Floigan Brothers Preview
Find out about Visual Concepts' upcoming action game.
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As game consoles have become technologically more advanced over the past few years, developers have come the closest they ever have to capturing the feel of an animated cartoon in their games. The biggest hurdle these days lies in imagination. Graphics are really no longer an issue, when a system like the Dreamcast can pump out visual stunners such as Wacky Races, Looney Tunes Space Race, and Jet Grind Radio. It's now a question of how to produce something that aesthetically harkens back to the classic stuff we all used to watch as kids. Visual Concepts is attempting to get in touch with its inner Tex Avery with Floigan Brothers for the Dreamcast, a 3D action game that pays homage to the animated classics of old.
Floigan Brothers follows the antics of siblings Hoigle and Moigle Floigan, owners of a junkyard. Older brother Hoigle is a tiny fellow, who makes up for his lack of height with brains and sass. While younger brother Moigle doesn't appear to be quite as swift as his older brother, you will discover he's actually quite sharp in other ways. Moigle may not have the brainpower to waste on important things like eating, but he's a whiz with machines. The main drive of Floigan Brothers is to help Moigle gather parts for a secret project. Trouble brews when Baron Malodorous sends down a team of cats to sabotage things around the junkyard so he can take it over. Why the baron wants the junkyard when he's got the cash for huge blimps to take him around and a staff of cat saboteurs is anyone's guess, but there you go.
Gameplay in Floigan offers you a variety of moves easily accessed via a simple control scheme. You take control of Hoigle and must play with, reward, punish, and teach Moigle through the course of the game. Interacting with Moigle causes him to evolve in a sense, as he learns new games to play and new moves that will help you assist him in gathering all the parts for his project. You control Hoigle with the analog pad, while the Dreamcast's controller buttons are displayed in the upper right-hand corner of the screen, and their various context-sensitive uses are indicated as they become available, à la the Zelda games on the Nintendo 64. Pressing the Y button calls up a circular menu for interaction that offers you a variety of Moigle-centric choices. On the speak menu, you can choose to hug, teach, or insult Moigle or offer to play a game with him or respond to his questions. In addition, you will be able to check on your status in the game to see the number of "points" you've collected, how many parts you still have to help Moigle collect, and what areas within the junkyard, which is where the game's action is confined, have been opened up so far. Lastly, the shoulder triggers swing the camera left and right.
As you'd expect, the care and tending of Moigle is an integral part of gameplay. Monitoring and manipulating his mood is key to progressing in the game. Boxes bearing Moigle's face are found throughout the junkyard. Their color and the face Moigle is making on them are clues as to what his emotional state needs to be for you to use the floor pads underneath them. For example, a red pad covered by a box with an angry Moigle signals you to anger him. Once angered enough, Moigle will follow you. If you reach the pad in time, he will perform an action, such as grabbing Hoigle and hitting him with a bat like a baseball, which will allow you to access a new area or object. In other instances Moigle will ask you for something, such as access to the mailbox or food. If you help him successfully obtain what he's asked for, his mood brightens. Moigle awards you points, which is another integral part of the game.
The point system in Floigan Brothers is a running tally kept on a notebook that pops up onscreen during key moments in the game. It can also be seen from the speak menu. As you go through the game, playing games with Moigle and generally helping him out, you'll earn points. The points can be used to teach Moigle new games to play, such as tag, and new skills, such as lifting Hoigle above his head, which are useful in the game. How you choose to spend your points is basically up to you. If your immediate goal is to finish the game, you can focus on teaching Moigle useful abilities, but if you like playing games with him, you can teach him a variety of games to play.
The number of possibilities in developing Moigle is tied in to the game's Internet features. Floigan Brothers will let you go online and download other players' Moigles and upload yours. It's not essential to gameplay, but it's an interesting option. Another online feature in the game is a monthly download, which lets you download a new feature for the game, such as a new outfit for Moigle, every month.
The graphics in Floigan complement the game's cartoony premise by offering up clean polygon models reminiscent of old-school Tex Avery and Warner Bros. cartoons. Hoigle and Moigle wear Bowery Boy-style hats. Moigle's voice is the typical "big slow guy" voice you'd expect, while Hoigle sounds every bit the smart-mouthed pip-squeak. The animations for the characters include just about everything you'd expect in a cartoon game--for example, birds flying around their heads when they get dizzy and black smoke that covers them in soot during explosions. Their world is a colorful place featuring clean textures and a smooth frame rate that warps in dramatic ways when things happen, such as how the mailbox bloats to insane proportions when a package arrives for Moigle. The music offers loud brass mixed with swing-style tunes for a retro feel. Incidental music and sound effects such as cymbals and the like punctuate the onscreen action at key moments. Even the structure of the game itself fits into the cartoon feeling, as the game is subtitled "episode one," hinting at the possibility that more adventures starring the two characters will come.
So far Floigan Brothers looks to be fairly successful at capturing the look and feel of a cartoon. The basic gameplay is accessible, and the animation is smooth. The options to develop Moigle's skills and to use the game's online features offer you some fun outside of the game proper, and they give it an interesting twist. Players in the mood for a different kind of game can look for Floigan Brothers this August.