Sunday, June 12, 2011
Seems I'm a bit late to the party, as the English localization of the latest game by the makers of Edna & Harvey and The Whispered World has been finally released in the UK about a week ago or two. It's been sitting on my shelf shortly after it came out in Germany last year, but since it doesn't run on my Netbook (damn intel and their fake pixel shaders) I don't get to play it that much.
The premise to A New Beginning reminds of Twelve Monkeys, only here the world has been destroyed by global warming. So the few surviving humans send teams back into time to get their hands on the research of the aging biologist and ex-environmental activist Bent Svensson.
After a prologue with Svensson where he solves the seemingly trivial task to get his fogger running and meets the visitors from the future, the first portion of the game consists of a flashback. The future people have miscalculated the period for the global warming, and it turns out in 2050 the world is already destroyed. Almost all teams quickly die in horrible deaths, only fay and two of her colleagues survive, and she has to find a way to get to the correct time period.
Other than most modern adventure games, interaction with the environment doesn't just come down to "click on stuff or don't", as the game brings back the verbs of the good old days. It's all contextual, of course, but most of the time there are at least one or two "unneccessary" alternate actions that can be done with any object. The interface is a bit annoying, though. There's a delay to the popup-menu for the verbs, and I quit the game more than once just because I didn't want to put up with the slow interface. Could be my old computer's fault, though.
Since I'm playing the German version, I can't talk much about the voice overs, but even in the original, the writing and performane seem awkward at times, especially for Fay, who acts and talks like a little girl (that might be intentional since she's from the future and totally naive and all, but it's still unpleasant and makes the environmental message seem all the more "in your face"). The atmosphere is quite cool, though, mostly thanks to the gorgeous graphics, although every animation that isn't the standard walkign loop is very choppy.
The puzzles so far are standard fare, except for a confusing installation of a n antenna. Some are a bit too constructed — why is the key to Bent's cellar stuck behind a photo on the wall? (The answer: Because the game wants the player to notice the descriptions of the people on the photos) All that said, I do like the game, but I'm just a tiny bit disappointed after all the praise it got. Maybe I get really hooked later in the game, but I've progressed well further than an ordinary demo length so far, so the game takes at least it's pretty time to get into its gears, puzzle-wise.
I really wanted to talk about the manual, though: About a third of its space is reserved for ads. And it is awesome. Allmost all the ads are for other games by publisher Deep Silver, which are mostly adventures, so all stuff buyers of A New Beginning might actually be interested in. The whole manual is in glossy full color, with the cover designed like a vintage comic book. It even spends five pages to get players started with the solution to the first puzzle. When looking at games from other European publishers like the direct competitor dtp or EA Europe, whose games have b&w manuals even in the collector's editions, this one was really stunning. There's a definite "yay" from me for ads in game manuals, at least when done in this fashion. The game&mdahs;no "collector's edition", even—also comes with the game's soundrack on an extra CD and a folded poster. (It seems the UK version has the same package, at least judging by the product pictures on Amazon UK.)
One of the games advertised in A New Beginning's manual is Deponia, which on first glance almost looks like a parody of A New Beginning. The reason is, the whole game takes place on a giant landfill. Amazon UK lists the game for a release in October, but seeing how the game doesn't even seem to have a release date for Germany yet, that is probably just made up.
That's not all Daedalic have up their sleeves right now. Their most recent annnouncement, a tie-in with the The Dark Eye fantasy role playing world, looks even more gorgeous than everything they did before. In the role of a cursed trapper, players have to fight against their fate in front of the most brilliant hand-drawn backgrounds ever seen in an adventure game. The game titled Satinavs Ketten (Chains of Satinav) will probably still take quite a while before its finished, though.