Video Game Review: The Curse of Monkey Island

A LucasArts classic, before the company were dismantled, The Curse of Monkey Island is one of their most iconic titles. Whether you’re a long-time fan of the franchise, or just observing it for the first time, it’s fair to say that if you’re a gamer, you’ve probably heard of it! In this instalment of the Point and Click series, we join Guybrush Threepwood on his quest to save his fiancee, Elaine Marley. Will Guybrush be able to save her, or will she be a solid gold statue forever?

A LucasArts classic, before the company were dismantled, The Curse of Monkey Island is one of their most iconic titles. Whether you’re a long-time fan of the franchise, or just observing it for the first time, it’s fair to say that if you’re a gamer, you’ve probably heard of it! In this instalment of the Point and Click series, we join Guybrush Threepwood on his quest to save his fiancee, Elaine Marley. Will Guybrush be able to save her, or will she be a solid gold statue forever?

Source: Steam

Continue reading “Video Game Review: The Curse of Monkey Island”

Puzzling Encounters: Lock & Key

The Point and Click Adventure genre leans a little too heavily on one very simple puzzle which I’ll refer to here as the Lock & Key: finding Thing A and applying to Thing B in order to proceed.

To be clear, things A and B can be a wide variety of things, a ladder and a wall, a photograph and a person, an ostrich and a sandwich toaster, or an actual key that corresponds to an actual lock. We can all thing of a few dozen examples, if pressed we could probably come up with that many from the same title. Grim Fandango, Machinarium, the Discworld game series, to an extent one could argue The Room, all make heavy use of this basic set up. Why?

Well, ignoring for a moment the fact that it is very simple and easy to put together in game, from a game design perspective it’s no bad thing either. It’s an un-failable task, you can’t get it wrong, you can only keep trying. It’s an obstacle to be overcome, to face the next obstacle, and the next one, and the next one. Occasionally you’ll see something different, I’d just like to offer a few suggestions of how we can shake up the genre.

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Monkey Wrench? Really?

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Video Game Review – The Stanley Parable

Viral video games are common place now-a-days, but in 2013 we were introduced to The Stanley Parable which took off on the internet hard. It’s no wonder, the game has a clever storytelling mechanic, with a fun but really easy to understand underlying story. But now it’s time for us to step back and look at this title subjectively and decide whether or not The Stanley Parable is worth your time.

Viral video games are common place now-a-days, but in 2013 we were introduced to The Stanley Parable which took off on the internet hard. It’s no wonder, the game has a clever storytelling mechanic, with a fun but really easy to understand underlying story. But now it’s time for us to step back and look at this title subjectively and decide whether or not The Stanley Parable is worth your time.

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Story

You’re a number, really Stanley. Number 427.

I mean, that is the story of the game. You’re an easily replaceable number who has been a strong cog in the wheel for some time. One day, you decide to stop pressing buttons as you are told and you gain a sort of sentience and want to know more about your employers. You realise all of your colleagues are gone and you set on a journey to go and find your way around these strange offices.

Gameplay

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You cannot jump and straight away if you give it a try, the game will tell you this with an achievement saying that you tried to jump. The gameplay is more or less a case of walking around and clicking on some objects to interact with them, which really isn’t revolutionary.

The game excels in giving us a set of rules which the game explains to you via narration. What happens next however is then down to the player to decide: Do you follow the arbitrary path that you’ve been given, or do you go off tangent? The amount of times I found myself just lounging around the staff room, or hiding inside of a broom closet just because I liked the idea of not progressing and having a bit of banter wit23h the narrator was highly amusing. Basically, with this game, expect to break the rules.

Audio

Relatively minimalistic, but the most important point of the game isn’t in the music. It does have some nice ambience which helps to set the tone, but like many indie games, it doesn’t have anything special in the music department. The truly special part of the audio however lies within the voice actors.

The narrator is played by Kevan Brighting, who is a fellow Brit with a damn fine voice if I may say so. The casting was perfect as he speaks with utmost clarity and every emotion that the narrator is feeling is reflected perfectly in his inflections. Honestly, you play this game mostly to hear him speak, so they cast this exquisitely. In March 2014, at the Tobacco Docks in London (same place as Rezzed this year, don’t forget to check our gallery out), the 10th British Academy Games Awards nominated Kevan Brighting for best performer in a video game. He was beaten to the punch by Ashley Johnson (as Ellie from The Last of Us).

Graphics

Have a look through our gallery for The Stanley Parable:

Overall

Should you go running to the hills to go and play this game immediately? I’d argue not, but don’t get me wrong: I’d still recommend playing it at some point. It’s a great little title, but the game suffers with just how short it is. But the very experience of going through the game and hearing the different ways the narrator can taunt you, or help you change your story based upon your rebellious streaks, is worth it.

This isn’t a long game, it’s not a hard game but it is a memorable one. The voice acting is stellar which is exactly as you’d expect from a game of this sort. Whilst there’s not much to do in the gameplay, nor is there much story to cover, there’s enough intrigue on the initial play through to see you go through to the end. Further to this, once you’ve beaten the game once, you’ll want to know all of the different endings and different nuances the game throws at you, depending on how you play the game. It’s also a lot of fun going for some of the achievements. There’s one achievement where you click on a door a certain amount of times, where the narrator then decides to take you on a wild goose chase to click doors and printers. It’s all around fun.

Have you played The Stanley Parable? What do you think about it? Was the game too short, or was it just long enough for you to enjoy it? As always, please leave your comments below, over on Facebook and Twitter.

Video Game Review – Deponia: The Complete Journey

Point and Click Adventure game fans rejoice, for there is a video game series that manages to capture the glory of the old LucasArts classics! Whilst there is little out that that will be precisely what you’re looking for in terms of replaying games like Monkey Island, Deponia: The Complete Journey is a close shave to the games of old. So what is it like playing through this series and how does this particular title stack up to the golden oldies?

Point and Click Adventure game fans rejoice, for there is a video game series that manages to capture the glory of the old LucasArts classics! Whilst there is little out that that will be precisely what you’re looking for in terms of replaying games like Monkey Island, Deponia: The Complete Journey is a close shave to the games of old. So what is it like playing through this series and how does this particular title stack up to the golden oldies?

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Story

In Deponia: The Complete Journey, you start off by playing as Rufus, who is a rather uncouth character. He is quick to point out the flaws of others without looking at any of his own, which is a perfect character to play as! He’s quite unlikeable in terms of character but has a certain charm in his own way, however I like that he’s like this. Rufus wants to leave the trash planet Deponia desperately. It’s a planet that’s filled with junk, junk and more junk so Rufus hatches a cunning plan.

As another one of his ingenious plans backfires on him and causes him to have to readdress the way he does things, Rufus sees the beautiful Goal and vows to try to help her out. He really should have left her alone as he causes her more trouble than good. Now Rufus makes it his goal to help her out all in the way pretending to be Goals fiancee because they look exactly the same. A common complaint all people suffer when attracting a partner, so I’m sure you’ll sympathise!

Graphics

As is now customary with our video game reviews, we believe pictures speak a thousand words. Here is a gallery of pictures from very early in the game:

Audio

The voice actors and actresses in this game are staggering, which helps to bring an air of realism to the world of Deponia. It’s honestly exciting hearing such clear voices and no over-acting for any of them. There are a few with wilder voices, but even then, it doesn’t detract from the characters at any point.

One special feature of The Complete Journey over previous versions is that it features commentary by the developers of the game. I love listening to the developers explain their decisions over some of the design and some of the lore of the game. They usually chat with an in-game character during their commentary parts, which is quite funny to listen to.

This game features a lot of dialogue and you’ll get used to just listening to them through several long events. Couple this with nice and clear sound effects and music for the game where the music isn’t too overpowering, and you’ve got a great game. One special nod from me however goes to the fact that they allow you to shift the sound of the music down and keep the vocals up. This is a blessing in disguise because I find that with a lot of games, if you have the music at the same level as the voice actors, you can’t hear them so well.

Overall

Give this game a go if you’re a fan of the old school point and click adventure games, with games such as Monkey Island, (Especially The Curse of Monkey Island,) at the forefront of the adventure game genre. Whilst that’s certainly true, we needed a modern day LucasArts and it seems that Daedalic Entertainment are our LucasArts. Thanks guys, you’ve crafted a truly entertaining game with some memorable characters. Especially that Rufut, as rude and as horrid as he is.

Have you played any of the Deponia games? I bought the game when it was on sale on Steam, which is a great way to pick up any game you feel like having a go at. As always, let us know what you think about the game in the comments below, over on Facebook or on Twitter.

Narrative and Genre

So here’s something new I’ve been pondering:

I’ve been getting back into the point-and-click puzzle solver recently. I got a copy of the remastered Grim Fandango, was given a copy of a game called Amazone. I found myself considering their stories more deeply, the way they allude to future events early on, spin threads of narrative across chapters, acts, ages…

A P&C has a tendency to be a fairly linear game-style, moving from puzzle to puzzle, unable to progress to the next until the first is complete. More often than not you’ll be able to resolve multiple puzzles alongside one another, so if you’re stuck on one you can move to another for a while, so on, so forth. This kind of progression is not for everyone but it offers the genre one fantastic opportunity, cohesive and consistent story telling.

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RPGs offer a similar experience, although rarely is the story quite so imperative. As in the film industry action often draws some of the priority away from the story, although time constraints aren’t a factor as they are in films, story requires a break in action, and the more story the greater the pauses in between action opportunities. It’s very difficult to weave both together simultaneously, and doing so often detracts from one or the other experience anyway.

That’s not to say of course that puzzle-solving is not without its’ deficits. Getting stuck on a puzzle can often lead to rage quitting which has a tendency to break the flow of narrative rather devastatingly, but they are advantaged heavily by the fact that the entirety of the gameplay (at least in a well designed game) is part of the story itself.

Myst III Exile is a prime example, each age visited is supposed to teach a valuable lesson that led the boys Sirrus and Achenar to a corrupted conclusion, and their vengeful victim Saavedro uses those lesson ages to teach Atrus a lesson of his own.

Each puzzle develops the ages as a rich and living world, every step uncovers some new dark truth about the arcing legends surrounding the series, and of course as with every Myst game there are books dotted around to add to the experience.

I think one of my favourite aspects of any game are things like books and journal entries. The Elder Scrolls games have the richest library to choose from, but Dishonored, Myst, the Witcher, and even the occasional FPS often have material worth the read or listen to. The sad fact is that in most games the introduction of book stops the flow of play altogether while you take a break to read, that’s why in the Witcher and ESO the effects of reading said book are immediately noticeable: “Block skill increased”  or “Information added to journal”

That’s not to say that the relaxed pace of a P&C makes the storyline any more memorable, indeed RPGs and FPS games have the advantage when they successfully blend action and narrative in creating more dramatically tense moments that stay in our minds that much better, but depending on how you play can make those moments few and far between, or readily clicked-through distractions to the bloodshed and looting.

And what of other gaming genres? Is the platformer limited entirely to the story of “Try the next castle, swear I saw some shady looking dragon-turtle going in there!” Does strategy remove you too far from the personal experience to offer a rich storyline? Or does the scale of forces only add to the opportunities for grandiose moments of significance?

I open the question then to you, humble reader (or arrogant reader, I don’t judge), what narrative devices do you enjoy in games? What genre do you think best suits the story tellers art?

Naah! I’ll just tell you. It’s tabletop, it’ll always be tabletop! But hey, the question’s out there.

Kickstarter Highlight – Thimbleweed Park

Do you like LucasArts?

Do you like classic 8-bit inspired graphics?

Do you like and remember games such as the original Monkey Island, or the game that started the point and click adventure game genre; Manic Mansion? Then look no further, hold onto your 8-bit specs and it’s time to check out another retro fuelled Kickstarter Highlight.

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Blog-versation: Bad Level Design

“Level” is an increasingly ambiguous term. With the rise of sandbox games, and the increasing power of home PCs and consoles, games are becoming increasingly free-flowing, breaking down by chapter, quest and location more than what we would have once called level. A good level is memorable, compelling, and can really drive a game forward. A bad level design is often memorable in it’s own right.

Bad levels can drive us from otherwise enjoyable games. Invisible walls and insurmountable obstacles, even slow paced or dull levels can make us put down our controllers and walk away.

Continue reading “Blog-versation: Bad Level Design”

FUNDED Kickstarter Highlight – Shrug Island

Adventure gamers rejoice! There’s a fantastic new Point and Click adventure game which needs our help! Let’s take a deeper look into Shrug Island.

Kickstarter Link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/iggynore/shrug-island
Greenlight Link: http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=232013135

Based on a student film in the Shrug universe, Shrug Island is a stylish looking 2D point and click adventure game.

The game follows two friends who are looking to find one another after being away from their home for some time. It promises to be available on PC, Mac, Linux and tablets (Android and iOS).

The artwork is very soft. Simple and very unique, I can’t think of a game (immediately, anyway) that looks even vaguely similar to this. Do you know of one that looks similar? Answer in the comments below. The entire game features hand drawn artwork, which explains why this looks like it does.

So, as I mentioned, this is a point and click adventure game. Fans of the old LucasArts games would understand the appeal of these point and click games, of which I think I will one day have to review my favourite LucasArts game. Alas, that’s for another time! For now, we’re celebrating the future with Kickstarter once more.

Childlike in nature, this game looks to bring out not just the inner child, but the “Magic” that has been missing from a lot of today’s AAA games. Don’t get me wrong, I do find AAA games as fun as the next person when it involves some of the big titles. But something has been bugging me more and more about games as of late. There’s too much instruction and not enough exploration. I’m hoping Shrug Island encourages the exploration of their ever evolving world.

That’s a point: This world, on Shrugs Island, evolves based upon the actions you take. The inhabitants (Called Shrugs) evolve with their surroundings. Shrugs are musicians and communicate with their strange bodies. They are seaweed eaters (Hear, hear! Though I do like mine fried)

Delicious!

But I digress.

For most of the year, the island is underwater, hence the inhabitants kind of get used to seaweed. So, they eat seaweed in many different ways!

The origins of Shrug Island comes from this short film. At only 6:53 in length, it doesn’t hurt having a watch of this in order to better understand how this game is going to turn out:

Tiered rewards

So, as with all Kickstarters, there’s the uncanny $2,000 and $1,000 tiers (Of which people have gone for the $1,000 tier. I wish I could have that kind of money to pledge towards new games!) But, the tiers I’m going to point out, as always, are the smaller tiers which are basically the bread and butter for these types of projects.

$1 – You get a thank you!
$5 – A digital sketch signed for you as well as desktop wallpaper!
$10 – Chapter 1 downloadable and the previous tiers rewards.
$18 – Digital artbook and the previous tiers rewards.
$25 – Digital soundtrack and all of the previous tiers rewards.
$30 – Chapters 2-4 will be downloadable when it’s all done… And all previous tiers rewards.

So, this is scaling up nicely.

The thing I like most about Shrug Island is that it uses simple music, hand drawn art and it has a simple yet effective story about communication. This little world has an essence of magic about it and, you never know, perhaps you’ll have your inner child awoken by having a go at this game.

In game artwork

Interestingly, this game has an idea in that as you interact with the game, you directly affect the sound track. Each game is set to last between 60-90 minutes, so these aren’t games for the long point and click adventure game fans. If anything, these games are here to just take you on a short, but fun journey throughout.

What do you all think? It seems like a fantastic project with great artwork, nice simple music and most importantly: A game that encourages exploration. Not headshots.

WARNING: The below YouTube features FPS Doug. I cannot guarentee there will be no swearing – As there is swearing.

Boom, headshot.