Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Broken Sword 5 Episode I Review

Fans of the Broken Sword series are divided in their opinions on the three dimensional entries in the series, but it is almost universally agreed that the original hand drawn titles were more enjoyable. So, when Revolution went to Kickstarter for the fifth installment with news that it would return to hand drawn backgrounds, expectations were high. Thankfully, the first part of this two part adventure should satisfy most fans of the series and fans of point and click adventure games in general.

The game's characters and some of the scene elements (such as automobiles, which fans might remember actually were also 3D models in at least one cutscene in the original game) are presented as three dimensional models, but the backgrounds are two dimensional and hand drawn, giving the game somewhat of a presentation somewhere between the first three games.  This is a bit jarring at first to people who are used to the fluidity of the animation of the hand drawn character models of the original game.  The feeling of disjointedness however is short lived, as the animation of the three dimensional character models are well done, and the art design of the characters match the art design of the backgrounds quite well.  The game is also presented with a complete point and click interface similar to the original games in the series.  There is also an option to present the text in the style of either the original games or the high definition remakes, which should please fans no matter which point they joined George and Nico on their adventures.

The game begins as George Stobbart, who is now working as an art insurer, is sent to Paris to a private viewing in an art gallery.  He meets Nico Collard there, who is still working as a reporter, and the two catch up on old times.  Unfortunately, as is often George's luck, there is a murder, and the painting is stolen, leading George to have to investigate on behalf of his employer, who had insured the painting and is now responsible for reimbursement.  As is usually the case with this series, the investigation soon leads to a larger conspiracy, and danger for our heroes.  This is just the first part of the game, so the investigation is just starting to build to the larger conspiracy before the first part ends, leaving a cliffhanger for the second.  However, this is done very well, and the pacing of which the game builds up its story is similar to that of the other games in the series.  The cliffhanger certainly serves its role well, as it leaves you wanting to know more once the credits roll.

The puzzles here are also very well done.  The puzzles never quite get as hard as some of the puzzles in the original games, but the ramp up in difficulty is well done., but the puzzles do get more difficult and require more thinking outside the box as the game goes on.  However, despite requiring some more outside of the box thinking at times, the solution to each puzzle always makes sense logically.  They are all suited to the world of Broken Sword very well, which, despite the supernatural theme of the conspiracies the couple always encounter, are always grounded mostly in reality.  The game also presents the player with a hint system if they get stuck, as well as the ability to highlight hotspots, which will prove useful for some of the smaller objects in the game's world.  If you prefer to play the game with less help, these can also be toggled on and off.

The music and voice work is always a big part of the presentation of the Broken Sword series, and it certainly doesn't disappoint here.  The music fits the scenes well, and have the same sweeping orchestral feeling that fans of the series expect.  There are also parts of the game that have some other styles of music, and this also fits each scene very well.  I found myself quite enjoying a 1970s style pop song that plays during one scene.  The voice work is excellent as well.  Rolf Saxon returns as George Stobbart, which is always a good thing, as his voice work is the main reason that the narrative style of the game works so well.  The other characters are voiced excellently as well, from Nico Collard, to the supporting cast.  As is usual, there are some popular characters from previous entries in the series that return here, and they are also voiced excellently as usual.  There are some slight sound level fluctuations in some of the lines, which can be quiet at times, but unusually loud in others.  However, this doesn't happen often, so it doesn't really detract much from the game.

Broken Sword 5 Episode I is an excellent start to a game which is shaping up to be a solid entry in this excellent series.  The story is intriguing, the voice work and music is superb, and the puzzles are well done.  There are a few technical hiccups regarding the sound levels of some of the lines, and the story here is really just starting to get on its feet before it ends on a cliffhanger.  However, these small quibbles don't stop the game from being one of the best of the crowdfunded adventures to be released so far.

Final Verdict:

4 out of 5

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Night Dive Brings 28 Humongous Games to Steam

For those who don't know, Tommo purchased Humongous Entertainment in Atari's bankruptcy auction last July (except for the Backyard Sports franchise, which went to The Evergreen Group, and Moonbase Commander, which went to Rebellion).

Today, Night Dive Studios, the company that brought back into sale classic games such as System Shock 2 and I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream, announced that they have partnered with Tommo to bring 28 classic titles from Humongous Entertainment, the educational software company founded by Ron Gilbert and Shelly Day in 1992, to Steam.

Today sees six releases on Steam: Putt-Putt Joins the Parade, Freddi Fish and The Case of the Missing Kelp Seeds, Pajama Sam: No Need to Hide When It’s Dark Outside, Spy Fox in: Dry Cereal, Putt-Putt and Pep’s Balloon-o-Rama, and Freddi Fish and Luther’s Maze Madness. On May 1st those games will be joined by Putt-Putt Goes to the Moon, Freddi Fish 2: The Case of the Haunted Schoolhouse, Pajama Sam 2: Thunder and Lightning Aren’t so Frightening, Spy Fox 2: Some Assembly Required, Putt-Putt and Pep’s Dog on a Stick, and Freddi Fish and Luther’s Water Worries. May 15th will see the release of Putt-Putt Travels through Time, Freddi Fish 3: The Case of the Stolen Conch Shell, Pajama Sam 3: You Are What You Eat from Your Head to Your Feet, Spy Fox 3: Operation Ozone, and Putt-Putt and Fatty Bear’s Activity Pack. Then on May 29th Steam will receive Putt-Putt Enters the Race, Putt-Putt Joins the Circus, Freddi Fish 4: The Case of the Hogfish Rustlers of Briny Gulch, Pajama Sam 4: Life Is Rough When You Lose Your Stuff!, and Spy Fox in: Cheese Chase. Finally, on June 6th, the final releases will come out, including Putt-Putt: Pep’s Birthday Surprise, Freddi Fish 5: The Case of the Creature of Coral Cove, Pajama Sam’s Sock Works, Spy Fox in: Hold the Mustard, and Pajama Sam’s Lost & Found.

Here's hoping that these games get released on GOG.com as well. And now that this humongous rumor has become reality, hopefully the rumor that they are also working on re-releasing classic LucasArts games will come to fruition as well.

The Blackwell Epiphany Available for Pre-Order

Update April 17th - GOG.com is now taking pre-orders for The Blackwell Epiphany as well. As a bonus for pre-ordering from GOG.com, you'll get a GOG.com exclusive extended demo of the game, as well as the other pre-order perks listed below (minus the Steam key, of course).

Original post from April 1st - The Blackwell Epiphany, the fifth and final game in the Blackwell series by Wadjet Eye Games, is scheduled to be released on April 24.  The game is up for pre-order now for $14.99 USD from the Wadjet Eye Games store.  People who pre-order will get additional bonuses once they become available: behind the scenes videos, access to the video feed for the virtual launch party, the game's soundtrack, and a Steam key for the game.  When the game is launched on April 24th, it will be available from the Wadjet Eye Games store, Steam, and GOG.com.

Lilly Looking Through Review

Lilly Looking Through was one of the most intriguing adventure games to be crowd funded during the 2012 Kickstarter adventure game craze. The lovely art style and intriguing time traveling puzzle mechanics sounded like this would be an adventure game that would stand apart from its peers. The material shown during the Kickstarter campaign certainly set the bar of expectation high for Lilly, but luckily, this is a game that manages to live up to its hype.

The game follows a little girl named Lilly who soon finds herself having to travel across rocky terrain, solving mechanical puzzles to open up passageways so she can rescue her little brother.  She also can travel through time, thanks to a pair of goggles that had appeared just as mysteriously as the apparatus that took her brother away.  The basic game play is reminiscent of many different adventure games from the past.  locations and mechanical puzzles are very reminiscent of Myst, and the single click action to perform tasks is reminiscent of Gobliiins, especially in the scenes where Lilly has to work with her brother to solve puzzles she can't reach.  The time traveling mechanics are the real jewel of the game, as Lilly will find herself having to wear the goggles to walk on passages that have been ravaged through the passage of time, or do an action in the past that will have repercussions she can utilize in the present.  The puzzles are leveled off well, with the first few scenes containing basic puzzles, with the more thought requiring puzzles coming later in the game.  If you aren't sure what to do next, there is a helpful hint button that will highlight the most likely hotspots that you should click on to proceed.

As I mentioned before, the art style of the game is just lovely.  The animations of Lilly and her brother capture the innocence of childhood, and the almost otherworldly mountainous landscapes Lilly has to traverse seem to capture the imagination of childhood as well.  The game is just beautiful, and I found myself just immersed in the scenes, taking in the art style while I thought upon a solution, and not realizing that hours had gone by.  The sound design also compliments the rest of the game well.  The music fits the atmosphere well, and while there isn't much voice work, the few lines that Lilly and her brother have are performed really well and add to the feeling of childhood innocence that the game exudes.  The game is not long, but the elegant presentation and gradual ramping up of puzzle difficulty made the game feel like I had played more through more stages than I had.  The increase in puzzle difficulty also never feels like an artificial extension of play time since the increase in difficulty is also reflected in the art design. Lilly's travels feel more perilous as she goes on, making the change in difficulty fit in the game naturally.

Lilly Looking Through is a really charming puzzle adventure game that is well worth playing at least once.  It's not long, but it's definitely worth it's current price.  The art style and sound design is charming, the puzzles ramp up in difficulty naturally, and the whole game seems to capture the feeling of childhood amazingly well.  It does end on a cliffhanger, making you want more.  So, hopefully there are more adventures in Lilly's future.  If her next journeys are as captivating as her first, they'll certainly be welcome.

Final Verdict:

4 out of 5

Vita Gets The Walking Dead Season Two Next Week

The first and second episodes of The Walking Dead: Season Two are finally coming to the PlayStation Vita. Telltale's PR person Laura Perusco has confirmed that the two episodes will be released for the PlayStation Vita on the 22nd of April in North America and on the 23rd of April in Europe.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Broken Sword 5 Episode 2 Releases Today

Update: The computer versions of Episode 2 are out now! The game has been updated on distribution sites to now contain both episodes in a single game. So, if you've been waiting to play until it was released as a full game, you can do so now.

Revolution has announced that Broken Sword 5 Episode 2, the final part of the crowd funded adventure, will be releasing later today at around 6PM British Summer Time for PC, Mac, and Linux. Vita, iOS, and Android versions will be following shortly.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Moebius Is Out Now For Windows and Mac

Moebius, the crowd funded adventure from Gabriel Knight creator Jane Jensen's Pinkerton Road Studio and Cognition creator Phoenix Online, is now available. If you order from The Phoenix Online store, they have a promotion going on for 20% off Moebius if you use the code CSGMOEB20OFF

A Linux version and French, Italian, German, and Spanish translations are not available at launch, but they are currently in development and will be coming soon.