by Jamie Downes
Developer – Big Finish Games
Genre – Casual Adventure (Mystery/Suspense)
Released – 2009
Synopsis – With the help of a tarot reader, a young woman must gain access to the locked off memories that hold the key to her survival.
3 Cards to Midnight tells an engrossing story. The problem however, is that it rarely invites the player to become involved in it. While hardly surprising given that the game is a casual adventure by design, it nevertheless leaves one frustrated by just how little of its potential is fulfilled.
The primary gameplay mechanic is an interesting attempt at providing a more intellectual challenge than casual titles generally offer, albeit one that is botched into insignificance by a combination of indistinct visuals and a complete absence of item descriptions. Indeed, the idea is to select the items on screen that best associate with a given keyword – clearly problematic when you haven’t the slightest clue what you’re looking at. The static viewpoint of each location provides further disappointment, as the freedom to explore (like in a conventional adventure game) would have propelled 3 Cards to Midnight to inordinately greater heights in terms of both enjoyment and immersion. The one saving grace as far as the gameplay is concerned are the logic puzzles. Generally relevant to the story, they offer a degree of involvement in what is otherwise a series of non-interactive cut-scenes. Absorbing cut-scenes they may be, but if this is to be judged as a film, then it’s far too short with way too many breaks in the narrative.
Despite all the reasons to be disappointed by 3 Cards to Midnight, it is not an effort to pass up on without further thought. The story is worthy of a much better overall package, and if you can cope with the nagging irritation of what might have been, you’ll probably enjoy it while it lasts.
by Jamie Downes
Author – Bill Myers
Genre – Adventure
Published – 2012
Length – 233 Pages
Synopsis – A man begins a more spontaneous new life after his wife files for divorce, setting off on a road trip across America with a cat named Mango Bob.
There may not be a better one-word description of the bizarrely titled Mango Bob, the tale of an unremarkable American man, admirably coping with the imperfect cards life has suddenly thrust upon him. There’s not a great deal more to it, but that’s the beauty of the beast. It doesn’t weave a complex mystery, draw an intense emotional response or provide laugh-out-loud humour. It neither wants nor needs to. What it does, is offer a refreshing change of pace and a procedural style of first person narrative that is strangely compelling and perfectly suited to such a laid-back story. It undoubtedly suffers from character inconsistencies, a frivolous, undetailed approach to key scenes, and a rushed, throwaway ending, but Mango Bob retains a certain easy-going charm that allows these things to be mere irritating bugs on the windshield rather than a big red stop sign terminating the reader’s enjoyment.
It has its problems, and in truth I could understand if they were to render the previous line untrue for some, but Mango Bob’s no thrills account of a likable protagonist starting a new chapter in his life is a thoroughly enjoyable one. Sure, there are some plot twists along the way, but it’s really the felicitous simplicity that allows Mango Bob to shine, and it’s this that will be responsible for my own inevitable return to the series in the future.