As anyone who pays attention to me or this infrequently updated site (which is why there’s a twitter feed running and links to all my social media elsewhere), I am a huge Doublefine Games fan. They’ve yet to make a game I haven’t enjoyed even if the genre was not to my liking. Be it Dear Leader in Amnesia Fortnight, Costume Quest, or even Dropchord.
Well they’ve done it again in collaborate distribution with [adult swim] games for Headlander. Lee Petty’s crazy yet simple concept of a man or woman (you can choose your head) who leaps from robot body to robot body to explore properly this extreme weird future in which a huge and brilliant backstory exists. To give it away is to essentially give the game away. That said, there is a section in the game involving a huge action oriented chess board. If done as it’s own separate game it probably would’ve been appreciated. There’s actually tons of little bits like that throughout the game that show a larger world then the game that would be fascinating to explore as mini games, comics, cartoons and more because that’s what the team at Double Fine do when they develop worlds.
I feel it is the script and the design of characters that is the crux of this 2.5 D side scrolling Metroid like platform shooter. It’s a genre I tend to get annoyed and frustrated with. My hand-eye coordination is just not the greatest when it comes to video games, I have to readjust my eyeline (which I’ve become very good at especially in real life); Yet there’s SO much happening on screen it can be quite difficult. It’s done in such a charming, enjoyable, beautiful way though that even when you’re ready to give up you just keep trying it and trying till you beat it.
The music (masterfully written and performed by David Gregory Earl and an amazing soundtrack in its own right) , sound design, visuals, make it all worth it. Just when I just wanted to throw my controller at the screen, I breathed, put it down and felt that need to come back and figure it out. I’m betting so will you if you haven’t played it.
I’m not set up with a rig to do a Let’s Play, so you have to trust my words. You could also go check out trailers and videos online to get your own impressions, but then you’re not listening to what I’m saying which is just go experience it for yourself.
I enjoyed Headlander so much I went and used my limited but still better then most Photoshop skills to design a new avatar for the excellent, supportive and loving DoubleFine Forums.
(the following review is dedicated to my friend, “Rhiannon” Miller)
Life is full of choices. Which shirt do I wear? What should I have for lunch? What movie should I go to? Who should I save from the attacking zombies?
That last decision isn’t really easy, it can change your entire life or at least in the case of Telltale Game’s The Walking Dead your entire experience over a five episode monthly season. At first it may seem not completely apparent how much your experience will truly change and in terms of major beats I’m not sure it will or if puzzle solutions will change as much as just dialogue and plot sequences, but it still makes for a fully replayable (sic) adventure. Doubly so because even without the chance to have portions of the story play out with different dialogue choices and segments, Telltale has put together an interactive graphic novel that one could see re-reading, just as one reads The Walking Dead comic again or owns the Walking Dead TV show on DVD to watch it again, good storytelling with quality acting.
For fans of the TV show the service is bit less, but they will get to see Glenn before he went to Atlanta and Shawn and Hershel Greene before Shawn became a Walker. Comic books fans get a minor character who did major things, as Lilly’s life before the apocalypse gets fleshed out. Everyone else we’ve been introduced to are original characters and while some reviews have stated these characters to be one dimensional, I feel that means they went for really super quick playthroughs (sic) to get their reviews out and never really took any time to listen to all the various conversations in which they are, including Doug, who was based completely on an actual real person. Of course none of them are as fleshed out as much as the lead character the player controls in Lee Everett. A character just as engaging, intriguing and with a variable personality even because of player choice. It seems like a small thing right now that you can decide if Lee is totally loyal, valiant, kind and all that jazz or mostly single-minded and only looking out for himself with a truly jerky attitude or something in between.
At many times the feel of the game is much for like a very interactive and controllable graphic novel. While there are actually puzzles which can take some common sense and in other times a good eye and understanding of logic as well as even the occasional very easy what has been known to be called QTE, which essentially translates to mashing a button and then mashing another button just at the right moment. There’s also some very minor targeting situations, but they are handled much more like a point n click adventure as Telltale has handled in the past. To my trained eye there doesn’t seem to be much change to the game design that differs from earlier Telltale Games such as Back To The Future, Sam & Max and Wallace & Gromit, and I’m one of those people who actually found those games to have a perfect balance of being easy to pick up for a complete non-gamer and only too easy for the strictest of puerile game players who want to feel like they’re taking a lawyer’s bar exam while playing a game or just find flaws to find flaws
I love most of all the art style which finds a way to combine what has become now known as Telltale’s signature art style with a very comic book feel with a line style that evokes both Walking Dead’s original artist Tony Moore and current artist Charlie Adlard. The animation does have various glitches that are easy to ignore, but can be jarring. In certain environments if you try to walk to the edge of the screen that isn’t actually passable, I noticed the animation would fall to a crawl. There was some texture parsing and floaters in cinemas that is distracting, but again not so much to ruin the game and make one scream bloody hell. Unless you you’re someone who demands absolute perfection and I mean ABSOLUTE perfection, which means, you’ll never ever be happy or satisfied and you better hope there’s a zombie apocalypse soon and that you become a zombie quick so that your brain becomes one process of eat, eat, eat. Which you know, could be interesting, but since I see myself as someone like Rick Grimes and possibly Lee Everett (who knows, it’s only one episode so far), you’ll end up being smashed to bits by me.
I actually highly recommend The Walking Dead game. It’s available on Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC/Windows and Mac , so your options to play are very high. You can also choose to try out things with just purchasing one episode for $5 or getting the entire season. On the Telltale site there are even better deals that get you the whole season and other games as well if you’re new to Telltale and want to explore stories such as Back To The Future Part Four or Jurassic Park 1.5.
Fun animation, obscure clues, unusual jokes, memorable characters have all been major factors to a quality third-person point and click adventure game. There have been few and far between in recent years of a truly funny, traditional 2-d animation type game. While the internet has a share of Flash games, there’s been nothing on the level of previous adventures. The majority of games being developed in Adventure Games Studio. The only other game with the closest of those mid 90’s games were developed by Clickshake Games and yet even those miss the mark.
While TellTale Games have been doing serious quality adventuring with their rebirth of Lucasarts’ Sam & Max and Monkey Island, along with their work on licensed work like Back to the Future it is their smaller ventures where they really shine. First was Graham Annabelle’s Puzzle Agent, developed in house, but that was followed up by picking up the distribution rights to Straandlooper Animation’s HECTOR: Badge of Courage.
I first heard of Hector on various adventure gaming sites back when it was just an iPhone app. While the price seemed right, the idea of using my finger and playing a great looking game like Hector on such a small device was totally a detriment to its enjoyment. Luckily that has all changed with a PC/MAC as well as iPad version now available. I’m still more partial to the PC/MAC though. I just don’t think gaming should go all touch just yet. There’s something about a controller/mouse/keyboard that just feels right and I see no need to re-invent the wheel. People always try to reinvent the wheel. The wheel works. You can add to it, make it funky, add concepts to it, but to re-invent it? There’s no point. That’s my opinion of course.
Let us get back to HECTOR: BADGE OF COURAGE for now, as that is the crux of this article. Everything in this game, like in most pop-culture is going to be a thing where you’ll either like it or not. There’s a definite market for everything in this game and it makes no excuses. The art reminds me a lot of Total Drama, which a very good thing. The writing is very… well, British. Not actually British though, but Irish. It’s a very raunchy, yet clever type of humor. Think South Park meets “Have You Been Served?”… or say American Dad meets Black Adder. Irreverent, unusual, and just downright “what the?” kind of jokes that also therefore becomes clues.
Here’s an example and a spoiler: Blind man needs sex doll to give you info. You put a dead junkie in a box and trade junkie for a sex doll. You assume the dead junkie will sell pretty quickly and the man behind the counter seems quite excited, even if he did trade you the floor model of the sex doll.
That is just an example of the weird and wild writing you’ll find in the game. The puzzles get crazier and more convoluted as you go along. Yet, despite the complexity it all somehow makes sense. Okay, that’s a lie, like most adventure games of yore very little makes sense. It’s funny though and if you think obscurely, you get obscureness and that in my book is a good thing.
At $10, you get great animation, hilarious adventures, wacky voice acting (all by ONE person, which is a feat in itself) and a thorough and funny walkthrough system if you’re totally lost and just want to enjoy the story like it was a cartoon instead of a game. It was actually originally conceptualized as a cartoon so I don’t really think its cheating even if the game acts like it is.
It’s a totally worthwhile pick-up for those who truly like what I’ve described here. If raunchy humor, complex and sometimes obvious yet perplexing puzzles and cutesy artwork isn’t your thing, then stay away. Actually, naw, just do it anyway… or not… whatever, pussy.
extra info: This article and opinion was based on a review copy of HECTOR, provided by Telltale for sole purposes of review and promotion. Even without the review copy I’d want it and probably beg people to give me the $10, cause I can be cheap.