Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Puzzle Agent: The Mystery of Scoggins is Out Now!

Puzzle Agent: The Mystery of Scoggins, the puzzle adventure game by Telltale Games based on the Grickle comics and videos by Graham Annable, is out now at the Telltale Store for Mac and PC.

Monday, June 28, 2010

They Stole Max's Brain Review

The third episode of the third season of Sam & Max, The Devil's Playhouse, gives us a much more aggressive Sam, and as a result, the first part of this episode is the most refreshing thing the series has ever brought us.  The rest of the game doesn't quite live up to the exciting first moments, but it's still well worth playing.

When the game starts, Sam is very distraught that his little buddy has had his brain stolen.  Sam takes off his coat, and with a constant angry expression and unshaven face, he employs the Flint Paper method of interrogating witnesses in an attempt to find out who stole Max's brain.  He must find out information by threatening, interrupting, or depressing suspects through film-noir style narration.  This is done exceptionally well, and is a great pastiche of hard-boiled detective stories.

After the culprit is discovered, the gameplay goes back to that of a standard adventure game.  Once a replacement brain is found for Max's body, the game is back to it's status-quo, as the psychic powers are usable again.  This is Sam and Max though, so status-quo is still quite twisted.  The brain in question belongs to a being who is even more insane and self-centered than Max, and also has the gift for using psychic powers.

It's hard not to spoil to much in this review, as the game changes often due to major events, but suffice to say the developers are still managing to make the game both familiar and different at the same time.  The third act sees the return of Sam & Max's street, although it's been radically changed once again.  Some characters from previous adventures return, and new characters are met.  The characters are all voiced well, and each has a distinct personality.  The replacement Max is especially entertaining, and is voiced by Nikki Rapp, who was fan-favorite Morgan La Flay in Tales of Monkey Island.

The third act is kind of a drag compared to the first two acts, as it slows down in pace dramatically.  This makes the game feel a bit disjointed.  The puzzles here are also less inspired, and are the typical three part fetch-quest puzzles that Telltale has used a lot in the past.  The final act makes up for it, as the final battle is entertaining as always, and the ending is well done and leaves the player waiting for more.

The music isn't very memorable in this episode, but it fits the game.  I personally miss the musical numbers and the complete randomness it inspired from the previous seasons.  The first game made a joke that the musical numbers had really gone downhill, and sadly this appears to be true.  Hopefully the last two episodes are really saving the best for last, because the music has always been a high point in the Sam & Max games, even dating back to the LucasArts original.

They Stole Max's Brain is not quite up the standard set by the first two episodes in this season.  The first act is a refreshing change, but once things go back to normal, the game doesn't really find the chance to shine again. However, the game is worth playing for the first chapter alone, and for the entertaining final moments.

Final Verdict:

3½ out of 5

Episode 2 reviewEpisode 4 review

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Blood of the Cybermen Review

The second episode of Doctor Who: The Adventure Games is now out worldwide.  As with the first episode it is available for free to residents of the United Kingdom, as part of the programming paid by the BBC licensing fee, and for $2.50 US as part of a package with episode one by those outside the UK.  The last episode proved that it had the story and presentation worthy of the Doctor Who title, but the gameplay and voice acting wasn't quite as good as it could be.  This episode corrects some of the short-comings of the first, but it still isn't as good as it has the potential to be.

The story and presentation are once again top-notch.  This game finds the doctor answering a distress call in the arctic.  Once there, he finds an archeological dig taken over by cyberslaves, human beings whose cells were converted by nanomachines to mimic the cybermen, who they serve.  The creature behind this conversion is a Doctor Who enemy who has not been seen since the Tom Baker era.  The episode once again opens with a non-playable cold opening that reveals the enemy and cuts to the real-time version of the series five credits.

The music is once again great, and fits the scenes perfectly.  The voice acting is the sore point again in this episode.  It hasn't really improved from the last episode, but once again it's not so bad that it's not listenable.  The line reads of the Doctor and Amy are just lacking in emotion, and really aren't up to par with the way the characters sound in the television series.

The puzzles here are designed better.  There aren't any maze puzzles this time, and the puzzles all really seem like something the Doctor would actually do to solve a problem.  There is one returning puzzle from the previous game, but thankfully it is one of the better ones.  It only appears once, and it happens near the beginning of the game.  The block pushing puzzles return, but they do fit into the story, so I didn't find them at all distracting.

The stealth gameplay returns later in the game, and it is as well done as it was in the first episode.  It doesn't make up the majority of the gameplay, and even most of those who don't like action in their adventure games shouldn't be too turned off by it.  Like Full Throttle or Broken Sword: The Angel of Death, if you mess up in the action sequences you don't get a game over screen.  You just restart the section again as many times as needed.

Blood of the Cybermen keeps the high level of excellent story and presentation of City of the Daleks.  Unfortunately, the voice acting still leaves a lot to desired, and the repetition of puzzles still mars the experience somewhat.  This episode improves upon the short-comings of its predecessor a little, but there is much room left for improvement.

Final Verdict:

3½ out of 5

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Fans Save The Silver Lining Again!

The Silver Lining, the King's Quest fan game that has been in development for almost 10 years, has proven that it's title is aptly named once again. In 2005, Vivendi sent a cease-desist order to the team, but later made an agreement for the game to be released without the King's Quest title under a non-commercial fan license after many letters from fans. In 2010, the new rights holders Activision, once again sent a cease-and-desist letter to the team. And, today, once again, the fans have brought the project back.

The game, which will be released episodically, is now finally becoming a reality. The first episode will be released in two weeks on July 10th!

Blood of the Cybermen Out Now in the UK

Blood of the Cybermen, the second episode of Doctor Who: The Adventure Games, is now out for free to those in the United Kingdom.

Everyone else will have to wait for a later, as of yet unannounced, date.  Pricing for the Doctor Who adventure games outside of the UK has not yet been set.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Blood of the Cybermen Coming to PC on June 26

Blood of the Cybermen, the second episode of Doctor Who: The Adventure Games, is coming June 26, after the UK premiere of Big Bang, the finale of the fifth series of the television show.

The episode will feature the Cybermen in an arctic setting, and according to the episode's writer Phil Ford, it will "re-introduce a Doctor Who adversary not seen since the Tom Baker era."

City of the Daleks Review

The first episode of Doctor Who: The Adventure Games is available now for free for residents of the United Kingdom, as part of the programming paid by the BBC licensing fee, and for $2.50 US as part of a package with episode two by those outside the UK.  It is considered by the executive producer of the Doctor Who, Piers Wenger, to be an interactive episode within the fifth series.

The story definitely holds it's own among the other stories of the current season of Doctor Who.  The game is meant to take fans places that aren't possible on the show due to budget constraints, and this episode lives up to that goal.  The episode starts in a destroyed London on Earth in 1963.  Nearly the entire human population has been destroyed, and within the first moments of the episode the Doctor and Amy discover the Daleks are behind it all. The Doctor takes the TARDIS to where the destruction began, the capitol city of the Dalek planet Skaro, Kaalaan, which is shown for the first time.  Phil Ford, the writer of the 2009 Doctor Who special The Waters of Mars, has done an exceptional job with this story.  All plot holes that I thought I noticed in the story were addressed as the story unfolds.  It's a complex weave of time travel, paradoxes, and the exploration of human determination.  Which is everything you'd expect from Doctor Who.

The presentation is also everything you'd expect from Doctor Who.  The episode begins with a non-playable intro that sets up the story, and cuts into a real time version of the series five opening credits.  The graphics are similar to the level of detail present in the episodic adventure games by Telltale Games, as the developers have aimed for as many computers to be able to play the game as possible.  You won't find mind blowing graphics that will match the computer imagery found in the television show, but the developers have gone to great lengths to ensure that the digital characters match their on-screen counterparts as closely as possible given the technical restraints.

The voice acting doesn't quite live up to the story and presentation, but it's definitely not bad.  The parts of the Doctor and Amy are played by their on-screen actors, Matt Smith and Karen Gillan, and it's clear they don't have much voice-over experience.  For the most part, the lines are read well.  But there are points where the lines are read with little emotion, and come across sounding more dull than you'd hear in the show.  It's never to the point of being bad.  Even the lines lacking in emotion are better than a lot of adventure game voice acting, and thankfully the really dull lines are few and far between.

The music, however, is just what you'd expect from the show, as it uses music composed by the composer from the television show, Murray Gold.  The music cues are just as you'd find on the show.  The music is quiet in moments where the duo are trying to not be seen, but gets more intense upon detection by enemies.

Presentation aside, the gameplay is what seperates an episodic game from a television show, and this game is quite playable.  The developers have tried to keep all types of adventure game players happy.  The game is controlled via direct control of the playable character, which alternates between the Doctor and Amy.  The default option is control via the keyboard and the mouse.  The keyboard controls the movement, and the mouse controls the camera and allows the player to click on objects.  Like Telltale Games, Sumo Digital has provided an option to control the character entirely with a mouse.  In this game, the player can be controlled similar to the control found in racing games.  With the click of a mouse button, the character will move forward, and then can be turned using the mouse.  Once the mouse button is released, the character will stop. 

There is stealth-based action in this game, but it works surprisingly well and in my opinion it doesn't cause the game to enter into action-adventure territory.  If you mess up and are shot by a Dalek or bitten by a Varga plant, you don't get a game over screen.  Like Full Throttle or Broken Sword: The Angel of Death, you are simply returned to the beginning of the section to try again.

As this game is intended for players of all ages, the puzzles in this game are not difficult.  They consist entirely of pattern recognition and puzzles using basic motor skills.  There is one instance of a block-pushing puzzle, but it is very short.  The one flaw the game has is in puzzle repetition.  The maze puzzle was the major offender. It was an OK puzzle the first time, but not great. I enjoyed the wire puzzle and the pattern puzzle since they seemed like something the Doctor would actually do. But the maze puzzles seemed a little weird, since I couldn't imagine the Doctor pushing little circuits through electrified mazes.  If it would have only been done once, I would have let it slide and just chalk my dislike of the puzzle up to fangirl nitpicking. However, they put in three pattern puzzles (but it actually made sense why there would be three of those in the storyline). Then they put in three of the maze puzzles, which were the weakest puzzles.  The final puzzle, however, was quite entertaining.  Like the episodic adventures by Telltale Games, the boss battle at the end was a puzzle.  It wasn't a brain teaser, as it was a simple puzzle testing basic motor skills.  However, it was the most memorable puzzle of the game since it fit into the world of Doctor Who so well.

Despite it's flaws, The City of Daleks is an entertaining game.  The story, presentation, and music make this really feel like an interactive Doctor Who episode.  The voice acting, while never truly bad, is a bit dull at times, and does detract from the overall feel a bit.  The repetition of puzzles also detracts from the experience.  However, for a game that is free to the majority of its audience, it is quite good.  If the next episode continues the impressive presentation but improves upon the voice acting and adds more variety to the puzzles, it has the potential to be a great adventure game.

Final Verdict:

3½ out of 5

They Stole Max's Brain Today on Mac, PC, and PSN

They Stole Max's Brain, the third episode of the third season of Sam & Max, The Devil's Playhouse, is out now for Mac & PC!

The PlayStation 3 PSN version will be released later today in North America.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

They Stole Max's Brain and Puzzle Agent Trailers

At E3, Telltale has revealed trailers for their upcoming games, the suspense puzzler Puzzle Agent, and They Stole Max's Brain, the third episode of the third season of Sam and Max.

Tales of Monkey Island sets sail on PSN

Tales of Monkey Island, Telltale's 5 part episodic continuation of LucasArts' popular Monkey Island pirate adventure game series, now has one more platform to add to it's hold. Yesterday, the game was released on the PlayStation 3 via the PlayStation Network.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Jurassic Telltale Future

Telltale Games has a new deal with NBC Universal to bring their properties to gamers. According to Game Informer:

"Telltale has a new deal with NBC Universal to create games based on their intellectual properties."

The first two games are rumored to be seasons of Jurassic Park and Back to the Future. According to this rumor, Jurassic Park is the next license Telltale Games is working on. And, according to Associated Press, Telltale is bringing out a Back to the Future game.

Telltale's licenses just keep getting bigger and bigger. It should be interesting to see where the company goes from here. :)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Doctor Who: City of the Daleks out in the UK

City of the Daleks, the first episode of the episodic adventure game series of BBC's Doctor Who by Sumo Digital, is out now for free in the UK.

Bad news for gamers outside the UK though, unfortunately. The game won't be out for another month. Even worse, it seems like the episodes might not be free for those not lucky enough to reside in the UK according to this message from the site:

"Outside the UK

If you live outside the UK, the first Adventure Game will be available to purchase in early July. We will have more information shortly on release dates and where you can buy them, so watch this space!"