Perils of Man
Since we first saw Perils of Man at last year’s gamescom, a lot has happened. Not only has the first chapter been released for free on the App Store (and downloaded 30,000 times with hardly any marketing behind it), developers IF Games have bought back the rights to publish the game commercially from the Swiss insurance company that financed the first chapter, and are expanding it to seven chapters. They plan to release the first three (the free demo and two additional chapters) for a reduced price as a pre-order, but even at full price the whole game shouldn't cost more than about 5 euro. The first bundle is due for release in late September.
The game's protagonist is a girl named Anna Eberling. Her father, a scientist, disappeared ten years ago. On her birthday, her mother gives her a box that her father left behind for her. Anna deduces that he must still be alive if he wanted her to have this, and after some investigative work she discovers that someone in her family invented an instrument – some kind of goggles – with which you could travel in time and assess risks. The first chapter ends just as she discovers a secret lab in the basement.
We were shown scenes from some of the unreleased chapters, in which players will visit the hidden laboratory and put together Darwin, a mechanical sidekick that will help Anna but also bug her for some comic relief in an otherwise dark story. After discovering and repairing the Risk Atlas, a machine that can foresee danger, the perspective changes to first-person. Anna travels to a theatre in London in 1863, where a fire is about to break out, trapping hundreds of people inside. Using the Risk Atlas, the dangerous situations start out easy enough, such as an open oil barrel underneath a sparking electrical connection. By closing the lid, you avert the immediate danger. As the game progresses, however, these situations become more complex and the dangers more subtle.
Other chapters will take place in settings such as a zeppelin during the Chicago World Fair or on board a freight ship. All in all, the developers claim it will take about seven hours to finish the full game. An iOS exclusive, Perils of Man should be playable on iPad 3 or above or iPhone 4s and above.
The Adventures of Dog Mendonça & Pizzaboy
Quietly behind the scenes, Argentine studio OKAM Studio has been working on The Adventures of Dog Mendonça & Pizzaboy for a couple of years now. The game is based on the similarly-titled comic books by Felipe Melo and Juan Cavia, published by Dark Horse, and its story takes place in between the books.
Dark Horse comic
Both the game and the books follow the adventures of several supernatural creatures. During World War II, they sought refuge in Portugal, and now werewolves, vampires, gargoyles and ghosts live peacefully alongside humans. When the worst of all monsters plans his comeback, a middle-aged, overweight werewolf detective, a young pizza delivery boy, a six thousand-year-old demon named Pazuul in the body of a teenage girl, and the severed head of a gargoyle are the only ones capable of facing the terrible evil threatening mankind.
The Adventures of Dog Mendonça & Pizzaboy is a third-person, 2D point-and-click adventure game with lots of references to ‘80s and ‘90s culture, including movies, comics and old school graphic adventure games, while also keeping true to the series canon. Since a lot of time passes in between the comic books, OKAM had a lot of fun coming up with the story of what happened to the protagonists in the intervening years. For those who aren’t familiar with the titular protagonists, Dog Mendonça is the overweight occult detective – he's also a lycanthrope in complete control of his curse – and Eurico (aka Pizzaboy) is his intern.
I had the pleasure of playing a short demo at gamescom, which left me wanting more. The nicely detailed, hand-drawn art style has been designed to be as close to the graphic novels as possible, with picture-in-picture effects and speech bubble-esque dialogue boxes. The game, however, has some small animations to make the screens feel lively. There were no voice-overs in the demo, apart from an introduction by Dog, but the jazzy soundtrack fit the mood very well.
The game has an intuitive interface with a simple verb coin (look, talk, grab/interact). In the demo, Pizzaboy was asked to investigate a crime scene while Dog Mendonça relaxes. An actor who has made many enemies has disappeared, and Eurico is supposed to gather clues. The scene takes place in an old hotel, but as soon as he approaches the staircase leading to the actor's room, he finds a ghost dog blocking the way. Getting rid of it involves finding and combining items in an inventory (that opens like a coat on one side of the screen) and talking to Dog, Pazuul the demon, and Gargoyle, as well as some unexpected entities in the house. There is a lot of dialogue, much of it whimsical, setting the atmosphere and providing a bit of background for each of the four main characters.
In order to polish the game and potentially add voiceovers, OKAM will be launching a Kickstarter very soon, asking for a modest $30,000 with several stretch goals lined up to add more features. The GODOT engine supports multiple platforms, including Windows, OSX, Linux, Android, iOS, Blackberry 10, PlayStation 3, Vita and 3DS, but it is not known yet on which platforms the developers are aiming the initial release of The Adventures of Dog Mendonça & Pizzaboy.
Double Happy Vs. The Infinite Sadness
One of the strangest and most interesting games I saw at gamescom this year was Double Happy vs. the Infinite Sadness. Its epic story is not easy to explain, but the two Monkeystack developers I met certainly had no trouble convincing me of the quirkiness of its setting. The game takes place in a dark, decaying world that is depicted through very atmospheric 3D graphics. It will be released episodically, and each episode sees the ‘Double Happy Rabbits’, Pink and Blue, fighting a corruption the ‘Infinite Sadness’ has brought to one of the Isles of the Ancients. Each island has a unique art style, backstory and inhabitants, and the developers claim that the conclusions may not always be the expected happy ending.
The first episode, Pharos, is set on the titular once-majestic isle, just one of many exotic worlds that have succumbed to the overwhelming power of the Infinite Sadness. The Hive Totem of Light once shone out over the whole island, giving energy to the plants and people, keeping the ecosystem in balance. The totem itself, an enormous spire growing from the centre of the island, was topped by a glowing insect hive, pulsing with energy, and tending the hive were bugs known as the Glitzers. The Oolark, denizens of Pharos, discovered centuries ago that the Glitzers hold an electrical current that can be harnessed as batteries, though this unfortunately leads to the death of the Glitzer. The Oolark captured the Totem Hive of Light to use as their own, building a fortified tower around it to seal it off from the rest of the island. This threw the ecosystem out of balance, leading to the extinction of all kinds of flora and fauna. Most of the vegetation is now long dead, the land reduced to a boggy swampland filled with creatures struggling to survive, foraging on fungus, bugs and each other to live.
In this time of need, the cosmos grants Pharos a pair of cosmic rabbit-like creatures to hopefully restore its former thriving state. The cute pink and blue couple, known as Double Happy, are presented in bright colours and 2D for extra contrast with the environment around them. Their simple, naive outlook on life offers comic relief in an otherwise bleak and depressing world.
Bizarre adventures promise to abound through time and space as Double Happy quest across multi-dimensional universes, battling the corruption of the Infinite Sadness in each of the planned episodes. They'll explore beautifully detailed worlds, from tranquil swamps and dark forests, to villages, temples, and a bustling steampunk metropolis.
Gameplay-wise, Double Happy is reminiscent of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, in that the two main characters can (and must) be controlled at the same time with one controller or keyboard. According to Monkeystack, the game is a mix between point-and-click adventure game with an epic and melodramatic narrative, and a quirky puzzler. Players will solve logic puzzles but also encounter more action-oriented mini-games, unraveling the secrets of the Isles of the Ancients and discovering the corruption plaguing the lands as they go.
Taking cues from other surrealist comedic games such as The Neverhood, Machinarium, and Oddworld, the developers have been inviting the community to help out with designing key elements in the game such as vehicles and creatures. They aren’t stopping at making only games, either, as several skits and webisodes have been produced, showing a day in the life of the unlikely heroes.
Double Happy vs. The Infinite Sadness is still in the early stages of development for PC and as-yet-undisclosed consoles, so we can expect to see the first episode released sometime in 2016.Continued on the next page...