Curious Alice is a very nice little VR adventure, created by ViveArts for its showing in the Victoria & Albert Museum’s “Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser” exhibition. While I might not be able to make it to London to see the incredible looking museum, I can certainly afford a Viveport Infinity subscription for my Oculus Quest 2 to play the Curious Alice experience.
The art of each level of Curious Alice is hand-painted with a whimsical and psychedelic look that just smells perfectly on-key of the trademark Alice in Wonderland absurdity we’ve grown accustomed to over its portrayal over the years. The game’s music was perfect as well, though, I can’t give full credit to its sound design – there was an issue where in one scene a voice line kept playing on loop if I didn’t press a button right away. I do suspect this issue was to blame on the consideration of running an actual-world showcase alongside it, but it doesn’t remove the frustration.
I really enjoyed Curious Alice, and will definitely recommend it. Interested readers can download it from Viveport or Steam for Vive or Oculus headsets.
Innerspace VR has already won my respect with their previous game, a Fisherman’s Tale. It was a really cute puzzle game that grew more weird and trippy as players went further into the story. It was from the street cred from their last game that I’m so confident I’ll enjoy their next game, Maskmaker. My first move after reading about its announcement was literally to add it to my Steam wishlist.
Amanita Design, the game development team behind Machinarium and the Samorost series, have always been producers of non-traditional adventure games. To quickly summarize them, one might say they are known for following their own rules when making the weird point and click adventures we all keep falling in love with. The latest game released by the team, Pilgrims, seems to be another great entry in their library.
One of the self-imposed rules all the games released by the team so far is that there can be no comprehensible dialog, spoken or written. This means Pilgrims must establish player objectives and tools without telling us what they are. Unlike most non-verbal games, which would use camera angles and other visual cues to give players an idea of what to do, Pilgrims keeps things pretty open to interpretation. The most direct the game gets is when speech bubbles containing an item appear, to indicate something a character currently has or wants. How to get the item, or even if it’s worth getting, is up to the player.
In practice, Pilgrims can be completed in less than fifteen minutes. But with all the different ways players can reach the ending, this calculates to a game of a decent length. It was pretty fun thinking of different ways to be creative to reach the goals that I was setting for myself by assuming what the game wanted me to do. Unfortunately, with this wide openness there comes a lot of potential for wasted time. I think the most perfect example of what I loved and disliked about Pilgrims comes from a helluva story about my first playthrough.
To make a long story short, I ended up helping a Devil kidnap a Priest and sent them both to the underworld. But this didn’t affect my main objective at all, from what I could tell. A completely unnecessary condemnation, an arbitrary arbitration of a man’s soul. The funny thing is it was all done by me just combining random characters and inventory items, all up to the point where the priest is tied up and being carried away by the demon. I had very little idea what would happen at first, and as I was more successful and it all dawned on me, my opinion on the game cemented.
Pilgrims was a pretty fun game. It doesn’t do as much with its animation as the team’s previous game, Chuchel, but everything came together much stronger. Games like these that are so dang close to perfect make me feel very positive for the future of adventure games.
I played through The Turing Test recently through Xbox Game Pass, and I’ve been thinking about it since I finished it. The visuals of Turing Test featured an industrial theme, with everything you see feeling factory produced. The most unique looking puzzle areas you see are just rooms with different colored lighting. Every few puzzle levels we will encounter a human-inhabited room which usually looked a bit more lived in, with notes and personal items scattered about.
The plot of the game is straightforward – we are trying to reach the end of this maze to find our crewmates. As we progress through each of the puzzle rooms, we get to hear our player character, an astronaut named Ava, will talk to TOM, our computer friend about the difference between humans and artificial intelligences.
The story is interesting, because it has almost nothing to do with the puzzles. The idea is that yes, you can switch between controlling Ava as a traditional first-person game, or as TOM who can only see through the eyes of security cameras or drones. But honestly, this whole story that’s established of the team on Europa and human morals? It could be replaced with a completely different story, and no one would know.
I feel like that’s part of the good and bad with the Turing Test. It’s versatile, like a mass-produced product. You can take it apart and exchange some of the lighter stuff, but the bulk of the experience will still be strong. Bulkhead did a great job on the puzzles here, and I’m excited for their future.
Chuchel by Amanita Design is yet another confirmation that the development team behind Machinarium and the Samorost series is incredibly talented. This is a game where everything on offer is this pure dose of refined comedy with no wasted sound or visual. Everything exists to deliver jokes or game design, or both.
Back in 2012 I awarded Botanicula, another game from Amanita Design for best audio design of that year. Chuchel takes it a step further. Every character has their own unique sounding gibberish or incoherent mumbling, which mixes with the random seeming sound effects of the background into this perfect Looney Tunes styled cacophony of music and incomprehensible language.
Chuchel does well with its puzzles in a way that continued to surprise me. It felt like the developers limited their toolset of game mechanics, but expanded on what they could do every other minute. At one point we were using the basic point and click controls to play an homage to Pac-Man, while another scene showed off the game’s wordless but emotional conversations between characters.
Each of the game’s rooms took at most five minutes to solve, each having its own characters and slight twist to mechanics. I’m not usually a fan of games that offer room escape puzzles, but Amanita Design managed to make a delightful experience.
I definitely will be recommending Chuchel to any fan of point and click adventures and fans of classic cartoon tomfoolery. It bums me out that the developers seem to be having a hard time since their decision to change the main character’s color scheme, so I’ll be rooting for them and buying their next game soon as they’ll sell it to me.
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Originally posted to IndieGamerTeam.com in July 2017
Viktor, a Steampunk Adventure is a deceptively emotionally complex adventure game. It introduces itself as a story about a boar named Viktor, who after years of service to the Austria-Hungarian Empire, has grown tired of being a poor nobody. Viktor is a nasty little boar of a person who kicks and screams at everyone who makes him unhappy in his life. Viktor is convinced that with his experience as a peasant, he has the know-how to become Emperor, and sets out to take the throne after the game’s short introductory cutscene.
While the art style mimics the look of a cheap children’s cartoon, the subject matter of the game is tricky to label. After all, having your main character introduce the setting of the game as a world where “all stereotypes are true” is an awfully bold claim. (Editor’s Note: Oh, this is gonna end well…) This is a game attempting to balance racist jokes with insight, something we don’t see in most media these days. While playing the game, it often felt like we weren’t seeing the developer mocking minorities, but instead they were poking fun at their and Viktor’s small world views.
As the game progresses, we meet a wonderfully bizarre cast of caricatures based on real world cultures and famous writers of the early 1900s. Each character is voiced in a Banjo-Kazooie style where real voice actors record imitations of noises or accents with no audible words being said. The amount of work Studio Spektar put into the huge list of ridiculous characters is impressive, especially for such a small studio. Just after the tutorial we’re introduced to the following cast of characters:
A kilt wearing “Jewish Scotsman” dog who alternates each sentence between using a Hebrew term or Scottish accent
A toga wearing, deeply philosophical, alcoholic Greek frog
A turban wearing Indian rhino who knows even more about poverty than Viktor
A Japanese rabbit girl riding a mech, who adds overly complicated emoticons to every sentence
These are just a few examples of all the characters you encounter in the game. There is a long list of unique people that will abuse or manipulate Viktor through a number of varied locations. I’m sure a lot of people would call this game ignorant or even hateful in its mockery of cultures. Viktor, a Steampunk Adventure is a game that is so thoroughly filled with heart, jokes, and detail that I don’t think it’s fair to make a quick judgement to dismiss it or its creators.
Aside from the details of the writing, Viktor, a Steampunk Adventure is quite a strong adventure game. Puzzle rooms are small and brisk to work through, and with most puzzles offering a good challenge. There is even a hint system, where Viktor calls his buddy Martin – an owl smoking a hookah pipe in the bath who claims to be psychic. Viktor will have the choice to ask about specific obstacles in the game, and Martin will respond with a joke or some advice that the player usually can make sense of to solve the immediate puzzles.
That said, I did run into an issue with one ridiculously complex puzzle that had me stuck for quite a while. I definitely recommend keeping a guide handy, but truthfully, I say that about every adventure game. I definitely recommend fans of the adventure genre to give Viktor, a Steampunk Adventure a playthrough. With its unique art style, wide range of characters, and some damn funny writing, this might be one of my favorite adventure games in a long while.