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Matt Barton's picture

Review: Kheops Studio's "Voyage: Inspired by Jules Verne" (2005)

Voyage: Lush graphics, awesome story, great puzzles, witty dialog...Bon voyage!Voyage: Lush graphics, awesome story, great puzzles, witty dialog...Bon voyage!Kheops Studio's "Voyage: Insired by Jules Verne," published in the US by the Adventure Company in 2005, is one of the best graphical adventure games I've seen in recent years. It features compelling gameplay, multiple ways to solve puzzles, and a good, solid story based on the works of celebrated French author Jules Verne (one of the true godfathers of science fiction). The puzzles are clever, the script is fun--in short, it's worth checking out, even if you aren't normally a fan of Myst-style games.

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Sam and Max Season One: Some Reflections

You may have noticed (hopefully with some sadness!) that I haven't been posting as much as I usually do here on Armchair Arcade. Part of the reason is that I've been overloaded with school work (this is finals week), but the true reason is that I've become a GameTapaholic. Don't get me wrong--the system is not without its faults, and is not available in Europe. However, it's far too easy to get sucked into games like Baldur's Gate again and end up losing days and even weeks of productivity. It's really hard to believe how much is available! Nevertheless, while there are plenty of classic games to keep you busy, we can't ignore the Sam & Max series. As far as I know, these are only available on GameTap, and well worth the price of admission.

Funcom to Follow Dreamfall with Dreamfall Chapters

No doubt following Telltale Games' lead with the success of Sam & Max Season One, Funcom recently announced plans to develop Dreamfall Chapters, an online episodic sequel to the recent GAG Dreamfall: The Longest Journey.

Here's a bit from the press release:

. Funcom naturally welcomes the continued cultural acceptance of computer games as a medium comparable to film and television. Fans can now look forward to new online chapters in one of the most popular adventure sagas of all time.

Each new installment of ‘Dreamfall Chapters’ will initially be delivered as online-only content, but there may be retail releases with combined chapters, both for console and PC, at a later stage.

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Review: FunCom's "Dreamfall: The Longest Journey" (2006)

There are so many critics nowadays who like to scoff at the venerable old graphical adventure game (GAG) genre. All I can say is that the news of the GAG's demise is highly exaggerated. If you desire proof, then I suggest you give FunCom's Dreamfall a chance. This epic-sized adventure game is an amazing achievement, and certainly ranks as one of the finest GAGs of all time. Although it's certainly not flawless, Dreamfall capitalizes on its key assets: Interesting and well-developed characters, a fascinating storyline, and excellent pacing. Although some GAG fans will dismiss any game that doesn't burden the player down with "puzzles" and other distractions, I'm refreshed by FunCom's focus on story, characters, and dialog. If videogames are ever going to move beyond just simple diversions for young men, we're going to need more games like Dreamfall.

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Amazing Media's Frankenstein: Through the Eyes of the Monster (1997)

Amazing Media's Frankenstein: Through the Eyes of the Monster is a fantastic game, and I'm stunned that it hasn't received more attention from serious GAG fans. Tim Curry's performance as the demented Dr. Frankenstein is wonderful, but that's not all this game has to offer. Great atmosphere, story, black humor, and intuitive puzzles--what more could a GAG fan ask for? I give this one two thumbs up--(and who knows whom those thumbs used to belong to?)

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Review: Amazing Media's "Mummy: Tomb of the Pharaoh" (1996)

Malcolm McDowell is one of my favorite actors, so naturally when I found a graphical adventure game (GAG) starring him for only $1 (and that was a dual pack including a Frankenstein game), it was really a no-brainer. When games come that cheap, the only question is whether it's worth the time investment. Verdict?

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Review: Dreamcatcher's "The Crystal Key 2: The Far Realm" (2004)

The Crystal Key 2: The Far Realm, is as unlike its first game as to almost make the term "sequel" a misnomer. While the two games certainly have some elements in common, the gameplay has changed, and there is much more emphasis on characters and puzzle solving. These changes make the second game much more playable and enjoyable than the first, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in adventure games. Let's talk then about what makes the second game so much better, and hopefully provide some insights along the way to give new GAG developers some assistance in making better games. After all, it's just as important for a critic to point out why something is good as well as why something it's bad, though the latter is always much easier to do. To this end, I've setup the review like a tip sheet and filled it full of the wisdom that comes from many, many an hour playing GAGs. Even if you have no intention of ever playing this game, I'd like you to read my review.

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Review: Dreamcatcher's "The Crystal Key" (1999)

Dreamcatcher's The Crystal Key, released in 1999 for Macintosh and Windows, is a humble Myst clone without much to offer folks who aren't already committed to this particular type of adventure game. Although it has an interesting storyline, good graphics for the time, reasonable sound effects, and some good puzzles, none of these elements are polished enough to really make the game stand out against the competition (can anything really compete against Myst and Riven on their home turf?). Furthermore, it's a chore getting the game to work properly in XP, and it won't run at all on my iMac. Nevertheless, this era of GAGs is critically important for the genre, and Cyan wasn't the only company exploring the possibilities of first-person perspective and CD-ROM storage.

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Review: Nucleosys' "Scratches" (2006)

Nucleosys' Scratches, developed by Agustin Cordes and published by Got Game, is one of the scariest graphical adventure games I've played to date. However, it's suspense is much more subtle and relies more on extended tension than "boo!" moments (although there are a few). What I'd like to talk about in this review are the techniques the game relies on to generate so much anxiety despite its point-and-click interface: a brilliant story, masterful pacing, incredible ambiance, and uncanny artwork.

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Reflections on Black Mirror: Or What Makes Bad GAGs Bad

Unknown Identity's Black Mirror, published in the US by the Adventure Company in 2003, is one of those rare games that's just good enough to make you hate the fact that it's so unplayable. It's like one of those movies that's hopelessly boring and banal, but nevertheless, there's something about it that makes you realize it could've been a great movie (think Dungeons & Dragons). Black Mirror is the second game I've played by Unknown Identity, a Czech developer also responsible for the travesty Nibiru (it's no wonder why they want to keep their real identity a secret). These graphical adventure games have much in common: The stories are fascinating, the graphics are absolutely gorgeous, and the ambience is outstanding. However, they all suffer from wretched puzzles, unbelievably horrid voice acting, poorly translated dialogue, and an abundance of pixel hunting. What I intend to do here is review and analyze Black Mirror. I'm hoping some benevolent soul will translate it into Czech (along with Ron Gilbert's essay on bad games). Otherwise, we might very well see another Unknown Identity product on the shelf, and the GAG genre is hurting enough as it is.

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