The Night of the Rabbit

Come with me for an adventure of such whimsy! Yes the whimsy is strong with this one! Magic! Adventure! Animal People! Vague environmentalist messages! …. WHIMSY!!!

Daedalic Entertainment are an interesting company that produces interesting games. It doesn’t always work but they’re always interesting one way or another. I’ve already reviewed A New Beginning which is, as far as I’m concerned, a complete disaster. I started Edna and Harvey: Harvey’s New Eyes but for reasons totally unconnected to the game I haven’t been able to do much of it. What I’ve seen, however, I’ve enjoyed. Daedalic have this very weird blend of excellent games paired with some pretty terrible ones. It’s always clear that a lot of work has gone into their world building but in A New Beginning this came at a serious price.

The Night of the Rabbit is a point and click adventure starring Jeremiah Hazelnut, a boy with a dream of one day becoming a magician. He seems to live this idyllic life in a little cottage with his mother just on the edge of a city and is quite obsessed with adventuring in the countryside. One day he receives a mysterious letter and, after performing a magical ritual, summons the Marquis de Hoto, an anthropomorphic rabbit with big red eyes, who says that he is a magician/wizard/treewalker who would like to take young Jerry on as an apprentice. Of course Jeremiah accepts and is taken to a world of other anthropomorphic animals. Jeremiah begins his training to become a magician but along the way discovers that the world is in danger and he must use his newfound magic to save it.

Yup, this is one trustworthy looking dude

Yup, this is one trustworthy looking dude

Now normally I have very little to say about the gameplay of point and click games because it’s always the same, it just depends on how well the puzzles are crafted. Daedalic seemed to decide that they wanted to do things a little differently and as such introduced quite a few mechanics to the game to break up traditional puzzle solving, they’ve also really streamlined how you interact with everything. There’s a day/night cycle for one thing that you can switch between in order to find new items and speak to people in different situations. There are also magic spells you can use to further the backstory as well as tools to solve puzzles. The unfortunate thing is that as the game goes on these mechanics become less and less useful to some of the later spells have one or two uses in the entire game. You would think that a spell that can create illusions would be fun and useful but it has about two uses in the whole game. The puzzles themselves are well crafted, with a few real headscratchers put in there for good measure.

The story is well told and there is a ton of backstory to find. The joke I made at the beginning about the amount of whimsy in it is quite apt. This game is absolutely full of whimsy. This is a game where the line “On a day in Summer Vacation anything is possible!” is said multiple times and is said seriously. But you know what? It really works, it’s not embarrassing, it’s just funny. Whether or not this is intentional is hard to know but if it works then why question it? The story itself is pretty well told and does build to a really epic conclusion. It’s a shame then that a lot of the ending is taken up with a massive, and I do mean massive, exposition dump. This is probably what the game does least well in terms of storytelling, there are some great long sections of explanation and exposition which could have been told in a more natural way.

Hang on, hang on! I think I've got the next bit of the story somewhere in this hat.

Hang on, hang on! I think I’ve got the next bit of the story somewhere in this hat.

Some of the earlier parts of the game don’t feel like they measure up to the epic nature of the ending. Particularly, I think, the relationship between Jerry and the Marquis. The Marquis is incredibly important to the plot but he and Jerry actually interact surprisingly little. You can talk to him through most of the game but he pretty much says the exact same thing each time and can remind you of your objectives. It feels like he and Jerry should have had more screen time and developed a relationship. For one thing I think it would have added deeper levels to the finale.

To be honest I think this is a criticism I have with many modern adventure games. They don’t tend to build up character relationships enough. The reason that The Walking Dead worked so well was that you actually cared about Clementine, she and Lee have a really deep relationship that the player is invested in. I think that many games want to create this sort of relationship but aren’t willing to put in the time it takes to actually pull it off.

This is probably the biggest complaint I have in the story, Jerry and the Marquis should have developed their relationship to a much deeper level in the story.

Oh and maybe less of a relationship with this little bastard.

Oh and maybe less of a relationship with this little bastard.

The art of the game is pretty brilliant, the sets are excellent and the characters look really interesting. It’s something that does make an adventure game that much more fun, actually enjoying what you’re looking at. I don’t think there was a single set that wasn’t interesting for one reason or another.

For those who enjoy collectibles there are a ton of them in this game, many of which have a bit of an impact on the story. Some of them are more frustrating than others and I did give up on some. Some of them tie directly into the story, giving hints and clues, while others are just collectibles. One such collectible are a series of playing cards which you can use to challenge pretty much everyone to a game of Quartets (basically Go Fish!). This does get boring very, very quickly, and has little to impact the plot. It’s just a little side thing that some people might find enjoyable but I thought fell flat.

Now I can’t finish my review without talking about the game’s environmentalist message. Yes, it has one. Don’t ignore it because of that, it’s not like A New Beginning. For the most part the game is pretty subtle about it and does a good job of critiquing many things about modern life, such as instant gratification and false spiritualism, and the environmentalist message plays into it. There are a couple of moments, however, when it becomes quite heavy handed and annoying. Some giant moths start talking about a terrible flood of stick grey fluid that is evil and destructive… yes, cement. They also talk about this foul smelling mountain that caused some creatures to start acting crazy… a landfill. It’s not bad but it gets a bit heavy handed at those points to an eye-rolling level. I think they could have left those bits out and kept the environmentalism stuff subtle.

Although I do enjoy giant hippy-looking wizard.

Although I do enjoy giant hippy-looking wizard.

The game is, in my opinion, a bit pricey for what it is, it’s $20 or £16.99. For an adventure game like this I would say that’s a bit much, it’s really a game to get when it’s on sale and I don’t doubt it will be sooner or later.

I enjoyed Night of the Rabbit, it’s fun and interesting and is taking point and click games into interesting directions mechanically. I really like the world that has been created and while I don’t know if a direct sequel would work I would really enjoy seeing more games in the same universe. The ending does turn into this spiral of awesomeness that I would like to see expanded upon but I doubt that we’ll see this sort of thing again. Daedalic like to create universes and then leave them unless there’s a direct sequel. So I would like to see more but I’m not holding my breath. Still, the game is good, if pricey, and I am glad I played it.

image011

Also is Churchmouse Jr. real or is Churchmouse Senior just insane? I just can’t tell!

 

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The Last Door

I stepped back from the window, tearing my gaze from the forest before the house. The crows had settled once more, I could feel their beady eyes watching me. But I cared not for I am a great big polar bear. 

It’s been a little while since last I wrote. There are several reasons for this including mild depression and the fact that I will be moving house soon. But enough about that, let’s just get right back into the swing of things with The Last Door.

The Last Door is a point and click (I know, so unusual for me) horror game set in 1891 in Britain. In it you play as Jeremiah Devitt, a young man who receives a mysterious letter from an old friend from his boarding school telling him to come to his house at once. When Jeremiah arrives he finds the place oddly deserted and beings to uncover clues that talk of strange happenings. The beginning of each chapter also shows us a little hint of what is to come with the player controlling a different character who is in the throes of a disturbing act.

The game is episodic with chapters 1 and 2 already released and chapter 3 is in the works. It is very clear that the developers took influence from the contemporary horror writers of the era (There’s even a nice H.P. Lovecraft easter egg in the second chapter). It does a very good job of creating that sense of the Victorian horror story with underplayed tension and this constant air of mystery that keep you enthralled.

Despite the fact that it’s a comparatively tiny number of pixels it also manages to look pretty awesome

The game has a retro pixellated art style (Hey, I’m not sick of it, I think it looks good), yet has more modern lighting effects which to a fantastic job of building on this tense atmosphere. It’s not always obvious what an object may be but if you can’t work it out and if Jeremiah isn’t going to tell you then it’s really not important enough to merit it. Besides, it’s much easier to get lost in the sets and backgrounds than in the tiny details.

The sound is also fantastic with all the effects keeping the theme alive and an original score which is available to download for those who help support the game. The music is excellent and helps heighten the creepiness and the tension. It’s not a frustratingly difficult game and most of the puzzles are fairly logical, if occasionally esoteric. More attention has been given to the atmosphere and the lore.

But what’s more important in a horror game than the scares. The Last Door does well in evoking the older style of horror stories where unsettling creepiness is given priority over jump scares and gore. There are some gore-scare moments but they’re few enough that when they appear they are genuinely scary. If you like a more sophisticated sort of horror then you’ll enjoy the horror in this game.

When you’re on your own in a spooky cellar with only a lantern to see by, it’s always handy to grab a crowbar (Best tool in any game)

So are there any problems with it? Well nothing that really breaks the game for me. Some of the subtitle errors are distracting but considering it comes from a non-English developer that is easily forgiven. Other than that the only problem I have is the problem I have with all episodic games. There is always this need to build up the tension but there is little payoff since it is waiting for the next chapter to explain more.

For someone like me who enjoys getting sucked into a story it’s a little jarring to have to put it down and come back to it later. Yes you can make arguments about savouring a good thing and there are technical justifications, the game is still being made after all. Nevertheless part of me wishes that games like would just be released in one go to really keep you hooked to the story.

Creepy boarding schools/hospitals for the win!

The game is still being developed and they are asking for donations at their website (Link below). You can play the first chapter for free and can donate any amount to unlock the next chapter or there are a few reward schemes for higher donations including access to all future chapters and the excellent soundtrack.

If you enjoy classic horror then I really recommend giving it a go and sending some money their way. These developers have an excellent grasp on what makes a good adventure game and what makes something scary. The whole game has this oppressive, unsettling feel that only gets heightened as the chapters progress. Give it a go and I urge you to help fund more.

Link to the Website

Alice: Madness Returns

Remember, Alice, not all here is as it seems. I’m not even here, nor a I speaking right now. In fact, you’re saying everything you think I’m saying. And now I’m a giant hippo or something weird… wooooooo….

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll is amazingly recognisable. It’s one of the staples of childhood literature and has been adapted many times (even into a porn parody). People will probably have seen the Disney adaptation and it’s highly likely that you will have seen the Tim Burton adaptation of 2010 (which I hate but we can go into that another time). Because of the weirdness of the story it is almost always one that people like to twist, to make dark and scary. Surprisingly few manage to do it effectively.

Enter American McGee, an American game designer with an interesting childhood and just the right experience to make a dark and twisted version of Alice in Wonderland that actually keeps the ideas of the original story. The resulting product was a game called American McGee’s Alice. It’s still a pretty excellent game, though it has dated, and well worth the high reviews it received. The story is set after the events of Through the Lookinglass and features a slightly older Alice. A fire breaks out in Alice’s home, destroying everything and killing the entire Liddell family apart from Alice who is so wracked with survivors guilt she is institutionalised. To reflect Alice’s shattered psyche, Wonderland has become twisted and the Queen of Hearts has become even more tyrannical. Thus Alice is forced to return to Wonderland in order to help restore it, and in the process herself.

Wonderland's a little bit different

The sequel to American McGee’s Alice came some 11 years afterwards and is entitled Alice: Madness Returns. Alice is now 19 years old but is still haunted by her guilt and her insanity. Now, after her stay in Rutledge Asylum, she is being treated by Doctor Angus Bumby who is trying to hypnotise Alice into forgetting her trauma. But the treatment seems to be having little effect as Alice is hurled back into Wonderland where she is informed by the Cheshire Cat that there is a new evil destroying Wonderland and Alice must, once more, defeat it. Along the way she must piece her memory together so she can try and learn what really happened on the night of the fire.

The game itself is an third-person action puzzle platformer. As Alice the players must navigate the unusual environment of Wonderland, battle the various hostile creatures within, and mostly go from one character to another as they give her cryptic messages and, generally speaking, add greater confusion to the story. There is a real theme of industrialisation, with horrific mechanical monstrosities making up large areas of the environment. Many of the enemies themselves are made of Ruin, a sort of black, polluted sludge. The combat makes use of Alice’s agility as well as four weapons, which can be used for combo attacks.

She is not messing around with that Vorpal Blade

The combat is entertaining but can get a little stale. It’s mostly a matter of learning cues so you can dodge enemy attacks and then wildly swinging at them until it’s time to dodge again. There are quite a number of enemies with different forms of attack so there is variety and the animations on both Alice and her opponents look excellent. Even the designs are interesting to look at, from the sludge and machinery of the ruin to the Eye-Pot, a giant teapot with one red eye and sharp legs for stabbing and a nozzle for firing boiling liquids (maybe tea, who knows) at you. The platforming is well done, making use of Alice’s excellent manoeuvrability. There are some frustrating moments with the platforming but not usually anything that ends up with controller-snapping frustration.

But the best things about the game are the style and the art. This is a beautiful game with absolutely amazing environments. Each section you play through looks unique and incredibly imaginative, fitting the theme of Wonderland very neatly. But even the dreary look of Ol’ London Taaan is imaginative in a very bleak way.

No seriously, she is NOT messing around with that Vorpal Blade

Besides the moments of frustrating platforming the game’s biggest flaw is probably that the combat can get a little same-y. However people will experience this to different levels and it is somewhat lowered on higher difficulties. Playing on some the hardest difficulties makes an enemy’s attack very punishing meaning that you have to keep yourself focused. But even with this the limited number of weapons, attacks, and combos mean that players with a more action-oriented mind may find themselves a little tired of the hack n’ slash methods by the end.

Also, if you do not enjoy looking out for secrets and collectibles then this may not be for you. The game is full of things to collect, teeth for upgrades, memories to piece together the story, bottles for… well, bottles mostly. The environments are fun enough to explore and interesting enough to look at but trying to find that one last hidden memory in the entire level can be very frustrating.

Beware the Eye-Pot, my girl, the legs that stab, the spout that spits.

If you are a fan of Alice in Wonderland then you’ll enjoy the many interesting approaches to the characters. It’s true that many people try to darken the stories of Alice but this is one of the very few times that it’s done well. Why? Well it’s mostly due to how Alice is portrayed. She doesn’t stare in wonder and everything around her but is just generally quite annoyed at how silly it all is. Very few adaptations seem to realise that this is how Alice is supposed to act.

Anyway, as a game it works well but the repetition and collectibles may put some gamers off. But there are much worse ways to tell a story of Alice (I’m looking at you, Tim Burton).

 

Sorry this one was a bit late, friends, various stresses have been catching up with me and I completely forgot to upload yesterday. Will continue with regular article tomorrow.

 

The Book of Unwritten Tales

Quick, I shall gather the other panserbjørne so we can take the Alethiometer to Mount Doom so we can destroy the Death Star and save Narnia. Enough references yet?

Hot on the heels of my Top 5 Adventure Games here we have The Book of Unwritten Tales, a game by German developer King Art. It is set in a fantasy world with a very typical armies of good versus the armies of evil story going on. But The Book of Unwritten Tales very clearly knows about the fantasy genre, the game is full of tongue-in-cheek moments and references to other works of fantasy and science fiction.

The game starts with the capture of the gremlin McGuffin who has just discovered the location of an artefact that could end the war. To his rescue comes Ivo, a wood elf princess who really needs more suitable clothing for adventuring.  McGuffin also visits Wilbur Weathervane, a naive young gnome who dreams of being a mage and an adventurer, and charges him with possession of a magic ring (sounding familiar) which he must deliver to the arch-mage.

One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness… make fourth-wall breaking jokes

It’s a point-and-click adventure game, what more is there to say about the mechanics? It has the nice feature of hotspot highlighting which can be a controversial thing but is always handy. The interface is well realised with hotspots disappearing once they are determined to be of no use. You might think that makes this a very easy game but the puzzles are just challenging enough to still keep it interesting. You can also play as multiple characters at various points of the game, adding an extra dimension to puzzles when you need to think about who can do what (think Gobliiins).

The characters are pretty fantastic with some excellent voice acting. Wilbur is almost certainly the best but the others can definitely hold their own. Having characters that are a lot of fun to play is a god-send in adventure games. It just makes the whole thing much more enjoyable. The plot isn’t deeply involved but has enough twists and turns to keep you interested. It’s a very standard good vs evil story with unlikely heroes that you’ll find anywhere. It’s really the game’s humour that is it’s draw. Beyond simple references to other works the game includes self-aware jokes about how no one dies in adventure games, characters playing role playing games in a ‘fantasy’ world full of tax forms and insurance salesmen, and where the undead are forming an anti-defamation league in order to integrate into society.

Oh elves, even at high altitudes on the back of a dragon it’s important to dress skimpy

Problems with the game? There aren’t that many but there are a few that are a little nagging. Mostly it’s a problem with some of the puzzles. The game frequently builds up some complicated object hunt puzzles that end very quickly when a character simply gives you what you were after. For someone who plays a lot of adventure games this is a little jarring. At first it seems like a joke about some of the ridiculously complicated puzzles in adventure games but very quickly starts feeling a like a cop-out. Especially when the characters start talking about how they always have to go through a series of unlikely tasks in order to get an item off someone (are self-aware characters in adventure games a thing now?). It’s hard not to feel that the character’s complaints are unjustified when they’ve just been given so many things.

This does actually become a bit of a plot point in the late game that is quite fun but for the most part it feels like there were ideas that just got cut. You could argue that it cuts out padding from a game (and this is one that I would say is about medium length) but it would have been nice to have something there. The other problem with this game is the ending. Usually in adventure games you end on one last puzzle that you complete before actually finishing everything. The last puzzle in this game amounts to walking up some stairs. Then it just sort of ends, quite abruptly. It’s a bit unsatisfying and makes all the effort you put in feel like it isn’t worthwhile.

Just call me King of Puzzle Breaking

If you’re a fan of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series then you’re probably going to get a lot out of this game as it has a very similar sort of humour. The fourth-wall breaking is quite fun, particularly to adventure game veterans, and the characters are absolutely brilliant. Most of the puzzles aren’t that tricky but there are enough challenges to keep it entertaining. If you like your high-fantasy to have deep plot then you might find it a bit dissatisfying but you could do a whole lot worse. Had I finished this game last week it may well have gone on my Top 5 Adventure games, so just consider this an honourary number 6.

A New Beginning

Oh no. The future of the world is at stake here. Can’t you tell from my incredibly expressive voice? And the one thing that can save is is tedious dialogue… and algae, so much algae.

You don’t often find a game that would make Al Gore sit back and say “Woah there, aren’t you being a bit heavy handed?”. The problems with our environment are an ever-present problem and one that needs addressing. So why can no one in any form of media make any environmentalist film/game/book that isn’t about as subtle as just shouting “YOU WILL ALL DIE!!” 24 hours a day?

Enter Daedalic Entertainment’s A New Beginning, a point and click adventure game set in… actually there’s a fair amount of time travel and flashbacks so it’s hard to say exactly when. The gist of it, without spoiling too much, is this: In the future the climate is so heavily damaged as to wipe out most of the population of Earth. A group of survivors band together in order to create a time machine that will send them back in time to try and prevent climate change from happening. Meanwhile a Norwegian scientist by the name of Bent Svensson has retired after years of work on an alternative energy source powered by blue-green algae, but Bent is forced into a rather bizarre story as the time travelling Fay turns up to tell him he has to save the world.

No one has much luck on this mission into the past

To start with, this game is pretty beautiful, the graphic novel style art is amazingly well done with some really fantastic sets, the art is probably one of the best things about it. Almost every chapter has a unique look to it that really helps to separate the segments of the game.

At its core A New Beginning is a very typical point-and-click but I must admit the approach they have to gameplay is pretty good. Aside from options menus and saving (which I will come to later) you only use the keyboard if you want to highlight all the areas on screen with which you can interact. The game uses a series of menus rather than the standard left click to move/interact and right click to examine, which works quite well and allows for versatility in the puzzles. The puzzles themselves are, for the most part, quite logical (still uses adventure game logic though) and there aren’t too many points where one can become hopelessly stuck thanks to a very odd solution to a puzzle.

The game also features some actual puzzle puzzles but they aren’t as frequent, or as ridiculous, as The Testament of Sherlock Holmes’ puzzles and so I found myself quite enjoying them. There is also a handy skip button that pops up quite quickly so if the puzzles aren’t your thing it’s not going to cause too many issues.

No fuse puzzles in here, just a lady in a skin-tight uniform… what were you expecting the past to be like?

Unfortunately I didn’t get to enjoy the puzzles very much because the game is riddled with some pretty serious and game-breaking bugs. While playing I lost the ability to save the game at the beginning of Chapter 6 onwards (6 of 8 I should point out) so rather than losing quite a lot of progress I was forced to play the entire rest of the game in one sitting, and this is not a short game believe me. Twice I encountered a bug where my character couldn’t move or interact with anything. The first time was during Chapter 6 so I was forced to reload an old save and lose a fair amount of progress in order to get back to where I was. The second time was slap-bang in the middle of a puzzle that I was quite enjoying. This was in the last chapter and I had a moment of dread thinking that I would have to play the whole thing again. Thankfully the Skip Puzzle button came to my aid but I really did want to complete it. Very disappointing.

I wouldn’t have minded having to complete the game in one go if the game had a good story but unfortunately the narrative in A New Beginning breaks down so quickly that it is a chore to get through. The game’s environmentalist message is distractingly heavy handed, with cars being called contaminants and Fay’s disgust at absolutely everything  wasteful or polluting (even when she’s wrong, seriously the game needs a fact checker at some points). The game also suffers from the environmentalist media problem of a hilariously stupid villain. At first the villain raises good points about the lack of alternatives to his nuclear power industry but then quickly slides head first into “MUAHAHAHA! I will pollute the planet because I love pollution and it makes me money!” territory.

NUCLEAR POWER DESTROYED THE EIFFEL TOWER, CALLED YOUR MOTHER FAT, AND KILLED YOUR CHILDHOOD PUPPY! HATE IT WITH ALL YOUR MIGHT!

Near the end, however, the game does a complete 180 with twists and deceptions and sudden character shifts that could have been really good, in fact the whole plan that’s revealed is pretty ingenious and highlights humanity’s reaction to threats. But it’s executed so poorly and ends up asking more questions than it answers. It also makes quite a lot of the game feel pointless and that’s never good. I can appreciate a good deception of the player but the deception was so fruitless and led only to a really unsatisfying ending.

Also the game then seems to realise a big factual mistake it made about nuclear power, I’d been shouting about it for most of the game but the characters simply refused to listen to me. That they actually knew they were wrong is really, really bizarre because it is quite an important plot point.

But the absolute worst thing about the game is the dialogue. Not only is it poorly translated from German (hilariously so sometimes), not only does it frequently not match up with the subtitles, not only do notes for menus sometimes appear in Russian, but the voice acting is some of the worst I have heard in an adventure game. It is bad, it’s so bad. I may have complained a bit about the voice acting in The Cat Lady but this should take some special award. Many of the actors are mid to low when it comes to ability but the voice of Fay, one of the main characters, is so flat and bored sounding that nothing she says can be taken seriously. Considering the amount of drama this game tries to give us that is pretty bad. It’s not even entertainingly bad, you can’t just laugh at the pronunciation of Ashworth, it’s painful. Game breakingly painful.

A line delivered with all the emotion and energy of someone who still has three hours to go at the office and has exhausted all their breaks.

It looks pretty. That’s about the best thing that can be said. The worst that can be said is that it is so disappointing. Most of the characters have interesting starts but quickly become two dimensional, the plot meanders around in a rather bizarre way, the important message is so heavy handed as to just be annoying, and the voice acting just. keeps. getting. worse.

Daedalic Entertainment has done good things, I haven’t completed Edna and Harvey yet but I’ve really enjoyed it. But what they’ve produced here is just not worth it, try a different game

Thomas Was Alone

For never was a story of wore woe than this of these little sentient AI squares trying to find their place in the big, wide universe.

Replay value, or replayability if you really want to use the word, is much prized amongst the gaming community. The ability to go back to a game and gain a different experience or a new perspective is much prized and something I have talked about previously. Perhaps it is because a game is an interactive experience, you wouldn’t demand replay value in a film after all. But in part it is about the story. When the story is such a big part of the game it’s difficult to have that same experience ever again.

Thomas Was Alone is a puzzle platformer set in the inner workings of a computer where you start off controlling a little sentient square by the name of Thomas who is searching for friends and freedom. The further you get into the game the more you meet of squares of different colours, each with their own personality and special abilities. Not to provide any spoilers but the game soon turns into a adventure with a monster, romance, and a prophet. All narrated to you while you bounce little squares around.

I’m not even going to make the Twilight joke here, this is a real love story

The gameplay is quite simple, the different squares have different properties and jump heights and you must use them together to get them from one side of the level to the other (up and to the right…). The puzzles are all well designed but don’t offer huge challenge to those already well versed in puzzle gaming.

But the main property that makes Thomas Was Alone such a fun experience is the story. Narration is, I feel, oft underused in games despite its use as a literary tool. It could be argued that it creates a certain disconnect between the gamer and the game but can anyone really say they felt disconnected from Bastion because of the narration? I think the narration, and the soundtrack, really made that game. It works really well in Thomas Was Alone, to the point where you can feel an emotional connection to a coloured square.

Oh Claire, Super-Claire, you’re so awesome.

The problem with Thomas Was Alone, referring to what I said in the beginning, is that there isn’t much in the way of replay value. The platforming is fun and the puzzles entertaining but not the sort you can spend hours on, but to be honest I don’t have a problem with it. I would still recommend it because it is an experience in story-telling that is unlike any other. It is a real credit to the game that you can empathise with coloured squares that don’t talk or even have any features on them.

Like the aforementioned Bastion the game also has an excellent soundtrack that really contributes to the vague serenity of the game, even in the more dramatic moments. It does a great job of keeping this surreal atmosphere to the game.

I really love this first line.

I have stated before that replaying a story is a hard thing to do. You can never conjure up the same experience when you learn everything for the first time unless you have forgotten it completely. So how you tell that story is very important. Many games are very simplistic in storytelling style, you play a character, sometimes a group of characters, and proceed through the story from start to finish. So telling the story in a different way can make a fun little game into more of an experience and this is Thomas Was Alone’s greatest triumph.

It’s fun, it’s unusual, it’s not very expensive, and it provides an interesting look in styles of storytelling. I may not have played it to death but I feel that I gained a great deal from a single playthrough. One final note, I really want a Team Jump t-shirt.

I realise that the pictures for this article have mostly just been coloured squares

Blackwell Series

What better way to spend an evening than to wander around New York with a ghost from the 1920s, solving puzzles and bestowing eternity onto lost spirits everywhere through the use of a mystical tie. I certainly can’t think of anything.

Developer and Publisher Wadjet Eye Games hold particular esteem in my eyes as the creator of some really good adventure games. I haven’t quite played through their whole list but of the ones I have played there has only been one which I can say I didn’t enjoy. But I definitely enjoy the Blackwell series, currently at four games with a fifth in the works.

The Blackwell series are a series of adventure games about Rosangela Blackwell, a medium whose duty is to help lost spirits move on to the next world. She is aided in her task by Joey Malone, a ghost from the 1920s who acts as her spirit guide. Each game is a very typical point and click adventure game. There are a few twists on the classic formula with the use of multiple characters and frequent use of clue combining, but any fan of adventure games will be very familiar with the style.

I love pixel art style. Just look at that fancy hat

When it comes to gameplay adventure games tend to have three challenges: Object/Inventory Puzzles, Dialogue Puzzles, Straight up Puzzle. For non-adventure gamers here is a very quick breakdown. Object/Inventory requires you to use objects in your inventory or on the environment in order to solve a puzzle. Dialogue requires you to pick the right option through a dialogue tree in order to proceed. Straight up puzzle is just a straight up puzzle, this can range from sliding puzzles, pin puzzles, chess puzzles, it’s a pretty broad category.

The Blackwell series is fond of the first two which I am very glad about. In the games Rosangela and Joey must investigate lost spirits and try to convince them that they are dead in order to move them on beyond the world of the living and into the afterlife. Of course it’s never that simple and there is generally an evil presence working against the team. The series is episodic with each game linking to the others and creating an overarching plot, with each game seeming to raise the stakes as it goes. This means the games themselves are pretty short but they are priced accordingly so that isn’t too bothersome.

*Sigh* What now? Is a demon after you? A crazy murderous spirit? Or just some guy with strange evil powers?

Adventure games tend to be short and unfortunately have little replay value. After all once you’ve solved a puzzle it remains solved, the only way to really enjoy it again is either if the game has alternate routes (which few do) or to wait until you’ve forgotten what happens and play it again. I chose to replay these games after acquiring the Blackwell Bundle from Steam.

I also chose to play them with the commentary from creator Dave Gilbert and I have to say it was very interesting to listen to all the behind the scenes stuff regarding characters, actors, and the fan reaction to the game. As you play each one you can tell that there is a refining and experimental process going on and listening to Dave Gilbert acknowledging how and why these changes came about is very interesting and well worth it. But play the games without the commentary first unless you want serious spoilers.

Apart from you, obviously

The story is really engaging and the relationship between the two main characters is always entertaining. Wadjet Eye does excellent characterisation and always has excellent voice acting. There are a few actors that appear in pretty much all of Wadjet Eye’s games and this is acknowledged in the commentary.

But Dave Gilbert is no Tim Burton so people like Abe Goldfarb,who provides the voice of Joey and a whole host of other characters in other games, don’t feel tired and overused. It’s as great hearing him here as it is hearing him as the little robot companion in Primordia.

I am a fan of Wadjet Eye; it’s great to see original story-telling, beautiful artwork, and seeing it delivered frequently and consistently. More than that it’s also good to see a company actually learn from their games and always try to improve them. I think that’s one of the things that impresses me most and will always make me come back to try their next game.

Moti the dog! I would like to see more of Moti in future games.