Tuesday, March 31, 2009

1UP's Tim Schafer Profile

1UP.com has started a weeklong feature on Brütal Legend. The first feature is an informative profile of Tim Schafer, the creator of Brütal Legend. It covers Tim's career from his writing collaboration on Monkey Island I&II, to being the co-project leader on Day of the Tentacle, to being project leader on Full Throttle and Grim Fandango, up to the formation of Double Fine Productions, the release of Psychonauts, and a few tidbits on the brainstorming behind Brütal Legend.

The profile also states some little known facts, such as Tim being the drummer of an all-LucasArts band named "Big Breakfast". If you're a fan of Tim Schafer's games (and chances are if you're reading this blog, you are), then check it out.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Vampyre Story 2 Video, AME looking for feedback

The Pumpkin Post found this humorous little video on YouTube where Froderick the Bat blatently advertises A Vampyre Story 2.

Oh, and while I'm on the subject: Bill Tiller has posted a thread at the Autumn Moon Entertainment forums on Yuku asking fans for suggestions on how Autumn Moon can make improvements for A Vampyre Story 2. It's great to see that Autumn Moon is looking at improving their games based on fan feedback. :)

Free Double Fine Adventure Game of the GDC Awards

The Game Developers Choice Awards were hosted by Double Fine founder Tim Schafer again this year. If you want to see what it's like for Tim Schafer as he prepares himself before the show, you can now live the experience in a new Double Fine online game called Host Master and the Conquest of Humor! It's a point and click adventure game with the feel of the early adventure games from LucasArts!

The Game Developers Choice awards show is a much better show than Spike's Video Game Awards, since it focuses on the games and the designers who made them, rather than celebrities.

You can watch most of it online here.

Fright of the Bumblebees Review

Fright of the Bumblebees is the first episode of Telltale's new episodic series based on the misadventures of the inventor Wallace and his faithful dog Gromit. Telltale is quickly becoming the number one developer of licensed games. They now have games for five very different licensed properties (Bone, Sam & Max, CSI, Homestar Runner, and now Wallace & Gromit), and they have managed to bring out the strengths in each property, which brings a slightly unique gaming experience to each of their games.

The humour in Wallace & Gromit is much more subdued than in Sam & Max and Homestar Runner, and even more so than Bone. Much of the comedy in the Wallace & Gromit films comes through facial expressions. The expressions and movements of the characters in the Telltale Tool have seemed kind of wooden in previous installments, so I was worried if Telltale's engine could handle it. Thankfully, the movements and expressions are just as expressive in Fright of the Bumblebees as they are in the films. This game is the best looking game Telltale has released to date, and it comes with slightly higher system requirements. I am using an older Radeon on a computer with only 512MB of RAM. I encountered graphical glitches when I first played the game, but this was remedied by playing the game as soon as I started my computer with nothing else running, and playing on the lowest graphic setting in the options menu.

In order to set up a more cinematic framing of characters, Telltale has changed the traditional control scheme of pointing and clicking with a mouse, to a control scheme that gives players direct control of the characters. There are three options available for control on the PC. The default option is using a keyboard and mouse. The arrow keys (or WASD) on the keyboard controls the character, and the mouse selects a hotspot. The next option is to use just the keyboard, and play similar to how LucasArts' last two adventure games, Grim Fandango and Escape from Monkey Island, played. The third option is using a gamepad, but only Logitech and corded Microsoft Xbox 360 controllers are supported. My gamepad wasn't supported, so I could only play the game with a keyboard and mouse, but I found this option very comfortable and easy to use.

The plot of this first episode follows the Wallace & Gromit formula to a tee. Wallace has just invented a machine that will harvest honey from bees in a mechanical hive. He starts a new business, "From Bee to You", to sell honey to the residents of his town. Of course, Wallace being Wallace, things don't go exactly as planned.

Both Wallace and Gromit are playable at different points in the game. Wallace talks a lot more than he ever did in the films, as he comments on everything that is clickable. Gromit doesn't talk at all, but he will make facial expressions when you click on clickable items. I have always enjoyed Gromit's expressions in the film, so I found myself clicking on different objects as Gromit just to see how he would react.

The music is once again wonderfully composed by Jared Emerson-Johnson. The Wallace & Gromit theme is present, of course, but there is an all new arrangement used in the game. The other music is completely new, and fits the series perfectly. Andrew Langley and Jared Emerson-Johnson worked to add a engine controlled music changing feature to the Telltale Tool. This can be experienced while in the town square. The music will change as the character walks around. It helps add to the cinematic feel of the game.

The voices are well done as well. Wallace isn't voiced by his regular actor, Peter Sallis, but instead is voiced by Aardman Animation's official back up voice actor who has done the role before for merchandise and television commercials. The change in actors is slightly noticable, but if I hadn't known it wasn't Peter Sallis I would never had guessed. The voice is slightly deeper, so I would probably have thought the change in tone was due to Peter Sallis' age much like Mel Blanc in his later years. The voice really is that close. The other voices are well done as well, and are all performed by British actors. I particularly enjoyed the voice of the woman who ran the news stand.

If the game can be faulted for anything, it would have to be the lack of separate volume controls for voice and music. I started the game without subtitles, but had to turn them on since the music seemed to drown out the speech. I couldn't understand what the characters were saying at times. Telltale stated on their forum after the feedback of the demo that they are looking into this issue. I hope it is rectified by the second episode, as it slightly detracts from an otherwise excellent gaming experience.

Fans of the films will enjoy this episode. It is Telltale's most cinematic adventure to date, and captures the look and feel of the Wallace & Gromit films perfectly. The control scheme will take most gamers some time to get used to, but with three options for control it should please everyone except those most resistant to change. The lack of separate volume controls for voice and music is certainly a bummer, but with subtitles on it shouldn't prove too much of a nuisance. If Telltale can keep up this level of quality and fix the volume control problem, they'll have a real winner on their hands with this series.

Final Verdict:

4 out of 5

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Autumn Moon's Mystery Game Announced

The Autumn Moon page has been updated with news on Autumn Moon's next game. The game has a working title of "Teal Harvest: Terror Beyond the Act or Power of Forming a Mental Image of Something Not Present to the Senses or Never Before Wholly Perceived in Reality". The title pokes fun "Blue Harvest - Horror beyond Imagination", which was the name of the film that Lucasfilm told Star Wars fans they were filming when they got too close to the filming of the outdoor scenes in Return of the Jedi.

Teal Harvest will be released before A Vampyre Story 2. The publisher wants to publish the two games in seperate quarters of the year, so they won't compete with each other. Bill Tiller is hoping for a September release of Teal Harvest, which would mean we won't be seeing A Vampyre Story 2 for 4 to 6 months after that.

Point-and-Click Adventure Game Review: Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People - Dangeresque 3

Dangeresque 3: The Criminal Projective, the fourth episode of Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive people, gets the series back on track after a somewhat disjointed third episode.

Dangeresque 3 is the title of the long awaited third title in Strong Bad's low budget buddy cop action movies series. The first two "movies" are just Strong Bad emails, so if they could be classified as movies, they'd have to be shorts. Dangeresque 2 came first, and was featured in email #80: stunt double in July 2003. Dangeresque 1 came out 11 months after that, in email #106: Dangeresque 3. The third Dangeresque was going to be released in June 2004 in 3D, as stated by Strong Bad in the email stunt double.

Well, needless to say, Dangeresque 3 wasn't released on time. There were several jokes about it's lateness made in the homestarrunner.com universe, and many people wondered if would never come out. But now, 4 years after Strong Bad's release date, Telltale Games has now made Dangeresque 3 a reality, and thanks to their Telltale Tool, it really is in 3D as Strong Bad promised.

Telltale made a considerable effort in keeping the extremely low-budget aspect of the Dangeresque series in tact with the game. The locations around Free Country, USA have been decorated with paper, tape, and toilet paper rolls to transform them into sets for the movie. The gremlin, Strong Bad's non-workable car, which has been a mappable location in the field since the first game, finally sees a purpose in this game. Of course, it never has moved, so bad editing and background work is put into play to make it (sort of) seem like it's moving. The sloppiness of the "scene cuts" and little or no wardrobe to make the citizens of Free Country USA look like their characters in the film are here as well. It all works surprisingly well in the game, and really does give it a sense of playing an ultra-low budget film.

The plot of Dangeresque 3 revolves around Dangeresque and Renaldo searching for an eco-rejuvenating formula for Cutesy Buttons. Of course, someone wants to stop Dangeresque from completing his mission, and he's not sure if it's one of his previous foes or someone he hasn't yet faced.

The user-placable map is used in this game to quite humorous effect at times. The selectable locations are the countries that the film is supposed to take place in, but the locations are really just places in Free Country USA with bad props (similar to the Istanbul joke in Dangeresque 1).

This time around, there is no Teen Girl Squad comic at all. I personally didn't enjoy the customizable Teen Girl Squad, and much prefered the non-interactive Teen Girl Squad in Baddest of The Bands, so for me at least, this is not a big loss.

The minigame here is actually used in the plot. I loved this, since to me the minigames just felt like afterthoughts to get more gameplay out of the game for the console market. I'm glad to see that the team is putting some thought into more tightly integrating all aspects of the game into the core experience. We've already seen a little bit of this before, as I mentioned in previous reviews, but Telltale is tightening the experience even more, and I commend them for that. I hope this is expanded upon even further in the last game of the season, and into the next season if there is one.

I have loved the idea of extended play since the beginning, but I was wondering how Telltale was going to pull it off here, since it was supposed to be a movie. Once the movie ends, it should be over, so extended play didn't make sense. Or so I thought. Telltale proved me wrong, as they came up with a perfect idea to make it all make sense, and get some great jokes out of the experience as well. Extended play is treated as bonus features on a DVD of a movie. Each of the locations on the map correspond to special features. Some might be "cast interviews", while others are "behind the scenes", or my favorite of the bunch, "outtakes". I didn't play very much of the extended play in the previous games, but I felt compelled to do so here.

Dangeresque 3 is one of the best games of the season in my opinion. Telltale has gone to great length to strengthen the core gaming experience, by further integrating the mini-games into the main game. I still enjoyed the storyline of Strong Badia the Free the most so far this season, but the storyline here is excellent. Fans who have waited so patiently to finally see Dangeresque 3 won't be disappointed.

Final Verdict: 4 out of 5

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Fright of the Bumblebees Released

The first episode of Wallace & Gromit's Grand Adventures, Fright of the Bumblebees, has been released! For the celebration of launch week, Telltale is offering 25% off of the season purchase for PC, and 50% off all orders on anything in the store along with that order. The deal is offered to customers who pre-ordered as well!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Vampyre Story 2: A Bat's Tale Officially Announced!

The official website of A Vampyre Story 2 is now up, and the game has an official subtitle: A Bat's Tale! I guess I picked the right character for the icon for the games page. :)

The big news is that LucasArts alumni Larry Ahern and Jesse Clark have joined the team as dialog writers! Larry Ahern, as you may or may not know, was the co-project lead of The Curse of Monkey Island, in which A Vampyre Story creator Bill Tiller served as lead artist!

Now I can't wait for A Vampyre Story 2 to come out! I just have to finish part one first. :)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Wallace & Gromit PC Demo at Yahoo Games

Yahoo Games has Telltale's Wallace & Gromit demo up and ready for downloading!

They also have a trailer available showing off the voice of Wallace. It's not Peter Sallis, who voiced Wallace in the shorts and the movie, but it is Aardman's official back-up voice actor. He's very good. If I hadn't known, I would have thought it was Peter Sallis doing the voice. :)