Ben Jordan: Paranormal Investigator Case 3 Review

Another game I was quite looking forward to was “Ben Jordan: paranormal investigator – case 3”. And I must say, it excelled all my expectations.

The plot is quite strong – Ben is investigating a Scottish village in which rumours of witchcraft have spread. This time, it develops as the player progresses into the game, a great addition that was not present in previous installments of the series. Another outstanding idea by Francisco Gonzalez is to create two different ways to finish the game – each one worth playing, with different events, graphics and puzzles. This actually makes the game more or less non-linear, which I really fell for.

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The graphics are in the same style as in the previous games, quite solid. There are even more animated character portraits and places to visit.

Music was a great part of the previous two Ben Jordan games, and this one is no exception. The digital music pack, which is included in the game download, enhances the wonderful atmosphere even more and often you will find yourselves doing nothing but just listening to the background music.

As for puzzles, they are various and fun to solve. There is one for which you will need to swap to another application, though, which can be quite distracting – in my opinion the creator should have put the book with the code not in the package as a html, but in the game as an inventory item… or something.

On the whole, the third case Ben Jordan solves is the best so far, and we are most certainly looking forward to the next ones!

Overall Score:

85%

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Abducted: 10 Minutes Review

This game is bade by Aussiesoft, who made the, frankly, much better game “Nick it and Run”. My expectations of this game were quite big, since the idea is quite cool – you play a police officer whose daughter is kidnapped and you only have 10 minutes(real time) to prevent the terrorists from killing her. The creator promised alternate solutions to the puzzles and so on, and I downloaded the game with great expectations.

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However, they were quickly disillusioned by the first 5 minutes I spent playing the game. To begin with, the graphics are pretty simplistic. Solid fill, straight lines. There were one or two more detailed backgrounds near the end, though. The character art and animation were also pretty stiff. However, that is not what actually disappointed me. I was let down by the gameplay. Firstly, the only ‘alternate’ solution to a puzzle I found out was to hide behind another column, but that was actually a dead end, so I had to restart. Moreover, during these 10 ‘real time’ minutes, other characters do literally nothing (I was expecting a The Last Express-like character movement, at least). So, it turns out that these 10 minutes are nothing more than a simple time limit. As if that were not enough, but towards the end there was quite a bit of time-limited pixel hunting, which really frustrated me. Lastly, the music that was present was far too little to create the tension and atmosphere which should have been present.

At the end of the day, you may like “Abducted: 10 minutes” only if you really like the plot, or if you are masochistic.

Overall Score:

45%

The Hamlet Review by Andrew McCormack

The Hamlet is a game that came out of the 2004 AGS Team Competition. The team hadn’t worked together before, except for team leader Vel and music composer Petteri (who worked together on Who Wants To Live Forever). The game originally had to be produced to a competition pre-set deadline, and although release to the general public came later, the deadline pressures show, unfortunately. The game uses an interface similar to Gabriel Knight 3, a verbcoin with only available actions shown. As the plot develops, more actions can become available. Sometimes, the actions are a giveaway as to what to do next, although at other times they are red herrings. A status line gives hotspot names and the cursor changes over an exit, although this seemed somewhat erratic and unreliable. But there are good points. The graphics are good: nice talking closeups and character animation, and solid functional backgrounds. By faraway the best part of the game is the atmospheric music. The story has potential at the start, but then ends too quickly and too predictably. It looks like a project that would be so much better if it had had more time to be made. The different parts involved always seemed to be slightly out of kilter with the rest of the game: sound effects occured at the wrong point, or a door is mentioned being broken with a shoulder, while the animation kicks the door down. Another niggle is the linear nature of the whole plot. Many times, when you try something, the player character says “I don’t need to do that yet” or even just “No”! A bit more time in development could have given the player time to explore the world, but as it was the game just seemed like you were forced into doing  things in a certain order and so atmosphere was lost.Maybe the most disappointing thing about this game is the way that you can see the potential there. All the team members had obviously made some good efforts in places and all it needed was more of the good bits. A longer plot, more exploration ability, more build-up of tension, more character development, more nice graphics and music. The team known as “Creative Minds” which made the game are returning to the New Year 2005 team competition, although only two members are the same. I hope that a bit more polish this time can result in an truly excellent game and some fulfilled potential.

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Overall Score:

57%

Interview with Dave Gilbert

First, tell us a bit more about yourself, what you are like, what you do for a living, what you do in your free time…

 

Bit of a broad question, but I’ll give it a whirl. I’m 28 years old. I live in New York City and love it. In my free time I try and take advantage of city life. I’m part of an improv comedy group that performs every couple of months. For my Real Job, I work in the garment center.

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Which was the first adventure game you played? And freeware one?

 

The first ever was probably the “Collosal Cave” text adventure, which I played on a LAN machine when I was very young. I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I spent hours exploring it. I never did finish that game, but it introduced me to one of adventure gaming’s biggest mysteries: just how in heck do you pronounce “xyzzy” anyway? As for freeware, I was a big text adventure junkie in college. I downloaded and played the first “Unnkulian Unventure” and was hooked.

 

When did the idea of making games first strike you?

 

I discovered the indie IF (text adventure) scene when I was in college. My favorite IF game at the time (Unnkulian Unventure) was made with an engine called TADS. so I downloaded TADS right away and started studying the manual. I eagerly attempted a few games, but with schoolwork and other activities I just never had enough time or motivation to complete anything worthwhile.

I came across AGS back in 2001 when I read about the RON series (I forget where). I checked out the site, played through the games, and developed an inkling to create one myself. I was unemployed at the time, and it seemed like a good way to keep myself occupied, so I downloaded AGS and created “The Repossessor” in a few weeks. The rest, I suppose, is history.

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The stories of your games are one of the best on the freeware scene. Have you ever thought that you could be, for example, a writer or a playwright?

 

First of all, thank you! And to answer your question, yes. As a kid, if someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would instantly say “a writer.” I spent an huge amount of my precious youth in front of my family’s clunky Apple IIC, typing random flights-of-fancy into an ancient word processor program. My interest in writing kind of waned as I got older, and for awhile I kind of gave up on that dream. AGS and the indie adventure scene is what really began inspiring me again.

 

How much time do you spend on your games?

 

If you mean actually sitting in front of the computer and physically creating the game, it varies. Many factors contribute to motivation – the weather, stress, social obligations, what have you. Although even if I’m not physically working on a game, I am usually thinking about

them. I usually carry around a small notepad that I use to jot stuff down whenever a brainstorm strikes. There’s nothing worse than coming up with that really Cool Idea and then forgetting it five minutes later.

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How long did it take you to produce “Bestowers of eternity” part I?

 

Altogether? About a year. And most of that was working out the back-story.

 

Did you do any research for it?

 

For the original? Not really. I really wanted to create a real sense of what NYC life was like, or my personal experience of it at least. I’m not sure if you can actually call that “research” or not. Rosa‘s lifestyle isn’t all that uncommon.

 

When will we see the second part? In what ways will it be different from the first one?

 

It funny you should ask that. I haven’t really formally announced it yet, but I suppose this is a good a time as any. Bestowers of Eternity is undergoing some major rehauling. The entire thing is going to be completely redone from the ground up at a professional level and, if all goes well, sold commercially. I’ve adjusted the plot quite a bit, incorporated some actual research into the backstory, and brought other folks on board to help. It’s a very daunting prospect, but I’m feel it was the right decision to make.

 

How many people are there on the BoE team?

 

As of right now, four people other than myself. I’ve worked with all of them before and know I can trust them to the ends of the Earth.

 

What graphics technology will it use? 3D characters on 2D backgrounds or? Will it use AGS?

 

I debated trying another system, but in the end decided to go back to AGS. It’s silly to re-invent the wheel. It’s going to be standard 2D graphics on 2D backgrounds, just like the original,

 

Will it include a digital music and/or voice pack?

 

You bet!

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If all goes well, how will it be distributed, and for what price?

 

If all goes well, I plan to sell it for $20 plus shipping. There are a few outlets that I’m looking into for distribution, although I haven’t chosen one yet.

 

Is working on RON games something you do as a break from serious game-making?

 

Are you saying RON isn’t serious game-making? 🙂 RON is very much a comfort zone for me. There’s a unique pleasure in creating something, unleashing it onto a virtual world, and seeing what other people do with it. I really believe in the concept – even if it has been, shall we say, a bit slow in the last year. It’s a shame that more people aren’t attracted to RON, as I think it’s a fantastic arena for creation.

 

In what ways was working in a randomly chosen team for the ATC different than working on BoE, for example?

 

The Team Challenge was probably one of the most creatively inspiring – not to mention surreal – experiences of my recent life. I had never formally “met” any of the other team members, but we all instantly hit it off. Allister, Thomas and Lisa were all so talented, so hard-working, and all around COOL people that we all inspired and motivated each other. Towards the end, it became less about winning the contest and just about going the distance. Thomas refered to the experience as a totem – a structure with separate, unique pieces that fit together perfectly. It’s an apt analogy, and it’s something you simply don’t get with solo projects.

 

In what ways do you think that the competition should change in the future?

 

Personally, I enjoyed the challenge and the experience so much I wouldn’t change a thing. I know that I was very lucky with the team I ended up with, but there’s really no way to foresee what your team members are going to be like in a contest like that.

 

What are your views on the current state of the adventure scene? Do you think they will take over again? Which ones are you looking forward to?

 

That’s a loaded question. 🙂 In a selfish way, I’m kind of happy that the adventure scene is in the state it’s in. It enables folks like you and me to step forward and share our visions with the world. It’s an opportunity we wouldn’t have had ten years ago. The adventure genre might have a small market, but it’s a very loyal one.

 

Do you have any plans for future games you’d like to share?

 

Well, I already told you about “Bestowers of Eternity.” If you have any further questions about that, feel free and ask.

 

Thanks for your time

Two of a Kind Review

Introduction. “Alea Jacta Est” – said Roger and drew Dave Gilbert, Dart, Scotch, BerserkerTails and Yoke into one team, shortly named “Epileptic Fish”. Naturally, everyone expected their game to be great, and not surprisingly, it is.

Plot. In a town where everyone has their special congenital ability, a precious artifact has been stolen from the local museum. Twins Tim and Tiffany, working in their own detective agency, are hired to find who the thief was, and this is where the actual game begins. Overall, the plot is excellent, and gets darker the nearer to the end you are. There is also a bunch of great humour – the “Dr. Love” but, for example. But the strongest part of the plot is the characterization – Dave Gilbert has done tremendous job in this aspect once again. For example, Tiffany is a child in an adult’s body, and all her reactions about things sound so; Tim is more level-headed and realistic, and not surprisingly his comments and remarks are such, often cynical. It is actually quite fun to try the same actions with the two protagonists, since they make different comments. But not only the main characters’ personalities are deeply distinguishable – the aforementioned Dr Love, for example is quite a fellow, too. At the end of the day – great job Dave! You make the player feel like they are talking to real people.

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Graphics. Many superlatives should be spoken in that direction too. The backgrounds are pretty looking and unlike those in most fan games, they are not static, pretty lively in fact. The character art is quit good too, though in my opinion not as marvelous as the background one. The animations are smooth and there is plenty of them, so you can enjoy Tim and Tiffany performing different actions not in text only. Cheers to Dart and Scotch for making the graphics seem first-rate and adding to the great atmosphere of the game!

Music. There are quite a few MIDIs in the game, and each and every one suits the situation it is composed for superbly. Moreover, some of them are truly catchy and you can’t get them out of your head for hours. Especially a song called “Itchy eyes” – it beyond doubt deserves a listen. As for sound effects, there are some thrown in, but they do not add as much to the atmosphere as the wonderful music.

Gameplay. The game uses a custom-made GUI, which is quite good, except for one small thing – every time you want to change actions, you have to move your mouse to the bottom of the screen (where the GUI is), which can get a bit annoying after some time. A cool idea of Dave’s is the addition of special abilities – Tim can float a bit off the ground while Tiffany can talk to animals. This makes the puzzles more variable and enjoyable. Speaking of puzzles, there are quite a few in this game, and most of them are the “How can I not have thought of this earlier?” type – thumbs up! I also take my hat off to Yoke for creating a bug-free game.

Conclusion. “Two of a Kind” by epileptic fish is clearly one of the highlights of the last year and will be one of the favourites for every single AGS Award – and that’s well deserved.


Overall score:

92%

What will we be playing in 2005?

Another year is near its end, and questions like our heading pop up. Here are just a few of the most awaited games of 2005:

Quest for Glory II VGA – The remake of the sierra classic is certainly on top of many people’s lists, and that is certainly not a coincidence. It has been two years since the AGDs released the magnificent King’s Quest II VGA, and everything indicates that this remake will be even better. I can hardly wait to see the sauruses animated in beautiful VGA or to fight for glory once more. Moreover, you will be able to import your character from QfG I and transfer him/her to the third installment of the saga. The game, if rumours are to be believed, is quite close to beta stage, which most probably means that it will be released in the first quarter of the New Year. Keep your fingers crossed!

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Indiana Jones and the Fountain of Youth – Although the 2005 release of this title is highly doubtful, it is certainly worth mentioning here. Don’t grab your fedora yet though.

Shadowplay – Another game that might not be released in 2005, but again, quite worthy of mentioning. All fans of the Gabriel Knight series should watch out for this one.

The Find – We previewed this game in one of the previous issues of the AGS Ezine, and it is indeed something you should be looking forward to. I will only name the creators – Herculean effort productions, creators of the two Apprentice games.

Goldlagoon – Another title we have previewed, and it will almost certainly be out in the next year. The only thing I need to know to get me excited about this title is that the music, as the whole game, actually, is made by Petteri A. Thumbs up!

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King’s Quest III VGA – Infamous adventurers will surely not justify their name with that remake – it will be almost 1:1 to the original, it will have gorgeous VGA graphics and digital soundtrack. Quite a lot of the game is already finished, so I guess that it won’t be that long before we get to play this title.

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Bard’s Blood – Yet another Gabriel Knight-inspired and previewed in the AGS Ezine game. Dragonrose has made some changes in style and gameplay since then, but it surely will be something every adventurer would want to play

The legend of lost lagoon – What? Another lagoon game? Why yes! And this one’ll surely take you back to the pleasant memories of classic Lucas arts titles like “Monkey Island” or “Day of the tentacle”

The Ben Jordan Games – We played them this year, and still there are 6 more to come out. While not all may come out in 2005, most of them certainly will. Thumbs up!

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And those are just few of the games that will (hopefully) be out in 2005. What other goodies will it bring us? Time will only tell, and I can’t wait to find out.