by Jamie Downes
Developer – Bjorn ‘Ghost’ Ludwig with music by Mark ‘Mods’ Lovegrove
Genre – Point-and-Click (humour)
Released – 2011
Synopsis – Having been dead for five years, Janet Burdie is woken from her slumber with a chance to right a wrong by the ‘Unfinished Business Departedment’.
With streams of mediocrity dominating the here-and-now, nostalgia, it seems, is a point-and-click adventure fan’s most treasured, and sometimes only, worthwhile gaming experience. Occasionally however, a new title crops up that demonstrates a superior understanding of the genre and a glimmer of hope for a positive future. Those making adventures need not reinvent the wheel – and let’s be honest, they rarely try to – but what they must do is understand why the greats of the past are remembered more fondly than the also-rans. Chance of the Dead developer, Bjorn ‘Ghost’ Ludwig gives every indication that he does understand. The German’s fairly hastily made effort – available to download free of charge – is not merely a lament to the fallen, but a fantastic example of why the fallen must get up and stand tall, preferably marching but more likely lurching into the path of the clueless with swords and insults at the ready.
You see, capturing the magic of early nineties Lucas Arts has proven impossible for many, but Chance of the Dead does so with a comforting ease that makes one wonder why those developers with a budget to blow have so often missed the mark. Clocking in at somewhere between the thirty-minute and one-hour mark, it’s admittedly a short game by comparison, yet the warmth it fills you with is of far greater worth than the extraneous hours spent toiling through an aesthetically polished but ultimately soulless product.
The whole experience leaves the same goofy yet lovable impression of a Day of the Tentacle or Monkey Island, but undoubtedly has a more engaging and affectionate story to accompany the similar brand of easy-going humour; the kind that’s happy to simply coax a broad smile and a chuckle. It’s good honest fun with an endearing visual style and downright superb music, both more than reminiscent of the humorous adventures heyday. There are a small handful of spelling mistakes, but that’s about as much criticism as you be required to throw at it.
Most importantly, Chance of the Dead demonstrates that the classic Lucas Arts approach to the point-and-click genre is not beyond its sell-by-date; all it needs is the right person looking after the ingredients. Yes, this game will likely make Lucas Arts fans nostalgic, but does one need to experience that nostalgia to enjoy it? Absolutely not. A full-length effort in this vein would go down a treat.
Chance of the Dead is available to download free of charge from here.
by Jamie Downes
Author – Robert Brumm Jr.
Genre – Sci-fi, Horror
Published – 2011
Length – 93 Pages
Synopsis – A remote island prison for the most heinous of criminals is exposed to a horrifying twist of fate.
Desolate is a wholly appropriate title for Robert Brumm Jr.’s debut novella, as not only does it provide a most suitable description of both the story’s ice-devoured location and self-demolished protagonist, but also a more than adequate representation of how the reader is likely to feel throughout its metaphorically mangled pages. For almost every conflict-ridden exchange between the wicked and the wretched, it seems as irrelevant as it does impossible to consciously pick a preferred victor. The consequential no-man’s land may appear to be a miserable place to observe events from, but while it’s certainly far from pleasant, it does provide a surprisingly fascinating vantage point, one that leads to an interesting moral inquisition upon the realisation that unwitting steps have moved you closer to one of whichever two evils are in opposition. The intricacies and interactions of the characters themselves do sometimes appear confined by the lack of elaboration a novella allows, but the thick, hazy atmosphere holds it all together somehow, enveloping the reader in its world of dire straits and vicious intentions.
Reading about the reprehensible element of the human race’s struggle for survival is an absorbing and sometimes challenging experience. Such is the thought provoking indecisiveness caused by its themes, the well-constructed narrative of Desolate could almost be considered a bonus.
Desolate is available to purchase as a Kindle download from Amazon UK here.
by Jamie Downes
Director – Dominique Monfery
Story & Screenplay – Anik Leray, Alexandre Reverend
Genre – Animation, Family, Fantasy
Released – 2009 (French with English dubbing)
Synopsis – A young boy must learn to read if he is to save the characters from the many children’s books read to him by his late Aunt.
“Alice always knew when she grew older she would still have the heart of a child.”
So reveals the titular character early on in Eleanor’s Secret. It’s a sentiment that too often gets almost hopelessly concealed amidst the expectations of everyday ‘adult’ life, but one that should never be discarded, as to do so would be a strange act of self-deprivation indeed. Yes, we all grow older by the second, but why should we not retain the spirit of our inner child? Why shut ourselves off from the wondrous things that life cannot offer but our imaginations can? Eleanor’s Secret is a film that exemplifies this line of questioning better than any of the CGI behemoths of modern day animation. What it lacked in budget, it comprehensively makes up for in the sweetness of its storytelling, which while Japanese-esque in its presentation, dispenses with the oddities and is purer as a result.
Underrated or ignored by many, Eleanor’s Secret is an exceptional story that should be revealed to fantasy-loving children and adults alike. It’s simple, heartfelt and lovingly easy to get lost in.
by Jamie Downes
Director – Jon Favreau
Cast – Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde
Genre – Action, Sci-Fi
Released – 2011
Synopsis – After aliens abduct several members of a wild western town, a group of cowboys head a rescue attempt to get them back.
If extremely pressed for time, labelling Cowboys & Aliens as pointless would be acceptable, although frankly, quite dishonest. Cowboys & Aliens is utterly, utterly pointless. Which is not entirely surprising of course, given that its title would look not a jot out of place on the Sci-Fi channel’s schedule of made-for-TV movies starring James Van Der Beek. Daniel Craig is in this though. So is Harrison Ford, basically playing an angry Indiana Jones reduced to a supporting role. Why either thought the premise of cowboys fighting aliens sounded worthy of their efforts is anyone’s guess. If they believed it would be so bad as to be fun they were sorely mistaken, as this is not a movie that cheekily pokes fun at either classic sci-fi flicks, or itself. Rather, it seems a genuine but painfully protracted attempt at a relatively sincere story, one told shockingly badly with more obvious plot points than an in-season allotment’s gigantism-suffering vegetable patch.
A concept this ridiculous cannot afford to take itself so seriously and expect to pull it off – not without a far superior script, at least. Utterly, utterly pointless.