All the games that we've covered in Adventure Gamers Underground, to this date, are downloadable freeware adventures, playable with no Internet connection. We have not, probably to our discredit, covered the fact that there is definitely a growing assortment of Web-based, Flash-driven adventures requiring no download at all.
The advantages of a browser-based adventure, of course, are that operating system and computer type are irrelevant. XP incompatibilities are an afterthought. As long as you've got a web browser and a Flash plug-in, you can run these games on any sort of computer.
I was struck with the revelation of how ignorant I've been to this movement when Nick Bounty: A Case of the Crabs came across my e-mail last week. In the matter of three clicks and thirty seconds, I was watching the introduction. No download, no setup, no desktop shortcuts...it's like some sort of nirvana for a classic adventure fan constantly struggling with wrangling modern systems to play nice with classic games.
A Case of the Crabs is a black & white noir-influenced private eye comedy. It borrows heavily from the style of old Humphrey Bogart movies such as The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep, which game designer Mark Darin credits as two of his main influences; in fact, the game was created in black & white as an homage to those movies.
Darin's other influences, however, are Ron Gilbert and Tim Schafer, so don't expect the overly serious melodrama of some film noir; the game is written with the demented mind of a longtime LucasArts fan. Although there's no mistaking Darin's writing for Schafer, he is at least competent with his usage of humor and skillful satire of the noir artform he is both parodying and paying homage to. Certainly his humorous writing is better than 80% of similar works in the underground community.
Of course, all the great writing in the world can still be undermined by inept voice acting--thankfully not the case here. In fact, when I asked Darin what part of the game he was most proud of, he was quick to mention the talented voice actors and the extra level of professionalism that they brought to the project. None of the actors are "professionals" per se, but they certainly enjoy the roles they play and bring a sense of enthusiasm to their part. Notable is Jason Ellis as Nick Bounty, who himself must be an avid fan of film noir.
As stated before, A Case of the Crabs is fully playable within a web browser (equipped with the Flash plug-in). It was written in Darin's own MAAGE engine, and there are some apparent glitches throughout (to be expected with version 1.0 of an engine). Though the writing is capable, the story is not really brilliant stuff, and descends into silliness a bit far for some people.
You don't expect Lost Files of Sherlock Holmes from a noir-comedy, of course; but A Case of the Crabs is definitely an enjoyable one-hour diversion, especially considering there is no download required and compatibility is assured. Darin's Otter Archives studio is working on a second and third game, as well as a Nick Bounty sequel; if this first effort is any indication, I certainly look forward to his future works.
Visit the A Case of the Crabs website to play.