Squib for Dragonflies
Two water-bound eggs are swept clear of their brethren, finding themselves washed up on the shore of a dark lake. There the two larvae fight free of their shells, only to find themselves bereft of protection. Now vulnerable, they must seek the aid of the other inhabitants of their new home if they wish to survive. But this assistance will not be given for nothing. Will such small creatures be able to provide what’s required?
Issued to celebrate The Icehouse’s two years of game-making, Squib for Dragonflies has an almost dreamlike quality. The backgrounds are watercolours whose details are blurred to a point that they are almost, but not quite, unrecognisable. The cartoon-style characters contrast with this hazy painterly look, being sharply drawn with clear outlines. As well as the two larvae there is a large snail-like creature and dung beetle, all of which are smoothly animated. A pleasant harp piece backs up proceedings, supplemented by the background noise you would expect of the country setting, such as birdsong. Voices are indistinct mumbles, with the dialogue presented as picture bubbles instead.
Control is performed exclusively with the mouse. Left-click moves the two larvae around and interacts, with the smart cursor changing when pointed at hotspots. Right-click calls up your inventory bar at the top of the screen. From here you can select objects to use on each other or the world around you. You will need to interact with the various creatures scattered around the area to discover what they want. Once you have discovered these desires, diligent exploration of the game's single scene and a bit of inventory combination will see you through. Whilst not the longest of adventures, the stylish aesthetic and soothing music make this a relaxing game to play.
Squib for Dragonflies can be downloaded from GameJolt.
Jonathan Harker receives a letter from his friend and mentor Dr. Van Helsing, asking for his help in defeating Count Dracula. After three weeks traveling, Jonathan arrives in Transylvania and can see Dracula's castle in the near distance. Unlike in Bram Stoker’s story, in Robin Johnson's Draculaland Harker soon learns that Van Helsing was recently killed by Dracula and his daughter Mina has disappeared. Jonathan now has to deal with a thieving magpie, an aggressive Venus flytrap, an angry mob, and of course the Count himself in order to defeat the vampire who has terrified the people around him for so many years.
Draculaland is a very enjoyable text adventure in which you don't have to type anything. Only text is shown; no sounds or pictures are used in this game. Jonathan's journal develops on the left side of the screen, presented in simple black text on white, in which he describes what happens in a concise way, with some jokes and puns sprinkled throughout. On the right, backed by subdued colors, everything else you need to know is described: your location, the directions you can go, the objects you see, your inventory, and the topics you can talk about during conversation with others. All available object manipulations, directions and topics are highlighted in black boxes. Clicking one of these boxes makes Jonathan perform the appropriate action, and in this way both the story and Jonathan's journal are advanced. This scheme works very well, providing a lot of options to choose from and avoiding the frustrating "I don't understand" and "I can't do that" replies that commonly plague text parsers. Unfortunately, it also prevents you from giving commands like "Whack the Venus flytrap with the mallet."
At first this appears to be a straightforward adventure, but finding Dracula is not as easy as it seems. The story actually proves quite intricate, with some interesting twists and turns along the way. The game world is quite small, comprising the castle and surrounding gardens, the village square with its inn, and the church with its graveyard. The puzzles are all very well integrated into the story, and you’ll need to solve a lot of them before reaching your goal. The objectives are varied too, from beating a skeleton in a poker game to opening coffins here and there. If you get stuck there is an elaborate hint system that will help you along. You can also save your game, which is handy because it can easily take six hours to finish.
Draculaland can be played online at the developer’s website.
A Tale of Caos: Overture (Part I)
Terry, the heroine from A Tale of Caos: Prologue, is now an apprentice of the technomancer Albion McMaster. Together with Terry's automaton owl Heimlich, the two travel by airship to a small village in pursuit of an ingredient with which McMaster can concoct something great. All McMaster knows about the mystery person he seeks is that he or she goes by the name of 'Sinker.' While McMaster does the important job of sitting in the main square the whole time, Terry has to find Sinker, which proves to be a difficult task. The only person who claims to know anything about him/her is the innkeeper, and he won't tell Terry anything unless she removes a certain brute who only wants to fight. So Terry starts searching for a way to get rid of the big brawler, getting to know most of the village's inhabitants in the process.
Like the previous game about Terry, Expera Game Studio's A Tale of Caos: Overture (Part I) is presented in brightly colored pixel art. Despite the low resolution display, there is no need for pixel hunting as everything you need to interact with can clearly be seen. Each location you visit in the village or the nearby swamp has something moving: smoke curls from a chimney, children play a ball game in the street, and the brute at the inn shows off his muscles and shouts about fighting. Instrumental music accompanies the action, enhancing the atmosphere of each locale with a different tune: a pompous score is played in the smithy, the village gets a happy-sounding melody, while the swamp is backed by a more mysterious track. All tunes have a cheerful air to them, though. There are very few sound effects and they often are drowned out by the background music, but they are adequate for their purpose.
The game is played using only the left mouse button. The lower part of the screen is divided into an inventory containing the stuff Terry picks up on the right side and a panel containing all her own equipment, including Heimlich, on the left. Whenever you need to know something about an inventory object, you can drag it to the icon of Heimlich and he will tell you something about it. Clicking his icon will also cause him do other things, like offer hints or help with tasks that need to be done, such as distracting someone or picking something up that is out of Terry's reach. The story is quite long and its puzzles are not always easy. Not only are there inventory obstacles, but you also have to discover information and make people do things for you. Just like in the last game, you will also make chemical concoctions using the Portable Alchemy Set. Every time you use this you have to solve a sort of Mastermind minigame, which gets tedious after a few times. But the rest of the time, Terry's new adventure is full of funny remarks, puzzles and puns that make it a joy to play.
A Tale of Caos: Overture (Part I) can be played online at Kongregate.Continued on the next page...