Floigan Brothers Hands-On

Visual Concepts is taking the classic situational humor of a seemingly mismatched comic duo and forming a game around it with Floigan Brothers. We recently got the chance to play a demo build of the game to see how much the Floigans have evolved.

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Visual Concepts is taking the classic situational humor of a seemingly mismatched comic duo and forming a game around it with Floigan Brothers--the first of what could be a span of episodic games featuring two lovable cartoony characters and a fairly complex AI routine. We recently got the chance to play a demo build of the game to see how much the Floigans have evolved.

The Floigan Brothers is a unique cartoon adventure that puts you in the shoes of Hoigle, the smart but scrawny Floigan who must interact with his hulking dim-witted brother Moigle to accomplish the various obstacles found throughout the game. Moigle is controlled by a complex AI that simulates the moods and behavior of an actual human, and manipulating Moigle's moods is the key to the game. The game's villain, the evil Baron Malodorous, has his eyes on the brothers' junkyard and has sent his army of mercenary cats to invade the Floigans' turf. Moigle is working on an invention that will keep the evil Baron away from the brothers' precious home but needs Hoigle to help him track down the various parts he needs to complete the device. You'll have to work with Moigle not only to reach the parts that are scattered throughout the huge junkyard but also to repel the invading cats.

Hoigle interacts with Moigle using a simple button interface. You move Hoigle around in real time and can interact with your environment as you please. When you find that you need Moigle's help or Moigle needs your help, you'll use the action buttons to interact directly with your brother. The game uses a context-sensitive button layout that corresponds to the four face buttons of the Dreamcast controller. When you approach items or characters that can interact with the default actions of the buttons, they will change to reflect the possible actions you can take with that item or character. So if you're near a ball, the X button might change from Hoigle's default slap to the command to pick up the ball. Then once you're carrying the ball, the button might change to the command to drop the ball. This system lets you use everything in the game without learning a complex button scheme, because you can always simply look in the upper right-hand corner of the screen where you'll find the list of commands next to their corresponding buttons. Additionally, characters can hold conversations. When you find that Moigle needs a talking to, you can use a more advanced menu to interact directly with him. You'll be able to issue simple vocal responses such as yes or no, and you'll also be able to perform certain actions specific to dealing with characters. Hoigle teaches his brother new skills and minigames, offers to play minigames with him, and can even perform actions to change Moigle's mood to one of the game's four extreme emotions--playful, sad, angry, and afraid. This combination of voice commands and character actions provides a good range of interaction between the two brothers.

Moigle starts as a fairly unknowledgeable, inexperienced character who learns new things and emotionally matures as the game progresses. Your brother will mature differently depending on how you treat him. If you're cruel to Moigle and ignore him, he'll turn into something of a bully himself. But if you nurture Moigle and cater to his every need, he might end up a big softie. Additionally, Hoigle can educate his mammoth brother by giving him certain items and giving up some of his points. Moigle keeps a tab on exactly how many points each brother has. You can earn more points by winning minigames and by helping Moigle accomplish tasks. These points can be used to teach Moigle new things and to bribe Moigle to do things he wouldn't normally want to do. You'll be able to teach Moigle at least a dozen skills, some of which are essential to completing the game, some of which are new minigames that can be played for more points, and some of which are just amusing to watch. As Moigle matures, his progress will be saved on your VMU, and you can even go online to trade Moigle characters with other players.

Since the game revolves around what Moigle is doing, you'll constantly have to keep an eye on the big lug. To encourage teamwork, the game features several Moigle emotion boxes, which will only open when Moigle is in one of his extreme emotions. For example, one of the crates in the game had a picture of a happy Moigle on it. So you'll have to call Moigle over to that crate and then smother him with a big brotherly hug to get him giddy with happiness. Once he's happy, the crate will open and reveal a switch. Standing on this switch will let you ride on Moigle's back as he races around the junkyard at what he calls, "super speed." This switch is actually essential in solving a puzzle: Only Moigle is fast enough to hit a certain switch then run to the gate that the switch opens before it closes. These sorts of puzzles are common in Floigan Brothers, and you'll find that you spend plenty of time making Moigle feel these extreme emotions in order to progress through the game.

The game is full of humor and is easily comparable to an interactive cartoon. Hoigle and Moigle both have plenty of jokes, and the comedy ranges from verbal humor to pranks and pitfalls to situational humor. The game never takes itself seriously, and the characters often refer to the game itself, sometimes even pausing to pull out the instruction manual to brush up on a forgotten command. Playing the game is very fun, and interacting with Moigle is quite a treat. Not only do you get to explore the game's environments and try to solve puzzles on your own, but you also get to deal with Moigle's mood swings and to try to figure out how to involve the guy in the mission. The control is very tight, and the context-sensitive buttons work like a charm.

Floigan Brothers looks nice, and the characters animate in a fluid manner. The game makes good use of light and uses a diverse palette with plenty of bold, striking colors to help bring out the life of the junkyard. All of the characters are extremely fun to look at, and some of the character models are downright hilarious. The robotic kitty is cute and innocent when Moigle is looking at it, then it becomes menacing and sinister the second he turns his back. Moigle's dog, Spitz, has a huge deformed head with tiny eyes and gigantic round teeth sticking out of his slanted grin. And Baron Malodorous has a classic villainous look to him, complete with a cheap cigar. All of the characters express a wide range of emotions not only through facial expressions but also through distinct and recognizable body language. This, combined with the excellent voice work, really brings out the story of the game and puts the focus more on the interaction and less on the actual objectives. Each character has fully voiced dialogue, and so far the voices of both Floigans are spot on. Unfortunately, the build we played didn't have the voices for the Baron or his army of cats in it, so we were unable to get a feel for the rest of the voices in the game. The music and sound effects are all very well done, and there is plenty of custom music that changes depending on the scenario and the minigame.

Visual Concepts is packing plenty of extras into Floigan Brothers and is planning to make this game a first in a series of episodic Floigan Brothers adventures. Not only will you be able to take the game online to trade Moigle characters and chat with other Floigan players, but every month you'll also be able to download new features that add small secrets to the game. Visual Concepts has already put a year's worth of monthly secrets into Floigan Brothers, and it promises that there will be more secrets to come. Additionally, the second episode, featuring Moigle and Hoigle in the Wild West, is already in the works. Fortunately, further episodes of the Floigan Brothers won't require previous games to run, and each episode will have a self-contained storyline. However, Moigle will progress from one game to the next, giving you further incentive to upgrade your Moigle character in one game before moving on to the next. The first Floigan Brothers game is currently on track for a mid-May release and should be priced at $39.95. Visual Concepts hopes to have the second episode ready by this holiday season.

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