problems.
First off, there is a misleading inconsistency with the exit points of the scenes. The environments are 2D, so you get a screen with multiple exit points. I got stuck at a point, thinking I explored the whole of the game world, when I discovered that on a couple of screens you have to physically walk to the edge of the screen to move about. This would not be so confusing if I hadn’t done it another way in other scenes of the game. I was very confused by this for a while.
Then, there is a situation with details being too easy to overlook. I don’t mind pixel hunting, though it never adds fluidity to a game experience. The problem with The Abbey, is that in some scenes inactive items from previous scenes, become active. I just don’t think to look at things I already looked at. I prefer to see the active items, and not know their use yet to overlooking them because I they didn’t light up last time. This also had me wasting time...in a slow game. Add it all up and that’s not good.
My greatest pet peeve of all was the journal. I like that they included a journal, because often there were hints in it if got hopelessly stuck, and it also served as a useful reminder of what I was doing in my last sitting. It was in the later parts of the game that I noticed that the journal does not hold your place. So you have to do a lot of clicking to get to the relevant parts, especially in the later parts of the game. Usually I was frustrated when I would consult the journal anyway and this just made it even more irritating.
Remember that polish I was taking about? With the dialog and the art? Well it isn’t quite as good as all that because it’s undermined by bugs. Sometimes the wrong bit of dialog plays, sometimes a bit from an entirely different character will play instead and it totally pulls the player out of the game. There are some other minor bugs that just take the shine off.
Okay, I know all that just sounded really bad, but I am in a critical mood. The game is not all that bad in comparison with other games in this niche of adventures. I wish they would release a patch for it, it’s so close to being good, but at this time, I would say it’s acceptable. If your really into investigative story games and history I would say check it out. If you are a first-person puzzle lover, this is not the one to break your streak with.
There are some other opinions on Adventuregamers, Just Adventure, and Gameboomers.
Next Up: Casebook Episode 1
Monday, February 23, 2009
I just recently learned about the game Ceville. It's being published by Kalypso Media and developed by Boxed Dreams. It looks to be a comic-style, point-and-click adventure in the vein of Monkey Island and Sam and Max. According to the official website The game takes place in the realm of Faeryanis which is under the rule of the oppressive tyrant, Ceville. Players get to play Ceville and be mean and nasty. I got the demo off of Steam, but you can also dowload it off of the above link to the publisher's website. I'll probably get this when it comes out on Feb 27th.
There's also a trailer on youtube.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
I've been really slow. A lot of things in my life have interfered with me posting to this blog I was so eager to start. But I'm here now, so here goes.
It's not just a simple and straight forward investigation story though. Dr. McNamara has to contend with obstacles in his personal life and from the establishment at the state mental hospital. It makes for a very compelling story. In fact, that's the stregnth of the game. The story is very good. Even if it is predictable at times, the tension is maintained such that it really does drive the player to continue. The graphics are also not too shabby for such a game. I particularly enjoyed the water effects down by the pier.
The puzzles...not so much. There are a lot of illogical puzzles. Some were really ridiculous, and it detracted from the serious tone. A lot of this game is just not realistic, and I think realism is what they were going for. For instance, the hotel porter never leaves. There is never a change in who is manning the desk. The rain never stops. I know this is for dramatic effect, but it's rather heavy handed. The game is set in NYC, but it doesn't really feel like it. All the people are standing around in the rain without umbrellas, and there's just too few people. There could have been some more shots of NY landmarks to really get the feeling across. The voice acting is sometimes very good. The flow of the conversations feels unnatural though. Sometimes the awkwardness adds to the pervasive tension in a good way, and other times it's distracting because it is so stilted.
All of this is mostly balanced out by the story though. Which is why I play these games anyway. The puzzles weren't all that hard and they didn't detract from the obvious narrative focus. Overall, I'm glad I played it. I may play it again sometime in the future. I'm interested to try some more games published by Lighthouse, and I am looking forward to more titles from House of Tales.
Conclusion: There were some real missed opportunities, but it is still worth playing.