So a quick bit of background first. Like a lot of people who have been playing games as a hobby for a significant period of time, I have a scary looking backlog of video games to get through. These games sit there on Steam, GoG, Origin and all the other places games now live digitally, silently taunting me with their presence. As the numbers grow- as the choice of what to play next grows with every purchase, my ability to choose what to play diminishes. As much as it can be a shock to trawl through the number of games you actually own or look at exactly how many hours you’ve invested into the games you have managed to play, I can only imagine how much time I’ve wasted simply scrolling through that lists numbly failing to pick something -anything at all- to playWell, no more, I say. What’s the sensible way to deal with this problem? Perhaps play the games that appeal at the time and just ignore the rest, you suggest? A valid suggestion, but not my style. No, clearly what I needed to reduce my list was another list. A list of all the games I currently own that I have either not played at all, or not invested a very significant time in. I then set up that list to randomly choose a game for me, which I will then spend a decent amount of time on. Great idea, huh? Yeah.
That leads to this. Re-View will be a series of posts that contain my thoughts on each game after playing it. There will likely be significant spoilers, so if you’re worried about me ruining the game in question, stop reading now.
The first game I drew from was Fester Mudd: Curse of the Gold – Episode 1.
Part 1 of Fester Mudd came out in November 2013, released as a single episode with the rest to follow. Unfortunately the rest didn’t follow, and the game was subsequently cancelled. This leaves Fester Mudd in a weird place. You can still buy Fester Mudd, episode 1 – it is £7 on Steam right now. But would you do that, knowing that you were investing in the first part of a series that won’t be completed?
The plot is fairly simple; Fester Mudd is tasked with finding his brother, the curiously named Bud Mudd. Bud has found some gold, and invites Fester to join him in reaping the financial reward. On arriving at the town of Loamsmouth, Fester discovers Bud has since gone missing and your ride is exhausted. The game focuses on you attempting to find a way to get out of Loamsmouth to track Bud down.
Fester Mudd: Curse of the Gold is a graphic adventure game which wears its LucasArts-laden influences on its sleeve, from obvious hallmarks such as its SCUMM-like interface and lo-res pixel art style evoking the hallowed era of 90s point and click adventure gaming, to smaller details such as the way the dialogue text is paced and the jokes are structured, and how game design and puzzles framed. Even the music echoes the style of a LucasArts game. The end result is an effective tribute, but the problem is that I often find myself then comparing the game to the old classics that it wants to be like, rather than regarding it as a standalone game in its own right. More often than not, the game comes up as a favourable facsimile, but a facsimile nonetheless, which takes something away from it.
The tone is comedic, but not zany. Again, this was the way LucasArts did it, with games such as Monkey Island and Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, silly and playful, yes, but with characters that take their circumstances seriously within the context of the fiction. Fester himself is a standard adventure game every-man, cracking wise and complaining at his circumstances. He is likeable, in as far as it’s possible to get to know him over such a short time frame, and he doesn’t get annoying like in many more recent adventure games, where the lead character is often given a acerbic personality in lieu of actual character growth or wit. Everything fits well together, delivering some amusing, genuinely laugh-out-loud moments.
The game doesn’t ever really get too taxing. The solutions to the puzzles are generally clear with a bit of lateral thinking, but are also imaginative and interesting. I found myself stuck once, for about five minutes. It was nice to note that in one particular puzzle there were a couple of different ways to complete one of the tasks, which isn’t something seen frequently in point and click games. Progress moves briskly, and as a result it’s all over in a couple of hours. The quick play time coupled with the knowledge that the game remains incomplete leaves a bittersweet feeling of something lost that may never be found. The nicest thing I can say about the game is that I would have been happy to purchase the remaining episodes and see it through to the conclusion.
This is the risk of the episodic format, and it is a real shame Fester Mudd is likely to never get its intended conclusion. We know there is some gold somewhere, and that it is cursed, because the title of the game mentions this, but we never get to see the curse in action. It works as a metaphor for the game itself. As it stands, this is a game where our hero Fester Mudd is set upon by Native Americans as a setup to the next episode, but doesn’t survive the attack. I hope, at some point in the future, that gets to change.