AdventureX 2016 round-up: Part 2
Reporting from E3, GDC, AdventureX, Gamescom and other gaming events around the world
May 29, 2020
Feb 3, 2020
Avert your eyes! Even in avatar form, Steve's shirt can cause retinal damage.
As the first part of our AdventureX coverage did before it, the second half of our round-up continues to bring back fond memories. My trademark bright shirt caught the attention of many. One person posting a photo of the event was able to use the shirt to tag me in it, even though they took the picture from two floors up. That same shirt was immortalised in an AdventureX character, drawn by Alasdair Beckett-King, as one of the rewards from the successful Kickstarter campaign. The good nature of even well-known names in the business was also on display, with both Pendulo's Josué Monchan and Revolution's Charles Cecil readily agreeing to pose for photos waving to my non-adventure gaming wife (for whom I collect such pictures every year). But the focus of the weekend was still the games, and here is the second half of what was on display – or rather, what I was able to see, as even an entire weekend was not enough to sample every game available.
Yelltown had always been a backwater place never really famous for anything. Then came the unexplained cases of a mysterious fever. A fever that arose without any explanation. A fever that developed into a disease that killed within hours. Now the residents of Yelltown are strictly quarantined under the auspices of the Rancho Health Corporation. But when local handyman Harper Pendrell discovers an apparent victim of the disease on the streets, she hints that there may be something more sinister going on.
The gloomy nature of Backwoods Entertainment’s story is carried over in the look of this game. The characters have exaggerated physiology, being overly tall with long, thin limbs. The architecture of the town has a run-down feel as well, with the lighting giving a dull winter twilight quality. As if that wasn’t enough, the action is also backed by slow, melancholy music. The game is controlled using standard point-and-click mechanics and is viewed in third-person, with locations having a single fixed viewpoint. The demo started with the lead character, Harper, being called out from his semi-derelict home to fix Professor MacBute’s laptop. Again. This involved some small inventory use, and a bit of hunting around the Professor’s lab. Returning from this task you meet the ill woman, with her dialogue suggesting a conspiracy that will presumably form the main story of the full game. Just enough was provided to pique interest, and I look forward to seeing more of this game.
More information can be found on the official website. The game is slated for release at some point in 2017.
Young Agatha Knife has led an unusual childhood. For most of her seven-year life, she has lived in her mother’s butcher shop. In that time she has developed a somewhat unusual relationship with the animals the shop sells. Suffering from insomnia, she goes down to the back room of the shop at night. There she chats with the animals, before killing them and chopping them up for sale. But recent weeks have seen patronage fall sharply, and the shop is in danger of closing. Seeking a way of saving the family business, Agatha hits upon an unorthodox solution. By turning meat-eating into the religion Carnivorism, she can attract loyal “converts” to the shop.
Mango Protocol's Javier Galvez and Mariona Valls
Vegetarians are unlikely to find Mango Protocol’s game to their liking. The graphics feature a cartoon style similar to the studio’s previous production Mechanika, and Agatha’s antics are seen from 2.5D third-person view, with typical point-and-click controls to move and interact. The protagonist dresses like a sweet little girl, with bright cheery clothing and one sock that simply won’t stay up. The chipper music tries to maintain this upbeat tone, while the messy hand-written font for dialogue (with the option to change to a more readable version if desired) also accents Agatha's childlike outlook. However, her unkempt dark hair and tendency to carry a large cleaver and knife give an indication of her true nature. The demo started with a visit to church to pray for more people to shop at the butcher’s. There the Reverend Bleak talked of his visits to the god known as Time Lord, and the need to buy cheese to ward off disaster. From this, Agatha discovered a business that creates religions, and sets about inventing one of her own that worships the Great Bleeding Pig. The demo ended as she achieved the first steps to establishing her new religion.
More information can be found on the game’s website. The developers are aiming for a release in spring 2017.
In an alternate version of the 19th century, Europe and the Middle East have banded together to form a huge colonial empire. The main means of travelling the vast reaches of this empire are merchant clippers, such as the titular HLV Herald. Young Devan Rensberg was fortunate enough to secure a position as steward on this vessel, travelling to the land of his birth. But the Herald had a most eventful journey. Later summoned to the presence of The Rani, a lady of influence at this destination, Devan must recount the tale of the trip, and his part in what transpired on the way.
Wispfire's Roy van der Schilden
The background graphics of Wispfire’s Herald are impressive 3D models, from the sumptuous tower home of The Rani to the somewhat more cramped quarters of the ship. During the action, presented in third-person with a variety of camera angles for each location, characters are also 3D models, but are further represented by half-body portraits when speaking. These are not simply static images: as well as the mouth moving to match the speech, the characters blink and engage in other movements to accentuate what they are saying. The game is also fully voiced to a high quality. The demo involved a search for a missing gun aboard ship, the captain having banned anyone being armed. This required Devan to work out how to gain access to officers’ cabins for discreet searches, picking up clues from written documents and observation of the environment.
More information can be found on the developer's website. The projected release date is the first quarter of 2017.
The Season of the Warlock
Victorian aristocrat Lord Alistair Ainsworth has always been a sceptic. After lecturing on the legends of Groldavia at a London University, he decides it is time to do some field research in that country. Taking residence in an ancient castle, he finds the most fascinating legend in the story of Waldemar the Warlock. This legendary necromancer lived several centuries ago, and Alistair feels that a book about the warlock’s exploits will earn him fame and recognition at last. But his research may come at a high price. When the portrait of Waldemar starts talking to him, Alistair must choose whether to aid the ancient sorcerer or find a way to expel him from the world once and for all.
encomplot's Javier Cadenas
Encomplot, the developers of this third-person point-and-click game, cite classic horror films – in particular those from the Hammer studio – as their main influence. This is clear not only from the tone of the game, but from Lord Alistair’s striking resemblance to famed Hammer horror actor Vincent Price. The demo took place within the Groldavian castle where Alistair has set up residence, and put the player in the shoes of his faithful butler, Nigel. Rendered in detailed 3D, the castle has a gloomy feel that also captures the feeling of the classics. The characters are also beautifully animated and well-voiced. When a local lady paying a social call lost her poodle within the building, I set out to find it. I subsequently located it in the kitchen, though my admiration of the detail in that room distracted me from the fact that it appeared to have tripped head-first into a mincing machine. In my brief play, I was unable to find a way of tactfully dealing with this tragic event.
More information can be found on the game's website.
The Mystery of Woolley Mountain
Garland Vanderbilt belongs to a group of Victorian scientists who have collectively built a time machine. When one of his companions and several children are kidnapped by the witch of Woolley Mountain, he knows what he has to do. Unfortunately, mounting a rescue mission requires the help of his other colleagues. Alas, they seem more interested in their own hobbies like watching old films. Garland must first convince the rest of the crew to help him if he is ever to see his friend again.
Lightfoot Bros' James Lightfoot
Indie developer James Lightfoot cites classics from the old Spectrum home computer as inspiration. Titles like Spellbound and The Trap Door, along with early LucasArts productions all served to propel him towards The Mystery of Woolley Mountain. The game is played in third-person, with a fixed camera angle for each location. Control is standard point-and-click. The graphics have a slightly cartoonish look, with Garland himself an extremely round gentleman with a stylish moustache and a top hat. The main action in the demo took place within the team’s vessel (which seems to be both an airship and a submarine), including a science lab and playroom. The developer’s inspiration was clear in the latter, with a Spectrum 48k (which will be integrated into the plot) taking pride of place. The adventure has a lightly humorous tone, and the intention is that the final release will have full voice acting for all characters.
More information can be found on the official website.
Out of Coverage
Having completed their studies, Nawwaf and his friends decided to spend a few days camping in the desert before graduation. Becoming separated from his friends, Nawwaf gets lost and passes out from lack of water. Later he awakes to find himself in the remote desert town of Scorpion’s Den, whose technology seems stuck in the 1970s. With no signal on his mobile phone and no land line available, it looks like he might miss his graduation ceremony. Perhaps he can persuade someone in town to help him get back. Maybe looking into the hauntings that have been closing down local businesses will help get people on his side.
Semaphore Lab's C J Kershner
With most of Semaphore Lab’s team based in Riyadh (plus some in Australia as well), it is not surprising that the setting of Out of Coverage has a Middle Eastern feel. The town itself exhibits the traditional architecture of the area, with the sun beating mercilessly down. The characters are slightly stylised, but the overall look is highly realistic. The presentation is third-person view, with fixed camera angles for each location. Some outside scenes include views from on high, providing a broader view of the surrounding area. In my brief play time, I started a search for missing library books and agreed to repair some curtains (though, to be fair, it was me that ripped them in the first place). I also got an understanding of the ghost problem and, given the similar signs on all the closed businesses, a likely source of investigation. The game is completely playable now, but certain content including some walking animations is still to be completed. The final version is to be fully voiced in English and Arabic, with several text-only translations as well.
More information can be found on the developer’s website. With only the final details to be completed, the current release target is early next year.
Without warning, a young man is snatched from his home. When he wakes, he finds himself trapped in a small room with little in the way of furniture other than a computer set up with a desk and chair. It is through this computer that you have become involved, as it has allowed him to contact you through a chat program. As his only life-line to the outside world, you are not only his guide, but the only person helping him cope emotionally. Will you stay to help, or will you abandon this stranger appearing so unexpectedly in your life?
Appnormal's Inaki Diaz
The majority of the screen in Appnormal’s Stay is taken up with the text interface through which you interact with the trapped man. This fills with messages from him, accompanied by appropriate typing sounds. At various points in the dialogue, you are given summarised options of what to type back. Selecting one causes the full sentence to type itself out, allowing you to change your mind if the response does not fit with what you expected. The screen also features a small window where a webcam pixel art image of the captive appears, a text evaluation of his mental state, and a clock showing elapsed time. The latter reminds you that the game operates in real time. Take too long to respond, and your correspondent may think himself abandoned, with his mood and actions changing accordingly.
More information can be found on the official website. The developers hope to release the completed version in the first quarter of 2017.
The Zwuggels: Beach Holiday
The Zwuggels had just planned on having a quiet holiday by the seaside. Building sand castles and rock climbing were the sort of activities they expected. But when the waves washed in to knock down their latest sand castle, they brought a message in a bottle. Discovering that the message is a plea for help from a pirate cat stranded on a remote island, the family feel duty bound to help. Once they’ve rescued the stranded feline, their new-found friend turns out to have been holding a map to a lost treasure. This holiday could prove more lucrative than expected.
Ploosh's Johannes Kramer
Aimed at 4 to 8-year-olds, the graphics in Ploosh’s “interactive touch & drag adventure for kids” have a bright and cheery hand-drawn look to them. Given the artist has illustrated children's books in the past, this should hardly come as a surprise. The story is split into a large number of relatively short chapters. The first few chapters each involve an individual member of the family. Showing them engaging in an activity they enjoy, these serve to introduce the characters. Once the bottle is found, the main story starts but play continues in short chapter form, with each presenting a step along the path to treasure. Intended for touch screens, the controls have players move on-screen objects, such as a flying ship, to make them feel part of the action. The gameplay challenges are simple, as befits a title aimed at young children. You will engage in tasks like guiding a character as they climb across a rock face, or manoeuvre a flying boat around cloying cloud formation.
Designed specifically for tablets and smart phones, the game is already available for iOS from the App Store, and for Android devices on Google Play and Amazon. More information can be found on the game's website.
An assault left you stuck in a wheelchair with a bad case of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. With your movements restricted, you were forced to find some way to occupy your time. You found what you thought you needed in a series of investigations into conspiracy theories previously conducted by your father. As your insatiable interest grows to dwarf his, you become increasingly withdrawn. With your world becoming more closed in, and rubbish accumulating around you, it seems that rather than helping you, this obsession is dragging you further down.
Whilst it is based on the Unity engine, Manos Agianniotakis has built The Circle's controls from scratch for use with virtual reality technology. The game uses normal VR goggles, and controls fitted over each of the player's hands. The demo previewed a few interactive scenes from different points in the game. In the real world sections, you are seated at a desk, with the surrounding room rendered in high detail. The two hand controls allow you to manipulate objects as if you were there, including throwing them if you move your hand as you press the button to release. These scenes are interspersed with dream sequences, where holding the button down causes your dream avatar to walk forward. Populated with monochromatic silhouettes, these prove all the more disturbing as they fade in and out of existence as you move. Whilst this was just a taster, the plan is for even small player decisions such as cleaning up trash or leaving it alone to have an effect on the character's mood. This will then have a knock-on effect for what you can do later on.
More information can be found on the official website.
Back in the 16th century, King Henry VIII ruled over England. In the modern age, presidential candidate Drumpf is in need of good advisers. Both men have something in common: a desire for power, a need to have supremacy over others. Making the right decisions and taking good advice could lead them to that power. Making the wrong decisions or acting on bad counsel could lead to their downfall. As the branches multiply with each choice made, only time will tell if they have been wise or foolish.
Buchanan Productions' Greg Buchanan and Seb Peters
Both of these scenarios play out in an anthology series called Supremacy, whose ultimate intention is to span large parts of human history in a variety of branching text-based stories. The text displays on the right side of the screen, with appropriate imagery appearing on the left. Periodically choices are highlighted within the text, with your decision impacting the course of the story from there. The effect of early choices can have far-reaching consequences, as I discovered in my try at “Paper Drumpf”. I attempted the opening section two separate times, changing my very first decision between playthroughs. I then played out the subsequent dozen or so choices with identical selections in both. The differences between the two grew as I progressed, with one culminating in my recounting the incident as an anecdote addressed to Drumpf and the other ending with my shocking demise.
With graduation approaching the young couple, Bo and Ao are preparing to leave their flat. As their home throughout the time they were studying, this place is as full of their memories as it is of their things. Their lengthy presence in this place has lent it an almost magical quality, and as Bo tours the flat one last time while packing, that magic shines through.
Humble Grove's Tom Davison
This game is intended to be an introductory chapter in a larger series by Humble Grove called No Longer Home. The action is semi-autobiographical in nature, recalling a time when the developers also had to leave such a place. One hopes that it is not too accurate a reflection of their experience, given that one of the new occupants of the flat appears to be a giant alien. The graphics display a minimalist look, presented in an isometric view. Left and right arrow keys rotate the current room, allowing you to see all sides. Interaction is handled via the mouse, and even the action cursors get into the dream-like quality of the action, as pointing at a hotspot results in a stylised symbol. When the only option is to look, the shape at the centre of the eye shows whether to expect a monologue about an object, or a discussion with another character. The demo I played consisted largely of exploring and examining the environment, with no traditional challenges preventing progress.
More information can be found on the developer’s itch.io page.
In retrospect, perhaps telling your parents you had a girlfriend was a bad idea. You just wanted them to stop bugging you about it, but soon they are going to be paying you a visit. Since you don’t actually have a girlfriend at the moment, this could prove a somewhat tricky meeting. But you have several weeks before they are due to arrive. You’re sure that a resourceful chap like yourself can find a suitable partner to keep your parents happy in that time.
Waifu High Development's George Belimpas and Louis Silva
Presented in 2D art, with both characters and locations done in an anime style, Waifu High combines the visual novel and dating sim-type games. Focussing on the former gives you the experience of a directed narrative, whilst the latter has you building up stats to allow you to achieve goals. These can involve study to improve intellect or physical activity to improve strength. Players are given complete freedom to switch back and forth between the two styles. But this isn’t the only way the game plans to mix things up. As well as game genres, a variety of fiction genres are intended to be thrown into the mix. At the moment the only two story options are Drama and Slice of Life, but the goal is to add such other genres as Horror and Time Travel fiction. The developers also intend to add a crafting (cooking) system and a variety of side quests to keep players engaged.
More information can be found on the developer’s itch.io page. Whilst a final release date is still uncertain, the developers hope to have the game available sometime in 2017.