We here at QJ.NET are always on the look out for good point-and-click adventure games such as LucasArts and Telltale Games‘ Sam & Max. We were pleasantly surprised to know that Akella Games and Litera were coming out with a new one called The Bad, the Ugly, and the Sober for the PC. Much to our pleasure, we were able to give the pre-release version of this game a run through. Want to know what we found? Head on over to the full article for the complete preview.
Over the recent years, good point-and-click adventure games such as LucasArts and Telltale Games‘ Sam & Max have been few and far between. This is a shame considering all the memories we have of sleepless nights trying to get through “one more area” in Space Quest or Maniac Mansion.
We were pleasantly surprised to know that Akella Games and Litera were coming out with a new one called The Bad, the Ugly, and the Sober for the PC so we decided to take its pre-release version for a spin and see how it matches up to the games we grew up playing.
While some may assume that this is a game out of its time, older gamers saw this as a refreshing blast from the past. A modern take on the point-and-click adventure genre, if you will. Perhaps even a game that might revive interest in games which place more emphasis on the storyline rather than a test of one’s dexterity and mouse-clicking skills.
Down to the basics:
Those unfamiliar with point-and-click adventure games should know that this game requires players to explore the in-game world and find solutions for problems using items they pick up on their journey. This often requires a lot of backtracking and patience on the part of any gamer, though most fans of the genre will tell you that it is a very rewarding experience.
As we mentioned earlier, games in this genre tend to focus more on the story. We were pleased to find that The Bad, the Ugly, and the Sober has a pretty interesting one. The game places you in the shoes of Jack, a retired cowboy who was looking forward to a nice life in his twilight years. In a twist of fate, Jack saves an American Indian from a band of thugs known as Black Bill’s Gang. In retribution, the goons burn Jack’s home to the ground, leaving the protagonist broke and homeless.
Down on his luck, Jack decides he’s going to get his life back. He goes on a trip to join Westtown’s infamous bandit tournament in an effort to earn some money and rebuild his farm.
The interface and controls:
From the nature of the game itself, gamers will probably expect the interface to be rather intuitive. Simply point at what you want to look at or get and click to do so. The cursor tells you if the object can be viewed (binoculars) or tinkered with (grasping hand). To move around, simply click to an area to walk or double click to run. Scrolling to the edge of the screen will occasionally turn the cursor into an arrow allowing players to traverse to different areas of the game.
Since we were only able to get hold of a pre-release version of The Bad, the Ugly, and the Sober, it’s understandable that we experienced a few interface niggles. The first and most obvious one would be the extremely small clickable hotspots on certain items. Gamers literally have to comb over every square centimeter of the screen to find everything that can be picked up or viewed.
The second problem, albeit a minor one, is the lack of a method to keep holding on to an item as you try it on different hotspots on the screen. The control system removes the item from your cursor and returns it to the inventory the moment you click which makes hunting for the correct item combinations rather tedious.
The core gameplay:
Like most adventure games, The Bad, the Ugly, and the Sober provides gamers with a ton of puzzles that will either amuse you or make you feel like banging your head on the wall. Like the games of old, those with the patience to solve these puzzles are rewarded with a lot of witty dialogue, funny jokes, and of course, the advancement of the storyline.
We have to commend the developers of the game on the way they handled the puzzles in the game. While some can be rather difficult, we found that the solutions are always fair.
This may seem like a basic move by the developers, but we would like to point out that there are quite a number of adventure games which made it into the market that don’t follow this basic principle. The solutions to this game’s puzzles sure make a lot more sense than, say, Alone in the Dark 3‘s which had players dumping a bag of spiders into a hole to dislodge a lever. Guess how long it took us to figure that out?
Another fun thing about The Bad, the Ugly, and the Sober are the mini-games. Unlike other titles where mini-game sections seemed tacked on, the mini-games in this title tie in to the game quite well and provide a pretty good diversion from all the puzzle solving.
While The Bad, the Ugly, and the Sober has shown that it has a lot of potential, there are some features that we hope to see in the final release of the game such as a hint button and a quest log.
In this day and age of gaming, a hint button similar to that found in Professor Layton and the Curious Village would probably make the game more accessible to the younger gamers. While we’re sure that older gamers and purists would probably freak out at this suggestion, we understand that not everyone has the patience to solve some of the tougher problems in the game. It would be a shame for some gamers to miss out on this game’s engaging storyline because of one or two puzzles that stumped them.
Another thing we would have wanted to see is a list of objectives much like the quest log in Blizzard‘s World of Warcraft to complete. This would have made the game a much more casual experience and would have allowed players to actually put down the game, do their regular chores, and pop back in without skipping a beat.
In addition, the quest log would also remove much of the downtime involved in games such as this where players wander around aimlessly looking for the next task to complete.
Finally, we hope the developers can add in a feature which allows users to replay the mini-games. It would have been nice to be able to play a couple of them in between some of the tougher puzzles to break the ice.
The audio and graphics:
The sound and voice acting didn’t really impress us that much, but it was functional and didn’t really get in the way of our enjoyment of the game. That’s more than we can say about other games in the same genre which usually had us looking for the mute button after a couple of minutes of playing.
The graphics, on the other hand, were actually pretty good for an adventure game. The 3D backgrounds really show the amount of attention the developers placed into the game. Even better is the fact that this is a relatively slow-paced game, thus allowing gamers to take in the scenery. All in all, that’s not shabby at all for a point-and-click adventure.
While The Bad, the Ugly, and the Sober is good in its pre-release form, it still has room for improvement. The lack of certain features such as a hint button, quest log, as well as a few interface shortcomings keep this already solid game from being perfect. This assessment actually surprised us, considering we only had the pleasure of trying an early version of the title.
That said, the developers of this game have already done a great job with The Bad, the Ugly, and the Sober. The dialogue is witty, the screens are amazing to look at, and quite frankly, the puzzles are very well thought out. Even if the game were to be released in its unfinished state, we can honestly say that this is a nice title that fans of the point-and-click adventure genre will enjoy.