As of November 2012, I run music webzine A Lonely Ghost Burning.

It's all about short, positive reviews with no genre restrictions. Might be worth a try if you you like your music to feature any or all of the following characteristics;

- Distinctive Vocals

- Palpable Atmosphere

- Believable Emotion

I also write occasionally for the excellent Alternative Magazine Online and keep a far less excellent blog, Cherry Faced Fool.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Brain Hotel

Year - 2004
Length - Medium
Engine - Flash Based
Suitability Factors - N/A

It would be fair to say that Brain Hotel, a game that can be played either online in your web browser or downloaded and played from your hard-drive (as I did), took me by surprise. Written and directed by Ron 'Aalgar' Watt, and programmed by Mark Darin, Brain Hotel pretty much blew away my preconceptions about flash-based adventure games, although I doubt there are many that live up to the standards of this one.

The game is based on the developer's comic book 'Tales of the Odd', while the programmer is the man responsible for the Nick Bounty series, and the forthcoming (and very promising looking) Nearly Departed.

EDIT: Mark is now a lead writer\designer for Telltale Games, and has been heavily involved in the development of the 'Tales of Monkey Island', and 'Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People' series of games. He has also worked on some of the Sam and Max episodes.


The game had me in it's clutches right from the very start, partly because of the unique comic book introduction to the story's protagonist, but mainly because of the excellent and entertaining writing that accompanied it. I immediately had an interest in the main character and the city he lives in and was eager to learn more.

That city is Fort Burr, and the aforementioned protagonist is Ed Arnold, a down on his luck deliveryman who arrives at the Brain Hotel as it prepares to commence it's annual supervillian convention. While his initial goal is simply to deliver a parcel, Ed soon learns of one of the early arrivals evil schemes, and with minimal help from the villain's artfully rebellious robot, must set about stopping it.

The story's premise is simple, however it is clear that the gameworld is capable of producing something more involving should the developers have wanted it to. Nevertheless, the story presented is still enjoyable enough to prevent these thoughts from occurring until the game is completed.


While playing, the story's simplicity is masked by the game's overwhelming strength, it's atmosphere. I felt genuinely immersed in the gameworld, all the more surprising given the very bland and unattractive backgrounds that awkwardly contrast the style of the characters. Indeed, while the character sprites themselves look far more stylish and certainly contribute to the vibe the game gives off, it is certainly not the visuals that take responsibility for the atmosphere evoked.

Instead it is the already discussed writing of the game that does the trick. Dialogue is well written and able to maintain a style of it's own throughout the duration - although perhaps the price the player pays for this is the sometimes offbeat and random nature of it. Despite this, the game's sense of humour doesn't feel out of place with the gameworld, and only by playing the game will one know whether the humour is to their liking. It may or may not be an acquired taste, but in places I would venture to say that it at least verges on being so.

Sound plays a role in setting the atmosphere too, with excellent voice-acting and appropriate music. The speech bubbles accompanying dialog also look right at home in the comic-book universe.


The game's puzzles are mostly inventory based, and while some are clever within the gameworld, there are others for which the solution is likely to be stumbled upon rather than discovered through logical thinking (at least that's how it turned out for me). If you do get stuck, the game's writer has taken the time to draw up a progressive hints page which is similar to that used by UHS.

A lack of interactable objects certainly has a negative affect on gameplay, with certain rooms having a decidedly uninteresting array of items available to manipulate.

As for the game's length, you'll probably finish it in one go, although you may get a couple of sittings out of it depending on how quickly you're able to solve the less obvious puzzles.


A longer game based in Fort Burr with a more engrossing story would have great potential, particularly with livelier and more stylised backgrounds. Nevertheless, as it stands, Brain Hotel is still a fun game in it's own right. The bizarre comic book atmosphere is responsible for that, as is the offbeat humour. Add in some great voice-acting and you have a very enjoyable flash-based adventure game that is well worth playing. Now I wasn't sure that I'd ever be saying that!

- Great comic-book atmosphere
- Excellent voice-acting
- Strangely funny and interesting world

- Background objects sometimes sparse
- Backgrounds are bland and contrast awkwardly with character sprites
- More information about wider scope of universe would have been nice

Download for free;

Brain Hotel


  1. I've played a few of Pinhead Games' productions, though I think this one passed me by. Looks interesting, good write-up.

  2. Hmm, I read both of your comments but for some reason only one has been published - no idea why.

    Anyway, thanks! Am pretty sure you'll have heard of the next title I plan to review but we'll see.

    This is the first Pinhead Games title I've played so can't compare it's quality to the others. They look good though so will give them a go at some point.

  3. Thanks for the kind words; they're always appreciated! Mark Darin is actually working for Telltale Games now — he was pretty deeply involved with the recent Strong Bad and Monkey Island games.

  4. No kidding! That's something I really shouldn't have missed. Thanks very much for the info - I have edited the post to include it.

    No problem for the review. Is there any hope for further Fort Burr games?

  5. Hey, JD. You wouldn't have missed missed that particular piece of information if you'd have been visiting my blog. :) We had a big interview with Mark posted a few months ago.

    Btw good review, and as usual I really like your choices for which games to cover.

  6. Cheers Igor. I do try to play and review a mix of well known and slightly more under the radar freeware games.

    For some reason I always associate you with Adventure Classic Gaming - even though I've visited your blog several times. Problem solved anyway, I am now a proud follower of A Hardy Developer's Journal. :) Don't remember seeing that option before as I would surely have joined up sooner. A great blog and - groan - another one for me to aspire to. :)

  7. Mark's day job keeps him pretty busy, so I'm not sure if anything more will happen or not. I wrote the first draft for a third Nick Bounty game, and I do have a treatment for a Brain Hotel sequel on my hard drive... but I wouldn't expect either of them anytime soon. I never expected we'd get this thing made either though, so anything's possible!

  8. Thanks for the compliments.

    Yeah, I did add the follow option and created a facebook page for the blog. Not so easy to get people to keep coming back to your niche website these days.

  9. Would be a shame if there wasn't a sequel. The uniqueness of the gameworld gives so much potential for new and interesting ideas to be integrated into story and gameplay.

    Igor, I agree it certainly isn't easy to maintain a reasonable flow of daily traffic. Plus I can't remember the last time a new follower signed up :) I really need to start releasing more regular content.