Disco Driscoll

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

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.