SHORT REVIEW: PC VERSION
I completed Zac McKracken without a guidebook. You may bask in reflected glory… Now.
One of the gentlemen* who created one of my favourite games* of all time, has returned to the genre* he helped popularise. Thanks Kickstarter.
Guess I should review this really. I mean, I did throw money at the idea. For comparison I’ve put some of my 2014 thoughts about Broken Age at the end of review.
Ronald Gilbert* / Monkey Island* / Point and Click Adventure games*.
I very much enjoyed the Double Fine adventure game, but it was not what I wanted. I wanted to push things that shouldn’t be pushed. I wanted to be stumped. I wanted the real deal.
I wanted a Thimbleweed Park. Now that’s a lot to live up to.
When I first started the game I concentrated on what was missing, rather than what it is. I was excited to revisit the SCUMM engine but was soon disappointed, as the first thing I wanted to do was “look” at the first bloke I came across. Instead of a witty description my character spoke to him. This instantly worried me and inspired me to say out-loud ‘Ronald H Gilbert, what are you thinking?!’ One of the greatest joys from the great adventure games of the past was the abstract commentary whilst looking at, say, a rubber chicken. I attempted to push the chap, and again this instigated conversation. Sigh.
I can’t help it; the first thing I do in these games is go the ‘wrong’ way, pull the wrong things. Test the silly gauge. The best adventure games delight in perverting the norm.
After overcoming this I noted how wonderful it looks. This isn’t pixel art for the sake of pixel art, this is an artistic choice and it shows. The subtle lighting, and the animation elevate such humble looks. The artwork continuing behind the verbs is a neat touch, as this brings the entire screen to life. The game plays like your fond memories of all that was good with point and click adventures. Modernised conveniences appear as you can hold the mouse button down to bolt through an area. This is inspired, and greatly aids any backtracking. Unfortunately there is a minor inconvenience, as the option screen never remembers that I’m not going to use a control pad. How dare those filthy icons clutter my beautiful point and click menu experience. Oofph.
My earlier complaints could be condensed into this simple fact. The kickstarter raised $626,250 and I’m pretty confident that’s nowhere near enough money for sexy background dialogue.
With regards to story the game is incredibly self referential. Which is a treat for those who grew up on the genre, but could weary those that may not understand the references. The game nods and winks with a confident flourish.
Whilst the music and sound fx compliment the game perfectly, a special mention needs to go to the voicework. It’s excellent. Before release I would have been content to read through the adventure like the games of yesteryear. Saying that… You can’t skip through repeating dialogue, which is fine for the most part. But every now and then a character’s flavour text goes on just a tad too long, which grates when stuck and stumbling around looking for clues. As good as the voice actors are, if I had to choose between being able to look at all the things in the world, with the ability to click-skip-past repeating dialogue, I would have gotten rid of the excellent voicework. Yes, I am a miserable curmudgeon. I suspect this would be an unpopular decision for some of you dear readers.
The two initial characters share the same dialogue which contributes to the troublesome start. It robs them of their individuality. Beyond the puzzles to come, I initially wondered why these characters couldn’t have been merged? Soon a diverse cast reduces the issue, as the game becomes so much more than its slow start. I know you already know this, but it bears to remind others… Point and click games are tremendously slow. This is a game for a particular type of person… Which happens to be me, and I’m proud to say I did get stuck. The puzzles are in handy bite-sized chunks, which I hugely appreciated. If you’re stumped, or have just completed an act, you can easily walk away to come back later. Soon you’ll have the ability to swap into to other characters’ stories and they each come with a handy checklist. Even when stuck, you never feel truly lost.
Soon the story takes you to places and characters you wouldn’t have seen coming, and all the above gripes become less important as you adapt to what’s on offer. The story is brilliantly engrossing, and the puzzles haven’t annoyed me, nor have been illogical. Even if I have had to go for a little mental rest on occasion. There is intrigue aplenty and I couldn’t wait to find out what surprises lie around the corner. The deeper you fall into the story, the more masterful the design becomes. I’m not saying you’ll forsake sleep to get to the end, but I did.
Judging such a game is like reviewing cherished memories, which is a bit bloody difficult. I couldn’t imagine what a newcomer would make of the game, as it’s so reliant on past adventures. Now that I’ve had a few days to digest Thimbleweed Park, it feels like a fond farewell from the point and click pioneers. I hope that’s not true, as I’m a greedy sod and want a lil’ more.
I’ll miss my time with these characters and enjoyed every second of my adventure. Thimbleweed Park easily sits alongside the classic point and click games of the past and fulfils its kickstarter remit.
A game designed to directly appeal to my fond childhood memories, which means my opinions corrupted. Well played Mr Game Developer… Well played.
Red Button Article – Broken Age – My thoughts back in 2014.
Broken Age is a hand crafted beauty.
It also reminds me of Machinarium, inter-spliced with witty Schafer dialogue, which is high praise indeed. Machinarium was wonderful!
What Broken Age is not is an old school adventure game. Without the brilliant, insightful documentary explaining how they made their decisions, this might well have narked me into the realm of furious blogs.
I wanted a modern version of what I thought a point and click game would be today, if it had been allowed to evolve. What I’m getting at here is greater choice. Greater, more elaborate dialogue; maybe multiple puzzle solutions with an emphasis of none-repeating dialogue. Bigger and better development teams conjuring up bizarre puzzles Yes, I’m thinking about that time you spoke to a shrunken head in your inventory. Man, I love Monkey Island.
It now seems obvious that the evolution of the point and click game wouldn’t have resulted in greater complication. It would always have led to removal of verbs, or even the great ‘click’ of the left mouse button. To be replaced with something more intuitive or story based.
Anyway, none of this has dampened my pleasure of Broken Age. I don’t think it could ever have lived up to the kickstarter hype we all contributed too. Really, the only question i’m asking is… Was this the game we all wanted?
I’m not displeased with what we got from the kickstarter, nor did I expect a reinvention of the genre. I am content that it just might kick off a major revisit to a genre I truly love. Let’s hope for the true next generation of adventure games. Or at least a few more with a decent budget.