Xenonauts – Compatibility

Xenonauts Title Screen

Xenonauts Title Screen

System Requirements

Linux

Operating System: Ubuntu 14.04 or greater, Linux Mint 17 or greater
Processor: 2 GHz x86 or greater
Memory: 1 GB RAM
Video: SDL Compatible Video Card, 1280×720 resolution or greater required.
Hard Disk: 3 GB

These packages are required:
libc6:i386
libasound2:i386
libasound2-data:i386
libasound2-plugins:i386
libsdl2-2.0-0:i386 and dependencies.

Mac OS X

Operating System: Mac OS X 10.7 or greater
Processor: 2 GHz x86 or greater
Memory: 1 GB RAM
Video: 1280×720 resolution or greater required.
Hard Disk: 3 GB

Windows

Operating System: Windows Vista or greater
Processor: 2 GHz x86 or greater
Memory: 2 GB RAM
Video: 512 MB DirectX 9.0c Compatible Video Card, 1280×720 resolution or greater required.
Hard Disk: 3 GB

Ubuntu 16.04

The GOG version of Xenonauts appears to run natively with no issues in Ubuntu 16.04.

Xenonauts – Linux, Mac OS X 10.10, and Windows 10 Game First Impressions

Xenonauts Title Screen

Xenonauts Title Screen

It was in the summer time, likely 1996. My best friend was an only child and seemed to have a great knack for talking his mother into buying him computer games from the bargain bin section of whatever store they happened to be shopping in. During this particular week, he and his mom were shopping at Tuesday Morning and he was able to purchase a game neither one of us had ever heard of, but the box cover sure looked interesting. It was a game for MS-DOS and because of its outrageous memory allocation requirements, he couldn’t figure out how to get it to work with his family’s computer system. Since both of his parents worked full-time, he came over a lot during the summer, and one day he brought the game with him to my house to see if I could get it to work on my system. After building a special custom boot disk to boot into a favorable DOS environment to run the game, we both experienced our first contact with the game called X-COM: UFO Defense.

Select Your Main Base

Select Your Main Base

X-COM: UFO Defense is a strategy game, developed by Mythos Games and released in 1994 by MicroProse, that combines real-time strategy with turn-based tactics. The player is tasked with creating and managing the global defense force protecting Earth from hostile invasion by extra-terrestrials. The player must spend their budget wisely purchasing aircraft to intercept and shoot down UFOs. They must hire soldiers to go on missions to eliminate the threat of downed alien spacecraft and to retrieve valuable alien technology. And they are also responsible for hiring and managing scientists to research new technologies to create weapons comparable to the ones the aliens carry.

Intercepting UFOs

Intercepting UFOs

Xenonauts, a game developed and published by Goldhawk Interactive in 2014, seems to have been created to recapture the same vein of nostalgia I had from when I used to play X-COM: UFO Defense with my best friend in the mid-1990s. The game developers state that the game is not meant to be a clone of X-COM, and it is not, but the spirit of that original game is certainly alive and present here. Gamers who played X-COM: UFO Defense will feel at home when selecting their beginning base site, managing their initial base, sending planes out to intercept UFOs and sending out a team of soldiers to investigate a UFO crash landing site.

Close Encounter Shot to the Face

A Close Encounter Shot to the Face

When playing through Xenonauts for the first time, I noticed it seemed to appear very spartan for the year it was released. No cutscenes or rich animations were employed, and I have been unable to find an actual tutorial on how to play the game as far as I can tell. With X-COM: UFO Defense a player had to rely on the manual. Without the manual it was easy to lose very quickly. Maybe Xenonauts was designed to cater to the more mature PC gamer who is used to reading a thick manual to get the most of their strategy game’s mechanics. There are tool-tips that pop up the first time a player accesses any new screen, however, so the player doesn’t have to fly completely blind. I realize having had played X-COM: UFO Defense as a child, I am not much of a newcomer to the genre, but without reading a manual or following a tutorial, I was able to intercept two UFOs and successfully complete my first mission to retrieve alien artifacts from my first downed UFO. There is also a Xenopedia that serves as an in game online help resource while playing.

UFO Secured

UFO Secured

Upon further research, it appears Xenonauts was actually the product of a Kickstarter campaign that was able to raise the sum of $154,715 from 4,668 backers according to Wikipedia. This is an impressive amount, but far from the budget of a AAA studio. With this information to place things in perspective, what the developers of Xenonauts were able to accomplish with this game is impressive. The musical score is complex, easy to listen to, and fits the atmosphere of the game. The sound effects are rich and fit within their contexts as well. While the animations and graphics are simple, no extra imagination is required on the part of the player to discern what they are looking at on the screen at any given moment.

Research Alien Technology

Research Alien Technology

Goldhawk Interactive allowed partial access to the Xenonauts source code which resulted in the creation of Xenonauts: Community Edition, a mod for the Xenonauts game. Those with a retail copy of Xenonauts can apply the community edition mod to expand and enhance their Xenonauts game experience. I’ll try to add another article covering the community edition mod at some later point.

I had a lot of fun briefly playing Xenonauts today, moseying down memory lane. The GOG summer sale just started today. Those that visit GOG.com before June 6th can download a free copy of Xenonauts to play themselves. This is a good game. I’d recommend getting a free copy before the promotion runs out.

Zak McKracken and The Alien Mindbenders, FM Towns version – Compatibility

Zak McKracken and The Alien Mindbenders Title Screen

Zak McKracken and The Alien Mindbenders Title Screen

GOG.com Download System Requirements

Linux

Operating System: Ubuntu 14.04 or greater, Linux Mint 17 or greater
Processor: 2.0 GHz or greater
Memory: 1 GB RAM
Video: 256 MB VRAM, OpenGL compatible video card

Mac OS X

Operating System: Mac OS X 10.7.0 or greater
Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo 2GHz or greater
Memory: 1GB of RAM
Video: 64MB VRAM

Two-button mouse, or Apple mouse with Secondary Button / Secondary Click enabled recommended.

Windows

Operating System: Windows XP or greater
Processor: 1.4 GHz or greater
Memory: 512MB RAM
Video: DirectX 7 compatible 3D graphics card or greater

Ubuntu 16.04

The FM Towns version of Zak McKracken and The Alien Mindbenders offered by GOG.com works flawlessly from within ScummVM on my Ubuntu 16.04 machine.

Zak McKracken and The Alien Mindbenders – FM Towns Game First Impressions

Zak McKracken and The Alien Mindbenders Title Screen

Zak McKracken and The Alien Mindbenders Title Screen

Zak McKracken and The Alien Mindbenders is a graphical adventure game initially released in 1988 for MS-DOS and later released to the FM Towns system in 1990. Developed and published by Lucasfilm Games, it is the second game after Maniac Mansion to use the SCUMM engine developed by Lucasfilm for use in most of their adventure games during the late 1980s and throughout the end of the 1990s. This makes Zak McKracken an interesting adventure title. While it has many of the elements and style of future adventure game classics such as Full Throttle and the Monkey Island series, it’s also a little rough around the edges and lends itself to brute force trial and error gameplay on the part of the player, a feature of most adventure games of its time.

Zak McKracken and The Alien Mindbenders was one of those games that fans of LucasArts adventures had in their collection generally solely because it was a LucasArts adventure game. The LucasArts catalog would be provided in any retail boxed copy of LucasArts games such as The Dig or Maniac Mansion II: Day of the Tentacle. Flipping through the catalog, knowing how much fun it was to play the other titles, gamers would see an ad for Zak McKracken and couldn’t resist given that it was, “From the makers of The Secret to Monkey Island!”. That’s how I wound up playing this game as a child.

While the word that sums up my memories of The Secret of Monkey Island was, “Amazing,” the word that sums up my recollections of Zak McKracken and The Alien Mindbenders was, “Fun.” I remembered it wasn’t as colorful, having been developed in EGA 16 color mode, but it had that Lucasfilm/LucasArts feel to it that made it charming and the aliens were funny. I saw the game on sale on GOG.com a while ago. I had to get it to complete my collection of these graphical adventure games from this era.

I don't want to work here, please fire me already and get this game over with.

I don’t want to work here, please fire me already and get this game over with.

I have been on a Linux kick recently given that my Windows computer has been occupied with running my business software that hogs all of its system resources. Closing all of my business applications to run a game and then opening them back up again when I’m done playing is cumbersome. Plus, I have always been a fan of the underdog operating system since I first used Caldera OpenLinux in 2001 when I installed it on one of the first computers I built. I’d like to spread the word of which games work and how well they work so other would be Linux gamers can be informed.

The SCUMM engine lent itself to being easily ported across multiple system architectures back when Lucasfilm was releasing their games on Commodore 64, Amiga, Atari ST, IBM PC, FM Towns, and other systems. Today an application called ScummVM, which can be found at www.scummvm.org, offers a virtual machine environment to play these games across multiple modern platforms: Windows 10, macOS, Linux, and many others. ScrummVM is used by GOG.com as the basis for running Lucasfilm/LucasArts adventure games downloaded from their site.

The ScummVM Menu for Zak McKracken and The Alien Mindbenders

The ScummVM Menu for Zak McKracken and The Alien Mindbenders

Running the installation script from GOG.com for Zak McKracken and The Alien Mindbenders was as easy as running a game setup program on Windows. Make sure you run the installation script without root permissions though or it will lock you out of being able to access your game once installed. A convenient link was added to my games menu that I was able to click on to run the game. ScummVM popped up and offered me two versions of Zak McKracken to play.

I blindly chose the first option and started the game. This was not the Zak McKracken and The Alien Mindbenders I remembered. The colors were way richer. Zak looked much different, and the title theme music was incredible! It was like discovering a whole new game I had never played before. Were my memories of the past so faded? How did this happen?

It's the Two-Headed Squirrel!

It’s the Two-Headed Squirrel!

In Zak McKracken and The Alien Mindbenders, the player assumes the role of Zak, a tabloid news reporter who hates his job and would rather be writing novels. The game begins with Zak whining to his boss that he’ll never get a Pulitzer prize writing “sleazy” tabloid articles when he is assigned to go to Seattle to investigate rumors of a two-headed squirrel attacking park goers in Washington State. Meanwhile, the aliens in a secret room are using a machine sending pulses through the global telephone network that are slowly making the population of Earth stupider so they can take over the world. Gameplay begins after the initial cutscene with Zak McKracken complaining to his boss. The player is then in control of Zak McKracken in his apartment preparing for his plane trip from San Francisco to Seattle.

Once again, the game looked far different from what I remembered. Not only were the graphics crisper and more vivid in color, but the expressions on Zak’s face and that of his boss were different from what I recalled. When I played the MS-DOS version I remembered it playing out like more of a sitcom, whereas this new Zak seemed way too serious and incredibly obnoxious to me. I seriously wanted to see him get fired by his boss, “Oh, you don’t want to write my ‘stupid’ tabloid articles? Fine, get out!” It was at this point that I noted something was certainly not right.

The aliens and their stupid machine. It has an effect on them too.

The aliens and their stupid machine. It has an effect on them too.

The two options of Zak McKracken and The Alien Mindbenders offered via the ScrummVM from the GOG.com download are for two different ports of the game. The second option was the MS-DOS version that came out in 1988 that I fondly remembered, while the first option was the FM Towns remake with 256-color redrawn graphics along with new and improved sound. It is amazing how a change in the graphics and sound of a game will influence my opinion of a game.

One would generally expect that better graphics and sound would lead to better gameplay. While the intro theme is indeed better and objects are easier to see and interact with in the FM Towns version, there are so many aesthetic design mistakes that make Zak McKracken and The Alien Mindbenders fall from being a classic to simply bearable retro graphic adventure. After playing it for ten minutes, the first thing you will want to do is kill the sound. Anywhere you go while in San Francisco, which is where you will be for the first 30 minutes of the game if you haven’t played it before, you’ll hear obnoxious white-noise traffic sounds with a random police siren mixed in constantly at the same volume whether you are out on the street or in your own apartment. Be careful if you pick up the phone in your apartment. Make sure you have any phone number you wish to call ready to dial, and don’t dial it incorrectly. Leaving the phone off of the receiver makes the most irritating beeping noise until you figure out how to pick up the receiver and get it hung up again. Getting to the airport to fly out to Seattle is a welcome, quiet change until you hear the airplane noises from being in the airplane.

I wonder how much clean water this plane has.

I wonder how much clean water this plane has.

While spending time in the airplane was actually the most fun I had while playing in preparation for this first impressions article, it takes way too long to fly from place to place. To pass the time I would go to the plane’s lavatory and turn on the sink, press the flight attendant’s call button, and open the overhead carry-on compartments while in flight. I never noticed the little annoying details when I played Zak McKracken as a kid. Maybe games today do a better job of quickly getting to the important gameplay.

Playing through the first portion of Zak McKracken and The Alien Mindbenders is like reading through the beginning of a novel that is slow to ramp up. People tell you its a good story if you stick with it. There are a few humorous spots that keep you somewhat engaged, the aliens seem like they would be plucky adversaries, and there is the potential love interest named Melissa that haunts Zak’s dreams. All of these things lead up to a potentially good adventure if the player can keep the desire to see it through. With so many other graphical adventure games to play, and with this one’s sounds and artwork being so abrasive, it might be awhile before I come back and complete this one.

Owlboy – Compatibility

Owlboy Title Screen

Owlboy Title Screen

System Requirements

Linux

Operating System: Any Linux variant with glibc 2.15 or greater.
Processor: Any dual core processor 32-bit or 64-bit
Memory: 2 GB RAM
Video: OpenGL 3.0 or greater supported
Hard Disk: 600 MB required

SDL_GameController devices fully supported

macOS

Operating System: Mac OS X 10.7.5 or greater.
Processor: Any dual core processor 32-bit or 64-bit
Memory: 2 GB RAM
Video: OpenGL 3.0 or greater supported
Hard Disk: 600 MB required

SDL_GameController devices fully supported

Windows

Operating System: Windows 7 or greater
Processor: Any dual core processor 32-bit or 64-bit
Memory: 1 GB RAM
Video: DirectX 10 capable graphics card required. DirectX must be version 9.0c or greater.
Hard Disk: 600 MB required

Windows 10

This game was designed for and seems to work flawlessly in Windows 10.

Owlboy – Linux, Mac OS X 10.13, Windows 10 Game First Impressions

Owlboy Title Screen

Owlboy Title Screen

Owlboy is a puzzle, platformer, two-dimensional free movement shooter released in 2016 for the Steam platform. It was developed and published by D-Pad Studio. With a rich though linear storyline like you might find in a JRPG, Owlboy blends many genres and integrates game mechanics from many types of games.

Owlboy follows the adventures of a mute owl by the name of Otis. Given Otis’ disability, he is bullied by his peers and has a hard time living up to the standards of the town leaders. Overcoming disability and standing up to bullying may turn out to be a theme throughout the game.

The game begins with the player flying around the village of Vellie getting to know the villagers and serving as a look out for pirates. The villagers inform Otis of a troublemaker who has been plaguing the town. Eventually the player explores to the point where the bully owls frighten and intimidate Otis. The local tinkerer named Geddy comes to Otis’ defense and they team up to explore together. At that point Geddy becomes part of the player’s party and Otis can pick up Geddy to fly him around.

Pew Pew, Take that Troublemaker!

Pew Pew, Take that Troublemaker!

Otis flies around using the W, A, S, D keys. Geddy has a pea shooter than can be used to shoot at enemies and objects. It is particularly effective when shooting anything that is wooden. The player uses the mouse to aim and the left mouse button to fire. Most of the game controls are well labeled on screen whenever they may be used to interact with the environment.

After all of the villagers have been greeted and another owl has been saved from bullying, Otis and Geddy encounter the town troublemaker and chase him down to a cave where the real game begins. The first area is fairly simple to navigate and serves as a tutorial to help the player learn all of the game mechanics and get used to the style of puzzle solving that will be expected later.

Spin to Break Rock, Not Wood

Spin to Break Rock, Not Wood

Geddy can be picked up and flown around and is useful for firing on enemies. His pea shooter kills most enemies I have encountered thus far and annihilates dry old tree trunks. When not carrying Geddy, Otis can use a spin attack that can only stun enemies, but can also be used to break rocks which are impervious to the Geddy’s pea shooter. It is in this area that the player learns the strengths and weaknesses of each character’s abilities. Similar to Super Mario Bros. 2, health is boosted and restored in Owlboy by pulling produce out of the ground and eating it. Whenever I have encountered something growing out of the ground, I have found it best to go ahead and eat it to get a larger health bar.

The First Boss

The First Boss

The first boss wasn’t as easy as I tend to expect a boss to be immediately following a tutorial. There was a good deal of trial and error as I worked to determine which character needed to fire in what way in order to cause the boss damage. I don’t recall seeing any health bar for the boss to indicate how much damage was being dealt, nor was there any particular difference that I could detect in the flashes that came from shooting the boss with Geddy’s pea shooter and using Otis’ spin attack.

It eventually became clear however that the first boss had armor in the front that could not be penetrated. It that had to be kicked off using Otis’ spin attack from behind. Then once the armor was off, Otis’ had to be carrying Geddy in order to shoot the boss with the pea shooter. Once I figured out the pattern, defeating the boss wasn’t at all hard, but definitely provided evidence for an interesting game going forward.

Throwing Geddy into a stone wall. This is fun.

Throwing Geddy into a stone wall. This is fun.

Upon defeating the boss, the player gains an artifact that allows them to press a button to transport Geddy to Otis’ location from wherever he happens to be. This is an extremely helpful mechanic as I was worried about losing him throughout most of the game leading up to the first boss. In many games any companion received must usually be handled with care. In Owlboy it appears you can slam Geddy against any wall or throw him off cliffs with great comedic slapstick relief and he will come back with no issue. Geddy looks fragile, but he can take a real beating.

Once Otis and Geddy get back to town after chasing the troublemaker and defeating the boss, they find the village riddled with pirates. The pirates seize an artifact that will help them attack the capital of Advent and they leave to do so. Otis’ mentor Asio leaves with the village professor to warn those at the capital while Otis and Geddy are tasked with going to the ancient Owl Temple to discover if there is a way to defeat the pirate fleet with the old owl technology.

Sky Pirates!

Sky Pirates!

Owlboy’s graphic style is reminiscent of 32-bit platformers released in the mid to late 1990s. The parallax looks phenomenal. The sound is what I would expect and suites the story. In many ways Owlboy is a typical puzzle platformer that delivers everything I would expect in a predictable manner. But just when I guess where I think it is going, it has so far surprised me with a little twist here or extra unexpected depth there. This also seems to be a good title for adolescents. The content so far seems safe while the challenge provided is worthy and not too easy. The game is rated E10+ by the ESRB, so I’ll leave that to parents to decide. I certainly have enjoyed playing Owlboy thus far, and look forward to continuing the adventures of Otis and Geddy again soon.

Passpartout: The Starving Artist – Compatibility

Passpartout: The Starving Artist Title Screen

Passpartout: The Starving Artist Title Screen

System Requirements

Linux

Processor: Intel Core i5 or better
Memory: 2 GB RAM
Video: Radeon HD 7970 or better graphics card
Hard Disk: 2 GB

Mac OS X

Operating System: Mac OS X 10.6 or newer
Processor: Intel Core i5 or better
Memory: 2 GB RAM
Video: Radeon HD 7970 or better graphics card
Hard Disk: 2 GB

Windows

Operating System: Windows 7 or newer
Processor: Intel Core i5 or better
Memory: 2 GB RAM
Video: GeForce GTX 680 or Radeon HD 7970 or better graphics card
Hard Disk: 2 GB
DirectX Version 11 required.

Windows 10

This game was designed for and seems to work flawlessly in Windows 10.

 

Passpartout: The Starving Artist – Windows 10, Linux, and Mac OS X 10.12 Game First Impressions

Passpartout: The Starving Artist Title Screen

Passpartout: The Starving Artist Title Screen

Passpartout: The Starving Artist is an artistic painter simulator with money management elements developed and published by Flamebait Games. It was released in 2017 for the Steam platform and runs on Windows, Linux, and macOS.

In Passpartout: The Starving Artist the player plays the part of an artistic painter. The player paints on an easel in a manner that appears similar to the Microsoft Paint user interface. Starting with one brush, the player must paint something worthy enough to sell to her critics in order to pay her bills. As the title “The Starving Artist” seems to suggest, as the game mounts in challenge it may be harder to sell paintings and pay the rent. This might make this the world’s first arcade painting simulation. When beginning a new game, a screen greets the player with the words Act I. I assume this means that there are multiple acts and settings to play through to the game’s completion.

Painting the Bunny

Painting the Bunny

I began my time playing Passpartout: The Starving Artist drawing my old favorite, a simple bunny. I titled my work and placed it out for the attention of the waiting public. Surprising to me, it sold rather quickly for 127 dollars. I figured I must be a natural painter born with the innate talent to produce masterpieces, so I began my next work. Once a player is satisfied with their painting, there is a button to take a screenshot of it in Steam and another button to tweet it out on Twitter for those who are so inclined.

Incredibly in my time playing, Passpartout: The Starving Artist helped me get in touch with my stream of consciousness as I let my whims guide the brush to produce meaningful colors and shapes to the canvas. Despite the necessary cheesiness of the art produced using the primitive artistic tools provided to the player by the game’s user interface, I found the game to be extremely relaxing as I was able to lose myself in the production of art from deep within my being. The game music puts you in the right mood to feel loose and creative. This game started out feeling good for my soul.

My Ego, it is Bruised

My Ego, it is Bruised

Then came the critics. Passpartout: The Starving Artist is a very realistic artist simulator in one sense. Non-player characters will walk by your works of art on display and critique, nitpicking every little thing they can. You cannot please most anyone mostly all of the time. Anyone who is not actively buying a painting is continually berating you for your misuse of color, lack of detail, grossness of style, or for selling out to the man or producing art for quick cash. The criticism also appears to be subjective. I painted a painting with every color available to me in it, and I was told that all of the colors were bad by one critic. At first it’s cute and clever, but over time it really began to grate on me. Although, this game might provide inoculation toward haters commenting online if I want to branch out and start uploading YouTube gameplay videos.

Title Your Masterpiece, Then Hopefully it will Sell

Title your masterpiece, then hopefully it will sell.

Another clever distraction for while you are painting are the news flashes that popup on the screen parodying the ridiculousness of real-life click bait encountered while browsing online. These add some humor and levity to Passpartout: The Starving Artist, but still detract the player from the relaxing focus at hand – putting art on the easel. I don’t think I have ever had so many emotions form in a short period of time from playing such a simple game. In my first hour playing I felt relaxed and free to express myself in my art, then frustration with the criticism of my work, then triumph when I would unlock a Steam achievement, then mild humor when I would read an odd news flash, and in between all these emotions boredom when I felt I had, at least in that moment, exhausted all the game had to offer.

I'm channeling my inner Bob Ross

I’m channeling my inner Bob Ross. Happy little trees.

As I stated earlier, Passpartout: The Starving Artist provides the player with only one type of brush to begin play with. As the player sells paintings and progresses they may unlock other brush types. Perhaps I don’t have the most artistic mind after all, but I frequently would reach moments in the game within the first hour of gameplay where I wondered if I had just seen everything the game had to offer. Shortly after having such a thought, I would unlock an achievement or unlock a new brush, but such things were not quite enough to keep the thoughts of the game’s minimalist nature at bay.

While there were elements to Passpartout: The Starving Artist that I really enjoyed in the time I played it, I wonder if I could get similar results by putting on some soothing music on my stereo, fire up Microsoft Paint, and get busy producing works of art with the full set of brushes unlocked without all the noisy, nosy critics. While the game itself is currently $9.99 on Steam, the original sound track is priced at $4.99. It might be more of a deal to have the soundtrack and supply your own paint program. Passpartout: The Starving Artist is a fun enough game, I think I would buy it in a heavily discounted Steam sale knowing what I know about it now.

Aviary Attorney – Compatibility

Aviary Attorney Title Screen

Aviary Attorney Title Screen

System Requirements

Windows

Operating System: Windows 7, 8, or 10
Memory: 3 GB RAM
Hard Disk: 500 MB

Mac OS X

Operating System: Mac OS X 10.7 and above
Memory: 2 GB RAM
Hard Disk: 500 MB

Windows 10

This game was designed for and works flawlessly in Windows 10.

Aviary Attorney – Windows 10 and Mac OS X 10.11 Game First Impressions

Aviary Attorney Title Screen

Aviary Attorney Title Screen

Aviary Attorney was developed and published by Sketchy Logic and released in 2015. When I was reading up on this game to determine if I wanted to play it, I read a review by PC Gamer that billed Aviary Attorney as a visual novel. As I played it I did receive a choose your own adventure vibe, but as the game’s title indicates, this is a light legal sim set in 1840’s France.

The player takes the role of Monsieur JayJay Falcon. At the beginning of Aviary Attorney, Monsieur Falcon is greeted by his apprentice Monsieur Sparrowson who reads Falcon his daily mail. The letter they received is from Seigneur Purrtoir Demiaou requesting legal services on behalf of his daughter, Dame Caterline, who had been charged with the murder of Monsieur Grenwee at a dinner party they all had attended the night prior.

Black Jack Mini-game with Sparrowson

Black Jack mini-game with Sparrowson

Many role-playing games have a mechanic by which the backstory is told at the beginning of the game and then the player is greeted with a dialog asking them whether they would like to accept the quest presented to them. I have never understood this mechanic since selecting the negative option indicates the player would rather not play the game, and choosing the affirmative option is really the only logical way in which the game progresses. Aviary Attorney employs this same mechanic. Sparrowson asks Falcon if he will take on Dame Caterline’s case. A dialog greets the player. The player may choose “Of course!” or “Nope.” I chose “Nope.” to see what would happen.

Monsieur Sparrowson chided me briefly for not taking the lucrative case, but when I stuck to my guns through another presented dialog he offered instead to play a game of cards with me. Apparently I had unlocked a mini-game of Black Jack that I played briefly with Sparrowson playing as the computer player. Once I had confirmed that I understood the rules of the card game, Sparrowson made a wager with me. If he won, I would have to take Dame Caterline’s case. If I won, I could choose from a list of three mildly devastating scenarios to happen to Sparrowson. I made the wager and then handily lost the next round of play. It appears that once the wager is made the card game is rigged such that the player will always lose and be forced to then take Dame Caterline’s case – a clever use of this traditional role-playing game mechanic.

City Map Screen

City Map Screen

Each case taken on by the player in Aviary Attorney is broken up into a number of days. In the first case there are three days prior to the beginning of the trial. Each day, the player is greeted with a map of the city along with a series of known locations relevant to the case. Locations with a watch face next to them indicate a location that will take a full day to visit. Locations without a watch face may be visited prior to a location with a watch face without time passing to a new day.

I spent my first day visiting the Conciergerie Prison to meet with my client Dame Caterline and get all the information I could for the case. From there I received two additional leads, to the studio of the photographer who was invited to take photographs at the party in which Monsieur Grenwee met his untimely demise, and to the scene of the crime at Baron Rorgueil’s manor where the party took place. Both locations showed a watch face beside them on the map which seemed perfect since I had two days prior to Caterline’s trial.

A Dialog Menu

A Dialog Menu

I decided first to visit the photographer, Monsieur Robittio de Robinio, to discuss the photograph he had made on the night of the crime. Upon arriving at his studio, I found a note on his door indicating he had left for the day. I knocked on the door anyway, but there was no answer. Falcon and Sparrowson had a bantering dialog back in forth in which they were debating what to do. If they left, a day would be wasted in which the player would not be able to return. Provided in the dialog was the illegal option of breaking into the photographer’s studio and snooping around. I chose that option to see what would happen, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Aviary Attorney is a fantastic repository of clever quick witted humor and terrible puns. Sparrowson is the primary source of such comedy, but all of the players are well drawn and play their parts marvelously. This game is comedic through and through, I laughed frequently had couldn’t stop smiling throughout the initial time I have played it.

Investigation Mode - Searching for Evidence

Investigation Mode – Searching for Evidence

When the player visits a location, they are able to search through the environment looking for clues and evidence relevant to their case. These items are then compiled and written down into an evidence folder that may be used later in the court room. On the final day before the trial, I examined the grounds of Baron Rogeuil’s manor and talked to him and his housekeeper. It was discovered that his housekeeper was a kleptomaniac and had been stealing the Baron’s silverware. This led the dinner guests to have to eat without utensils on the night of the murder. These details helped me later at trial to inform the jury why Dame Caterline had blood on her hands and mouth when she had eaten a rare steak at the dinner party.

The player may choose which statements from the witness to cross examine.

The player may choose which statements from the witness to cross examine.

When the trial day had arrived, not only did my character Monsieur Falcon feel overwhelmingly unprepared, but I did as well. Aviary Attorney had already by this point in the first case remarkably immersed me in the world presented. The trial began in which using the evidence I had gathered the previous two days I daftly struck down the accusations presented by Rupert Rabbington, the prosecutor. After a witness has given their testimony on the stand, the player may question them based on that testimony. It is up to the player to decide how to proceed, and there is a great deal of dialog that won’t go anywhere. The jury will get frustrated with the defense if their time is wasted, so attempting to match the evidence to the testimony and questions asked will achieve the greatest results. Each time a biting piece of evidence is presented by Falcon that refutes the claims of the prosecution there is a pause and then the evidence is delivered with beaming rays shooting from Falcon across the screen. It was a comical and satisfying moment each time I did it.

Ate a Bloody Rare Steak! (Plot thickens.)

Ate a Bloody Rare Steak! (Plot thickens.)

Now that I have won my first case and Dame Caterline has been pronounced not guilty by the jury in her case, I am excited about playing the remaining cases in Aviary Attorney to see if I can complete the game. Aviary Attorney seems to be a good game to play after a long day. It will make you laugh and doesn’t require too much thinking. However, there is a decent bit of potential intellectual challenge when entering the court room to keep the player engaged. The background music chosen for the game is on point with the 1840’s setting, along with the drawn animations and artwork and the fonts used for dialog. Aviary Attorney is thus far a stellar game; I’m happy to have it in my collection.