Thursday, October 30, 2014

Dog Mendonça & Pizza Boy Are Now On Kickstarter

The Interactive Adventures of Dog Mendonça & Pizza Boy is on Kickstarter. It is a crowd funding campaign for a new adventure game starring Eurico, an ex-pizza delivery guy and the unpaid apprentice of the legendary occult detective Dog Mendonça.  There's a demo available if you want to try before you buy, but like all demos for kickstarter campaigns, it's an early demo and is not necessarily reflective of the final product.  If this sounds interesting to you, then head over to the Kickstarter page and pick a pledge tier.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Sam & Max Season Two: Chariots of the Dogs Review

Chariots of the Dogs is Telltale's strongest episode yet, providing the right mix of plot and humor, with some of the best puzzles they've ever designed.

The duo goes into Bosco's store to find out that he is missing.  When they finally do find him, they accidentally change time.  Now they have to travel back and forth through time and space in order to try to set things right.  I'm not going to spoil more, but the plot is much more fantastical than its premise.  From the beginning, it is rife with humor, and the way that the plot is handled is excellent, although, in true Sam & Max fashion, wonderfully twisted from start to finish.

The plot also allows for some clever puzzles, which really allows Telltale to shine.  They are some of the most fun and brilliantly designed puzzles that Telltale has ever produced.  The best part of this game is the locations.  From the fantastic new location where Bosco is held, to the past and future versions of locations that have already been visited, each area is bustling with personality.  The returning characters are used to great effect here.  Bosco has never been put to better use than he has here, and he has never been funnier.  His voice actor does a fantastic job with the character.  The new characters are also excellent, each having a great. eccentric personality that fits right in with the rest of the eclectic cast.

The musical style really shines as well.  Jared Emerson-Johnson and Bay Area Sound have done some of their best work with the music in this episode.  There is a great mix of styles in use here, from a futuristic style to Mexican mariachi.  Each song fits the location where it is used and fits the world of Sam & Max excellently.

The penultimate episode of Sam & Max Season Two is not only the strongest episode of the season, but it is the strongest episode Telltale has ever produced.  Everything is excellent, from the fantastic plot and humor, to the wonderfully fun puzzles, excellent use of characters, imaginative use of new and returning locations, and fantastic voice acting and music.  This episode is a must play for fans of humourous point and click adventure games.

Final Verdict:

5 out of 5

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Walking Dead Season Two: In Harm's Way Review

The third episode of the season still doesn't address the problems from previous episodes, but it manages to strengthen things somewhat with a more focused plot and a strong villain.

This episode finds the group in a new situation and having to come to grips with a ruthless man who needs things his done his way.  The series is always best when it shows how far people will go to stay safe, and this episode manages that well, from the villainous methods of the leader, to the actions of both the people who are under him and those in Clementine's group.  This season hasn't had a strong direction in its plot.  This episode, while it feels like it is self-contained, manages to have a clear focus and benefits greatly from that.

This episode also brings in choices from episodes previous to this season.  It doesn't do so in a meaningful way however, as it is only handled by ways of cameos depending on who you came with you in the episode where they made their debut.  The choices from previous episodes of this season are handled better, however, as Clementine's attitude finally seems to have an impact on those around her, either positively or negatively depending on your choices.  The fact that Clementine is sent to do actions usually meant for people beyond her age and sized are handled better here, as the group shows genuine concern for her safety, and the situation where she is the only person who can do the task is presented believably.

The presentation has been the redeeming factor of this season, and it continues to be quite good here.  One of the new characters has a voice that takes a while to get used to, but it does match the personality of his character well.  The rest of the cast is excellent as usual, with the episode's villain rising above the rest.  He was briefly seen in previous episodes, but he really shines here, both in characterization and in vocal performance.  The rest of the presentation is just as good, from the always excellent musical score that sets the mood well, to the continued use of the great looking art comic book inspired art style.

The third episode suffers from some of the problems from previous episodes, but it does have some strengths as well.  The problems from the previous episodes still aren't addressed, and the choices from episodes previous to this season aren't utilized meaningfully.  However, the choices from this season finally seem to be having an effect on the people that Clementine has met, and the group is finally treating Clementine in a more believable fashion.  It also benefits from a strong, self-contained storyline, and the presentation, from the art style to the voice acting and music, is great as always.  While In Harm's Way doesn't quite reach the level of the excellent episodes from the first season, it is definitely the best episode of The Walking Dead Season Two so far.

Final Verdict:

3½ out of 5

They're Here! LucasArts Games Are Now On GOG.com

The goal that the team at GOG.com has been working towards since it opened its doors back in 2008 has been accomplished. LucasArts games are now on GOG.com. X-Wing, Tie Fighter, Knights of the Old Republic and The Secret of Monkey Island Special Edition are only available for Windows, while Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis and Sam & Max Hit the Road are available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

That's right, the SCUMM games are actually using ScummVM! The lawyers who used to work for Lucas legal probably nearly had a heart attack when they read this news.  Around two dozen more LucasArts games will be released for the service soon.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade Mega Review


Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was the first Indiana Jones game developed by LucasArts. Unlike the later Fate of Atlantis, this game was an adaptation of pre-existing source material, in this case the film bearing the same title.  It was released to coincide with the film, so it includes most of the pitfalls of early LucasArts adventure titles.  However, it brought enough new ideas to the table that it manages to be a decent adventure.

The game follows the plot of the film.  Indiana Jones finds that his father has been kidnapped while investigating the Holy Grail.  He then goes off on adventure to find his father, and to complete his father's quest to find the cup of Christ.  The main narrative follows the film closely, but since this is an interactive adventure, there are parts of the game that take a slight detour from the film's script. As the game was based on the film script rather than the released film, there are also some scenes that were in the original script but were cut from the released film.  Even these divergences manage to fit within the main narrative, however.  Since Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was one of the stronger Indiana Jones stories, the game's storyline is quite strong as well.  It is certainly one of the better game adaptations of films.

The game takes place before the improvements in the LucasArts adventure mold that were made when The Secret of Monkey Island was released.  Thus, it has many of the drawbacks of early games such as Maniac Mansion and Zak McKracken.  Like those games, it is possible to reach a dead end, making it possible to not be able to complete the game without reloading a saved game.  Once you get to the castle, there are also mazes in this game that are not navigatable except by trial and error. There are guards in the castle that Indy has to overcome, and as there is also fighting in this game, it is possible to die.  There is a dialog based system that is used during encounters with enemies to make it possible for Indy to talk his way out of a fight.  However, as the personalities of each guard are never revealed in game, it is not obvious which choice will be the correct one to get around a specific enemy.

Thankfully, the other areas of the game are handled pretty well.  The inventory based puzzles are pretty good, with some coming directly from the film, and others being made for the game.  All of them fit into the logic of the world quite well.  The art style is also nice, presenting low resolution versions of the film scenes that still manage to retain the wonder of each location despite the pixelization.  The 256 color versions manage this the best, both in the DOS VGA version and in the hard to find FM-Towns version.  Neither version has voice overs, but the music in each version is done well.  The DOS version has a digital soundtrack, whereas the FM-Towns version uses CD audio using tracks from the film's musical score.  Neither version is the definitive version, as the art style is identical in both versions, and while the FM-Towns version has an orchestrated soundtrack, some of the locations are silent whereas they have music in the DOS version.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is an early adventure game that falls into many of the traps that befell most adventure games made in that time period.  There are mazes that can not be navigated except by trial and error, it is possible to die, and it is possible to get stuck in a dead end that prevents you from completing the game.  The system that is in place to avoid action scenes is never detailed in game, so it is only through chance that one can pick the correct dialog option to have Indy successfully talk his way out of a fight.  However, the other areas of the game are quite good.  The story is a faithful adaptation of the film's script, including scenes that were cut from the released game, and scenes created for the game that fit into the plot.  The puzzles are well done, from those taken from the film, to those created for the game, and all have sensible logic that fit the game's world.  The art style faithfully recreates the scenes from the film in a pleasant, albeit, pixellated form. The music in all versions is well done, from the orchestral tunes from the film's soundtrack in the FM-Towns version to the digitized tunes in the other versions.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is actually a decent adventure, as the game's strengths manage to overcome most of its flaws.  The 256 color versions are the ones to play. Both have the same art style, however there are different jokes in each version.  The DOS VGA version has a digital soundtrack throughout the game, whereas the FM-Town's orchestrated music isn't played in some areas.  In the end, since both have their strengths and weaknesses, either the DOS VGA version or the FM-Towns version is the one to play depending on your tastes.

(Side note: There is also a game called Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: The Action Game.  That game has nothing to do with this one, other than the fact that they both adapt the story from the film.)

Final Verdict:

3½ out of 5

It's True! LucasArts Games Are Coming to GOG.com

Update 2 (October 28th): The news is now official, so the link has been changed to the correct working one.

Update: The news release has been pulled from the site, as it was never intended to be revealed so early. The news will be made once the countdown timer on the GOG.com site reaches zero.

The new publisher on GOG.com has been officially revealed to be LucasArts.  GOG.com has made a deal with Disney to release about 30 LucasArts games on the service. These first six games will be made available starting tomorrow:

Star Wars™: X-Wing Special Edition - digital distribution debut, on GOG.com!
Star Wars™: TIE Fighter Special Edition - digital distribution debut, on GOG.com!
Sam & Max Hit the Road - digital distribution debut, on GOG.com!
The Secret of Monkey Island™: Special Edition
Indiana Jones® and the Fate of Atlantis™
Star Wars®: Knights of the Old Republic

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Walking Dead Season Two: A House Divided Review

The second episode of the second season of The Walking Dead shakes things up by bringing more survivors into the picture, but it still retains the flaws of the previous episode.

This episode begins after the cliffhanger ending of the premiere.  That returning person actually adds to the feeling of disjointedness of this season so far, as much like the time skip in episode one, it is never explained what happened to that person in the events that have occurred since we last met. Another returning person receives similar treatment, although since they don't have as much history in the series, hopefully Telltale is saving that up for the rest of the season.  The other characters do get some characterization, through a dinner conversation, when there is a choice on whether to bond with the new group or with those Clementine already knows.  There is a gap between the survivors, and Clementine is right in the middle of it.

Whereas the plot seems to have problems added to it rather than solved, the choice based gameplay does seem to be in use better this time around.  Scenes like the above mentioned dinner scene add a lot to the way Clementine is treated by both factions survivors, and helps add to the tension that is evident this season.  However, the choices from last episode in regard to Clementine's treatment by the adults don't seem to matter much here.  Regardless of their attitudes towards her, they'll still allow her to do a lot of things an eleven year old girl wouldn't usually do.  True, they had witnessed her do a lot of those types of things in the last episode, but in the premiere some in the group still viewed her as a little girl that needs protecting.  That isn't evident here, no matter Clementine's attitude in episode one.

As with the previous episode, the other areas of the game still are excellent.  The comic style art design continues to shine.  Telltale's games have always excelled in the area of sound, and this tradition continues here.  The music also continues to be a high point, adding to the atmosphere significantly. The voice actors continue to deliver excellent performances, both the returning characters and newly introduced characters alike.

A House Divided is once again a mixed bag, as it brings in interesting characters, but it doesn't fix the problems in the premiere.  The gaps in the plot aren't explained, instead more plot gaps are added. The choice based gameplay is slightly better, as it is used well in regards to the choices made in this episode.  However, the choices made last episode don't seem to matter much, as the characters seem to treat Clementine the same regardless of the choices she made when she first met them.  However, the presentation continues to shine, as the art style, music, and voice acting here are excellent. Ultimately, it once again feels like merely a buildup toward the events to come.

Final Verdict:

3½ out of 5