Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Walking Dead: Around Every Corner Review

Around Every Corner is the penultimate episode of Telltale's The Walking Dead. It continues the high standard set forth by previous episodes in the series, and even manages to improve upon them in some areas as well.

The game takes place immediately after the last episode, with the group finally making it to their destination.  Of course, this being The Walking Dead, things don't go as well as they would have hoped.  Tensions continue to rise and the team continues having to deal with human characters just as much, if not more so, than the walkers.  The voice actors continue to do a great job portraying that tension.  The returning characters are great as usual, and the new characters shine as well.  This is the episode where the contest winner becomes a human character in the game, and that character is interesting as well, if understandably, a little under-used.

The art and animation is great as usual.  The expressions come off as nicely as before.  The new locations are interesting, and they are designed for exploration, without the invisible boundaries that, although fitting with the storyline, were obvious in previous episodes.  The music and sound effects also fit the game as usual, and manage to continue to set the tone well.

Telltale continues addressing fan concerns here.  There are more action scenes than before, with the QTE's much more limited than in earlier episodes.  The direct control shooting portions are much better integrated into the game this time around, feeling less like a mini-game and more like part of the over-all experience.  There is also a lot more exploration and adventure style puzzling.  The puzzles still aren't difficult, but there are more of them, making it a better balance of casual adventuring mixed about evenly with action.  The biggest thing here is that the choices you made throughout the episodes are really starting to matter here.  Characters really respond to you based on your actions and decisions in previous games, and the relationships between the characters matter here more than they have before.  There is also another game changing life or death choice here, like in episode 1, that will certainly change the way the final episode plays out.

Around Every Corner is the best chapter of The Walking Dead so far. It sets up the conclusion in a grand manner while still being entertaining and exciting in it's own right.  It's taken everything that previous episodes did well, and made them even better.  Your choices matter more here than before, the action scenes feel more like part of the experience rather than a mini-game, there is another life or death choice the likes that haven't been seen since the first episode, there is more to explore with more casual adventure puzzles, and the voice actors, music, and sound effects continue to shine.  The final episode has a lot to live up to, as this episode sets the bar higher than any casual adventure game by Telltale that came before it.

Final Verdict:
4½ out of 5

Monday, October 29, 2012

Ben Jordan: In Search of the Skunk-Ape Review

Ben Jordan: Paranormal Detective is a series of eight free adventure games starring Ben Jordan, a young man fresh out of college who decides to become a paranormal investigator.  In his first case, he heads to the Florida everglades to investigate a series of murders that have been linked to the Skunk-Ape, Florida's version of the Sasquach, a Bigfoot like creature that gets its unique name because it smells terrible.

There are two versions of the game, the original version, and the deluxe version which has improved art, an expanded storyline, and full voice acting.  Unfortunately, there are only subtitles when the voice acting is turned off.  It's a shame, because other than irritating voice of the protester, the voice work is pretty good, especially for a free fan game.  Ben Jordan's voice did take a bit getting used to, especially since his is the voice you'll hear the most in the game, but as the story started heating up, I had definitely warmed up to it.  There is also a man who is voiced well, but he speaks softly.  I had to turn my speakers up to hear what he was saying.  People who are hearing impaired or those of whom English isn't their first language will definitely need to opt for subtitles over voice work.  You can do so in the setup program by unchecking the voice pack option.

Luckily, the story line is entertaining enough to sustain interest in the game even without the voice work.  The search for the Skunk-Ape is interesting, and there are quite a few twists in the story line along the way.  The characters that Ben Jordan gets to meet and interrogate along the way are each given quirky, but believable personalities.  They are all a bit extravagent in their own way, but their appearance in and around a state park is completely reasonable.  The storyline is mostly serious, but there is a lot of humor sprinkled in.  Both the serious and the comical lines are written well, and the game straddles the fine line between the two very well.

The game is set up like Sierra adventure games from the 1990's.  You can choose icons to walk, talk, and look either by hovering your mouse at the top of the screen or cycling through them with your right mouse button.  The inventory, as well as the save and load screens, are also accessable at the top of the screen.   The Sierra influence goes beyond the interface.  When you use an icon with an item, there is a narrator who will make comments.  This will yield useful information, but it is also the source for much of the game's humor.  You'll find some references to classic adventure games tucked away in these comments.

The art work is very well done.  It's all low resolution, in the style of the early 1990's adventure games, but it's done very well.  Like those classics, they get a lot out of the small pixel space they have available.  The background art is lovely, done in a realistic style, with a nice amount of detail in each scene.  The characters are also done well.  The sprites are understandably limited, but the close up art of the characters are done well.  The aren't photo-realistic, and border between cartoon style and realistic, but they fit well with the style of the background art.

The puzzles are very much an homage to classic games, as there is no in-game hint system.  However, each puzzle is designed very well, so for most adventure gamers help shouldn't be needed.  Some of the puzzles require thought beyond what you are used to with the rest of the puzzles, which makes these puzzles some of the most creative in the game.  Another thing I liked with the puzzles is the notepad system.  Like all good investigators, Ben has a notepad and a pen.  He will often automatically write down important information in regards to a puzzle, and his notes are available to the player by clicking on the paper icon in the menu at the top of the screen.  This is handy, as there are times when you get stumped trying to determine how to obtain an item, only to forget the other items that are needed to complete a puzzle.

Case 1: In Search of the Skunk-Ape is a great start to the Ben Jordan: Paranormal Investigator series.  The deluxe version is definitely the version to get, since it offers many improvements over the original.  The art style, puzzles, and story are all fantastic.  The game manages to combine humor and serious tones quite well.  The voice work is mostly good, with a few exceptions.  However, the characters who aren't voiced as well aren't on the screen for long, and don't hamper the experience.  The one major drawback is the inability to have voice and subtitles on the screen at the same time.   The more quiet characters fall into the category of annoyances as a result, which is a shame since they aren't necessarily voiced poorly.   It's also  a short game, but this can be forgiven since it's available for free. Even with the game's flaws I still highly recommend this game.  It's one of the best free adventure games I've played.

Final Verdict:

4 out of 5

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Dreamweb Is Now Freeware at ScummVM.org

ScummVM has successfully negotiated with another copyright holder of a classic adventure game to release the game for freeware for use with ScummVM. The game in question is Dreamweb, a mature (15+) adventure game by Creative Reality from 1994 following a bartender who has been having some disturbing dreams. The versions available from ScummVM include both English versions (the uncensored UK version and the censored North American version) (as well as the UK floppy version), and French and Spanish versions.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Metal Dead Review

Metal Dead is a horror comedy adventure game that proves to be an impressive first game by Walk Thru Walls Studios.

The game stars two heavy metal music fans who find themselves in the middle of a zombie apocalypse.   The zombies seem to be heading towards a genetic research building, and the two soon find themselves in the middle of the infestation.  Luckily, the zombies seem to be distracted by their car, for reasons unknown, so the two set forth into the building to see if they can find some answers.

The graphic style is simple, but it works very well.  The characters have a charming look to them.  They are drawn in a cute chibi art sort of fashion, and it makes for an interesting contrast for the apocalyptic action happening around them. The backgrounds have a surprising amount of detail for the simple art style.  The whole game takes place in the research building, but there is a surprising amount of variance in the different rooms that you encounter.

The characters are interesting, and each one adds to the game's humor in their own way.  There isn't any voice acting in this game, but the writing is sharp and clever, so it makes up for it in a big way.  The humor is done right, and the writing is right up there with the best of the comedy adventure games by Sierra and LucasArts.  They also make humorous note of their influence, so you'll find some subtle references to the games from those companies in Metal Dead's dialog.

Despite the name and the premise, the game's music has very little heavy metal.  It's synthesized music, but as the classic adventure games from the early 1990's have shown, this can be very effective if it's done well.  Thankfully, it has been done well here.  There is a varied amount of music styles here, and each song fits the scenes perfectly.  It would have been nice to have a few more tracks, as you will hear some of the songs used multiple times, but they all are used well, so it's not a nuisance.

The puzzles are what make an adventure game, and they are done well here.  Like many puzzles in the comedy adventure genre, you have to make a few leaps of logic, as some of the puzzles don't match real world physics.  But once you realize that it's a cartoon world, and use that knowledge to solve the problems, all of the puzzles work well.  There are some clever puzzles here, and while none of them reach the head scratchers of the early adventure game classics, they do rank right up there with the best puzzles from companies like Telltale Games.

The Metal Dead is a satisfying comedy adventure game.  While there is no voice acting, the music, art, and especially the fantastically funny writing make up for it in spades.  The game is a bit on the short side, but it is not only a fantastic first effort by Walk Thru Walls, it is one of the best pure adventure games to have come out so far in this decade.

Final Verdict:
4 out of 5

Friday, October 19, 2012

Blackwell Deception and To The Moon In Fall Bundle

The Indie Royale Fall Bundle includes the adventure games Blackwell Deception (part of the Blackwell series by Wadjet Eye Games) and To the Moon by Freebird Games, along with the games Oil Rush, AVSEQ, and Reprisal in a pay-what-you-want bundle, currently going for a minimum of $5.23 USD.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Harvey's New Eyes is Out in English Now

Harvey's New Eyes, the sequel to Daedalic's cult hit Edna & Harvey: The Breakout, is out in English now.  Rather than Edna and her toy bunny Harvey, This game focuses on a girl named Lily who sees goblins.  The game can be purchased online at many online retailers such as GOG.com, Steam, and The Adventure Shop for around $20 USD. In addition, the GOG.com and The Adventure Shop deals include the original Edna & Harvey: The Breakout for the same price.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Adventure Games in MacHeist 4

The Macheist 4 Bundle gives you 12 applications and games for Mac, for only $29 USD.  There are 3 more games and apps that will unlock at a point when a certain amount of bundles are sold.

Three adventure games are included in the bundle: Sam & Max: The Devil's Playhouse, Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People, and Jurassic Park: The Game, all of which are through Steam.

The other games and applications in the bundle are: Artboard, Bejeweled 3 (through Steam), Courier, DiscTools Pro, Evernote, HDRtist, Radium, and Scriviner.  Additionally, Firetask will unlock for all bundle owners after 25,000 bundles are sold, and Bioshock 2 and Painter Lite will unlock after an unrevealed amount of bundles are sold.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Walking Dead: Long Road Ahead Review

The third episode of The Walking Dead carries on from the excellent second episode and holds it's own, continuing the excellent quality of one of Telltale's best series to date.

Long Road Ahead continues shortly after the second episode, at a time when the supply runs are coming up empty. The tensions continue to build as the group continues to splinter on what direction would be best for safety.

You are once again dropped right into the action after the story summary. Kenny and Lee are making a supply run, and his attitude towards you is altered based on your actions in previous episodes. That's what's great about this series. While there have been no big story-altering choices since episode one, the minor choices continue to affect the people around you in their behaviour towards you.

Of course, there are new choices to be made in this episode, and other than the choices which affect personality, none of the choices in this episode or the one before it have paid off yet. However, it does seem that they are building up towards something big in upcoming episodes. The surprise revelation in episode two is followed up by another surprise revelation in this episode. It will be interesting to see where the story leads as the season begins to wind down.

Telltale has answered requests for having more areas to explore in this episode. Even the home base has been expanded, giving more freedom of exploration. That said, there are some invisible walls. However, they are no-where near as prevalent as those in Back to the Future: The Game, and can be easily overlooked as, story-wise, each border is one that Lee wouldn't want to cross as in these instances he is always on his own or only with Clementine.

The new areas are interesting, and they bring in new characters. The new characters are voiced well. However, they aren't developed much in this episode, presumably to be further explored in future episodes. The returning characters are once again voiced superbly, showing a broad range of emotion that would be expected as their lives continue to crumble before their eyes. The animation of the character's expressions is shown to a great degree here. The emotion is shown through both the character's expressions, and their body language. Telltale has really stepped up in the graphics department for this whole season, and it greatly benefits the game. The music also continues to work well. It's not a sweeping soundtrack with memorable melodies, but considering it's source material, it shouldn't be. It continues to fit the atmosphere perfectly.

The adventure game puzzles haven't improved over the previous episodes. There continue to be few of them, and some of those puzzles are still optional. These puzzles are also still are in the casual category in terms of difficulty. However, the game does improve itself on the action side. The action in the previous games was limited to moving Lee away from danger and performing button pressing quick time events to get out of danger. However, in this episode, there is a section that allows for direct control of the weapon. It plays like a mini-game, but like Telltale's Sam & Max driving mini-games, it is implemented well, and fits into the story perfectly.

The place where this season shines the most, the story, continues to shine here. The storyline continues to stay within the spirit of The Walking Dead franchise, and brings great character moments that would be at home in the comics or the television show. Without spoiling too much, I can say that this story has the biggest effect on the group of the entire season this far. Tensions are raw, the outsiders bring in more tension, and those tensions lead to big consequences.

The Walking Dead continues to improve with each episode, and Long Road Ahead is no exception. It may be adventure-puzzle light, but the rest of the game makes up for it. The action is improved here with a section that has direct controls. However, it is set up like a mini-game that should be familiar to those who have played Telltale's Sam & Max: Season Two. The consequences of your choices are still not far-reaching, but it does seem like Telltale is building them up for future episodes. That said, what is there now is still great. The characters respond to you based on your previous actions, and you will continue to make choices that will affect your game. The best part of this episode, however, is the story. It's really hard-hitting stuff, and is the best of the season so far. The voice acting and animation help to convey the emotion of the story, and the music sets the mood well. As with the other two episodes of The Walking Dead, this is one of the best games that Telltale has ever made.

Final Verdict:
4½ out of 5

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Adaption of The Odyssey for PC, Mac, Linux, and iPad

The Oddysey is an adaptation of the famous poem by Homer, where the Greek hero Odysseus (Ulysses) embarks on a journey filled with danger, mythical creatures and ancient gods. It is available now on PC, Mac, Linux, and iPad at developer CrazySoft's website, and on iPad at the App Store. The iPad version is currently discounted in celebration of its release.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Sale On Stacking and Other Double Fine Games

Stacking, the quirky Double Fine puzzle adventure game where you are a Russian nesting doll who gains abilities by going inside of bigger nesting dolls, is on sale this week for half off on Steam, Amazon, and Xbox Live Arcade on Xbox 360. The extra quest, The Lost Hobo King is also on sale. It's included with Steam and Amazon purchases of Stacking, and is 50% off on XBLA.

The rest of the Double Fine catalog is on sale this week as well. You can see the full list of sales per platform at the Double Fine website, but here's a quick run-down:

The Halloween themed RPG Costume Quest (and it's DLC quest Grubbins on Ice) is discounted by 50 percent, the heavy metal action-RTS BrĂ¼tal Legend is discounted between 69-81 percent (depending on platform), the platformer where you go inside people's subconsious, Psychonauts, is discounted by 50 percent, the retro RTS Iron Brigade is discounted by 33-50 percent, the Kinect party game Double Fine Happy Action Theatre is discounted by 50 percent, and the Sesame Street Kinect minigame compilation for children, Once Upon a Monster, is discounted by 15 percent.

The Walking Dead Episode 4 Is Out (Except iOS)

Telltale's The Walking Dead episode 4: Around Every Corner is now out for PC, Mac, and Xbox 360 through XBLA. It was released for PlayStation 3 through PSN in North America yesterday.

The season is now just one episode from being completed, and things are really getting serious. In this episode, your choices from previous episodes meaningfully affect gameplay. The hanging plot threads are starting to get tied up, and more cliffhangers are created. If this episode is anything to go by, the final episode should be a doozy.

The only thing known about episode 5 is that it will come out before December 4 (since the North American retail release of all five episodes is scheduled to occur at that time). Unfortunately, iPad users are left quite behind, as they are still on episode 2, and there is no release date set yet for episode 3 or 4 on iOS.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Harvey's New Eyes Trailer: Game Is Out October 16

Harvey's New Eyes, the sequel to Daedalic's quirky adventure game starring a disturbed young girl and her stuffed rabbit, Edna & Harvey, is finally receiving it's English release this month. Instead of Edna and her bunny, Harvey's New Eyes follows a little girl named Lily who sees gnomes.

To celebrate the occasion, a new trailer has been released. The wait for the game won't be that much later, as game will be released in just a few days time, on October 16th.

Hugo's House of Horrors Review

Hugo's House of Horrors (known as Hugo's Horrific Adventure in the Windows re-release) was an independent adventure game solely designed by David Gray and released in 1990. It does fall into many of the traps that befall independent adventure games by first time game developers, but it's zany atmosphere and freeware status of the DOS version may make it worth playing to those willing to overlook it's many flaws.

The game interface uses a combination of keyboard for movement and text parser for actions like the early games in Sierra's King's Quest or Space Quest series.  The Windows remake features optional point and click controls, including using inventory items.  If you use ScummVM to play the game, the freeware DOS version of the game also gains most of these point and click features, with the exception of inventory items.  The Windows version has clickable icons representing inventory items, but in the DOS version through ScummVM, the inventory is only represented in text that is not clickable.  The control and parser method works, however the  text parser is lacking.  It doesn't understand many verbs, and you will find yourself typing verb after verb until you find the one that the parser is expecting in some puzzles.  The Windows version gets around this nuisance since you can left click to perform an action on an object instantly without having to worry about guessing the correct verb.  The Windows version (and the DOS version through ScummVM) also adds text letting you know the name of the object when you hover over it, which is very useful for finding an exit to a room that is a bit of a pixel hunt in the original DOS version.  However, the Windows version is not freeware, and is only available in a bundle including all three Hugo adventure games from the Gray Design Associates website for $10 USD.

Although David Gray hadn't heard of Maniac Mansion before the game was created, their similarities are undeniable.  Like Maniac Mansion before it, Hugo's House of Horrors is a pastiche of the horror movie genre.  However, Hugo aims in a slightly different direction, tackling classic movie monster cliches rather than teenage slasher films.  You will find just about every movie monster in the mansion, although few of them are put to good use.  The one exception is the mad scientist and his assistant, which are part of a rather funny puzzle early on in the game.  Although this was released the same year as The Secret of Monkey Island, it doesn't contain the vast dialog seen in that game.  This is a game that has a decidedly 1980's design philosophy.  There isn't a lot of dialog from the characters.  Hugo doesn't speak at all, and most of the dialog comes from the narrator.  Instead, like Maniac Mansion, the humor in the game comes from the humorous actions that are performed by the zany characters in the mansion.  And like Sierra's games, some of the humor comes from the death sequences.  You can die in this game, and sometimes it's unavoidable.  So, saving is highly recommended.  Most of the death scenes are solved with puzzles, however there is one annoying instance where death is avoided simply by getting an enemy's AI to get stuck behind a foreground object.  This results in trial and error, and you will find yourself saving and reloading many times before you get the timing just right.  Thankfully, this kind of gameplay only occurs once, and the rest of the deaths can be avoided by puzzles.

As this was released on PC in 1990, the artwork is of the pixellated variety of that time period.  However, the art in the mansion is bright and cheery and the characters are reasonably detailed.  Even with the limitations of the engine, you can still make out every monster that is being parodied, even without the help of the text from hovering over the characters with your mouse.  The art style will be a put off to some due to it's age, but to those willing to overlook it's age, the art style is really one of the best aspects of the game.

The other differences from the DOS and Windows versions is that the DOS version only has music at the beginning of the game, whereas the Windows version has another music track.  The silence in DOS games was usual at the time, due to few computers possessing sound cards.  Programmers had to play the music through the boops and beeps of the PC speaker instead.  As this was difficult to implement, and usually didn't sound too nice, PC games of the 1980's and sometimes (as in this case) the early 1990's only had opening songs.  The opening music is nice, and slightly catchy, and the Windows MIDI music sets the mood well although it's not as memorable as the title tune.  The choice between versions in regards to music really has to do with whether you mind silence in your games, since the Windows song, while nice, isn't necessary to the experience.

The puzzles are where this game both shines and falters.  There are some really good adventure puzzles here, but there are some which aren't as well executed.  There's a puzzle in particular at the end of the game, where the player is asked some various pop culture questions.  There is no context for this in the game.  Like the Leisure Suit Larry age verification questions, the player is just expected to know them from their own memory.  This kind of puzzle doesn't work, as a player born in different generations or from other countries might not know the questions.  I, personally, didn't know the question that related to an American television show from the 1950's, and resorted to looking it up on the internet.  It's a shame, because this puzzle could have been integrated into the game through text found throughout the mansion, as was the case of another puzzle where the answer was written in graffiti in one of the rooms.  There's another puzzle that results in a dead end if you don't do the right action right away.  The ability to perform the action is right there, but the character that is required to do that action refuses to do so after the action has already been performed.  It's puzzles like these that make the game more frustrating than it should be.  The last drawback of the game is that it is quite short, and can easily be played in a few hours or less by those who have never played it before.

Hugo's House of Horrors is a conundrum.  It is full of many faults, but it has gained a small fanbase due to it's quirky art style, music, and characters.  With just a few changes to some of the more ill-conceived puzzles, it could be a much better game.  But as it stands, it's hard for me to recommend this game.  That said, if you wish to play through it and see if you're willing to overlook the flaws, the DOS version is free, and it is short. If you do opt to play it, I'd recomend playing the freeware DOS version in ScummVM for the ability to point-and-click with your mouse.

Final Verdict:

 2½ out of 5

Hugo II: Whodunit? Review

The Walking Dead: Episode 4 Out on PSN Today

Telltale's The Walking Dead Episode 4: Around Every Corner is out on the PlayStation Network for PlayStation three users in North America today.

It will be out for all other platforms in North America other than iPad tomorrow (PC and Mac will release worldwide). There is no release date yet for the fifth and final episode, No Time Left, but the retail release of all five episodes is set for North America on December 4, so the fifth episode will be out before that.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Sequel to the SpaceVenture Fan Game Pledge Quest

The team of fans from the Space Quest fansite The Virtual Broomcloset that brought you PledgeQuest are back.

Like the original Pledge Quest was created to promote the SpaceVenture kickstarter, the sequel, Pledge Quest II: Noodle Shop of Horrors (or Vohaul the Cat's Revenge), was created to promote the SpaceVenture stretch goals through Paypal.

Pledge Quest II is three times as long as the original Pledge Quest, as it includes three rooms rather than the single room seen in Pledge Quest I, as well as animated cut-scenes. Like the original, it is chuck full of humor relating to Space Quest and Sierra's games in general. You may even spot some references to adventure games from other companies and pop culture references as well.

Thanks to the game's co-creator, Decaffeinated Jedi, for letting me know about the game. Give it a try, and try the original as well if you haven't already. They're both great throwbacks to classic adventure games, and well worth your time.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Walking Dead: Starved For Help Review

The second episode of The Walking Dead has a lot to live up to with the high standard set by the premiere episode. It does manage to live up to most expectations, and creates a solid game that is a worthy successor.

This game takes place months after the events of the first episode.  The future is not looking as bright as it once was.  In the time that lapsed, the group has taken in another survivor in trade for material needed for survival, and the supply is running out.  Tensions are high, and there is unrest among the group in regards to what is best for their survival.

In contrast to the previous game, which set up the story at the beginning, this episode opens right into the action even before the opening credits roll.  You are once again given a choice, and that choice leads to a slightly different scenario that plays out after the opening.  Unlike the last episode, your choice doesn't lead to a radically different version of events, although there are subtle changes between the two scenarios.  The last episode's tough choice also plays out rather tamely in this episode.  The character you chose isn't given a large part to play in the episode either way until the end, and both end up doing essentially the same thing, albeit using their vastly different abilities.

There are new choices to be made in this episode, although the consequences of your choices aren't shown by the episode's end.  Instead, this episode's strengths come from the great writing and excellent voice performances supporting the dialog.  The Walking Dead has always been about examining about what real life human beings will do when they are put in a situation of almost certain death.  This episode really shines in that area.  Some people handle things well, some people have outbursts of anger, and others just snap.

In this episode, a new area is explored, as are a host of new characters.  The group meets a group of dairy farmers and are invited to replenish their strength at the farm in exchange for some materials the farm needs.  The interactions between the group and the outsiders are at the core of the story, as is an outside group that is introduced early on and comes to play at the end of the episode (and, presumably in a future episode as well).

It is nice to have a new area to explore.  The first episode felt a little confined, although understandably so, given the circumstances.  There still isn't a lot of roaming to do here, as the areas of the farm that are safe enough for exploration are still small, but there is a lot of optional things to do here.  Like last episode, there is a completely optional adventure puzzle and optional dialog to be had with both your group and the newcomers.  Since the adventure puzzles are still light here in favor of the action and the brief QTE's, it's nice that there are few optional things to do that will both satisfy adventure game veterans and give more insight into the characters' personalities if the player puts forth the extra effort.  I'm not sure about the optional puzzle in this episode at this point, but last episode's optional puzzle does pay off in dialog in one branching path at the end of this episode.

The art direction once again is impressive.  It continues to capture the spirit of the art of the comics, and looks great in motion.  The backgrounds of the new location and the slight change to previous locations looks very nice, and really sets the mood of the game well.  I don't think I mentioned this last episode, but it's certainly worth saying: the animation is vastly improved over Back to the Future and Jurassic Park. The characters have much less stiff movements, and their vocal expressions are much more believable and convey the mood of the characters in this grim world very well.

Like last episode. the voice over work and music shines.  The returning characters are voiced very well, handling all the emotion of the situation as well as the actors in AMC's live-action The Walking Dead televison series.  The new characters are given very memorable personalities and dialog, and their vocal performances are a large part of that memorable quality.  Bay Area Sound and Jared-Emerson Johnson once again do a great job with the soundtrack, setting the mood for the game's setting through the sound.

The second episode of The Walking Dead continues Telltale on a path towards making this season one of the best games they have ever made.  The choices don't have as much effect here as in the first episode (although the choices you make here are likely to matter in a future episode).  But, Telltale makes up for it with a very memorable story, great music and excellent voice overs.  There aren't very many adventure puzzles, but like last episode, the puzzles that are there are interesting, and the characters and art style are interesting as well.  Starved For Help is just as good as it's predecessor.  It truly is one of the best games Telltale has made, not just in recent memory, but to date.

Final Verdict:
4½ out of 5

Telltale Games on GOG.com

Earlier this year, Telltale joined the DRM-free movement at GOG.com with three of their best series, Sam & Max Save The World, Sam & Max Beyond Time and Space, and Tales of Monkey Island.

 Now two more Telltale series are available DRM-free on GOG.com: Sam & Max: The Devil's Playhouse and Back to the Future: The Game.

Each of these releases contain bonus features, like the soundtracks of the first two Sam & Max seasons (still no Season Three soundtrack, not even in digital form), developer commentaries, animated shorts, and more.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Infocom, Sierra, and Activision Adventures on Sale

GOG.com has a promotion this weekend on Activision adventure games (the referral link supports ScummVM, a program that can run most of these games on modern systems).

This includes not only the Activision developed adventure games such as Zork: Grand Inquisitor, but the properties owned by Activision such as the Infocom and Sierra catalog. There's a lot of classic games on sale here, from the aforementioned Zork series (including the original Zork text adventures/interactive fiction), to Sierra's Quest series (King's Quest, Space Quest, Quest for Glory), to the Police Quest and Gabriel Knight series, and lesser known gems such as Torin's Passage.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A Vampyre Story: Year One Coming To Kickstarter

Autumn Moon's A Vampyre Story: Year One, the long-awaited prequel to A Vampyre Story, could finally be coming out if there is enough fan-funding thanks to an upcoming Kickstarter campaign.

The Kickstarter video is currently being worked on. Autumn Moon founder and A Vampyre Story creator, Bill Tiller, posted a work in progress screenshot of the 3D modeling of the characters from the video on his twitter page, and he uploaded a small animation of Froderick the bat to whet fans' appetites. It shouldn't be too long now before the Kickstarter campaign for A Vampyre Story: Year One is started.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Walking Dead Episode 4 Trailer & Interview

IGN's Up At Noon show has the premiere of the trailer for The Walking Dead episode 4 along with an interview with the writer of the episode, Gary Whitta. Skip ahead in the video to the 10 minute and 25 second mark to view The Walking Dead portion of the show or to the 13 minute mark to just watch the trailer.