Oct 24, 2011

The AGS Bake Sale

I've never really seen a real, live bake sale, but I'm pretty sure it has something to do with selling bakes or, in the very least, baking sales. Or something vaguely like that; possibly baking stuff that was previously on sale. Thankfully, the recently announced and already covered by the wise Cassandra and Dualnames, AGS Bake Sale is something else entirely. Or so I've been led to believe. On the other hand, it's an initiative that makes perfect sense and is something even my tiny bake-sale-deprived mind can easily grasp. Also, it's an excellent idea.

But what is it, I pretend to hear you ask. Well, for now it's a promise that will apparently become a quality online sale organized by a happy and secretive band of highly organized indie adventure game creators. Indie creators using the excellent AGS adventure authoring tool in order to come up with equally excellent little games, that will be sold following that trendy pay what you want model. Their goal? Why, to raise enough money to buy a new server to, err, serve the AGS community. The whole thing will happen sometime in mid-December and will hopefully allow you to enjoy a variety (multitude too) of games.
An example of what you should expect. Lovely, innit?
Though you can already follow what's happening with the Bake Sale via this handy forum thread, I have to let you know that the announced games are looking pretty brilliant. I'm already eagerly waiting to point and click my way through Fragment, Paranormal Investigator: In search of the sweets tin, Mythaumatology, Falling Skywards, Understaffed and Barn Runner. Actually, each and every game announced so far does look polished, highly intriguing and beautiful, so I'll just stop linking. Oh, and to find out when the whole thing kicks off, better watch this space (preferably, this blog).

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Oct 21, 2011

Zombie Goes Up (Greece Goes Down)

Excuse me if you will dear reader, but I'm not in the greatest blogging mood. After over a million people protested against the latest brutal austerity measures two days ago, yesterday hundreds of thousands were exposed to mindless violence, political bullying, the death of one protester, police brutality, the passing of a disastrous and traitorous law, dozens of injured people and a deep (if hopefully temporary) division among the people fighting for a better future. Not much to celebrate then, despite the heroic mass mobilization of students, public and private workers, shop-owners, doctors, engineers, unemployed and -frankly- almost everyone.

Still, in a vain attempt to make everyone feel a little bit better, let me suggest you have a look at Zombie Goes Up. It's a lovely and innovative browser-based indie game by the developers of the pretty Dino Quake. It's a beautiful pixel art offering, that let's you guide a zombie from its grave to the surface, where it apparently will help with spreading the Halloween aesthetic. It also is a constantly scrolling action puzzler with great variety and well-designed levels, that does play a bit like an inverted (and way more interesting) version of my humble VVVVVV level.

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Oct 18, 2011

Oceanspirit Dennis Fights!

I'm at a loss here. Oceanspirit Dennis is simply demented. Also a freeware, point-and-click, open source and pretty brilliant parody of JRPGs that will definitely put a smile on your tired face dear reader. What do you mean you are not tired? After the fight is over and qptain Nemo's music is done with your ear-canal, you most definitely will be. Oh, and this is a Ben 304 game (of sorts), that you can finish in five minutes, provided of course you first download it.

Oct 17, 2011

Adventure Lantern: the Halloween issue

One more month, one more issue of Adventure Lantern without a gnomic contribution, but that will soon change. I promise. Anyway. What I meant to actually say is that the latest issue of lovable adventure gaming emag Adventure Lantern has indeed been released and can be downloaded for free from the AL site. Mind you, this is the Halloween issue and thus comes packed with horror stuff, including reviews of Dracula 2 and Alter Ego, but also an excellent interview with Agustin Cordes on the forthcoming Asylum.

Oct 12, 2011

The Blackwell Deception Review

I'm writing this review immediately after playing through The Blackwell Deception and despite the fact that it wont be appearing on Gnome's Lair for the next two or so weeks. Now, I do understand that this wouldn't really matter to anyone else, but it just felt right letting you know kind reader. It also feels right to immediately start typing away in the hope of conveying the feeling of the game; its powerful aftertaste. Oh, and don't worry, I have all the time in the world to fix typos and make sure this review reads less like the ramblings of an over-excited fantasy creature and more like an almost proper review.

So, feelings... Well, there's all sorts of them. That feeling one gets when finishing a great book that most obviously needs a sequel. A certain empathy with the game's protagonists. A deep appreciation for the work that has so obviously gone into this game. Sheer enjoyment of beauty. Catharsis. And thoughts. Thoughts about real problems, real places, real people and not so real ghosts. Thoughts about just how more interesting, smart, enjoyable, relevant and beautiful a small indie offering can be when compared to a multi-million dollar piece of mainstream boredom. Thoughts that could dangerously lead to spoiler-territory; the arch-enemy of all story and character driven games.

For Blackwell Deception, the fourth installment in the Blackwell series by Dave Gilbert, is one of those rare games that do actually tell a great story. A story that manages to both engage the player and provide with that sense of involvement only our dear interactive medium can, err, provide and only a point-and-click adventure game can do so well. A story about tormented ghosts and the private detective sort of couple helping them move on to a probably serene afterlife, while something bigger and more sinister is going on in the background. A story about introverted psychic Rosagnela, her ghostly side-kick Joey and New York City. A story that works perfectly on its own, but even better when experienced as part of a series, as it does indeed advance the over-arching plot.

Interestingly and quite impressively the plot and the puzzles are tightly knit together in a cohesive whole, without ever getting into each others way. The game might not be extremely easy -it actually is a fair and at times challenging adventure- but the puzzles are varied, interesting, logical and progressively harder. Making phone calls to an increasing selection of contacts, changing between two playable characters of vastly differing abilities, searching through a slightly underdeveloped version of the web, asking around, solving dialogue puzzles and even, more traditionally, combining items, make sure things never get stale.

Add the excellent pacing, the top-notch animation (by none other than the incredibly talented Ben 304), the beautiful pixel-art, them lovely and at times animated or scrolling backgrounds, the stunning character portraits, the quality of the writing, the overall polish, the embedded and most enlightening commentary, the game's hefty length, the professional voice-acting and that jazzy soundtrack, and you have one of the best adventure games since 2000. Deception is also easily the best Blackwell game so far, as long time fans are bound to discover, but also a great starting point for those wishing to join the fun.

Verdict: A fantastic adventure game. Buy it now and make sure to thank me afterwards. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to give it another playthrough.  

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Oct 11, 2011

Calm and postapocalyptic serenity

The world has come to an end. Following the spores' invasion humankind is all but extinct, yet you are feeling calm. Almost at peace one might say, and that's why you and a handful of fellow humans have so far survived. Being tense in this new world is the same as being dead. And you seem to have also earned the gift of eternal youth as an added bonus, though apparently there are still things to be done. If it weren't thus, playing through the lovely Calm 2011 Interactive Fiction Competition entry wouldn't make much sense now, would it?

Happily playing Calm, a text adventure brilliantly described as a game of postapocalyptic relaxation, does actually make a lot of sense. It is a hefty, well-written and well-polished adventure sporting some interesting puzzles, an excellent setting, splashes of humour, more than a few intriguing characters, a subtle yet effective calmness-management mechanic, a postapocalyptic scenario that doesn't involve aliens, zombies or nuclear weapons, and loads of interactivity. Merely selecting your character's initial history, for example, will let you begin the game with a different inventory, different abilities and a different set of tasks, whereas I did also discover two puzzles that allowed for alternate solutions. And there's the choice of three difficulty settings too. I'm frankly impressed!

What's more, the game's world is both believable and a joy to explore, as its authors have wisely decided to show the ways in which nature would reclaim a human-less world. The vegetation is out of control, the infrastructure is crumbling, corrosion has taken its toll and one of my favourite scientific subjects has finally made it to a game. Now, to cut a long story short and avoid spoiling things (and, say, telling you, you'll even run into a bloody queen), let me just strongly recommend you try this one out. It's definitely worth your time and is accessible enough for i-f first timers, while also providing for those that care for such matters as a decent challenge. 

You can play Calm both online and locally on your PC, provided of course you download it from the ifcomp site or use this handy direct link. The archive comes with some hints that should be more than enough for anyone to unravel Calm's story. Oh, and the game has been authored by Joey Jones and Melvin Bangasamy, who most definitely did not come up with the lovely piece of artwork this post features; this was made 20 or so years ago for another postapocalyptic game: Wasteland.

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Oct 10, 2011

Win Two Copies of AI War!

Having decided I will not wait any longer to give away the two unclaimed copies of AI War from that gnome-tastic competition, well, here's your chance. Just leave a comment on this very post and you might win yourself one (of two) truly impressive copy of one of the best indie strategy games ever. You have 'till Wednesday.

[UPDATE]: Check the comments and see if you've won!

Oct 6, 2011

Deirdra Kiai presents: The Play

Kicking off my coverage of the 2011 Interactive Fiction Competition is The Play. An online choose-your-own-adventure type experience by the incredibly talented indie game designer Deirdra Kiai, and thus a quality piece of interactive fiction you can immediately play in the comfort of your own browser without having to type a single word. Come to think of it, it's an excellent and definitely gentle introduction to the world of text adventures, what with its elegant and intuitive interface and very simple puzzles. Anyway. Here is the link you'll be needing to, err, play The Play.

Interestingly and rather appropriately considering its tittle, The Play has gamers assume the role of a slightly frustrated theatrical director trying to save a dress rehearsal and, hopefully, a premiere, while juggling a tight budget, a trusted co-worker and three actors capable of arrogance, stupidity and sexism (among other commendable traits), though not necessarily talent. Keeping them moderately satisfied and off each others throats seems like the key to a better result, but winning is not what really matters in a game like this one. Enjoying the interesting and very well-written story, on the other hand, is.

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Oct 4, 2011

Abandoned Times Magazine: The Second Coming

We all love retro games, we all love classic PC games, we all love gaming magazines, we all love free stuff, we all love the glorious treasures of Abandonia, yet we most definitely do not all live on a yellow submarine. A shame if you ask me, but in an obviously nonsensical manner. So, what is there to do? Download the latest issue of the excellent Abandonware Times Magazine I say! Download its 65 digital pages and feel free in that rare nostalgic way only a good read on Alone in the Dark can provide. Download it and read all about the Doom trilogy, ancient horror games, the intricacies of DOSbox, a Matt Barton interview and Elvira II.

Oct 3, 2011

2011 Interactive Fiction: The Games

The Interactive Fiction Competition has been going on for 16 years now and I still consider it one of the best things that ever happened to that digital and at times tasteless behemoth that is the internet. Silly prose aside, the IF Competition has been tirelessly encouraging the development of text adventures and interactive fiction  for all these years, while simultaneously helping advance and popularize the medium. Oh, and providing hundreds of quality freeware games too.

This year's competition has been one of the most impressive ones yet, what with its nearly forty interactive fiction authors, over two hundred judges and the variety of authoring/programming tools used. There are even a few games including graphics and sound. And at least one that doesn't require any typing whatsoever.

You can -and most probably should- play the 2011 competition games in a refreshing variety of ways; yes, they have indeed been finally made available. You can download the complete archive including every competition game, you can grab each game individually and even play most of these lovable text adventures online. Further info on each entry can be found here and you should probably get around to downloading an interactive fiction interpreter (a program that will let you play the games; they do come in their very own file formats) like the excellent, dead simple to use and obviously freeware Gargoyle.

After playing a few games you will apparently be more than welcome to your opinion on said games, meaning that you will indeed be allowed to vote for your favourites by following this highly democratic link. As for me, I know I will not be voting. I rarely do so when it comes to competitions. I will instead be playing and writing about those entries that intrigue me the most. Stay, uhm, tuned?

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