Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Emerald City Confidential
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.