Disco Driscoll

Point and click, retro, music, meh...

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Trilby's Notes

The third, and most accomplished of the Chzo Mythos, Trilby's Notes places itself inbetween 5 Days and 7 Days in the timeline. Once again, we take control of the gentleman cat-burglar Trilby as he attempts to locate the poisonous idol at the Clanbronwyn Hotel in deepest Wales.

As we should expect by now, all is not what it originally seems, and far from being an idyllic country retreat, the Hotel turns into a living nightmare for our avaricious friend as it starts to shift between parallel worlds. Unfortunately for Trilby, one of these worlds is home to the Tall Man, a demonic apparition at the heart of the Chzo Mythos series, and one whose raison d'etre is causing pain. Oh dear.

Armed with tranquilisers and coffee to enable him to shift between the two worlds, Trilby sets off about the hotel in search of the idol which he knows is being held there by an exhibitor who is intending to display the item at a local fair, not knowing its full power.

The game differs from other Chzo games insofar as we use the cursor keys to manoeuvre Trilby and a text parser to get him to perform actions. At first I was sceptical on the parser, but it works well and there were no instances when I was playing through that I felt it was holding me back (ie., that I knew what I wanted but just couldn't express it). Usually, it's just a case of 'open door' and 'take pills', so it's suited to the game.

I say that the game is accomplished as it fleshes out the ideas and storylines from the 5 Days and 7 Days games, and it cannot have been easy for the author to slot the game inbetween the two existing games.

The sub-plot of the main game involves acting out scenes from the back-story of the idol, from its inception in a forest, through to its transportation on a slave ship. These are done brilliantly, and the sepia-tinted artworks add an eerie quality to the atmosphere of the game.

As with previous Chzo games, it's not for kids. The graphical style may not be particularly lucid, but some of the scenes are decidedly lurid. However, when you're telling a story about a pain elemental and summoning up witchcraft and torture themes, it's important that you can express this graphically.

Therefore, if you've played the other two games in the series, then Notes is a must. If you have yet to play any of the Chzo Mythos, then best not to start here as you may be somewhat confused by the storyline.

Monday, 12 November 2007

Which Way Adventure

It's a bit tricky to review this game as it's rather daft, so I'll just have to explain the concept and the humour, and you can judge for yourself. Let me say though that it's NOT FOR KIDS. Some of the humour and the situations are a little ribald for young minds.

Which Way Adventure is a choose-your-own-path game where you're presented with at least 2 options per screen to advance the story. Starting in the school playground, you can end up in the circus, travelling back in time, starting a nuclear war or being devoured by a manticore, amongst other things.

The game is a terrifically addled, referencing b-movies, video games and other such popular culture. If you have a puerile sense of humour (check) and you aren't easily offended by the concept of, say, sleeping with your own mother (erm...check?) then this is the game for you.

There are multiple endings, and even though some of them can be accessed in a matter of seconds, there is enough incentive here to keep coming back and discovering all the ridiculous and surreal universes in which the action can be concluded. Sitting through the nuclear holocaust cut-scene for the umpteenth time can be a little grating, but it's not a major bugbear.

There are little cookie scenes throughout the game that can be accessed if you're quick enough on the mouse trigger, and maybe one day you'll manage to get that damned uniform off before the manticore gets you...

...or maybe not.

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Out of Order

At the risk of shooting my bolt and coming over all hysterical, here it is: The Greatest Freeware Adventure Game... Ever! Otherwise known as Out Of Order, by Hungry Software, and available for download on their website.

One evening Hurford Schlitzting is abducted by aliens, or to put it rather more accurately, his bedroom is abducted by aliens. This means that, inconveniently, Hurford must undergo the subsequent adventure in his dressing-gown, like an adolescent Arthur Dent.

His adventure begins in the usual way, with trying to figure out where he is, and how he can escape the confines of the bedroom which has, aboard the spaceship, become his prison cell. Once that's out of the way, he finds himself in a distinctly odd surrounding, amongst burger bars, office blocks and underground resistance movements.

The graphics are large and colourful, but nothing special. The walk cycle leaves something to be desired, and the way Hurford scuttles across the bay floors like a crab might offend the aesthetes. It's the writing and the characterisation that make the game what it is (The Greatest Freeware Adventure Game... Ever! as discussed earlier).

The dialogue that our hero has with the inhabitants of the world, with the computer terminal, the barman and himself, is littered with a mixture of good jokes and awful puns. But the puns will make you laugh, oh yes. There isn't really a spare character in there, and each of them is well-drawn and believable (as much as anything involving aliens is believable).

On top of that, the story is engrossing and well-scripted. I played the game over a series of nights in a darkened room which leant well to the nocturnal feel of the game (it's a constant nighttime in the game, and the crickets are constantly singing for your pleasure), and I would recommend the same. It's not a scary game, but it is definitely eerie.

Sad to report in addition that I downloaded the mp3 file of the main 'outdoor' theme of the game, and occasionally I will listen to it out of context and think of O.O.O.

The puzzles can be tricksy, and one or two do border on the obscure; I must confess that I used the walkthrough on a couple of occasions near the end but that was only after being stuck for quite a while, so my advice would be to persevere.

Everyone has their favourite adventure / point and click game, and this is mine so this reads more like a fan-rave than an objective report. But the game has received similar plaudits from other, proper, respectable reviewers so we can't all be wrong. This goes straight in at No.1 and it is going to take a lot to dislodge it. The only shame is that there doesn't appear to be a sequel planned...

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Escape The Room

I am not French, but if I were I would probably say 'je deteste les jeux de escape the room', or something similar. According to wikipedia, MOTAS was the inspiration for this type of game, which I would take issue with slightly, because I would class single-room games such as Crimson Room and Viridian Room to be different from MOTAS and its many imitators.

For a start, single-room games seem invariably to consist of the same pieces of furniture, the same wastepaper bins concealing torn pieces of paper with partial codes on them, and the same type of puzzles. The early versions of these games, such as Crimson Room were challenging and innovative, but the slew of games ever since which have basically taken the formula and reproduced it almost exactly are unwelcome.

Partially it's an excuse for people to create games with no plot-line or characterisation. Once we have escaped the room, after some pixel-hunting no doubt, we are seldom any the wiser as to why we were there in the first place, and in case we have no idea who we are. Perhaps we are a bad person who deserved to be trapped in the room in perpetuity.

In fairness, some games have tried to introduce some variation and themes into the mire, by plagiarising movies for example. These themed-games provide a welcome relief from the monotony of the genre, but you still have to wade through a lot of crap to find them. Which is what DD is here for ;-)

However, the best type of escape games, in this author's humble opinion, are the ones where you have more than one room to escape, and where you're escaping (and have been trapped) for a reason. Even if that reason is that you have offended a non-specific spook.

Anyway, enough about this. The next game review will be a corker.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

The Jack French trilogy

Wherein our eponymous Detective investigates murders in three separate adventures available to play online at Johnny B Design.

We're in familiar territory here with noir storylines, gruesome murders and a brooding Detective. And that's part of the problem: the characters and locations are both cliched beyond belief, and in some cases laughably unrealistic. For example, one of your female colleagues appears on duty in a tiny skin-tight outfit which forces her chest to protrude dramatically, hardly standard issue in the police force these days.

The nocturnal environs that Jack lives and operates in are quite neatly done, but again the characters are stereotypes: the vamp, the disgruntled singer, the laconic cop. All of these have been seen in a million noir episodes, and maybe we could have done with a few original lines.

Speaking of lines, the game comes with speech. The golden rule of speech in games is that is must be acted to a reasonable standard... unfortunately, Jack French comes about as close to that standard as Eddie the Eagle did to Olympic gold. Would the game have been any poorer without the speech, but with more background music? No. The smatterings of gloomy music serve the game well, and with a more comprehensive soundtrack we could have been going places.

Ok, it's only a bit of fun and the games are free and why complain? Well, it's these small details that spoil what is otherwise quite an enjoyable series. The puzzles can be tricky without being too taxing, and if only our man Jack's graphic wasn't a direct port of a picture of James Dean then we could say that there was a fair amount of realism involved.

You could do worse than try these games out. The first 2 in particular; the third instalment seems rushed and the over-riding story arc is tied-up too quickly and unrealistically. Oh well.

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Le Musee

How's your knowledge of French art? Good, I hope, because you've found yourself at the heart of something mysterious taking place in a gallery.

Anode et Cathode are a French design company who have made a few point and click games for us all to enjoy online. The best of the batch is Le Musee, wherein we have to find the items that are missing from a bunch of paintings. For example, the toga'd Roman figure in one painting is missing his headgear, so we have to hunt the museum for appropriate Roman headgear and then replace it on the painting.

Doing this brings the painting briefly to life, and then we move on.

A basic knowledge of French comes in handy at certain points in the game, and given that my skills are just that, basic, I'm assuming that even if your Gallic is non-existent you should be able to progress.

The atmosphere of the game is nicely surreal, with the cupid and the squirrel in the outdoor maze (maybe it makes sense in French...), and the slightly unnerving graphical style helps to set a sinister scene. We're never 'trapped' in the museum, so this isn't a frantic quest for keys, computer disks and four-digit codes, but rather an educational stroll through some French point and click.

Definitely worth a punt.

Sunday, 23 September 2007


It's a platform game and not a point and click, but I reckon you'll enjoy Knytt. It's made by the good people at Nifflas, who are responsible for the popular Within A Deep Forest, and is available as a download for Windows.

The story goes thus: Knytt is kidnapped from his home planet by an alien in a UFO, only for the craft to crash-land on a mysterious planet en route to the alien's world. The impact of the smash sends the various mechanical bits and bobs for miles over (and under) the planet's surface, so Knytt sets off to find each item to rebuild the craft.

Knytt can move, jump and cling to walls, as he explores the various zones that make up the planet, from desert sector to a subterrenean gloom guarded by spiders. Each area holds one of the pieces necessary for repair, and Knytt can get a clue to the nearest piece's whereabouts by shining a light and watching for the direction the light indicates.

This is a terrific little game, and although it's relatively short and gameplay not too varied, it represents a decent challenge. Each of the different areas are drawn superbly, and a great imagination is showcased here. The puzzles basically consist of working out how to access the various pieces, as one usually has to take the long way around, going past, around and over the residents of the world, as they go about their business unfazed by your presence.

Music is limited, with just the occasional little flourish of sound for a few seconds when you enter a new zone. That is not to say that the game is poorer for the lack of music, in fact you could say that it benefits from the subdued ambience. I particularly enjoyed the sounds that greet you when you come across the Mexican-esque level, with its cacti and snakes.

Take some time to enjoy the Knytt experience.