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Gamescom 2013 round-up: Part 2

Gamescom 2012
Gamescom 2012

See Part 1 of our Gamescom round-up for the show's first day events.

Agatha Christie, Syberia 3, Dream Chamber, 9 Elephants – Anuman Interactive

On Thursday, Alain Milly of Anuman Interactive revealed that along with the announced plans for new Agatha Christie games, the French publisher also had a couple of other surprises in store. There will be several Agatha Christie games developed, but none are in production just yet. These games will tie in with other new adaptations of her work planned for film and television, and more information – such as which titles we can expect – will be announced in October. The games will be developed for PC, Mac, iOS and Android, with a possibility of porting them to consoles as well.

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Concept sketch for Syberia 3

Many adventure fans will be delighted to learn that Syberia 3 is at last in production. Benoît Sokal is working on the game and the story is done for the first major setting, while the design for the second is almost finished as well. This will be a long-term production though, with the game probably not out before 2015. The developers hope to be able to reveal more at the end of this year, but in the meantime, there's good news for console owners as the first two games will be released on PS3 and Xbox 360 “soon”.

When Anuman bought Microïds, they had three goals: making their existing games compatible with new versions of Windows, porting those games to mobile platforms, and finally publishing new games, of which Dracula 5 and The Inquisitor are good examples. Dracula 5 is the concluding chapter to the disappointingly abbreviated previous installment. The Inquisitor is an ongoing franchise, as the books on which the series is based are still being written. The third book will be out in France in September.

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Dream Chamber

Two years ago, AG colleagues Mark Jones, Harald Bastiaanse and I ran into Italian publishers Reply Forge, who were eager but unable to tell us much about the game Dream Chamber. But now Anuman Interactive has picked up the publishing rights to this title, giving us a long-awaited look into the noir-styled game set in the thirties. Its graphics seem to have changed from the naïve art style it had when we first saw it; still hand-drawn cartoons, but now looking more polished than before.

The protagonist is a wealthy man named Charlie Chamber, who likes to solve crimes. Charlie has a special ability that allows him to revisit scenes he has been to before in his dreams and examine them in more detail. One example is Charlie visiting a police station to learn some facts about a crime that happened at a ball, but when he revisits the police station in his dreams, he suddenly notices a list of guests he had completely overlooked before. Switching between waking and dreaming can be done at will. Travelling between locations is done through a map, and when you click on your destination you switch to a car with a driver. You can chat with this driver about contemporary subjects such as how Constantinople has been renamed to Istanbul, and occasionally he will have information about the job at hand.

Image #3
9 Elephants

Finally, the tentatively-titled 9 Elephants is a Professor Layton-esque puzzle adventure with jazzy music and math puzzles created by French studio Infernal Brothers after winning a competition. In the game, the protagonist is a little girl that tries to find her father who disappeared.


Contrast – Compulsion Games

Canadian developers Compulsion Games showed me some scenes from Contrast, which they describe as a puzzle-platformer. It is situated in the '20s and heavily influenced by film noir. Didi is a little girl growing up under less than ideal circumstances. Her father left, and her mother is a performer in seedy nightclubs. Didi copes with her environment through an imaginary friend, Dawn, who is a sexy looking girl that can change herself into a shadow. The player takes control of Dawn as Didi tries to find her father, exploring an adult world as seen through the eyes of a child. 

The game plays with the concept of dimensions a lot, as Dawn can walk onto any shadow when she is one herself. By paying attention to where lights are, relative to objects, you can reach balconies or other high platforms. Since Dawn is only an imaginary friend, if you fail a jump she just lands on the floor unharmed and you can try again indefinitely. Most of the platforming is optional anyway, as this is largely an open world with optional sidequests and collectibles to encourage exploration.

The first act, of three in total, is located in the Red District and features the nightclub Didi's mother works in. Your task is to get Didi inside so she can watch her mother perform. The story is told mostly through lengthy cutscenes that serve as rewards for solving puzzles like fixing and aiming some spotlights. The second act finds Didi in the fairgrounds of a circus, where her dad is about to lose a substantial sum of money and maybe even his life to some bad guys. She of course wants to fix this and has to find a way to stop them.

While in many games child characters are noticeably voiced by adults, Contrast uses an actual nine-year-old with some professional experience, and from what I could hear she did an excellent job, especially acting petulant. Contrast will be out around the time of the PlayStation 4 launch date on Windows, PS3, PS4 and Xbox 360, and it will cost about $15 for the digital version or $20 for a collector's edition with some as-yet-undisclosed extras. Some markets will also get a retail version.


Goodbye Deponia – Daedalic Entertainment

Image #4I sat down with Jan (Poki) Müller-Michaelis for a demonstration of the last part in his Deponia trilogy. The first two games were just an elaborate setup for this finale, and so much will be going on, wrapping up all the loose ends, that this third part will feel like another two games. As we already learned at E3, Goodbye Deponia picks up the action right where we left it in Chaos on Deponia, with Rufus and Goal separated once more. As is usual for Rufus, his creative solutions lead to even more problems and when he decides to clone himself too, the chaos is complete.

The three clones of Rufus are not different from each other, as was the case with Goal, but they will be in different locations and can interact with the others. An example of how this works involved a drain through which one Rufus could send objects to another Rufus located in some sewers somewhere below him, leading to the kinds of puzzles that are common to this series: convoluted comic brain-teasers. Poki described one of the scenes as a Benny Hill-esque chase. The graphics remain in the same deliberately absurd cartoon style, and for those who can't get enough of Poki's musical interludes between the chapters, you'll be happy to know there will be even more than before.

Heaven's Hope – Mosaic Mask Studios

Initially announced almost three years ago, Heaven's Hope from Mosaic Mask Studios had been put on ice temporarily due to a lack of finances, but the German developer has since received some funding to create a prototype, showcasing the gameplay and animations to potential investors. If they can't get the game funded that way, they might try crowdfunding next.

The protagonist is Talorel, who has almost finished his final angel exams. He just has to show off his capabilities in stunt flying and he'll be a full-fledged angel. Something goes horribly wrong though, and Talorel finds himself on Earth with no clue about how things like perspective or physics work. He'll have to adapt quickly, because if the archangels find out he has passed the Heavenly Barriers without permission, he will never be allowed back. He also has the Inquisition to reckon with. Talorel has some special abilities, such as being able to grab a mouse's soul when he accidentally steps on it. But to actually revive it he needs his halo, which he lost on the way down. The angel's first priority is to retrieve his halo, and then he needs to find a way to get back into Heaven before anyone misses him. Fortunately, his best friends Myriel (a good soul) and Azael (a sarcastic spirit) can help him by making remarks about what he sees and does. Myriel later acts as a hint system, while Azael makes fun of you when you try something illogical.

The game features dark, “goth comic” handdrawn graphics and is being developed with the Moai engine. Its interface has been kept as simple as possible, with only the mouse and two or three hotkeys as your means to interact. Puzzles promise to be fully integrated into the story, and a quick travel function will be added to avoid backtracking. As a gimmick, you will be able to change Talorel's clothing when visiting a tailor, and some other 'quests' are completely optional too, allowing for a bit of replayability.


Randal's Monday – Nexus Games


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Randal's Monday display at gamescom

The final appointment of the day was reserved for Ben Martinez and his team from Spanish studio Nexus Games. Ben showed me Randal's Monday, which is a joke-every-minute cartoon game inspired by Bill Murray's Groundhog Day. Randal, the main protagonist, is witness to his friend Matt proposing to his girlfriend Sally. The night quickly turns into a booze-fest and when Randal wakes up the following morning, a Monday, he is in possession of Matt's wallet, with the engagement ring inside. What Randal doesn't know is that Matt bought it off some bum in the street and that it is cursed. Since he owes money to his landlord, Randal pawns the ring but when he wakes up the following morning it is Monday once more and he is stuck in a time loop. 

Unlike Groundhog Day, changes you make will have a permanent impact, so Randal doesn't have the ring in his possession anymore and desperately needs to find a way to fix the situation. Nexus Games describes the game as a “point and geek” adventure, and sure enough it is full of references to movies, comic books, video games and the like. A classic point-and-click adventure with inventory-based puzzles and cartoony graphics, Randal's Monday contains more than 40 characters and features over 50 locations. It should be out in May or June of next year on PC, Android and iOS devices, both in English and in Spanish with subtitles for a couple of other languages. The game has already been fully funded; the developers are just looking for someone to help them with publishing and marketing at this point.


Murdered: Soul Suspect – Square Enix

After that full schedule of appointments, I ventured into the Entertainment Halls again in the hopes that much of the crowd would have dispersed, and indeed I found a relatively short queue at the Murdered: Soul Suspect booth. We were shown some scenes from the very beginning of the game, which is set in Salem, USA – the city famous for its 17th century witch hunts and said to still be haunted today. The demo started with spectacular footage of a fight, followed by someone being thrown through a window. A person is then seen walking towards someone hunched over a body on the street. He calls out “Hey!” but the mysterious figure doesn't react. Calling out again, he tries to push the guy out of the way, but to his shock his hand passes right through. At that moment he realizes the body on the street is his, and he must be dead. He used to be a police officer that used his own methods of solving crimes, and he wasn't liked much by his own colleagues.

The game proceeds with you researching your own death. When looking at objects – even your own body – key word pairs like “pushed” and “fallen” or “wooden” and “metal” appear and by choosing the correct ones you deduce what happened and earn 'experience points' and 'badges'. Murdered also has optional sidequests and collectibles, which when followed up on will give you more background information on characters and events in the game. To finish an investigation, you put sequences in the right order in the Memory Residence Analysis, a bit like the deduction boards in Sherlock Holmes games, to form the story as it happened. You quickly find out that there were some witnesses, and you need to find a way to learn what they saw. You can take possession of someone to look at their notepad, and as a ghost, you can freely pass through most objects and walls. The residents of Salem have doused the outer walls of their houses with holy water however, so you'll have to wait until someone opens a door or find other means to enter buildings. Once inside, you can move around at will.

The houses aren't always totally safe though, as there are demons that want to devour souls. By staying out of their line of sight (indicated by a beam of light), you can approach them from behind and eliminate them (a matter of pushing a button). The Square Enix employee demonstrating the game did not know what would happen if you were 'caught' by the demon, as this hasn't been programmed in yet. He assumed there will be a checkpoint system that will just let you try again. During the game, you will learn a few special abilities such as 'poltergeisting', with which you can perform acts like switching on a stove to get a living person to move to a specific place, as the demons can't see you if you've taken possession of someone who is alive. A third method to surprise a demon is by teleporting yourself to them and exterminating them before they're aware of your presence. This didn't seem very hard, but we'll have to wait and see just how much these elements will depend on reflexes rather than studying patterns and choosing a strategy.

Murdered: Soul Suspect is on track for release on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 early in 2014.

Stay tuned for a report on my third and final day at gamescom, including meetings with Agustín Cordes, Jan Kavan, Animation Arts and Red Thread Games.


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