I agree with KHAndAnime, Geminon - you should be looking at some other site instead of asking here.
Besides, haven't you noticed that not one person has given a recommendation that is outside of the various models that you already said that you don't want on your opening post?
That, and I am getting the impression that you are not really making this thread here in GameSpot to ask for suggestions.
Daedelic Entertainment is infatuated with adventure games, this much should be apparent to people who follow the genre. However, what is not as well-known is its indecision on what it should do to produce in-house titles during its early years of operation.
After experimenting with mostly in-house work derived from the founders’ own previous works (Edna & Harvey: The Breakout) and then collaborating with the German film industry (a game based on one of the 1½ Ritter comedy films), Daedelic has returned to utilizing graduate work by video game design alumnis (or drop-outs).
The Whispered World is the result. It happens to showcase both the passion of its postgraduate creators for engaging stories and yet also their amateurish skill at product quality assurance.
Perhaps in a breakaway from other titles in the adventure genre, The Whispered World starts with a rather depressing intro. A sullen narrator deigns to tell his last tale, one that is about the would-be sad travails of a diminutive circus performer by the none-too-subtle name of Sadwick.
Sadwick has been plagued with vivid dreams that end with an enigmatic, near-shapeless being that calls him by name. They tire him and make him sullen. This does not help when he already resents his everyday life, which involves travelling with his family, who is in the trade of circus performance.
Unfortunately for him, the dreams have recently become even more vivid. Having decided to seek out answers for what ails his mind, he sets off on an adventure with his trusty caterpillar companion, Spot – albeit an adventure that has dire consequences, as the narrator would outright say in the prologue.
There is no in-game tutorial for players that are unfamiliar with point-and-click adventure games; apparently, the game was already made with an experienced audience in mind. Players who want to learn to play the game are required to read the manual. At least the manual appears to be thorough in describing the controls of the game and its most important gameplay elements.
The player moves Sadwick via pointing-and-clicking, obviously enough. However, said veterans may be perplexed by the controls that are used to have Sadwick interact with something.
The player needs to hold the left-mouse button over an interactive object to have a palette of icons appear. These icons represent the actions that the player can have Sadwick perform on the object.
This can be annoying to players that are used to context-sensitive quick actions. There are also no keyboard hotkeys for these, which can be even more irksome if the player considers that there are hotkeys for other things, such as saving and loading games.
Double-clicking on transition icons has Sadwick changing locales quickly, which is handy as Sadwick saunters about at a leisurely pace.
However, the game does not respond quickly to this input by the player; the player may even have to double-click furiously on the transition icon to get the game to respond. This can be terribly annoying, and in one scenario that will be described later, game-breaking.
Moreover, this transition does not occur if the screen is still scrolling; there will be more elaboration on why the screen scrolls later. The player has to wait for the screen to halt before this can be done. This limitation is also annoying.
Early in the story, the player is introduced to Spot, who is Sadwick’s loyal (if rather dim-witted) pet. Spot follows Sadwick around such that its sprite tries its best to stay close to Sadwick’s. On the other hand, Spot is a caterpillar, so it can seem a bit slow at times.
Many puzzles require the player to use Spot on objects. To do so, the player needs to have a clear, unobscured view of Spot’s sprite, so that the player can click on it. This is not always a given, and considering that Spot is a small creature, many things, including Sadwick himself, can obscure Spot.
If the player can place the cursor on Spot, the cursor changes to a lovable image of Spot, as if someone is holding it between their hands. To indicate that Spot is over an object, Spot becomes visibly excited, which makes it look even more adorable.
However, there is an issue with this cursor system. Spot’s image is quite large, and there are many objects on-screen in many locales that are smaller . Hovering the image over these objects can be an annoyance at times.
If there is not a significant result from the attempt anyway, the player is still rewarded with a funny comment from Sadwick, usually on how incompatible Spot is with the object that the player tries to have Spot interact with.
Spot can shape-shift, but this ability is not mentioned to the player in-game early on; instead, it is mentioned in the manual. If the player does not read the manual (or any guide for that matter), he/she may well become stuck in just the opening hour of the game.
The narrative behind Spot’s shape-shifting ability is not entirely clear. In fact, Sadwick only appears to acknowledge this ability out loud close to the halfway point of the game.
Anyway, having Sadwick talk to Spot has Sadwick making a monologue about what he has to do next. This effectively makes Spot as a useful reminder tool.
Sadwick does cherish Spot, but he is often exasperated over Spot’s dim wit – something that he will remark on many times throughout the game, which can be amusing.
As to be expected of an adventure game, The Whispered World has the player (and Sadwick) figuring out puzzles and solving them. Sadwick happens to get into one trouble after another throughout the course of the game, so there will not be any shortage of puzzles.
Unfortunately, not all of the puzzles are well-thought out.
Firstly, there are minor problems with the progression of some puzzles. Some of the puzzles can be inadvertently solved out of order if the player is curious enough to have Sadwick check out his surroundings and randomly trying out things. Fortunately, most puzzles have some kind of restraints, such as Sadwick’s comment that there is no reason to interact with something at the time.
A few puzzles may seem misleading. For example, there is one that supposedly tells the player to have Sadwick do something when it in fact is giving the player a hint to do something that Sadwick has already done, albeit in a different manner in order to progress. (This statement may seem vague, but the gist behind it will be apparent once the player solves this puzzle. More detailed elaboration would have constituted a spoiler.)
A few other puzzles also unwittingly obscure objects that the player needs to interact with behind other objects that the player may not see the reason to interact with, or at least not anymore. For example, there are a few scenarios in the game that require the player to close a door that Sadwick has gone through to see an object behind it, but, aside from sheer curiosity or etiquette about doors, there is no apparent reason to close the door.
Some of the puzzles, such as questionnaires of sorts, test the player’s short-term memory. These may seem a bit too easy, or perhaps even insulting.
Yet other puzzles require the player to jam items together in unseemly ways. Even in hindsight, the logic of these item combinations can be difficult to believe. For example, Sadwick would be making the shaft of a certain primitive projectile out of a crooked object instead of a straight one. Another one has Sadwick making a certain percussion instrument out of a small animal by exploiting its behaviour, yet there is no discernible hint other than a near-illegible utterance that said animal makes.
There is one puzzle in the game that does not appear to have been implemented. Conversations with other characters suggest that this puzzle requires a code to open a door, but the door concerned can be opened without a code and through simpler means instead.
WRITING IN GENERAL:
The writing for the game has droll wit, such as remarks on the advantages of circuses compared to other forms of (medieval) entertainment. The example given is probably the mildest to the mind and humour; others are a lot more peculiar and more likely to put the player in a laughing fit.
The writing may rely on some clichéd tropes though. For example, pregnant pauses occur a lot in the dialogues and monologues when characters are in disbelief or become aware of their folly.
What has been mentioned about the writing applies for most of the game, with the exception of the introduction and the epilogue. Both have themes that are very much in contrast with what are between them, though to elaborate this further would be to invite spoilers into this review.
It should suffice to say though that the very discerning player might be slightly dissatisfied with the direction in the story-writing. This contrast also reminds the player that adventure games typically have linear stories.
Being the main character of the game, Sadwick’s character designs are of great importance to the appeal of the game.
Sadwick, as his name suggests, is a rather depressed person, often given to whimpering and whining. In addition, he is slightly cynical about most things. He can also be fatalistic and paranoid too. In addition, he also has a lisp that can be difficult to get used to.
In other words, he is the antithesis of a proper clown, which certainly puts him at odds with his career as a circus performer. Indeed, it would be difficult for Sadwick to leave a good first impression on any player.
Nevertheless, Sadwick has a wit that has him making amusing remarks on just about anything - even if his comments can seem depressing at the same time.
Like many other protagonists of adventure games that talk to a disembodied entity that is not there (i.e. the player), Sadwick makes a lot of monologues on many things – some of which break the fourth-wall.
Eventually, the player will have him trying to use objects, use objects on other objects and similar adventure-game-related actions just to have him make a comment. Indeed, make a comment he will; his number of lines is astonishingly varied, especially in the earlier chapters of the game.
The variety does diminish a bit over time, but if the variety in Sadwick’s lines is to be compared with that of other protagonists in other adventure titles, his is formidably considerable.
Sadwick eventually discovers his latent capabilities, such as his dexterity as befitting a clown. This makes for apparent character development. However, this occurs through some scenes that may cause some disbelief, such as Sadwick catching certain insects with very thin wooden utensils, instead of a sticky item in his possession that would have been more effective.
Due to Sadwick’s poor first impression, there may be some resentment on the player’s part for his voice actor. However, as more and more of Sadwick’s better lines are heard, the player may think better of the voice actor, who can certainly deliver many lines of many syllables while still maintaining Sadwick’s lisp.
Sadwick may be the character that the player sees most often, but there are other characters that can compete with him for the spotlight too. The dim but adorable Spot has already been mentioned.
Sadwick’s family members are the first of the other characters to be introduced, and they happen to be instrumental in hinting to the player why Sadwick behaves in the way he does. They cherish him as a fellow relative would, but there is some resentment among them, especially between Sadwick and his brother.
The player is soon introduced to other characters, all of whom happen to be diverse in their personalities, appearance and even nature. For example, there is a pair of immobile characters that deliver lines about their plight that are more than likely to have the player chuckling.
Another notable character is Bando, who has some of the most enthusiastic voice-acting in the game.
However, there are a few characters that seem underdeveloped. One of these is a goon that hisses in many of his lines, making dialogue between him and Sadwick quite a drawl (which is an observation that Sadwick himself hints at). Another is a midget whose associated dialogue trees do not seem to be tightly designed.
From what has already been mentioned, it should be apparent that The Whispered World benefits from splendid writing. Unfortunately, the same calibre that has been invested into the writing is absent in the technical design of the game. Consequently, there are plenty of bugs to be had.
The game sometimes crashes when loading a saved game after having been launched for the first time after the player has turned on his/her computer.
The voice-overs and subtitles are mixed up occasionally. Some conversations are also missing introductory sequences, which result in oddities such as Sadwick somehow knowing the name of another person even before having asked him about it. These occur several times in the game, and raise doubts about its translation efforts.
The worst problem, however, lies with one puzzle where Sadwick has to lead some other characters somewhere. For some reason, the game disables the player’s inventory screen and even the main menu. This would not have been a severe issue if the player can solve the puzzle, but due to a problem with screen-scrolling that will be described later, the player could be irrevocably stuck.
The only work-around is to repeatedly ALT-TAB out of the game and switching back to game until the glitch with the screen-scrolling does not occur.
Other minor problems include having to have Sadwick be at certain spots in a locale before the scripts for a fruitful action can trigger, even though logically Sadwick could initiate the action from other spots by simply walking over.
Another minor problem is the occasional disabling of the mouse cursor, which occur for when the player brings up the palette of icons for actions. The player will need to disconnect and reconnect the mouse to get it working again.
Yet another minor problem is the original Deutsch text still remaining in the English version of the game. Fortunately, the voice-overs are usually legible enough so this is not too big an issue.
Despite what has been mentioned earlier about the controls, the game developers have at least utilized them for some amusing commentaries by Sadwick. For one, the mouth icon in the aforementioned palette of icons that usually compels Sadwick to talk to someone (or something) also happens to compel him to interact with the object of attention with his mouth. This can lead to some very entertaining solutions, such as him spitting at something.
Fourth-wall-breaking statements do occur, but these are rather rare. This is perhaps for the better, because these are not compatible with the droll wit of the other lines in the game.
Some of the ways that the game uses to progress the game may seem outrageous. For example, the game has a secondary character advance the plot by somehow having said character smell an object that should not have any odour that is strong enough for the character to figure out the numbers of said object.
Much of the graphics to be seen in the game is custom-drawn artwork, but the technical structure of the graphics in the game is created using the Visionaire Studio engine. It is not entirely certain whether this is the decision of Daedelic or that Hüllen has already been using it already before the rights to his work was bought by Daedelic.
Anyway, the game makes use of Visionaire’s ability to create many layers of images for the purpose of animation. This is certainly of great convenience to game-makers who intend to have their adventure games depend on 2-D hand-drawn artwork.
Yet, it may seem that the team of artists that worked on The Whispered World may not have coordinated their efforts very well.
The layers of artwork that appear in scenes have different visual qualities, such as muted and flat colouring for the sprites of the characters but rich, multi-faceted ones for the background artwork. This leads to an impression of visual disparity between the artwork for the background and the characters.
The game’s puzzle designers even use the layering effect for a few puzzles. One of them uses it as a clever illusory trick, which is commendable. Another uses it as a visual guide for the player to know how close he/she is to cracking the puzzle. However, though the logic of this puzzle is clear, its reasoning is not. Only the player can perceive this visual guide, but not Sadwick. This can cause some disbelief if the player realizes it.
It would be quite clear to any player that the game’s artists have invested most of their effort in concept art and visualization. However, little effort has been invested in expanding the variety in the animations for the characters and objects in the environment.
Sadwick’s almost perpetual expression of worry is perhaps one of the results of this lack of variety. Of course, one can argue that this can seem amusing in itself too. Still, watching Sadwick use the same face for many lines can get tiresome quickly. Moreover, the same frame of animation is used when Sadwick’s facial expressions should have been more overt, such as when he whimpers.
The other characters have even less animations for their expressions. This deficiency is perhaps acceptable for certain characters, such as the ever-content Spot. However, for other characters, this is not so easily forgivable.
For example, the aforementioned Bando has plenty of enthusiasm in his utterances, but this does not show through his appearance, which suggests that he is generally bored.
The lack of animations also affects the locales, and consequently, a few of the puzzles. For example, there is a puzzle that is supposed to indicate to the player that a certain room has changed its orientation after a certain action by Sadwick. There is no animation for this change, and the only indicator is just a slight change in certain details in the surroundings. (The game does have an exclamation by Sadwick that remarks on this change, but only if the player has him examining said details.)
Daedelic Entertainment has decided to hire an animation studio, Holy Cow Animations, on contract for the animated film segments of The Whispered World. The studio appears to be talented enough to copy the designs that the game’s original creator, Marco Hüllen, and his co-workers at Daedelic have come up with. There is plenty of motion to be seen in the animated cutscenes, which speak well of Daedelic’s choice.
However, probably because of the outsourcing of the work for the in-game cutscenes, subtitles do not appear in them. This does not pose a significant problem in most of the cutscenes, but there are a few in which some characters’ enunciations are not reliably legible.
Furthermore, the video compression for the cutscenes is not reliable. Some cutscenes have a lot of artifacts.
One issue about the game that is notable almost from the get-go is its screen resolution. It is pegged at a resolution of 1024 × 768, which can be very dissatisfying to players that are used to multiple screen sizes for their games.
In fact, when compared to Daedalic Entertainment’s other titles, there are hardly any options to alter the display of the game.
Some locales are too large for the limited screen, so the game resorts to scrolling the screen as Sadwick nears any of its edges. This would have been a good work-around, if not for its occasional failure. When it does happen, the player may be prevented from doing many things, such as leaving the locale. To fix this, the player has to call up the main menu and then return to the game, which can break the immersion.
The music of the game can seem to fit yet contrast with the themes of the game at the same time. It is melancholic, which is perhaps intended to match Sadwick’s depression and the symbolic themes in the game (most of which are not apparent except in hindsight).
However, the player will hear it too when the characters in the game make witty remarks, thus giving an impression of a thematic mismatch. This might have arisen from Daedelic’s contracting of Periscope Studios, which may have not been aware of the various themes in the writing.
Anyway, the soundtracks are kind to the ears and not too imposing such that they drown out noises that the player needs to listen to in order to solve puzzles.
The “bonus” material is typically the usual: concept artwork for the game. Some of them do appear to be doodles, such as an amusingly wicked version of Sadwick.
On the other hand, the artwork that did not appear in the actual game strongly suggests that many scenarios were cut out. Some of them also suggests that the game could have been entirely different from what it is, such as sketches of Sadwick in a murderous mood.
The Whispered World’s rather depressing intro hides writing that contains quite a lot of droll humor; the player is certainly rewarded for persevering through the first minute of the game. Unfortunately, technical issues and deficiencies in the animations are interspersed into the experience that the game offers, which can detract from its entertainment value.
The dinosaur that was used before was LiveFyre.
Perhaps I should clarify further that I am referring to GameSpot's own comment system before John Davison and former management decided that it should be replaced with one that uses LiveFyre.
(Here's a link to the article that mentioned the start of the use of LiveFyre in GameSpot, to replace an older comment system - the one that I was referring to.)
You might want to rename the thread a bit to mention that GameSpot is trying to discard LiveFyre.
I suppose that John Davison did not expect that this LiveFyre service is going to become a troublesome white elephant.
P.S. Whatever you and your colleagues are planning, please don't go back to the dinosaur that was used before LiveFyre. That was glitch-ridden.
its funny how telling the truth/being right lets you feel superior to those that just wanna sound smart... but arent.... maybe you will find out how it feels someday when you arent running around spouting bullshit on the forums KHAndAnime.
Of course you would feel superior - you are a narcissist.@Geminon said:what i said was not only logical but accurate.
Ditto, what I said about you being a narcissist.@Geminon said:did i expect you to be able to put together a sufficient counter argument beyond "NUH UUUUUH"....?
So says you, who made up numbers.@Geminon said:You are just a forum stalker looking for attention because nobody gives you the time of day in real life. PISS OFF.
Ah, you are one to say that others are looking for attention when you had been making quite a lot more forum posts than me within the time period that you had been a GameSpot user, Geminon.
Oh, and telling others to piss off on the Internet is another clichéd retort - one that I would remind you, doesn't work so well nowadays.
Plus, face the reality, Geminon - not everyone is going to see Assassin's Creed IV through rose-tinted glasses like you do.
@cyborg100000 said:@vfibsux said:
The day I make my game buying decisions off of these idiots who write reviews professionally is the day I stop buying games.
So if all these professional reviews detect the same flaws and poor game design choices as each other and all give pretty poor scores, you wouldn't believe them? Even if they show the evidence on a video review?
I would add here that while any recommendations - "professional" or otherwise - should be taken with a proverbial fistful of salt (*ahem* - considering difference of opinions and preferences), it would be wise to heed warnings about technical issues and such other problems that reduce the value of the product.
Considering X:Rebirth's purportedly many technical issues, I would say "buyer beware" about it.
You just made up some numbers and then use them to "prove" yourself right.
I suppose that's typical of you, Geminon.
@Geminon said:@Gelugon_baat said:
Please provide statistical proof.
please shut the fuck up and stop forum stalking me.
No, I won't shut up. Also, you are paranoid.
I suppose you resorted to telling others to shut up (a rather clichéd retort, I would add) because you can't back up that "99.9%" statement (or more likely, weasel words). Considering that you could delve into so much data and pull up such and such images to prove your point more than a few times in some other arguments, you can't do the same for this one.
Some successes won't mean you are right all the time, Geminon. Maybe you are being an apologist for this particular Assassin's Creed title.
99.9% of the players out there will never run in to any of the "reported" issues.
Please provide statistical proof.
Ha, I found your account, now the permissions should be refreshed.
Thanks. It seems to be working now.
Anyway, are there any plans to fix the issue of the system having problems with dashes and underscores in usernames?
It's back again. F*cking recurring glitches.
Please help me with this, anyone with privileges to check LiveFyre permissions.
UPDATE: Eh, false alarm. It's just very slow response from GameSpot's LiveFyre subscription in processing posts.
It is not very often that an adventure game can present discomforting themes while hiding them beneath a veneer of cartoonish artwork. Edna & Harvey: Harvey’s New Eyes would be one such game, and it is certainly not for the emotionally sensitive. That it opens with a melancholic song would already suggest so.
Unfortunately, the game’s otherwise memorable experience is marred by many problems, most of which happen to be technical.
Those who follow Daedalic Entertainment’s fortunes would know that Harvey’s New Eyes is a sequel to The Breakout, the first entry in the Edna & Harvey franchise and incidentally, Daedalic’s first in-house product.
After the slightly depressing intro song, the game begins with a scene that is far more relatable to most players than the scene in the beginning of The Breakout. The player is introduced to Lilli, a sweet but rather clumsy little girl who resides in a convent that is overseen by a nun that despises children.
In just a minute or two, the player is introduced to Edna, whom players who have played The Breakout would recall. Edna appears to be Lilli’s best friend in the convent. Through her, the player would know that the children at the convent live rather deficient childhoods.
Unfortunately, their lives are going to get much worse, no thanks to the aforementioned nun’s terribly short temper and Lilli’s single-minded clumsiness.
Right at the start of the game and at certain points afterwards, the game gives the player the convenience of heeding tutorials that informs the player how to play the game.
The first tutorial is delivered with more than a few silly safety precautions, setting the tone for the hilarity of the lines delivered by the characters that reside in the fourth wall.
Other tutorials come up when the player has to engage in gameplay that is far from the norm in adventure games. This is perhaps very useful for players who are not familiar with games of other genres. For anyone else, they would be straightforward and just adequate.
Like many other adventure games, Lilli has a pocket dimension for her inventory, which allows her to carry many, many things that her small stature would suggest otherwise. There are only a couple of fourth-wall-breaking commentaries on this, and unfortunately, neither is amusing.
Learning from the lessons that they picked up from the development of the first game and its reception by critics, the developers have also implemented other tools and features to make the game more convenient to play.
The first of these is a tool to highlight objects that the player can interact with, which the game calls “hotspots”. This is very convenient, and generally works well. However, there are rare few instances when the highlights do not come up. A more common problem though, is that the highlight icons may be placed somewhere that is slightly inconvenient, e.g. close to other icons.
Double-clicking on a location-transition icon loads up the next area quickly, without the player having to watch Lilli saunter over. This is another appreciable convenience.
Unfortunately, despite what has just been said, Harvey’s New Eyes is rife with technical problems that damage the experience of the game.
Minor ones include a limitation in the inventory system that prevents duplicates of the same item to be stored in the inventory. This is a small complaint, but this problem crops up in a scenario where duplicates of the same item would have been more convenient – and more believable - for the task at hand (which is serving tea in tea-cups).
Switching to the main menu can take a while, apparently because the game has to load the background and the music track for the main menu.
Sometime into the game, another tab appears next to the one for the inventory in the GUI. However, this tab tends to disappear due to little to no replicable causes. The work-arounds for this are to switch to the main menu and returning, and failing that, to save and reload the game. Both methods can be annoying.
Listening to the characters’ dialogues can be entertaining, but automatic skipping of lines that happen randomly for no reason can sour the experience.
The worst technical problem in the game happens to occur very far into the story. This happens when the player voluntarily exits out of a certain scenario that happens to be quite far from the norm in adventure games. A glitch then prevents the player from entering that scenario again, causing the game to freeze in an animated cutscene.
Considering that the game has been out for a while already, that these problems were still there can be very displeasing.
Most of the puzzles in the game require the player to make loose associations between observations to come up with a solution. Most of these observations would come from listening to what characters – including the (sometimes too helpful) narrator – say. This can make puzzles seem too easy to figure out at times.
Furthermore, sometimes the Narrator makes odd statements when describing something that the player wants examined. The statements may not pertain to the nature of the object being examined at all, yet the gist of the statement would only be apparent in hindsight after their associated puzzles had been solved.
Having mentioned that, the player may want to remember the observations anyway because they also happen to give the logical reasons (of sorts) to the solutions for the puzzles.
Some other puzzles may require the player to have a little bit of eccentricity. For example, there is one puzzle in the game that requires the player to apply a substance to the fodder of some creatures so that they leave behind easier-to-see trails. The solution is a technique that wildlife conservationists would think many times over, if they do not reject it outright.
Another example of odd puzzles shows up early in the game, when Lilli has to help another character out of (literally) deep trouble. At first, the solution may seem simple, but the logical player would stumble into a looping script that will not go away until the player has Lilli do something that is definitely counter-productive, namely bringing more harm to said character.
The only discernible reason for such a solution was the Narrator’s vague hints that Lilli does not like the other character and has no problems getting said character hurt.
(In fact, the resolution of this particular puzzle very strongly suggests that the game is certainly not for children, despite its appearance.)
Some of the puzzles happen to give the player mini-games of sorts (as has been alluded to earlier). These are intended to help the player solve the logic problems that their associated puzzles pose. These are not too intrusive, fortunately, and can be pleasant brain-teasers for some. For the less patient, there is the convenience of skipping them entirely.
Another apparent favourite technique that the developers have for designing the puzzles in Harvey’s New Eyes is implementing the need to backtrack to see if there had been any changes in previously visited places. This can seem annoying to some players, but the player is usually rewarded with some (probably) entertaining sights for doing this.
Some puzzles, unfortunately, suggest that the development of the game may have been rushed. A problem with one of these could potentially prevent the player from progressing in the game, because the item that the player needs to progress is behind a door that another character would lock behind him. The player is supposed to obtain the item in a window of opportunity that logically only comes once, and the player would lose that chance should the window closes (which it can).
The developers appear to realize this, but instead of revising the puzzle so that the item is located elsewhere, they merely installed a work-around. This work-around recreates the window of opportunity whenever the player leaves the area, instead of the window being created in the same way via what the player has done earlier.
One of the puzzles happens to be a deliberate reference to silly puzzles and solutions that resort to associations between words – a kind of puzzle that was made infamous by high-profile games like the second Monkey Island title.
This puzzle could have been amusing enough if it referenced other games with such puzzles. Yet, instead it took a fourth-wall-breaking swipe at reviewers that are harsh towards the lack of logical progression in the puzzles of adventure games. Such a swipe may entertain people who are more apologetic towards the genre, but it would probably not amuse less-forgiving persons.
Then, there are points in the game where the player may have to progress by simply trying any object in the inventory with another object. One example is a point in the game where the player needs a disguise for Lilli, but how this disguise could come about is not clear until the player stumbles upon the way to get it.
CHARACTER DESIGNS & VOICE-OVERS:
Lilli is the main character of the game. This fact happens to make her character designs even more peculiar. Unlike the protagonists of many other adventure titles, Lilli is barely heard talking in the game.
Lilli is not actually mute or illiterate, but rather she prefers to make simple utterances. More importantly, her attempts at forming sentences are often cut off at the very first syllable she says. She certainly gives an impression that she is not verbally assertive, which does contribute to her role as an all-too-little girl.
Yet, despite all that has been mentioned about Lilli here, the player might realize that Lilli would be the most relatable character after some time into the game. Everyone else appears to be far, far off from what would be considered “normal”. Of course, this is perhaps to be expected from adventure games with themes like those in Harvey’s New Eyes.
The narrator himself appears to be a substantial character; in fact, his role in the story may become quickly apparent to the observant player, though this statement would not be elaborated here.
The narrator picks up the slack for Lilli’s lack of spoken lines, expressing her monologues with lingual enthusiasm of which Lilli has completely none.
Other than that, the narrator makes fourth-wall-breaking pokes at typical behaviours of players, such as trying everything on anything to get some solution to randomly work or to listen to commentaries.
He also makes hilariously positive spins on useless actions that yield no results of any sort. In fact, the narrator makes a positive spin on anything when it is probably inappropriate to do so, including observations of otherwise gruesome sights.
On the other hand, the Narrator is also a seemingly darksome person, making suggestions that Lilli herself considers to be quite unwise. Indeed, there would be the impression that the Narrator has veiled contempt for her.
The other characters in the game have wildly varying personalities. The game starts with Lilli’s fellow students, most of whom resent Lilli’s presence, though not without good reason. Later, there are more oddball characters, namely certain returning characters from the previous game.
Speaking of returning characters, one of them is the titular Edna, who is actually a secondary character in Harvey’s New Eyes. Fans of the previous game may be surprised that she takes a back-seat in the story when her role is compared to Lilli’s. The game will provide reasons for this, though it certainly had not promised that they would be satisfactory to said fans.
Anyway, Edna is a soft-spoken girl that gives reminders on what to do next during the earlier parts of the game. Through cleverly delivered lines, the player would be directed to do what needs to be done. It may seem a bit nose-leading, but the amusement provided by these lines should more than compensate.
Harvey is also a returning character. Like Edna, he has changed into someone that is unrecognizable to fans of the previous game. On the other hand, the causes for such changes are perhaps more reasonable and clearer than those for Edna.
Most characters have Southern American accents in the English dubbing of the game, though this is perhaps in line with the settings of the game, which appears to be set in heavily wooded regions (of which Southern America has a lot of).
A noteworthy mention here about the English dubbing is that Harvey’s New Eyes is substantially better translated from its original Deutsch version than The Breakout was.
As much as the writers try to make the characters interesting, their lines do eventually repeat, without any more amusing variation. Granted, there is no adventure game that can possibly surpass this limitation, but if Harvey’s New Eyes is to be compared with certain other games of its time, the effort that has been invested into writing lines for the comments by characters can seem relatively little.
In fact, the Narrator is used for when other characters do not appear to have voiced-over responses for the player’s choices.
REMARKS ON THE STORY:
Although this review would not describe the story much for fear of spoilers, it will still contain some remarks on noteworthy parts of the writing.
The game makes references to events in the previous Edna & Harvey title. Fortunately, newcomers to the franchise would not be so lost, because there happens to be some explanation later on the relationship between returning characters, such as the titular Edna and Harvey.
Yet, there are still a few holes that the game-makers have not covered for the sake of newcomers, such as how a certain book that belongs to one of the titular characters fell into the possession of a certain other character in Harvey’s New Eyes.
There are also differences between the stories of the first and second title that are not reconciled. Granted, it is difficult to convince anyone beyond reasonable doubt that these holes are outright discontinuities. If one were to view these kindly, one could say that these holes in the story of the second title are there to set up the third title, if Daedalic Entertainment has any plans for that.
POSSIBLY DISCOMFORTING THEMES:
Despite all that has been said about how amusing the story and character designs are, the writing for the game can seem perturbing at times.
This can be seen in the consequences of Lilli’s bungling, which inadvertently results in disaster for other characters. Of course, one can argue that many of the characters deserve such fates, though to concur with such an opinion means that one already favours darksome stories in the first place.
For other people, the game can be a bit distressing and even depressing at times, especially considering that most of the characters that would get into trouble are children. Furthermore, the realization that the player is guiding Lilli into doing terrible things unto others at certain points in the story can be quite troubling.
One particularly interesting element of the story game is the presence of gnomes that lather pink paint over what are presumably grisly sights.
Also, people who would prefer not to see kids do things that adults do may want to be warned that they will see exactly these in the game – with the exception of anything that might be lascivious, of course.
The game further increases the discomfort by resorting to the time-honoured practice of leaving many questions unanswered. This statement has been alluded to earlier and will not be elaborated further, but it should be added that at the end of the game, the player might be astounded enough to think aloud: “How could this be?”
This utterance is even more likely if one has fond memories of the first Edna & Harvey game and can perceive the disparities between the stories for the sequel and the first game.
Following the visual designs of the previous game, the visual designs for characters and the locales in Harvey’s New Eyes vary wildly, seemingly on the whims of the artists.
There are few trends that can be perceived though. One of them is that young female characters have heads and necks like plant bulbs. The facial features of characters are very minimal, and in the case of some characters, completely absent. Mouths only appear from the bottom of the characters’ heads when they talk, which can seem both unsettling and amusing. Anthropomorphic potatoes are also common characters.
Indeed, if one is expecting a cartoonish appeal to the visual designs, one would be quite mistaken. Like its predecessor, Harvey’s New Eyes has many bizarre sights, perhaps even more.
Yet, the varying level of detail in the designs for the characters and locales may suggest severe inconsistencies in the artists’ efforts that have been invested into the game. As elaboration, some of the locales have splendid amounts of detail, such a scene that takes place in a cobbled road that runs through a forest, whereas some others, such as the junctions between rooms in Lilli’s convent, look rather drab.
Any suspicion of lackadaisical effort on the part of the game’s visual designers is further bolstered by the deficient animations. Many characters have stilted animations. Many animations are also reused for many occasions, such as an animation that has Lilli meekly reaching out for something, which is used for many actions that she does.
SOUND-EFFECTS & MUSIC:
Aside from the voice-overs, the sounds to be heard in the game are intended to add ambiance to the locales. For example, the player can hear crickets chirping in wooded areas. They are pleasant to listen to, but are otherwise unremarkable.
Some sound effects are reused many times. For example, a certain rumbling noise is used for muffled explosions, rockslides, structural collapse and such other occurrences. This can seem lazy.
Harvey’s New Eyes starts with a strong impression, thanks to the game’s very memorable theme song, “Needle & Stitch”. The vocalist’s melancholic drawl and the sad harmonica can be depressing though.
The rest of the music in the game appears to be derivatives of “Nadel und Fadel” (to use the song’s Deutsch name), if one is observant enough to notice the similarity in tunes. Only a few tracks appear to be different. Still, they are not terribly unpleasant to listen to.
Despite its cartoonish appearance, Edna & Harvey: Harvey’s New Eyes is a game that would promise an emotionally-tugging experience that is certainly not for those young-at-heart. It actually has a sad and slightly perturbing tale to tell.
Unfortunately, the experience that this tale provides is marred by some technical issues, lack of thorough play-testing and perhaps whimsy on the part of the game’s visual designers. Yet, nevertheless, the game should be worthwhile to play, even if one is not an adventure game enthusiast.
Recently, there have been attempts to revitalize the once-dead adventure game genre. Most of these depend on delivering stellar story-writing and presentation over any advancements in gameplay – something that the adventure genre has long lacked. There have been titles that attempt to do the latter, but not every one of them was successful.
Journey of a Roach, developed by Koboldgames, may seem to be one of those unfortunate titles. It promises a lot of fun with the navigation system with which the player controls the player character, but this potential is buried under whimsical presentation and storytelling, as well as an experience with a duration that falls far short of those of better-known adventure titles.
Perhaps Daedalic Entertainment has decided that Koboldgames is the next small game-maker that deserves some spot-lighting. Yet, if this is the case, then the publisher’s decision would arise from a slant towards game-makers that contribute to the slow revitalization of the adventure game genre (of which Daedalic Entertainment specializes in), but does not necessarily have value for the customer in mind.
Journey of a Roach’s intro starts with a setting that may have been seen many times before. The world that the game is set in is a post-apocalyptic version of ours, albeit ravaged by wars both unconventional (e.g. nukes) and conventional.
Humanity appears to be extinct. Earth is inherited by bugs that have grown to be half as large as humans, but, amusingly, half as smart and twice as reckless. This would be exhibited by two examples of the titular bug.
Bud and Jim are the developer-given names for the two protagonists. Jim is the player character, and he happens to be a bit dim-witted and slightly effeminate; if not for the guidance of a disembodied entity (i.e. the player), Jim would be quite stumped in his day-to-day life – or dead already.
Bud does not have the benefit of a beneficent guardian angel (of sorts), but he is smarter than Jim. Unfortunately, Bud is afflicted with terribly bad luck, and the incompetence of Jim. The consequences can be seen in how Bud seems to be perpetually injured.
It's hard not to snicker a bit in this scene.
It so happens that Bud’s misfortune, and Jim’s lack of wits, would one day have them stumbling into the societies of other bugs – some of them quite unfriendly. In comes the player, having to clean up after their mess and save the day.
NAVIGATION, CAMERA & DIMENSIONS:
After the whimsical intro, the player is introduced to the system that he/she would use to control the main player character, Jim. Jim walks on all six limbs in a primitive manner that hardly resembles a roach, but his insect ancestry would reveal itself when the player discovers that he can walk onto walls and ceilings.
At first, this may take a bit getting used to. This is because the game has a 3D world, but not fully so as it is bounded by the plane in the foreground. Yet, Jim can move into the background as space permits, as well as move in diagonal directions.
Fortunately, the developers have wisely decided that the camera should reorient itself so that Jim’s model becomes the main point of reference of the player’s view.
In other games with such a camera design, the player may still be disoriented when he/she tries to gauge the distance between two objects, neither of which is the player character. In Journey of a Roach, the limitation brought about by the foreground plane helps limit the disorientation significantly.
This navigation system is utilized for many puzzles. However, the sophistication of this utilization can leave much to be desired. Most of them simply have the player character fetching or interacting with something that he otherwise could not if he happens to be standing on merely two limbs.
Moreover, there are limitations to Jim’s climbing of walls and ceilings that may seem dissatisfactory. He can only climb onto walls and ceilings that meet each other without any obstacles obscuring their lines of intersection. Pipes tend to be the most common of these obstacles.
Furthermore, Jim cannot drop or hop onto walls or ceilings that are nearby, even if they are well within reach of his limbs. To get onto these other surfaces, the player must backtrack to the surface that is commonly intersected by both these surfaces and the surface that Jim currently is sticking to, and then move onto these other surfaces from there. This can be tedious. (Fortunately, there are not too many puzzles that require such backtracking.)
Pipes are there to tell the player that Jim cannot move onto other adjacent surfaces.
The oddest absence in the designs of the navigation system is Jim’s lack of flight. Despite clearly having wings, he is not able to use them in meaningful ways at all.
The puzzles in the game are the usual point-&-click fare, with some of them requiring some light memorization and logic. There are also puzzles that require the combination of items in the simple inventory system.
Most though, require the player to make a lot of observations, such as examining the whimsical thought bubbles that pop over Jim’s head. Recognition of shapes also happens to be a large part in many puzzles. However, the resolution of some of these puzzles can be bizarre at times.
For example, there is one puzzle that the player would realize has to be solved by stuffing someone into something through observing one of Jim’s thought bubbles and linking the desires of certain characters together. However, said something is apparently too small for said someone.
Yet, the solution would have Jim stuffing said someone into that something anyway, thus betraying the lack of planning in the visual designs for this particular puzzle.
There are puzzles that try to deviate from the genre’s usual norms, or at least do what has been done before using the game’s navigation system. These puzzles are not always satisfying.
An example is one puzzle where the player must navigate a series of obstacles while observing the visual cue that he/she is following the right path. The visual cue would inform the player that he/she is about to veer off from the ideal path, or that he/she has floundered. However, the player is not informed that for the solution of the associated puzzle, he/she has to take a path that almost causes him/her to flounder. In other words, there is not any path where the visual cue remains in a form that indicates a satisfactory route.
Another example is a timing-cum-navigation puzzle where Jim has to dodge hazards or start over. Although this puzzle has some conveniences such as switches that allow the player to disable hazards that have been circumvented, he/she would encounter the problem about climbing walls and ceilings that have been mentioned earlier, and in a way that is more irksome than at other moments in the game.
Although it would be terribly unkind to say that the game has obtuse puzzles, it would be difficult to say that the puzzles in Journey of a Roach are cleverly designed and playtested thoroughly either.
The game highlights interactive objects with white arrowheads when the player character comes near enough, which is handy, though perhaps not ideal. The player can press a button to have the camera zoom out and have every interactive object on-screen highlighted, but the game does not compensate for the zooming out with bigger arrowheads.
Almost all of the characters in the game are human-like facsimiles of bugs, with some bugs resembling commonplace pets like cats and dogs. With such character designs, the player can expect a lot of whimsical humour, such as jokes that are oriented around the characters’ bug ancestors.
For example, there is one scenario in the game where the player has to distract a certain character with a bright lamp. This is a play on the tendencies of certain bugs to fly towards bright lights, for better or worse.
There are also personality designs that seemingly go against the supposed ancestry of these characters. For example, Jim, despite being a roach, expresses disgust at foodstuffs that have gone stale.
Speaking of Jim, he is the character that the player would encounter the most. Yet, he is not exactly a deep character. In fact, he is quite daft.
Jim’s thought bubbles may suggest that he has an inkling of what to do with something, but the player would be reminded that he is quite the idiot when he performs the solution in ways that the player would not expect.
For example, there is one puzzle that requires Jim to use a tool to access a certain object. Instead of using the tool to remove the fasteners on the object, as the player would be led to think via his thought bubble, he would use the tool in the manner of a crowbar instead. The same results are achieved of course.
That is not to say that Jim is difficult to like. Indeed, he is of the adorably bumbling character archetype. Of course, this also means that the player should not expect anything refreshingly amusing about him.
Perhaps in an attempt to craft some achievements for the game’s debut on Steam, there are ‘collectibles’ to be retrieved from the game’s environments. These come in the form of grubs, which the game would strongly suggest are the food that Jim (and perhaps Bud) eats.
Getting to these grubs mostly require the player to have a sense of curiosity in exploring his/her surroundings, but there are a few that are almost in plain sight that require the player to do some thinking to get to them.
The inclusion of these grubs is ultimately inconsequential, because the game does not appear to acknowledge their significance to the story beyond said thought bubbles.
Most of the experience offered by the game plays out in 3D environments that are limited by the foreground plane. In other words, the player would be looking at sectional views of rooms, tunnels and vents, all of them missing the fourth wall.
The 3D graphics would be quite familiar to players that have played Tell-tale’s adventure titles. There is some muted cel-shading for the textures, with soft shadowing and lighting to give the models a convincing semblance of depth.
The models and their animations in the game fit the whimsical nature of the game’s presentation almost well. However, the 3D models obviously lack facial animations. For one, their mouths are little more than textures and bumps on their head polygon. If they have anything to express, they do this through hand gestures and body language instead.
Yet, the most amusing visual occurrences in the game would be presented via sparsely animated 2D artwork. The aforementioned thought bubbles are some of these. They may be black-and-white only, but the silhouettes that they show are more than enough to convey a message and amuse at the same time.
Then, there are comics that take up most of the screen to signal pivotal points in the story. These can be very amusing to watch, if one is into cartoonish and whimsical scenes. On the other hand, these comics also hide the fact that the developers did not design the 3D animations and other assets for these scenes.
The game has no legible voice-overs whatsoever, despite most of the anthropomorphic bugs clearly having human-like mouths; most of them talk in gibberish. Any understandable ideas of their messages are conveyed mainly through speech or thought bubbles with animated imageries.
Jim has a high-pitched, cutesy voice that is typically used for lovably daft characters, of which he is one. Yet, some other characters, which are not of the same archetype, also have similar voices. This can irk players that find such voices grating. Other than these, there are characters with gruff or harsh voices, which usually appropriately reflect their personalities.
An observant player may suspect that it is just a few persons that are providing the voices, despite their otherwise good attempts to vary their pitches and tones. On the other hand, it can be argued that being a small-time game-maker, Koboldgames does not have a large pool of talent to draw from.
Like the voice-overs, the music in Journey of a Roach contributes to its whimsical presentation. The playful theme in the main menu is a particular example. There are some ominous tunes that can be heard in some places of the game though, suggesting that there might have been plans for a darker tone to the story.
Its whimsical presentation may amuse players, but Journey of a Roach’s indecisiveness on concentrating on either 3D graphics or 2D artwork can give a strong impression that it is a small project that had been converted into a commercial title. Its sometimes troubled navigation system for the player character and underutilized backstory also bolster this suspicion. Furthermore, the rather short duration of the experience of the game, especially when compared to Daedelic Entertainment’s other publications. also suggests low value.
Overall, Journey of a Roach may seem like a substantial effort by fledgling indie developer Koboldgames, but considering its limitations and its rather hefty price tag (US$15) at this time of writing, this title would be very difficult to recommend as a stand-alone purchase.
I just played it again recently after having been bummed out by connectivity issues a few months ago - it's a lot more stable now. Apparently the problem could be fixed by Grinding Gear, despite what their techie told me in a response to my complaint report. I really want to dive more into the game's refreshingly peculiar gem/skill system and currency items.
Unfortunately, playing it again only reminded me of the reasons that I haven't touched hack-slash-and-looters for a long time - namely my despise of the factors of luck in loot generation. Gear-modifying in Path of Exile really irks me too.