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Review for The Goat in the Grey Fedora

The Goat in the Grey Fedora is the third game from Pinhead Games, and the second game in the Nick Bounty series. As with the first Nick Bounty, A Case of the Crabs, and Pinhead's unrelated second title, Brain Hotel, The Goat in the Grey Fedora is playable either in your browser, or offline after roughly 50 MB's worth of downloading. The engine is completely Flash-based, which means the game should be playable online on any platform that has a compatible Flash plugin. The offline version of the game is compiled to work on both Windows PCs and Macs. This unusually broad level of accessibility is no doubt a contributing factor to the million-plus combined downloads Pinhead's games have already enjoyed.

The Goat in the Grey Fedora rejoins Private M (he hasn't quite managed to qualify as a Private I yet) Nick Bounty as he is regaling his poker buddies with the details of his latest completed case. The screen blurs, and we witness a flashback of a classic film noir femme fatale, Kitty Ledbetter, entering Nick's office with the offer of a seemingly simple case. So simple, in fact, that Nick thinks it's beneath an investigator of his calibre. However, as is so often the case in noir movies and novels, and indeed adventure games, the job isn't quite as simple as it first seems. After this intro, we take control of Nick as he attempts to track down the goat of the game's title, a small ceramic statuette Kitty believes is somewhere in her late uncle's office.

The game is a fairly straightforward but humourous detective story, with logical puzzles mostly about finding clues to where the goat may be hidden. There are quite a few characters, especially for such a short game, and all have extensive dialogue options; some relevant to the case, some humourous asides. Characters are well-presented, with dialogues that fit their personality. The game is set over a relatively small number of locations, with more areas becoming unlocked as the game progresses. Current goals tend to be focused to one or two locations, with little need for back-tracking and wandering around wondering what to do next.

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Unlike those of its predecessor, the graphics in The Goat in the Grey Fedora are in quasi-3D, presented in a semi-realistic style. The backgrounds have an adequate level of detail, with scenes showing an appropriate number of objects and characters. Although the art is by no means spectacular, the simplistic design and black and white colouring work well with the game's noir theme. The music is good, with jazzy tunes and more dramatic pieces during cutscenes. As with the other two Pinhead games, the game is fully voice-acted to a high standard, with more than ten people that all have distinct voices. Lines are delivered excellently, with appropriate accents and tones for all the characters, which aids greatly in imbuing the characters with personality and realism.

The game utilises a verb-coin interface, where clicking the mouse over a hotspot brings up a menu with three possible selections: an eye, mouth, or hand interaction. The specific verb each option creates differs depending on the hotspot, and there are a number of amusing actions possible -- "tug moustache" on an elderly shopkeeper being one that springs to mind. Navigation is achieved by clicking the mouse to move Nick around the screen, or by clicking the large arrows that appear when Nick can leave one area for another.

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There are very few hotspots in most rooms in The Goat in the Grey Fedora, which makes solving puzzles very straightforward. Even if you were forced to resort to the time-honoured tactic of randomly clicking inventory objects on hotspots to try to solve puzzles, you'd find your answer in no time. However, this isn't likely to be an issue for most people, as the puzzles are very logical and rarely require any kind of lateral thinking. There are a few dialogue puzzles that may require some trial-and-error to complete, but the amusing "incorrect" responses prevent these from ever becoming frustrating. The game is paced well, with frequent cutscenes that progress the plot and let you know what course of action should be followed next.

The Goat in the Grey Fedora is packed with groan-inducing puns that are amusing in their weakness. Since these are usually delivered by Nick, this helps endear him to us. Humour is very much the game's forte, and mostly comes through in the dialogues, cutscenes and hotspot interactions, though there are certainly some amusingly surreal scenarios, as well. Also frequently present are film noir references -- Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon being two even my limited experience of the genre could recognise -- although often with a twisted, humourous take on the originals.

Altogether, The Goat in the Grey Fedora is a great medium-length (with maybe an hour's play-time) game, with excellent presentation and charming humour. Although it will be very easy for experienced players, the pacing of the story and frequent cutscenes keep the game flowing nicely, and it's enjoyable from start to finish. All Pinhead Games' releases to date have been of a good quality, and I very much look forward to their next release, Adventures of Nelly the Wonder Dog.

The Goat in the Grey Fedora can be downloaded from Pinhead Games' site.

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