Thursday, April 30, 2009

Agatha Christie: Evil Under the Sun

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.

There are some other reviews at Adventure Gamers, Just Adventure +, and Gameboomers.

Happy Adventuring.

Monday, April 20, 2009

New Three Cards to Midnight Streaming trailer

I'm really looking forward to this new game from Aaron Conners and Chris Jones. It has a freshly posted release date of May 6th. Check it out here.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Machinarium video

Machinarium Preview 02 from Amanita Design on Vimeo.

This is in no way new, but I really want to play it.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Dracula Resurrection

I have a lot of games I've never played. I really enjoy collecting them...sometimes more than playing them. So after every game I complete it's this big decision, “what do I play next?” I have about 30 games to pick from at any given time so a lot of times I get stuck thinking about it. This time I picked Dracula Resurrection, and I'm really glad I did.

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.

Other reviews can be found at Just Adventure+ and FourFatChicks.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

More Tex Murphy rumblings

Telltale games has added fodder to the rumor mill with this pic posted to their twitter account. Lately there have been some whisperings that Telltale may be bringing us the next Tex Murphy. It's also backed up with some cryptic messages here on the Unofficial Tex Murphy forums.

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

New French language video game law in Quebec.

The CanDevs blog has an interesting post regarding the recent law banning games in other languages if they are published with a French language version. I wonder what impact this will have on adventure games to be localized to English from French Developers. Read all about it here.

Dead Reefs

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.

Don't just take my word for it! There are more opinions at Adventure Gamers, Just Adventure, and Gameboomers.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Legends of Zork Launches

Jolt Online Gaming and Activision are letting players into Legends of Zork today. The online rpg is based in the classic universe of Zork. Check out the website.