What if I told you a game could truly deliver almost everything and deliver it in package that explored almost every visual style that video gaming has used? What if I told you this same game could use recycled jokes, tropes and find brand new ingenious spirited ways to make them feel new and inspired and make you laugh with joy & excitement all over again?
What if I told you in 2017 the adventure game point n click scene was still alive and flourishing more then before and thistime it was being kept alive by Germany or some other European country but that America, the UK and other countries where they speak English… like… um… erm… Australia.
Well it is and they do… this time I’m talking about a post apocalyptic mutant genre bending humor escapade called Paradigm, an eponymous title of the hilarious adorably gross disgusting cute lead character you will “control” throughout this adventure (does one ever truly control or do we just guide them through predetermined conclusions of the dressing of puzzles and interaction to deliver a story but in an interactive environment? A discussion for another time perhaps.)
Jacob Janerka, ALMOST solo creator of this brilliant, stupid, silly, wonkers, what am I doing here, I love this, oh my god I’m going to throw up art project is an amazing illustrator and designer. Every painting in this is lovely even when it’s showing a super weird creature, every pixel piece lovingly developed and boy is there a lot of 2D pixel goodness, but not in the point n click game genre. The way the game used 2-D is so almost mind-bending because it’s unexpected and needs to be experienced to truly appreciate it utter ridiculousness yet perfection.
Just one of the ugly pretty mutants you’ll meet.
To get a really good idea of how wacky, wild, weird, funny, silly and also how awesome an artist he can be, other than Paradigm one just needs to scope the proposed Seinfeld point n click he started developing while finishing the game. It went a tiny bit viral and Nerdist featured it last year.
The fact alone that Jacob wants/wanted to bring a show about nothing, in which you’d basically do nothing and yet for some inexplicable reason laugh at things that aren’t funny gives you some hint into maybe how his mind works… or maybe doesn’t work.
An example of Janerka’s amazing painting skills. Look at this vastness. Look at that crazy pigeon.
There are some “what are you serious?” ideas in the game where you wonder if he’s crazy with skills or just really talented. Here are some ideas you usually don’t expect in a point n click without actually spoiling the game itself.
- Multiple Endings
- Pay Window
- Boss Battles
- Computer Crash
- 2 Headed Cat (oh wait… nevermind)
- Art in the corners that looks awesome and adds enjoyment but has nothing to with the game….wait… nevermind. Still it really is done well, I personally found myself staring at every corner.
- You actually can TALK, PICK UP, and USE every sincle interactive item. Maybe not in the way you expect, but you can. Especially the TALK and… Pick Up? Well, if you don’t try to pick up EVERYTHING and I MEAN EVERYTHING? You are not giving yourself the fun.
Just on the 2D bits in the game and an example of how the game goes unexpected places.
Another great addition which will having you play multiple times so as to not ruin your immersive experience the first time around, or maybe you will ruin your immersion and just do it on every screen, but you’ll probably forget so you better make saves or yes, you’re playing all over again is the Developer Commentary. These are thing that have existed throughout time but traditionally only remastered games (like the ones Doublefine has done of LucasArts) get them. Very few games have them on release of a brand new Intellectual Property. I honestly can only think of the games by Wadjeteye/Dave Gilbert to have done this. Jacob takes it another step though and does it is as a visual treat on top of the audio. It’s just a thing… a very artsy thing. There’s commentary also from the game’s musician Jonas Kjellberg (which I haven’t even brought up… it’s another layer all together).
Jonas Kjelberg created sounds, beats, synthwaves, guitar hooks, belly slaps, snores, boops, blips, and more. The music in this game is so wonderful it needs an entire article of its own to be truly explored. Luckily there is a soundtrack coming at some point, as it needs dissemination, deconstruction and reverberation. To be truly appreciated. Each piece works within the construct of the game, but also sound like they’d be amazing on their own.
Another piece of 2D pixel work. Here you are dating a toaster. Yes, you read that correctly.
One of the things I really love about the game is how original it is while doing BLATANT tributes, self deprecating itself to what came before, while acknowledging how different and special it is, while at the same time being ludicrous and a waste of time. Yet isn’t what all entertainment is? Something to appreciate and waste time? What else would we do? Be productive? To what end? To the end to be able to sit down and waste time with others creations and then be inspired to make our own creations and then the cycle begins again. Mundanity, Insanity, Back to 1 till we die. Yet till that comes, take some time out of your schedule to play PARADIGM.
Paradigm is currently (released April 5th, 2017) on Steam for $14.99.
You can also get it at GOG.
Or if you prefer The Humble Store.
And if you’re reading this week of April 5th, it’s 10% off… if not… it’s more and still completely worth it.
It’ll run on PC and MAC (Linux is in the pipeline). Jacob Janerka also wants you to know that he unironically listens to ABBA regularly and thinks about if dogs have internal monologues.
In 1987 at the tender age of 10 I had owned a Commodore 64 for a few years, falling in love with Infocom, Sierra, Tellarium and other individual games in the adventure genre. It was in October of that year that like many others my mind became warped, disturbed and happily pushed on a path of no return with the release of Maniac Mansion. The SCUMM system developed Ron Gilbert, Garry Winnick, David Fox and the rest of the team at Lucasarts changed gaming as we know it so many ways. My love for adventure games and point and click grew from that day, getting my hands of everything from LucasArts as it came out, but I’d actually follow Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick as closely as I could as they moved onto other works. Humongous Games was for kids, but dang it if you couldn’t find enjoyment in Freddi Fish, Pajama Sam and Spry Fox you didn’t like fun. Especially fun, while less a Ron Gilbert game and more Dave Grossman, was Moop & Dreadly. The Cave was definitely something new, different and unexpected, but Ron’s concepts were still clear. His out there thinking for puzzles and his abstract writing. Yet still nothing he had done ever felt like it captured the spirit of his early work.
That all changed with Thimbleweed Park; and not just because it literally feels like a lost Lucasfilm game from say 1992 (the game takes place in 1987 but Pixel art was definitely not at this level yet) right after Lechuck’s Revenge but before Day of the Tentacle with Double Fine’s Tim Schafer. Having the team that developed Maniac Mansion come back together to devise a truly new, but old classic point and click adventure born from the new fundraising and therefore self publishing platform of Kickstarter has allowed for something that was probably just like Broken Age was once envisioned into something bigger, prettier, more vast and more impressive then ever imagined when originally conceived. In fact as I played through the game I could not believe how epic it became. While only taking place in a small town, the scope of the story and the way it is told will blow you away and catch you off guard in surprising and wonderful ways.
Thimbleweed Park is beautiful. Every inch of it despite being pixels is dazzling. The characters truly become alive with powerful animation, true detail and grit. Helping this is of course the scripting of Gilbert and David B. Fox. Making these characters truly real is the amazing cast though. Thimbleweed Park is through and through a true puzzle game in which hard mode, your brain will get twisted and twizzled to the point of maybe being fried, but at the same time, you are never truly stuck. The solution is probably staring you in the face. You must remember this a game of five distinct characters and you play them all and can switch between one. Like Maniac Mansion you rely on each other to solve certain puzzles. It’s a fun and exciting thing that can really only be experienced in a video game. Helping yourself out by helping yourself but as two people? In the real world or in most video games that involves another actual human, but in adventure games, you get to be both people. It’s amazing… and as I said while it’s a game through and through, the cast really brings it to life.
Acclaimed voice director Khris Brown put together some amazing folks for this. Nicole Oliver, an anime American adaptation legend, who most recently is known for her work My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and has worked on another Ron Gilbert game in Death Spank plays the tough as nails FBI agent. Ian Garret, the most popular voice of Dragon Ball’s Goku and the voice of multiple characters on Ninjago and a long list of roles brings Ransome the Clown, the game’s most interesting, funniest, and wildest character to life invoking a bit of Norm MacDonald, Gilbert Gottfried, Bobcat Goldwaith and Sam Kinison to create a guy you can’t but love to hate and hate to love. Our wayfaring ghost without a chance, who whines and whimpers but is a joy to play as is given a bit of gravitas and sympathy by Alex Zahara, a longtime character and voice actor of stage, small screen, anime, games and most recently Amazon’s hit series Man in the Highcastle as Diehls. Rounding out our main cast are Javier Lacroix, a Spanish actor with a long list of commercials to his credit as deceptive to his actual age, as he sounds perfect as the young, seemingly mysterious other FBI agent and Elise Kates, a sound designer who has worked on Girls Makes Games The Hole Story as what could be considered our lead protagonist Delores, a game developer who returns home to Thimbleweed Park just as the mystery begins who is right in the middle of it all.
One of the cooler parts about Thimbleweed Park is once it’s said and done there are so many reasons to go back, especially on Steam as there are a few wonderful achievements. Yet, on top of that, unless you plan to sit through them all on a first play-through drastically causing pacing to the story to go to a crawl there tons of books to read as well as phone messages to listen to for the completest in you. They just add another layer to the actually to the game and it’s creation from day 1 to release and should truly not be skipped to feel fully immersed in the town and world created.
Thimbleweed Park is available for $19.99 on Steam, GOG, Xbox Live, and Mac App Store as of Launch, with other platforms coming in the near future.
(This review was built from an advance copy of Thimbleweed Park, which I finished days before launch and has kept my mouth shut about even though I want to talk and hear from everyone about it. Go play it folks, beat it, then talk talk talk talk talk and then talk some more)
Over at my Livejournal I used to take various links I found and collate them all into a collection that I called “Nerd Notes”. These links could contain anything from videogames to wrestling to movie trailers to news articles. I have decided that it was an excellent concept and am migrating it now for use at Pop-Culture Spectrum. This is just the first up many to come and allow me to relay lots of information in short bursts instead of full fledged reviews or articles when something may warrant it, but would take up ample time before getting the product information out there.
AGS Bake Sale: A collection of fully cooked to perfection games built inside of AGS and bundled for charity, it is available for $1.50 or more based on your choice of donation to Child’s Play. If you are familiar with the Humble Bundle this is very similar but allows you to play games that are completely exclusive to this pack. I have played portions of 9 Months In, Red Volition, Indiana Rodent and Abner so far and they are all excellent and worth the price.
Nurse Quest: This free pixel based point and click adventure developed by Robot Lizard for Adult Swim Games is hilarious, crafty and well constructed. It isn’t a time waster though, so be ready to sit down for a good half hour to hour to enjoy the hilarity.
Da New Guys: Back in 2004 Chris Burton put out an AGS game built around an imaginary wrestling federation and a team known as “Da New Guys”. It was a critical success and Burton also made a short animated feature with the characters called “For The Winnings” in Blender. Announcement came of a game sequel but they were continually delayed. Finally in 2012, Morton teams up with Wadjet Eye Games for “Day Of The Jackass”. A demo is available.
Sumo Cyco: Canadian sweetheart and former pop rock darling Skye Sweetnam first became a totally different type of artist with her colloberation “Action” recorded with Tim Armstrong and the bulk of her album, Sound Soldier, but the project she began in 2009 has started to become fully unleashed with 4 very disturbing videos and a sound one would never think that the girl who sang “Billy S.” would lead a band that covered Oingo Boingo along with some really hard metalesque rock..
All-American Rejects first official single “Beekeeper’s Daughter” off the forthcoming studio album “Kids on The Street” is available on iTunes. I’ll be waiting for the entire album myself and hope that the entire project is a worthy successor to the phenomenal When The World Comes Down
A Stream of Paul McCartney’s forthcoming Kisses On The Bottom, a collection of old standards covered in only the way Sir Paul could.
Jon Adams excellent Truth Serum had a tenth anniversary and posted a new strip, guest pin-ups and a cool contest in celebration.
Finally a list of books I plan to read and review in the very near future:
Fun & Games + Hell & Gone by Duane Swierczynski
Snitch by Booker T. Mattison
WinterTown by Stephen Emond
I shall also being doing an over of all 22 issues of the Marvel comic Agents of Atlas + the Gorillia-Man miniseries written by Jeff Parker.
An overview of the new iPod/iPhone/iPad App and web series Totally Amp’ed is also planned.