The weekend of November 19-20 marked this year's AdventureX, the world's only convention devoted to “narrative games”. Once again Goldsmith's University in South East London played host to this event. Gaming luminaries from around the world such as Charles Cecil and Rihanna Pratchett travelled in to talk about game-making, give interviews on their work and take part in panels. These sessions ranged from post mortems on games to the fight between gut and instinct in game design, to how to approach the press. The weekend capped off with a performance of the surreal live video game The Dark Room. As ever, it proved an eventful weekend for me. I transported a 10th anniversary cake for Wadjet Eye from the south coast to London, got trapped there by storm Angus (thanks to Alex Francois of The Slaughter for putting me up) and, having volunteered to play The Dark Room, found myself shouting "THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE LENINGRAD!" to a crowded lecture hall.
Attendance surpassed all expectations, with the first talk of the day going over capacity for the lecture hall. As the day progressed, it was even necessary to turn people away at the main entrance for a while. Fortunately for those who couldn't get into the lecture hall, a wide range of games were being exhibited. With so many titles available now or well on their way, the future of adventure gaming looks bright. The following round-up represents only half of the games I experienced first-hand, with the rest to come in Part 2 still ahead.
Her Majesty's SPIFFING
Hidden behind a bookcase in Buckingham Palace is mission control for HMSPIFFING. With other countries frowning on colonisation these days, the only place to rebuild the glory of the British empire is outer space. At the vanguard of this project is Captain Frank Lee English, along with his Welsh sidekick Aled Jones. Launching from the Elizabeth Tower in the Palace of Westminster on the Imperialise 2, they plan to boldly go where no Brit has gone before. But with antiquated technology and not enough proper milk for their tea, will this plucky pair achieve their goal?
Billy Goat's William Barr
This comedic game by Billy Goat Productions looks great and is packed full of humour. The player character, captain English, is a portly chap with a bushy moustache and wonderfully over-the-top British accent. Playing through the first part of the game, I got to explore the upper deck of the ship. The game is presented in third-person view, with multiple fixed camera angles for each location that change as you move around. Seeing sparks flying randomly and broken panels (including one marked "Wall 4") did not inspire confidence in the integrity of the ship. The main computer running the Flying Windows screen-saver and requiring floppy discs did nothing to dispel this impression. The dialogue is peppered with stereotype jokes of the United Kingdom, as well as amusing references to the film Moon and the TV series Father Ted. An accident with a cup of tea required an improvised repair to the controls. For once, my knowledge of older technology came in handy, as I was familiar with the tech on board.
More information can be found on the game’s website. You'll soon be able to check it out for yourselves, as Her Majesty's SPIFFING is due for cross-platform launch on December 7th.
The Little Acre
In 1950s Ireland, Aidan lived happily with his daughter Lily. But when his father goes missing, Aidan eagerly follows up the clues to his disappearance. Unfortunately for Aidan, this investigation leads to him activating a machine that transports him to another dimension and the world of Clonfira. There he meets characters that feed on “life essence”, taking on the characteristics of those they prey upon. Young Lily soon follows in her father’s footsteps, and the two must try to solve the mystery of how they reached this strange dimension and find their way home.
Charles Cecil between Pewter Games' Christopher Conlan and Ben Clavin
Although this is the debut title from Pewter Games, having Charles Cecil on board as Executive Producer is a good indication that The Little Acre has a lot of potential. The graphics are done in a beautiful hand-drawn style, smoothly blending semi-realistic backgrounds with some slightly cartoonish characters. Scenery ranges from the sweeping hills of rural Ireland to the ornate ruins and strange inhabitants of Clonfira. To distinguish between the two, the real world is presented purely in traditional side view whereas the alternate dimension is isometric. The game also has a full orchestral soundtrack and good voice acting. A standard point-and-click adventure for the most part, the demo did include a section where Aidan had to negotiate a narrow ledge. However, in keeping with the accessible family-friendly aim overall, it did not seem possible to suffer a game-ending fall from this situation.
More information can be found on the developer’s website. If you like what you see, the good news is that the full game is nearly here, with a current launch target of December 13th for PC, PS4 and Xbox One.
Sir Lancelot has been given a most unusual quest by God. Transported from his English home to the land of France, he has been tasked with finding the Holy Grail. Once he has located this mystic relic, he must fill it with booze, and then have a party worthy of the Almighty. The first step on his journey is the religious theme park, Redemption Land, watched over by Saint Stephane of Jobses. With the huge queues outside this popular resort, it seems even getting inside may prove beyond his knightly abilities.
Jean-Baptiste de Clerfayt
Having shown an early demo at last year’s AdventureX, Jean-Baptiste de Clerfayt’s game is now close to completion, including full voice acting. The game continues to be a highly politically incorrect experience. Lancelot walks around with a beer glass, clad solely in a chain coif and a pair of brightly coloured Speedos. The land he wanders and the characters he encounters are depicted in the style of medieval manuscripts, with music to match. The 2D graphics are presented in third-person perspective, though with some scrolling areas wider than a single screen. Control is performed with a standard point-and-click interface. Far from being a benevolent figure, God seems all too willing to zap Lancelot for the slightest offence, though it doesn’t seem to do him any lasting damage. With the introduction promising more stereotypes and irreverent behaviour, this is probably not a game for the easily offended, but rather for those who appreciate a more twisted sense of humour.
More information can be found on the official website. A free beta demo is available for download, and after final debugging the game should be released in the first quarter of 2017.Continued on the next page...