Adventure Game Girl

Arfle barfle Gloop? A nerdy girl in a pixelated world

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Technobabylon - Wadjet Eye and Technocrat games

Oh I have been a bad blogger haven't I? To be honest, I've not played any games of note to review really... well I was recently OBSESSED with the Walking Dead games by Telltale, but I'm not sure they fit the tone of the blog so I didn't post about them! Anyway, I had been waiting eagerly for this release from Wadjet Eye for a long time, so I leapt on it as soon as I was able to.

Here is what they have to say about the game themselves:

"City of Newton, 2087. Genetic engineering is the norm, the addictive Trance has replaced almost any need for human interaction, and an omnipresent AI named Central powers the city.
CEL agents Charlie Regis and Max Lao are investigating a serial Mindjacker who is tapping into the neural wiring of seemingly ordinary citizens, stealing their knowledge and leaving them dead. An agoraphobic net addict named Latha Sesame might be the next target. But when Charlie’s past comes back to haunt him, he and his partner find themselves on opposite sides of the law, with Latha’s fate in the crossfire"

Technocrat's Technobabylon (original)
Technobabylon with a bit of Wadjet Eye pizazz..
I played some very early versions of the first three chapters of this game released by Technocrat for free on the AGS forums I frequent, so I knew I wanted more of this game, and when I heard it was heading for the Midas touch of Wadjet Eye, I was delighted and excited to see what Dave Gilbert could do to it, and he hasn't disappointed.

Having played the earlier versions of the beginning, I steamed through that bit quickly, as I'd already put the hours in on the puzzles, but that wasn't off putting at all. The atmosphere and story was beautiful already from what Technocrat put in himself, and Wadjet Eye polished it to a high shine in my opinion, adding the voice acting and musical score I expect from them, that helped the immersive experience. Of course, the artwork was also beautiful, but what else would you expect? I know, I'm a Wadjet Eye fan-girl, I am! I admit it wholeheartedly.

The only thing I could possibly mark this game down on, is that it is occasionally confusing about exactly what is happening and what you're supposed to do. There were a couple of points here I felt a bit lost, but that is partly because this future world is a bit odd, and the people in it know things we don't. For the most part, it is explained, but I felt occasionally like I missed a vital conversation or something and had to do a bit of random exploration to work out how to proceed. That said, I did muddle through!
One of my favourite bits of the games was learning how to use the technology of the time to solve puzzles around you. At first it seems bizarre, and then you understand it like second nature, like a real integration of technology into society. You have to interact with machines and robots to solve puzzles, and of course, use the "trance".
I also connected rather strongly with Latha Sesame... she's an agoraphobe who spends her life in the "trance".. and I am an agoraphobe who spends my life on the internet/in games so I very much relate!

An odd thing I feel I must mention here, is something I'm not sure is intentional or not... I should probably ask Dave Gilbert, but one of the characters (Dr Adam Baxter) looks a LOT like Richard o'Brien (he of Rocky Horror Show and The Crystal Maze fame) This is, in my opinion a good thing, whether intentional or not ;) If the artist didn't use him as reference, I'll eat my hat. That nose! The ears! Gah! It's all too much to be coincidence! 

Dr Adam Baxter
Richard O'Brien.. no.. wait...

I then noticed that another character (Dr Nina Jeong) looks a lot like Yunjin Kim from Lost... Her eyebrows don't seem quite the same, but a startling similarity. Look at the nose shape, nasolabial creases... the eyes... even the lips! I'm not judging that the artist used these as reference by the way, Damn good choices in my opinion!

Yunjin Kim
Dr Nina Jeong

I really don't want to spoil the plot, because it's glorious. It's a cyberpunk dream. I adore this kind of storyline, and it's why I loved Gemini Rue so much. Thrown into a future world, that asks questions I've pondered myself, and makes you question the world. If, like me, you're a fan of sci-fi and cyberpunk, don't ask questions, just buy the damn thing now. If you liked Gemini Rue, you will like this, I guarantee it. 

It's hard to know what else I can say about this game without giving too much of the plot away, and the juicy plot and story is the backbone of this game, and I don't want to spoil it- so just play the damn thing already and come back and thank me later!

Buy the game here:

This is not an affiliate link, I get nothing if you buy this game, I'm not that popular ;)

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Gray Matter (Wizarbox and dtp entertainment 2010)

I know it's been a while and I'm a bad blogger *slaps wrist*. I have mostly been playing World of Warcraft since Warlords of Draenor came out, and recently got Civilization Beyond Earth, as well as a few indie games I got on Steam (mostly not adventures) so I didn't really feel I could review any of them here. But now it's a new year, I shall endeavor to do better!

Thankfully I got a Steam Wallet voucher as a Christmas gift, and one of the things I get for less than £2 was actually Gray Matter**, a game that's been sat in my Amazon Wishlist forever and nobody bought for me *sniff* so I bought it for myself! (**note- it was less than £2 as it was in the sale, it's normally £6.99)

I had no expectations about the game. Any reviews I'd read were a long time ago when I put it on my wishlist and I'd forgotten anything I knew. Other than that I saw a hot chick with piercings, and some cleavage out doing magic on the cover and I was sold (very much my thing *grin*)

See what I mean? This is Sam Everett, our heroine. 

Lack of expectations can often be a good thing in adventure games, as I liken it very much to reading fiction, it's like picking up a book without knowing the author, the reviews or even reading the cover. Sometimes what you find within can surprise you.

First things first- WHY isn't this game much more famous?? I honestly think it's one of the best storylines of the genre. I won't spill the beans on what happens, because I think that's half the fun, but it combines two themes I love- science and the brain in particular and magic and illusion. The fusion of these two things was practically a wet dream in game format for me, especially when you add a gorgeous female protagonist and some wonderful casting to boot, and sprinkle in real areas of the UK I've actually seen.

The second the game finished and I saw the credits, I saw why I loved it so much in one line "Jane Jensen". OH HALLO AGAIN!  Yes, I know my last post was about her, and I didn't realise she was part of this game until I finished it! It's odd because as I played I kept mentally comparing it to the Gabriel Knight games... (I've downloaded a demo for Moebius: Empire Rising, but as that's another Jane Jensen game, I should probably hold up on playing that until I've reviewed something else or she's going to want to take out a restraining order on me ;) )

Magic trick preparation

The only thing I have to mention that didn't *quite* work for me was the magic thing. Part of the game involves performing tricks to solve puzzles. I like this idea in theory. You have to find the right trick in your book of tricks, set it up correctly, then set out a plan with the order of what you put where to successfully perform the trick, I will hold my hands up and say I used walkthroughs for nearly every trick as I found it wouldn't work for me even when I was sure I had it in a way that worked, and more often than not it was because I put something in the left hand rather than right hand and vice versa. It wasn't very intelligent the way it was coded, to me. It seemed that you had to do things precisely as it was programmed to accept, even if the way you had planned was actually a way that really would work... I recommend checking online for the answer to these things if you find yourself screaming at your computer like I was...

Artwork/character design for Sam
Other than that, the puzzles were wonderful. They were hard enough, but not impossible or pixel-hunting. None of the sort you scratch your head over for days, then Google it and go "WTF?? How was I meant to get that??" It always made sense, but pushed me enough so I felt I was working for it.

The music was lovely. Apparently a band called the Scarlet Furies (as mentioned in game). It's not the type of music I choose to listen to, but it fitted in well, and felt atmospheric. The voice acting was also very good. Real emotion in the acting and I felt empathy for all the characters, and felt they were well fleshed out. Knowing that it's Jane Jensen, that does make a lot of sense. Her characters and background stories are always very detailed and elaborate.

Graphic novel style cut scenes.
The first thing that I compared to the GK series whilst playing was the cut scenes. They were graphic novel-esque, and if you read my previous review of the GK remake, you'd know that's something I really enjoy in games. The artwork in these was breathtaking to me. As an artist, it was something I really appreciated. They were beautiful and had some luscious movement and use of colour. It really tied the game together and brought in the emotion.

Top- photo of Oxford
Bottom- Oxford in game

The whole design artwork was gorgeous in fact. The places in Oxford that I've seen looked true to life, and I'm assuming the ones I don't recognise were equally accurate... It was wonderfully moody throughout and the lighting and colours very much enhanced the game.

I want to say more about the storyline but honestly, it's better for you if I don't, go in with an open mind and no preconceptions and enjoy the ride through a "magical" tale... Actually, I think the description on the Wikipedia page says it best without spoiling it...

"The opening scene of the game depicts Sam riding her motorcycle in the rain in the countryside while traveling to London, and accidentally being redirected to Oxford because of a broken street sign. Her bike breaks down, forcing her to take shelter in Dread Hill, a nearby mansion where David resides. She poses as an Oxford student responding to Styles' request for a research assistant.

Eventually, Sam is ordered to recruit six students as test subjects for David's research. Through clever manipulation and magic tricks, Sam manages to find four students willing to volunteer for the experiment. The professor recalls her to Dread Hill, letting her know that he found a fifth candidate and making Sam herself the sixth.
As the game progresses, Sam learns about the professor's past, his research on the paranormal, the prestigious members-only Daedalus magic club, a series of bizarre events that take place at Oxford University, and how these elements are connected."

Just because it amuses me and I managed to review two Jane Jensen games in a row without realising I was even playing one the second time, I'm sticking that classy B&W moody writer's promo shot in again...

Oh look! I get to use that Jane Jensen picture AGAIN!

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Gabriel Knight: Sins of The Father's 20th Anniversary Edition (Pinkerton Road Studios)

Anyone who loved adventure games in the 90s will probably know the original Gabriel Knight series by Sierra, and I've yet to talk to anyone who didn't love the first in the series- "Sins of the Fathers" where we are introduced to Gabriel Knight, and his family history of the Schattenjägers (Shadow Hunters). [I'm not going to discuss the Schattenjägerhere for those who aren't familiar with the story line.] and discover what his own future holds...

I'm going to try really hard not to bring spoilers into this review because I think the game will be wonderful for old and new players alike.

Brief Storyline summary
Gabriel Knight is a fairly unsuccessful horror writer living in New Orleans. He runs his own, equally unsuccessful, rare book shop. As part of his research for a new book, he meets up with his life long friend Detective Moseley who gives him insider information on a case of voodoo murders, (in the hope of actually being in the book himself...) Having such close contact with the voodoo murders, Gabriel manageress to get himself caught up in the dark side of New Orleans and black voodoo, more than he even imagined possible, but something more than curiosity drives him to investigate this more than the police seem to be doing themselves...

1993 GK at the top, 2014 GK at the bottom

Oh, a note of the voodoo. I have a friend from the New Orleans area though she lives in England now, who practices voodoo. I've wanted to ask her how accurate the voodoo represented in game was, but didn't want to appear rude or ignorant, but what I understand from it, Jensen certainly did her research at the time. Of course the kind of Voodoo my friend practices is not the same as the black voodoo portrayed in game... I don't think. OR IS IT?? *DUN DUN DUUUUN*

Having adored the original game, as well as it's sequel (let's not discuss the third, I could never get past the clunky interface... it was very unnerving) I was waiting eagerly for this remake, excited to play it all over again. I have played my old copy more recently, but of all my retro games, it's proved to be one of the hardest to convince to run on a modern machine for one reason or another (though possible! I managed it eventually!) so to have a new version designed for a modern computer, I probably would have been excited if it looked exactly the same in all honesty- but this version just blew me away.

The remake has been made by Pinkerton Road Studios, and this is important to note, because it is a company that Jane Jensen, the original writer and director of the GK series, partially runs herself. This means the original feeling, and the essence of the game remained true, and Jensen had access to original work of the first game to use for this remake. In fact throughout the game, you can click a button to see comparisons to the 1993 version and see original sketches and storyboards. I loved this feature. I looked at most of it during the game, but thankfully, there is the option to read through the lot at the end too.

The colours and light effects are just beautiful
The changes in the newer version include fully updated graphics that are just beautiful. Right down to the light through the windows dancing through the dust in the air in the bookshop. It truly enhances the game play in my opinion, and is breath-takingly beautiful, but I am an artist, so I would say that.
They've redone the music, of course, but stayed true to the original score. The interface is improved and updated too. The original atmosphere and overall feel of the game remains true, which is something of an achievement. I know other remakes (no names mentioned here!) have been less successful in maintaining the atmosphere of their originals, but Jensen truly nailed it. In fact, the parts that made me jump and filled me with anxiety the first time, still did now *sings Feels Like the First Time by Foreigner* (sorry!) I won't tell you which bits, unless you ask, but by Glob they managed to freak me out all over again, even though I knew it was coming...

For the hardcore, die-hard GK fans, there are some new puzzles to surprise you. I have to say I was disappointed with those, as they were very easy in my opinion, but I was pleased that the effort has been made to keep it interesting for us and enhance the gameplay.

Voice acting.. Hmm. What to say? Well it's done well, there's no doubt about that, but I played the original with no speech and when I heard it redone with Tim Curry's voice, it NEVER made sense to me. I adore Tim Curry as an actor (especially in Rocky Horror) but I don't know, his voice never fitter Gabriel in my mind. Playing the new version, I thought it was Tim Curry in this one until the credits at the end! They did a really good version of Tim Curry's voice, but that voice will never be Gabriel to me. The acting was excellent, but it's just a silly thing in my mind, like when you read a book then see the movie and the character is NOT how they should be. Tim Curry is not Gabe in my mind- ever! Grace's voice is perfect, everyone else is, in fact. it's just Tim Curry is not Gabriel Knight... to me anyway.

Graphic novel cut-scenes

I nearly forgot to mention on of my favourite aspects, brought through from the first one- the 
Graphic Novel, and the cut scenes that follow that style. It's no secret that I'm a geek, and geeks like comic *cough* graphic novels... but the originals were gorgeous and emotionally evocative. I still have the one that came with the original in it's box, all nicely preserved in my loft... but I got to read it again in game! and there are cutscenes like these (I know, I'm showing nothing later in the game, that's on purpose ;) ) Look at the colours and mood. Ooh it makes the artist in me get so excited!!

Would I recommend this game? Well, that's probably obvious... yes. Yes I would recommend it to everyone who loved the Sierra adventures in their peak in the 90s, Yes I would recommend it to those who are new fans to the adventure genre, and finally, yes I would recommend it to those who've not played an adventure game, but love a compelling horror story, voodoo or New Orleans...  This game took me a day to complete, but that was a day of doing nothing but playing it.. In fact through the joy of Steam I can tell you I spent exactly 7 hours playing it *gulp*. My husband thinks it wasn't worth the money for it only taking me that long to play, but, I've played the original, remember, so the puzzles aren't new to me (mostly!) and I'm a high-speed, knuckle down and play solidly til it's done kind of adventure gamer. Despite that, I still think it's worth every penny, and I told my husband so! It was a beautiful thing to be immersed in to play, and has made me desperate to play more. I do hope Jane Jensen will be bringing us a GK 4 now... (and/or redoing the other GKs 2 and 3. I'd love to play GK3 but it HURTS to play!)

Now here's a photo of Jane Jensen looking pensive and in black and white. Because its's vital for all horror writes to have some of these...
Jane Jensen
<fan girl moment> Thanks for the wonderful game Jane- you shaped my life of gaming back with the original, and you still make my heart sing with your remake! </fan girl moment>

I don't get anything from you buying through that link or clicking it. It's just a link. Nobody reads this blog enough for me to have an affiliate link!

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Broken Age (Double Fine)

During my splurge on the Steam Summer Sale recently, I bought Broken Age. This is a brand new game by Tim Schafer who is known as the designer of critically acclaimed games Full ThrottleGrim Fandango and Brütal Legend and co-designer of the early classics The Secret of Monkey IslandMonkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge and Day of the Tentacle. As this guy is part of so many wonderful games, the second I heard of his involvement, I knew I wanted to play this, without reading ANYTHING about the game anywhere else first!

The odd thing about this game I that I can't decide completely how I feel about it. It was weird, but weird can be good. I felt oddly detached in it. I so badly wanted to love this because of the team behind it. It has some wonderful ideas in it, and I can sense Tim's humour within the game, but it wasn't as prevalent as it is in his other games. This game is only part one (which I only discovered when I finished the game!) so there is more to come, but as far as I'd got, it didn't really make much sense to me, as a game.

There is no denying the beauty of this game...

I didn't dislike it, but I didn't love it either. I feel oddly ambivalent about playing it. It's got some big names doing the voices in the game, Elijah Wood, Jack Black, Wil Wheaton! Everything about this game should make it absolute magic, but some sort of spark is lacking. I can't deny that the voice acting is absolutely breath taking, the graphics are beautiful, and the world created is enchanting.. but the puzzles fell flat, and I felt like I was missing something the whole time. I downloaded several games at the same time, and I completed most of the others before I came back to give Broken Age another try, as it just wasn't a game I felt I wanted more of. This said, I will probably try the next part of the game when it is released in the hope it completes the picture more for me, but I feel it's more an indulgence of ideas than something cohesive that works.

Shay the male character (voiced by Elijah Wood)
As for storyline, it's very surreal, but that's not a bad thing. There are two different characters to play and you can switch between the two. There seems to be no connection between the two characters at all until the very end, and it felt a little like playing two different games at once with the same art style. A couple of hints at things that connect the two would have been nice to stop the disconnect in the game. What is interesting is that the concept here is that the two heroes are being babied and controlled with decisions taken from them, and that's exactly how I felt in the game. I was babied with easy puzzles, and felt I had little free will.

I don't like an adventure game that has nothing beyond left clicking on things to interact with the environment, no choosing of whether to look/take/use etc, just if something highlights, you click, and it does the right thing. It feels too easy that way. That is how Broken Age works. Everything seems spoon fed, superficial and easy in that sense.

Vella the female character
Perhaps the problem is that I expected so much more from this game because of the people involved, and that  is why I'm disappointed... It's not a bad game, and it was worth playing... I think... All other reviews I've seen seem to be glowing, so perhaps I'm missing something! For me, Broken Age has many of the right ingredients, but someone screwed up the cooking process I think.

Click below to get the game and try for yourself. Let me know what you think about it!

Monday, 7 July 2014

The Shivah (Kosher Edition) by Wadjet Eye Games

The Shivah is the most recent game I have played by Wadjet Eye, despite them having made it back in 2006 as their very first game! With the re-release of the game, remade with new graphics and full voice and sound packs as the "kosher edition" I reconsidered it.

Shivah screen shot (apartment appears in a Blackwell game)
I will admit that I avoided it originally because of it's content. I am not a religious person (I'm actually an atheist), and I know nothing about Jewish culture, and I didn't know what to expect in a game about just that. However, I must say I'm pleased I decided to give it the time. When I thought about it, I realised other games had helped me understand religions on some level without it being an absolute "religious game" it just had that as a partial theme- Gabriel Knight 'Sins of The Fathers' had masses of stuff about voodoo, but was about murder and conspiracy. Broken Sword taught me about the Templars, and the Gnostics and more, and I've lost count of the games with mentions of Catholicism. Some sort of religion can make a good story in an adventure game, that's for sure. The Shivah is not so much a "Jewish game" as I may have though, but a game about murder and loss, that happens to have a Rabbi at the centre, so his world involves Jewish themes and ideas. You don't have to be Jewish to enjoy it!
Don't mess with tha' rabbi!

It's a very short game, but that doesn't detract too much from it, especially when you know it was Wadjet Eye's first game. I'm very fond of their style, their humour, the graphics and even the music of their games. The only thing is I'm sick of New York now! I know it's where Dave Gilbert of Wadjet Eye lives with his family, so it's what he feels most comfortable using as his setting, and I can understand that, but I'd love to see something somewhere else.. anywhere else!  

The game, despite it's short length, has multiple endings. You can end it before you even start anything interesting in fact, without ever knowing anything. It makes a short game more rewarding as I replayed it several times to try to get all the endings, and getting it through Steam meant it had Steam Community achievements too (you have to get the game through Steam to do that though)

Rosa's cameo
One of my favourite bits in this game was the cameos of Rosangela Blackwell from the Blackwell games, standing in a bar "talking to herself", and Detective Sam Durkin who is also in the Blackwell games. Of course, Sam could well have been in Shivah first, but I played them the wrong way around! The apartment you visit was also in one of the Blackwell games, but I know from hearing the commentary on the Blackwell games that it did come from the Shivah first. Little things like that make nice connections for fans through games which is particularly nice in Indie games.

New York skyline
The voice acting is, as you would expect from Wadjet Eye, beautiful. Well cast, well recorded, well acted. The music is stunning, same as I expect from them, and the graphics are just beautiful. I mean look at the screen cap of the skyline for a start! I sound like a screaming fan girl, I know, and I suppose I am. Everything Wadjet Eye touch is gold. Of all their games, this would be my least favourite, but it's still a damn good little game and worth a play.

How many other games have you ever played where you get to play a boxing Rabbi??

Click below to buy the game from Wadjet Eye (currently $4.99 via this link or £3.99 on Steam)

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I’m useless at these "About Me" things. I’m an artistic type with goffick leanings who sits on her arse all day due to chronic illnesses. I'm a mad cat lady and I'll try my hand at most crafts. That will do for this little box! :D
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