Sunday, November 30, 2008

Don't Mind the Mess

I'm adding quite a bit of content at the moment, so you're likely to see a lot of stuff creep up on the main page for a few weeks. Don't worry, once it's all added in things will get back to normal around here again.

Also, you might have noticed the name change of this blog. When I was adding content to the Games page, I added in Autumn Moon and Double Fine's games because I'm excited to play them and I love them a lot respectively, so I thought it would be best if I let Autumn Moon's and Double Fine's adventure games get covered here too. They don't get released as often as Telltale's episodic games.

So, this blog is now titled Autumn Double Tale. I already made an A Vampyre Story piece of fanart for the news anyway, so might as well go all the way. :)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Grim Fandango 10 Year Anniversary

As of this October, Grim Fandango is 10 years old!

On October 28, 1998, LucasArts' first 3D adventure game was released. Grim Fandango was their most ambitious adventure game project to date, spanning 4 game years over 2 CDs. Tim Schafer got together with most of the Grim team to celebrate the occasion with a cake adjorned with the game's protaganist, Manny Calavara.

Congrats to the Grim Team! It's hard to believe it's been 10 years.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in the United States. Enjoy a Homestar Runner 20X6 Thanksgiving cartoon to celebrate the holiday!

If you're in the mood to start your Christmas shopping (and since tomorrow is the start of the holiday shopping season in the US, you should be), Telltale has set up a Gift store where you can purchase items as a gift for your friend or loved one. Even better, they are now offering two new bundles. Bundle one is a Sam and Max Gift Bundle featuring both seasons of the Sam & Max games (that's 11 episodes) on extras-filled DVDs, topped off with a copy of Surfin' the Highway. Bundle two is a Wii Game Gift Pack featuring the Wii versions of Sam & Max Season One and CSI: Hard Evidence. (Region alert: these are the North American versions and won't work in PAL Wii consoles.) They are offering gift wrapping for all purchases (excluding downloadable games of course). And, to sweeten the deal they're also offering free USPS shipping for people who're buying a downloadable game along with physical merchandise! This offer's only good through Wednesday 12/3 though, so don't wait too long.

Oh, and I also feel the need to mention Rob Smith's new book Rogue Leaders: The Story of LucasArts. This book tells the story of LucasArts from it's early days as one of the upstart Lucasfilm computer divisions along side what would become Pixar, to the legacy-forgetting company that it has become today. It contains a lot of concept art on released games, and details a lot of games that were cancelled including Sam & Max Freelance Police. The cancellation of this game was the catalyst that led to the formation of Telltale Games, and eventually led to the creation of the episodic Sam & Max games that we all know and love. It's going to be released sometime in December, but if you live within driving distance of San Francisco and RSVP in time, you can get it early and for a 20% discount at the release party on December 4th.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Culture Shock Review

With Sam & Max Season One finally getting released for the Wii this past October, it's a good time to take a look at the six episodes available on the disc. Culture Shock is the first episode of Season One, and starts things off with a bang.

Sam & Max must investigate a case of hypnotism, where a group of former child stars from a hit television show in the 1970's have been brainwashed to promote the maker of a self-help video. The three former child stars are raising a ruckus on the city street that is home to the office of Sam & Max Freelance Police. Fans of LucasArts' Sam & Max Hit the Road will be happy to see that the street is very familiar, with Bosco's grocery store and the cafe that sells bad food still on the corner. The cafe is not open for business, but we finally get to set foot into Bosco's and even get to meet the man himself.

Bosco is a very interesting character. He is an ultra-paranoid individual who seems to run his grocery store only to finance his various dubious BoscoTech inventions. Bosco's Inconvenience Store is littered with security cameras and various BoscoTech inventions that are present to keep people from stealing from the store. The other store owner on the block is Sybil Pandemic, licensed therapist, well at least this week. Her sign outside of her shop shows her to have had at least 3 previous jobs. The characters are all full of quirks and personality, and as the game progresses, these quirks become even more evident.

Humor has always been Sam & Max's main selling point, ever since the first comic featuring the duo appeared way back in 1987. Here, the humor is top notch. The humor is quirky, containing plenty of one-liners, especially from Max.

I'm not a big fan of action sequences in adventure games, so it must be said that there are two action sequences in the game in the form of car chases. It's very reminiscent of the chase scene in Out From Boneville, in that the DeSoto is moved across the screen and there is debris on the road that slows you down. This time around though, since it is a Sam & Max chase, Sam's gun can be used at any time during the chase, and a bullhorn can be used by Max to shout at other drivers.

The voicework in Culture Shock is very good, with three notable exceptions which I will get to at the bottom of this paragraph. Max's voice actor does a great job portraying the character, falling somewhere between the voice of Max in Hit the Road and Max in the animated series. Sam's voice actor chose to stay fairly true to the film noir feel of Sam's voice from Hit the Road rather than the gruff portrayal of Sam found in the animated series. Both voices sound really good, with Max as the standout as his voice is full of energy. Sam's voice actor does a remarkable job with the voice throughout most of the game, but sometimes his portrayal seems a bit stiff and lacking of emotion. All in all though, both main character's voices are great. Telltale had a tall order to fill to keep fans happy with the voices, and they managed to succeed in my opinion. The supporting characters also mostly have nice voices, with Bosco's gruff voice and Sybil's mid-range voice fitting their characters perfectly. The former child stars known as the Soda Poppers, on the other hand are quite grating. Their personalities are interesting, but their voices are much too falsetto to be enjoyable. I know exactly where Telltale was going with this, with the grown men trying to keep sounding like the little kids they used to be on TV much like Screech from Saved by the Bell. However, the characters are triplets, and each one of them sound this way. This gives them a lot of screen time, and their voices quickly become tiresome before the game is over.

The music in the game is great. The jazz intro is wonderful, very reminiscent of the Cheesy Understated Credit Sequence from Hit the Road, but unique enough to stand on it's own. The music that plays during car chase sequences is also very catchy. A sountrack CD is available for Season One, and I recommend purchasing it wholeheartedly. Each subsequent episode has music as good or better than this one, and it really does makes for some great listening pleasure.

Culture Shock is a fine return to form for the crime fighting (and causing) duo. With the exception of the voices of the Soda Poppers, there's not too much that I can say that can count against the quality of the game. Even with the grating characters though, it's still well worth the purchase for the game's many other redeeming qualities. It's really funny, the duo themselves are voiced well, and the music is wonderful.

Final Verdict: 4 out of 5


Sam & Max Hit the Road (the first Sam & Max game, by LucasArts) ReviewEpisode Two Review

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Baddest of the Bands Review

Baddest of the Bands is the third episode of Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive people. This episode sees some improvements in some areas, although some areas feel lacking compared to Strong Badia the Free.

In Baddest of the Bands, Strong Bad decides to start a battle of the bands contest in order to raise money to fix his broken Fun Machine. He must get three bands on stage, and then sabotage those bands so that he can win the Battle of the Bands contest himself.

The storyline sees a dramatic downturn this time around, as a Battle of the Bands is a much less interesting storyline than uniting fractured countries to overthrow a corrupt government, as in Strong Badia the Free. The humor level is high though in this one, and after all humor is the bread and butter of all of the Homestar Runner universe productions. I found myself enjoying the humor in this game more than the previous two. Strong Bad's quips seemed much more sharp than either of it's predecessors.

The user-placable map is back from Homestar Ruiner. The only new location to be found here is a stage, which is used four times for the venue's four acts. There isn't much different about these locations, apart from one stage which is located next to a small body of water. The new character in this game is the mock-hair band Limozeen, presented here in their Saturday morning cartoon form on a cardboard cutout with a speaker and webcam attatched (so that the band can relax in their tour bus rather than deal with actually listening to the bad bands).

This time around, the Teen Girl Squad comic is not customizable. I'll try not to spoil too much, but the developers did manage to make the comic worthwhile to the game by integrating it into the story. This made the Teen Girl Squad experience much more satisfying in my opinion. I think it's great that Telltale is working the extra activities into the storyline starting with the metal detector in Strong Badia the Free. I hope that this trend continues, since it goes a long way to help keeping things from feeling tedious and tired.

Baddest of the Bands may not have the strongest plot, but it makes up for it with it's humor. The extra activities are beginning to feel less tedious as Telltale continue to work them into the plot of the main game. Strong Bad's quips are the meat of the games in the Strong Bad's Cool Game For Attractive People series, and in Baddest of the Bands they are the sharpest yet.

Final Verdict: 3½ out of 5

Monday, November 17, 2008

Dangeresques and Vampyres and Deals, Oh My!

Head over to the Telltale site or fire up your Wii and head to the Wiiware Games channel to download the latest episode of Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People, Dangeresque 3: The Criminal Projective!

Also, the new trailer for the final episode reveals the name as 8-bit is Enough, and has some nice surprises for fans of the Homestar Runner universe with appearances by fan favorites Trogdor and Stinkoman.

To celebrate the release of Dangeresque 3, Telltale has a deal going in their store where you get free shipping on anything and everything if you have at least one downloadable game in your cart.

And although it's not made by Telltale, I feel I must let everyone know that A Vampyre Story, the first game by Autumn Moon (founded by Bill Tiller of Curse of Monkey Island fame) is now available in Germany. Non-German folk (such as myself) can download the demo of the game (which is available with both German and English text and speech) here.

Update November 20: Gamer's Gate now has A Vampyre Story available to purchase for direct download. UK Gamers can purchase the game in shops now or at Play online.