Archive for May, 2012

> OPEN BOX

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

“You find… A bundle!”

The whole indie bundle movement exploded about two years ago with the smashing hit Humble Bundle. Since then, this phenomenon has grown to unexpected proportions with roughly one new bundle being offered each month. Indie Royale, Indie Gala, Indie Facekick Bundle (notice a trend?) and others have jumped on the bandwagon with intriguing offerings and a recurring feature: an extremely low entry price which increases over time, combined with a pay-what-you-want model.

BundlakosThere’s a new kid on the block, though, and it’s called Bundle In A Box. With so many (by now) established offerings out there, a newcomer should at least make an effort to differentiate itself from the rest. Well, Bundle In A Box (from now on BIAB) does muc

h more than that. It has FIVE unique features:

1) Price goes down over time. Yup. As of this writing, the current minimum is $1.59, which is nothing short of a steal for all these games.

2) It’s a thematic bundle in a sense all the games share a common trait: in this case, they’re all adventures.

3) For the first time ever, a game is exclusively debutting in a bundle (The Sea Will Claim Everything). Note that BIAB is currently the only way to acquire this game, so it’s definitely exclusive.

4) Also, it marks the first time a piece of Interactive Fiction is featured in a bundle.

5) Finally, it’s the first indie bundle that doesn’t have the “indie” word in its title.

However, bundles live and die by their games and none of the above features would mean anything if the included titles are bad. Fortunately, BIAB does really feel like opening a box full of neat surprises. Let’s see why…

Gemini Rue

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Chances are you heard about Gemini Rue (from now on GR). If you haven’t, then I must beg you to come out from under that rock because there’s a brave new world waiting for you. GR is one of the most remarkable adventures released in the past few years and one that pushed the venerable and highly popular AGS engine to its limits (at least until Resonance is released). Yes, it’s low-res, but mark my words: this is hands down the most atmospheric low-res game ever created. In fact, I bet it would lose its charm in high resolution.

Obviously influenced by Blade Runner and other Sci-Fi stories, GR weaves a complex storyline with excellent puzzles and writing. It deservedly garnered lots of acclaim and, if you’re remotely interested in adventure games, this is a must play. Do the low-res graphics turn you off? Grow up. You can thank me later.

Ben There, Dan That!

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Or BT,DT!. Actually part of a series later continued by Time Gentlemen, Please! (TG,P!). I must confess I hadn’t played these until this bundle arrived, and I owned them on Steam. In a word: WOW. In 112 words: this game is a riot. It never ceases to parody typical quirks of the adventure genre and itself, and because of that this is one of the most self-aware titles that I played in a long time. The story is nuts: it involves aliens, time travel, and talking dinosaurs. Developed by a couple of deranged brits (incidentally, the same ones starring the game), BT,DT! features a very surreal sense of humor that probably won’t appeal everybody and can be quite offensive at times, but who cares, we’re in the XXI century and in the Internet of all places, so you’re probably way over being offended. That is, unless you play…

TG,P!

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I’m not sure what I was expecting (probably anything) but this game is WAY out there. It’s better and more of everything: an even more outrageous story involving Hitler’s obsession with coathangers, clever puzzles that at the same time somehow manage to make you feel like an idiot, witty writing, and the humor… oh, the twisted humor. Sexist, racist jokes and gratuitous violence run aplenty; the writers didn’t shy away of smashing every taboo with the force a sledgehammer. As far as I know, this is the only game that allows you to pick Hitler’s bloody feces with a skeleton arm. And it gets worse. With endlessly quotable lines such as “cheerio, wobbly knockers”, I loved every degenerate moment of this fun adventure. It’s been a while since I laughed so much with a game.

1893: A World’s Fair Mystery

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Or 1:AWFM. Still annoyed by GR‘s low-res graphics? Listen, in my day we used to play with TEXT. You typed and the computer responded with words. The only graphics were imagined in the canyons of your mind, with glial cells like clouds and neurons like electrical storms. Those were good times, long before the device that destroyed adventures was created: the evil mouse.

But I’m digressing: 1:AWFM is a most excellent specimen of this prehistoric genre that still endures thanks to a very hard working community. It’s not for faint of heart, however: even to the most dedicated IF player, this is one very demanding game. Huge setting, exhaustive descriptions, an extremely non-linear experience, and lots of note taking required. An interesting aspect about this adventure is that it’s based after a real fair held in Chicago in 1893. In this sense it’s an educational game since the creator went to great lengths to reproduce the experience of attending this fair, adding a layer of mystery involving a diamond theft on top. In fact, you could ignore the main plot altogether, treat the game as simply a virtual tour of this uniquely historical setting, and it still would be fun. If you’re observant, you’ll notice on that screenshot that there are a few graphics to enhance the atmosphere. 1:AWFM is regularly sold for $20 (you do the math) and boasts dozens of hours of gameplay, if you’re up to the task.

The Sea Will Claim Everything

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Or TSWCE. Jonas Kyratzes broke into the indie scene a decade ago with Last Rose In A Desert Garden, even before the term “indie” was coined in games. Since then he has produced a dozen titles, very unconventional and mostly story based, that have become small treasures among indie adventures. TSWCE is his first commercial one and, as I said before, an exclusive launch in BIAB. This is a game of understated beauty that plays like a strange dream you once had. Again, an experience that demands attention but is very rewarding as you untangle the mysteries, first of Underhome and its quirky inhabitants, then Isle of the Moon and beyond into the Lands of Dreams. I’m not sure what will be the price of TSWCE when BIAB is over, but I would handsomely pay for it, especially when its developer has been giving away free games for so long. Mention apart deserves the soothing and inspired music by Chris Christodoulou. These Greeks really know their stuff. I’ll be damned if they don’t deserve the support.

The Shivah

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Yup, you’ve guessed it: TS. The shortest game in the bundle is a creation by Dave Gilbert of Blackwell saga fame. It might be short, but it’s among the most compelling titles as you take the role of an unlikely protagonist: a Jewish Rabbi! Talk about a first. But this isn’t a cop out premise as you become embroiled in a murder case and its unexpected ramifications. I was amazed by how much story and development Dave managed to effortlessly include into little more than two hours, but he pulled it off with excellent results. By the end of the story you have taken critical moral decisions and know more about the Rabbi than most protagonists in current games. A small gem that deserves recognition.

Metal Dead

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Or Metal Dead. There are two things you should know about this game: it has heavy metal and zombies. In some ways similar to BT,DT!, namely its interface, style, and the fact that two friends are the protagonists, even if one of them is dead, Metal Dead is another zany, fun adventure that is a pleasure to play. Immediately accessible (its story kicks off with a bang as you’re victim in a car crash less than five minutes into the game) and quickly paced, this is the first effort by a small studio and they passed the test with flying colors. With loads of gore and comedy, topped with delightful writing, Metal Dead is the perfect closure to this eclectic, yet remarkable selection of games.

Rounding up the offering are soundtracks and booklets of select titles. I should clarify that the last two games are only available to those that beat the average of $5.58. Considering that any of these games is at the very, VERY least worth $5, you’d be missing out on an incredible offer if you pass. It should be also noted that, as is mostly the case with bundles of the sort, some proceedings go to charity.

Every bundle I’ve seen so far has at least one lousy game no one cares about, but this is not the case with BIAB since each one is a winner. And best of all: they’re adventures which, as we all know, is the best game genre around. It would be a huge oversight from my part if I don’t mention Konstantinos Dimopoulous, known among the interwebs as “Gnome” (of Gnome’s Lair fame no less), who spent many sleepless nights to make this happen.

To recap: BIAB includes GR, BT,DT!, TG,P!, 1:AWFM, TSWCE, TS and Metal Dead. That’s five games for $1.59 if you’re a cheap bastard, and seven for $5.58 if you break the piggy bank.

Be cool. Support those guys:

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