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Review for Two of a Kind

Two of a Kind was originally intended as an entry into this July/August's AGS Team Competition, wherein groups of AGS community members banded together into teams of 5 members and raced to create a game together before a set deadline. The competition eventually fell apart, due to various people dropping out, and the time constraints being a little too strict. However, two teams did continue their games after the deadline ended; one of those teams was Epileptic Fish, creators of Two of a Kind. The game eventually took almost two months past the original deadline, but the finished product was well worth the wait.

The game revolves around twin brother-and-sister Tim and Tiffany Walters. Together they work as private detectives, in the city of Bluff City. Bluff City isn't your ordinary city though, there was a meteor strike some 700 years ago, which had strange effects on its inhabitants' evolution. Many of the city's residents have strange, supernatural powers. Tiffany, for instance, can talk to animals, while Tim can levitate a few feet off the ground. Some of the other characters you'll encounter along the way also have unusual abilities. At the beginning of the game, Tim and Tiff are contacted by the curator of a local museum, who charges them with investigating the theft of an ancient Egyptian artefact. Of course, given the unusualness of the rest of the city, things are not quite as simple as they'd seem.

Tim is a dour and cynical character. His favourite phrase is "what a waste", which he applies to the many things he thinks are at fault in the world. Tiff, on the other hand, is a cutesy and lovable child-in-an-adult's-body, who's wont to giggle at most things she sees. This partnership makes for an excellent variety, since you can swap between Tiff and Tim at any time, with different responses to every hotspot interaction. Tim often goes off on long rants about seemingly trivial subjects, which serve well to emphasise his irritable and wry character. Conversely, Tiff seems unable to find fault in anything; everything is "cute" and "sweet" to her, and she often comes out with hilariously silly responses to interactions. Other characters' dialogues are also often very amusing, and always well-written and appropriate to their character. None of the game's characters seem unbelievable, despite their strange abilities, and all seem to fit the game perfectly. The ability to speak to every character as either twin is also very interesting, and often result in different replies and lines of enquiry.

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The GUI is of a standard Sierra icon style, where the interaction is chosen from a docked panel at the bottom of the screen. The inventory is alongside the icons panel, and works in much the same way. To the right of the inventory is the all-important special ability button. This will allow Tim to float (if you have him selected, of course). Tiff's ability to speak to animals is automatically selected whenever you try to talk with one, so no special button was required. Below this button is the 'follow' button, which can be set to either on or off. Clicking it on will make Tim/Tiff appear by their sibling's side within a few moments, and they'll proceed to follow a few steps behind them until you next click the button to turn follow off. Another interesting interface feature is the save-game menu, which takes a snapshot of the current screen and attaches it to your savegame, à la Curse of Monkey Island. There are also a few other tricks that show a level of programming prowess that is rare to find in amateur-created adventures, such as a scrolling X-Files-style typewriter effect that shows the location name when you visit a new area.

The game's graphics are of an excellent, low-res style, with plenty of detail in every screen. There are an impressive number of interactable hotspots in almost every screen, with full responses from Tim and Tiff for almost every one. There are also a number of incidental background animations, a fish swimming in its bowl, bees buzzing around, and so on. The sound is excellent, with effects where appropriate. The MIDI music throughout the game is excellent, with appropriate tunes for every scene - dramatic, laid-back, exciting or cheery where necessary. Of an especially high quality is the one digital music track in the game, a song called "Itchy Eyes" that plays over the ending credits. This was written by the game's MIDI composer, Allister Howe, and recorded live by his jazz combo.

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The plot progresses excellently, from the initial robbery investigation through to the eventual, far more sinister conclusion. Nothing is obvious at first, with the story moving forward evenly. Although the ending is hardly unexpected (it's fairly obvious from the final quarter onwards what's going to happen), the way it's accomplished is excellent, and serves as a good culmination of the game. Strong dialogues and excellent writing are a hallmark of writer Dave Gilbert's work, and this game does nothing to reduce his reputation.

The game contains a number of adventure game and AGS community in-jokes, with a painting in the art gallery named "Roberta in profile", and references to AGS community members and Epileptic Fish team-members throughout - the (Dave) Gilbert's general store for instance. The humour is strong, with amusing hotspot interactions (mostly from Tiff, although Tim's sarcastic responses are often hilarious too) and bizarre characters. Despite this, the plot of the game is also fairly dark, although Tiff's cutesieness is always there to counteract this to good effect.

All-in-all, Two of a Kind is a very professionally presented game, with few flaws (apparently the game was quite buggy for some people, but I personally found no problems playing it). The extra three months Epileptic Fish spent polishing and finalising the game were used well, and the finished product is an excellent, well-rounded game, with an attention to detail that's rare to find in amateur games.

Two of a Kind is available for download here.

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