Thursday, 24 January 2013

Classic Indie Game Lookback - Duty & Beyond

Duty & Beyond
Developer : Wandering Adventures
Released : 2006

With the recent return of industry legend Ron Gilbert (creator of Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion) who, this week, brings us his new adventure 'The Cave'. I found myself craving some old school 2D adventure gaming action. Having recently replayed the amazing Day of the Tentacle I turned my eyes to the indie scene and rediscovered a gem of a title that I first played back in 2006.

Duty & Beyond is a retro adventure game with a charming 8-bit visual style and a quirky tale to tell. Created with AGS (Adventure Game Studio) and winner of two awards (best gameplay and best puzzles) in the AGS 2006 awards, Duty & Beyond is a wonderful call back to the point & click adventures of the late 80's and early 90's. It's also the only game of its genre that I can find that is 2D through and through. It not only uses 2D sprites, but is set on a 2D playing field, much like a platform game. 

The game tells the story of a pizza delivery boy named Piet who, upon arriving at a strange mansion on a routine delivery, discovers that the occupant is not at home. Being the dedicated type he decides the only reasonable course of action is to break into the mansion and search for the customer. A simple puzzle grants him access to the upper floor where he finds a note from the owner that leads him on a wild goose chase through time and space. Well, a few strange locales at least. His quest takes him to a medieval village under goblin attack, a strange underwater vessel and a pyramid filled with treasures. All nicely presented in lo-fi pixelvisiontm. Indeed, the tininess of the sprites may be an issue for some, but the atmosphere and gameplay is so absorbing that you soon don't even notice it, maybe even come to love it in fact. 

The puzzles are all logical and offer just the right amount of challenge to keep the experience enjoyable, without the need to consult the internet for walk-through guides. Interacting with objects and NPCs is extremely simple and intuitive, with simple mouse clicks allowing you to view, use, pick up or talk to anything you see fit (and that the game will allow). There is also a score system which awards points for every puzzle you solve, hidden item you find and clue obtained from an NPC, some of which are not vital to the story. A perfect score, as well as finding a few optional special items along the way, will grant you a better ending, and you will probably be able to complete Piet's quest in under 5 hours or so.

The self depreciating humour, mostly delivered by Piet himself, and the various nods to classic adventure games thrown will raise a smile, and the whole game is engaging and will keep you hooked until its conclusion.