Nick It & Run review
Welcome to the city of Thadhurst, host to "The Stans" - the most important award night in the world of adventure gaming. The award ceremony is due to begin in a few days, and the secret police have discovered a sinister plot to steal the precious award. Horrors! This must be avoided at all costs! And so the task of protecting the award falls to you, Al Gurbish, a secret agent with a befuddled grin and a bad mullet. Your mission is a dangerous one, but secret police deem you the best (i.e., the most expendable) man for the job. And by the way, failure is not an option.
First things first: Nick It & Run looks good. Darn good. This game has, bar none, some of the most professional-looking graphics I have ever seen in an amateur adventure game. The backgrounds are drawn in a offbeat, cartoony style that are simple enough not to be overwhelming, but detailed enough that you will never question what is important (most of the time). The character designs are gorgeous. Unlike most amateur games, the characters in NIAR are not merely altered versions of each other. Each character has their own graphical and personality quirk that makes them unique, interesting, and fun to interact with. It's also nice to see that animations for most of the actions are implemented, which is another rarity.
This main plot is fun and clever, but the game doesn't seem overly concerned with it. The plot is basically an excuse to wander around Thadhurst, talk to the eccentric locals and solve bizarre puzzles. There are times where you will forget about your mission to protect "The Stan", but there are several subplots to keep you entertained. You'll save a blues band, get caught up in a fast food chain war, fulfill a ancient prophecy and even have a chat with Osama Bin Laden.
The interface is classic LucasArts -- instantly recognizable by any adventure game veteran, and fairly intuitive for others. A menu at the bottom of the screen presents you with the standard walk, look, use, talk and take options, and your character's inventory is displayed to the left. You move between locations via an overhead map of the city. This map screen, while nicely designed, has some problems. There are locations prominiently displayed in the foreground that you can never go to, while some of the active locations are placed in tiny, hard to see spots in the background. This is an odd design choice which might lead to some confusion. I also experienced some occasional glitches with mouse clicks not registering, but for the most part the interface works well.
The sounds are a mixed bag. There are several sound effects that are used nicely (crashes, lightening, etc), but the background music is made up of copyrighted midis ranging from popular music to other adventure games. Normally, this isn't a problem, but some of the music seemed a bit misplaced. There were a number of times I'd be distracted by a song that I knew belonged somewhere else. I'd find myself thinking "Oh, that's the Largo LeGrande theme," instead of concentrating on the action itself. It's a small point to harp on, but some better chosen music would have suited the game nicely.
In an adventure game that's about finding an award for adventure games, you would expect a bit of self-reference here and there, and NIAR certainly doesn't skimp here. The fourth wall gets broken constantly in this game. It seems that you can't even look at your inventory without seeing another "Hey look, I'm in an adventure game!" joke, and whether you find that funny is a personal preference. If you enjoy that type of thing, you will be in heaven because Nick It & Run has it in spades.
Despite the minor flaws, Nick It & Run is well worth your time. Aussiesoft has tried to recreate the feeling of the LucasArts in their heyday, and in my opinion it succeeds; no full-length amateur game has reminded me of the early greats so much. If one were to box up Nick It & Run, slap on a LucasArts logo, send it back in time to 1992 and put it on an department store shelf, it would be perfectly at home. I can't think of any higher praise than that.
You can download the game from: HERE