Saturday, September 12, 2020

I Can Take A Hint













As Flosch pointed out in the comments, Trüberbrook was actually last month's free adventure game on Amazon Prime. Or something. It wasn't available to download any more by the time I wrote my post, anyway. 

There's an adventure game most months, or it seems like it. Good for me.Apart from rpgs (mmo or regular), adventure games are about the only video games I really enjoy.

This month's free adventure game on Prime is The Inner World, also available for £11.99 on Steam, although since you could sub to Prime for £7.99 and then cancel you'd have to be pretty crazy to pay that much. Except, oh no, wait, that won't work... it was free, but only until 11 September! So now you do have to pay for it after all.

We've all been there, right?



Seriously, are they trying to make it difficult? It used to be so simple. Just four or five games each month, for a month. Now look at this list for September, courtesy of Gamespot

If you parse that, (thirty-two games in all) you can see the original five free games per month are still there, available all month and only this month. Then there's some obvious tie-in with SNK, whoever they are, where you can get what's probably ever game they ever made (twenty-two of them and not one I'd take for free) any time from the start of September through 'til the end of March next year.

Finally, and crucially, there are four "bonus games", all of which you can have for nothing from the beginning of the month, only each of them drops out, week by week in turn throughout September, until the last one's gone by 2 October. Most of those same "bonus games" were also bonuses in August, as was Trüberbrook, which doesn't even appear on Gamespot's September list, even though I installed it on 4 September. Then again, maybe I confirmed it in Augusrt and didn't get around to downloading it until later...

I 'm going to have to do a whole lot more fact-checking before I post about these things in future. Recommending something that's free is one thing but £11.99 is very much another and £24.99, which is what Trüberbrook is currently going for on Steam, is something else again.

I'm not sure that's technically accurate.

Those are not unreasonable prices by any means but I wouldn't pay them. I'm only playing both games because they come free with a service I already pay for and use. Then, I'm really enjoying both of them, so does that make sense? Shouldn't I be more pro-active? Seek out games like this and buy them immediately, rather than passively wait for Amazon or some other subscription service to throw them my way?

Yes, well, maybe. And maybe not. I am enjoying them but my enjoyment is qualified, significantly, by the fact I didn't have to pay for them. That has a lot to do with both of them being adventure games. It's a genre I claim to like - and I do - but it's also one I find problematic at times. Most of the time, really.

I've been playing adventure games on and off since the very early eighties. In all those years I'm not sure I've ever finished one without a walktrhrough. In the days before the worldwide web, when I bought my adventure games on cassette and played them on a ZX Spectrum, there were no walkthroughs unless maybe a magazine printed one or there was a hint sheet you could send off for, either of which might take weeks to turn up, by which time I'd be playing something else and wouldn't care any more. 

Back then, when I got stuck, and I always would, that was it. I didn't finish the game at all. I just bought another and played that until I got stuck again. And so on.

Who didn't?

It made buying adventure games an ambivalent process. I'd be excited at the prospect of a new game and for a while I'd have a really good time, problem-solving and exploring. And then I'd bog down on some puzzle I couldn't fathom and I'd get frustrated and fed up and the game would go on a shelf and never be played again. 

If I'd made it a good way through I wouldn't really mind. The stories were generally not so good you'd care whether or not you ever found out how they ended. It was always more about the process than the content. If I'd gotten stuck before I'd really got going, though, I'd feel I'd been ripped off, somehow, even though it was as likely to be my fault as the game's that I couldn't work out what I was supposed to do next.

The arrival of free, instantly available walkthroughs effectively removed the issue of buying something I'd never be able to finish but it brought with it another set of problems all its own. Once you start resorting to a walkthrough to play an adventure game you can't help but notice that what you're really doing is watching a very badly-paced movie or reading a very stilted and awkward book. 

You never think of these things until it's too late, do you?

For me, playing an adventure game these days is a balancing act. I try to avoid using walkthroughs as much as possible. The further I get without having to look anything up, the better I feel about the game and my experience playing it. When I get stuck I try to figure it out for myself but only up to the point where I start getting annoyed. 

At that moment I do one of two things: stop playing or consult a walkthrough. Taking a break sometimes allows my brain to reset. When I come back to the game the next day I won't necessarily slip back into the same groove. I may see something I'd missed or think about the situation from a different angle. Stopping like that is a risk, though. Sometimes I just never come back to the game at all.

Going for the walkthrough is more likely to keep me pushing on through but it, too, has risks. I try to skim-read so as to do no more than catch the hint of an idea that pushes me over whatever hump I'm caught on. Oddly, games that have actual hints built in really irritate me. Go figure.

Pretty much the whole genre right there.

If I can finish an adventure game while skipping through the walkthrough like a stone across water, I'll end up satisfied. If I find myself having to read paragraph after paragraph of instructions or, god forbid, watch a YouTube video every time the game moves to a new scene, the whole thing starts to feel pointless in the extreme. 

I played The Inner World for the first time today, for a couple of hours. There's a lot I like about it. It's visually appealing, it's well-written, it's funny and the voice acting is mostly excellent. The controls are very comfortable, too, which always helps. 

The puzzles are of the middling kind. So far most of them have what I'd call fair video-game logic. Clearly anyone who tried to do almost anything that happens in an adventure game in real life would find themselves detained for their own safety in short order but action in The Inner World does have the necessary internal consistency to make sense in context. 

So far I would estimate I've been able to solve about two thirds of the problems myself and of the remaining third I generally have the correct solution, I just haven't been able to put together all the necessary intermediate steps. Only a couple of times have I had to say "well, that would never happen!".

I'll take "Things a psychopath would say" for $500

I've had to use a walkthrough a few times but it's been interesting to see that the solutions suggested aren't necessarily the solutions I've ended up using. There seems to be plenty of flexibility in what order things can be done, which is good design.

Even though I'm well within my personal tolerance for acceptable interventions, though, using the walkthrough has made one aspect of the game even harder to ignore than it would otherwise have been: The Inner World really would work better as an animated cartoon than a game.

Or possibly a radio play or a podcast. There's an awful lot of of dialog. A big part of the gameplay is talking to characters multiple times about multiple topics. It's fun because, as I said, the writing is good and the voice acting better. What's not so great is that the majority of my time is spent either clicking to make someone say their next line or sitting back and listening to them say it.

Trüberbrook, by contrast, isn't as well-written or as funny and the voice acting isn't as good but it's a better adventure game. There's a more even balance between the watching and listening part and the gameplaying part. The difficulty of the puzzles is also pitched almost precisely in my comfort zone. I'm about halfway through now, I think, and I haven't had to use a walkthrough once. Ok, once. Just the tiniest glance that confirmed I was doing the right thing already. Hardly even counts.

I'd recommend both games. They're each strong, fun experiences. Would I pay to play them, though?

Nope. But then I don't have to, do I? 

This is the modern world. No one has to pay for fun any more.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Wider Two Column Modification courtesy of The Blogger Guide