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.

Thursday, 25 June 2009


Year - 2009
Length - Medium
Engine - AGS
Suitability Factors - N/A

The latest review is of the first time effort from Kristin Moody.


In Atapi, the player is cast as Oko Bokog, a Sakwa fisherman with a horrendous past. His life has been given hope and meaning by his adopted human daughter, Kiri, however when other humans in his village start to contract a mysterious illness, Oko must seek out a Hromu healer to help provide a cure. Oko must also look out for Kiri, and try and make sure she doesn't develop the same condition.

An area I would have liked to have seen developed further is the description and explanation of the character races, how they're connected, whether they're considered equals etc etc. This would have provided more depth and back-story to the game-world allowing for a better understanding of the story and it's protagonists.

Despite this, the story and dialogue is well written, and the personalities of the characters are believable thus making it is easy for the player to feel sympathy for Oko and his plight.


Indeed, Atapi is a good example of how sometimes a game can be enhanced by not including humour. The game takes itself seriously and the player is more immersed in the story and game-world as a result. The story and characters involved would have appeared disingenuous had the game been littered with wisecracks and references to adventure games past. The developer instead does a very good job of maintaining sincerity, a must if this type of story is to be pulled off.

The use of sound also helps to provides extra atmosphere. The music is good and although the sound effects are apparently not original, they perfectly fit the game's setting.

A possible repellent for players however may be the game's visuals. Despite the excellent choice of locations, the grainy photographic backgrounds will not be to everyone's liking. It's hard to criticise too much though because they do provide the necessary ambiance of the game just fine.


Where it's easier to criticise the visuals however is with regards to their effect on the gameplay. Finding items needed to progress can prove to be somewhat more tricky that it should be, thus making the backgrounds an unintentional obstacle for the player to overcome

As for the nature of the puzzles, the game starts off with a simple shopping list quest, i.e. you're given several items to find and retrieve for another character. Initially the next quest seems like it might be more of the same, however things don't turn out to be so simple. In order to communicate with the various 'Atapi' the player must get to grips with their language which consists of various symbols. Initially this can seem quite daunting, however discovering the words and phrases that each Atapi will respond to is really quite rewarding.


I liked this game, it's genuine atmosphere and sincere characters provide for an enjoyable and immersive experience. However, some more in-depth information about the world and it's inhabitants would have added considerably to Atapi's appeal. As it stands, I feel the game is only scratching the surface of what could be a very interesting fantasy story - hopefully the sequel will provide more meat to it's bones.

- Very well developed and believable atmosphere
- Sincere story and characters
- Interesting symbol/language puzzles

- Scope for wider story not really capitalised on
- Backgrounds may put some people off
- Some items difficult to find

Download for free;


Friday, 19 June 2009

Frasse and The Peas of Kejick

Year - 2006
Length - Medium/Long
Engine - Sludge
Suitability Factors - N/A

Finally I've been able to concentrate for a period of longer than two minutes and provide you, my adoring public (haha) with another review. Frasse and The Peas of Kejick is a freeware game made by Rikard Peterson.


From the start, the player takes control of Frasse, a fuzzy blue monster. I'm sure if I was so inclined the adjective I would use to describe him would be 'adorable'. After a short while you'll also be controlling his friend Gurra, a less fuzzy and apparently smarter monster with no arms and what must be magic eyebrows. The story itself is that of Frasse and Gurra's attempt to obtain the Peas of Kejick and return them to the King. Whilst the story is by no means extraordinary, it is more than suitable for this type of game and even has some twists and turns along the way

My first impression upon entering the game wasn't great however. There is no introductory sequence which means the player is thrust into the story without any pointers as to what to do. Although it's not long before you discover your main task, a short introduction would have made for a more coherent start to the game.


Although the player must verbally interact with other characters throughout the game, dialog is kept to a minimum. Conversations are never drawn out and short answers are the order of the day, thus meaning the developer had to solely rely on other methods to set the atmosphere of the game.

And he did so brilliantly. Where this game comes across as vibrant and fun, it would have been easy for another game attempting the same thing to end up dull and uninteresting. The brightly coloured visuals help a lot in this respect. The backgrounds are nice to look at whilst the character sprites, Frasse in particular, are also very well done. Although some scenes look like a little less time was spent on them than others, the game really does excel visually.

The game's atmosphere is added to by the great musical score. The tunes are varied and always suitable for the scene they accompany.

I would describe the game as fun rather than funny, although it does have a moment or two which might force more than a smile.


This is the area of the game that really took me by surprise. I was expecting the puzzles to be standard inventory fair. I was also expecting them to be pretty easy. Turns out I was wrong on both counts.

Although there are some simple inventory puzzles, many require the player to use the individual talents of the two lead characters in order to progress. Frasse is able to carry items although isn't so skilled in the conversation department. Gurra on the other hand is able to garner more information through conversation however can't hold any items because of his lack of arms. He also has a rather useful kicking ability.

It is clear that a lot of time and effort has been put into the development of puzzles which are both different and fun to solve. I had to consult the walkthrough on one occasion when a logic puzzle had me well and truly stumped. I was impressed to find out however that there is actually an alternative solution for those who either can't or don't wish to work out the answer for themselves.

There are also optional actions which the player can perform, some which serve no purpose to the story, others which may affect the story in a very slight way. This added interaction is a nice touch, particularly for children who may on occasion get bored of trying to solve the game's puzzles.


Frasse and the Peas of Kejick took me by surprise, eclipsing pretty much all my expectations. Yes the game has nice cutesy graphics, but it also has clever (and sometimes hard) puzzles.

The game also has that rare quality that makes it enjoyable for a wide age range. I'm a 21 year old guy and I really enjoyed playing, however I think it would also be a great game for parents to play through with younger children.

So, if you're looking for a deeply involving story then this isn't it, if however you're after a bright fun game then you'll be charmed and surprised by this one I'm sure.

- Some excellent puzzles
- Vibrant and colourful visuals
- Good fun

- Close up shots aren't quite so good to look at
- Arguably would have benefited from some more laugh-out-loud humour

Download for free;

Frasse and The Peas of Kejick

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Mr Danger's Contest

Year - 2009
Length - Short (MAGS)
Engine - AGS
Suitability Factors - Infrequent Mild Language and Violence

And the first person to get two reviews on the blog is (drum roll please)...gah whats the point, you've read the title already anyway.

Mr Danger's Contest was second in the MAGS competition for May and was made by Bill Garrett.

I must confess, the original House on Haunted Hill starring Vincent Price (Legend!) is one of my favourite movies of all time. The reason I mention this is because it is that film I was reminded of when originally reading the synopsis of Mr Danger's Contest.


You play as James McManus whom has been invited to take part in a competition to inherit the fortune of the mysterious Mr Danger. The competition takes place at the mansion of said millionaire and upon arrival it quickly becomes clear that things are a little stranger than perhaps anticipated. As is usually the case with this type of story, the ratio of living to dead in the house soon changes for the worse, and you must find out what's going on before you too end up no longer on the side of the living.

The game does a good job of making you want to play on to see what and why things are happening, which is of course of paramount importance in any mystery story. Mr Danger's Contest manages to introduce some new ideas into the equation as well, with those who are invited to the castle all being blessed with 'Heroes' style abilities.

Overall, the story is well told and the unravelling of the mystery is compelling. My only real problem with this aspect of the game would be the character development (sorry Bill). Getting to know the characters is an important part of this kind of story and could have taken the game up an extra notch in my opinion. I guess this is difficult to do in a short game though.


The atmosphere created is a mixture of mystery with more lighthearted elements thrown in. Not unlike another movie favourite of mine, The Old Dark House (1960's version), the game tries to maintain a humorous element even despite dreadful occurrences taking place.

Graphically, the game is a big improvement on the developer's previous games. The backgrounds are well drawn in spite of the short time-frame available and do a good job of maintaining the atmosphere.

The sound is...strange I think it's fair to say. It doesn't really fit in with the mysterious nature of the game although it does add to the the more lighthearted feel.


The special ability of James McManus allows for a different dynamic in terms of solving puzzles. Whilst I didn't feel this was utilised to its full potential, it did provide something away from the norm. Aside from the ability, there are also other attempts at slightly unique puzzles which for the most part are pulled off pretty well.

There was one issue though that let the gameplay down a little. In fact, I initially gave up early on in the game after becoming frustrated at my failure to progress from a small one room scene. You know the scenario, having failed to find a logical solution you go ahead and try everything on everything about 6 times in the vain hope that it might eventually work. It doesn't though, and you're left thinking 'What the hell! I'm never playing this again!'

Clearly I changed my mind and upon returning to the game I realised the reason I was stuck was that a hotspot was hidden in a dark area of the room, pretty much impossible to see even when turning the brightness up on the monitor. I have no problem with something being hidden in a dark place, but perhaps the player could be provided with a flashlight or makeshift torch to help. Getting or making this type of item could even be made as a purely optional puzzle to just help out those who don't want to pixel hunt in the dark.

In terms of length, I think Mr Danger is quite long for a MAGS game and you 'may' get more than one sitting out of it. Unlikely though as the game is pretty hard to stop playing once you get into it.


Overall I was left with a positive impression of Mr Danger's Contest which seemed highly unlikely when I was stuck during the first puzzle. I'm sure however that if the game hadn't had a strict one month deadline the few kinks it has would have been ironed out. The game's main strength is its story and if you enjoy a mystery then this game is well worth a try.

- Interesting story
- Good mix of puzzles
- Looks good

- One particular pixel hunt could leave players frustrated
- Character development could have been improved
- More could have been made of the special abilities

Download for free;

Mr Danger's Contest

Friday, 5 June 2009

Reality-On-The-Norm: The Repossessor

Year - 2001
Length - Short
Engine - AGS
Suitability Factors - Infrequent Mild Language

Right, so I decided to give the Reality-On-the-Norm (RON) games a try. For those who don't know, RON is an AGS community project. Anyone can make their own game in the series however only those that fit into and affect the overall story timeline and abide by the community rules are added into the list of canon (crucial) games. Games that are set in the RON universe without affecting the overall story are put into the stand-alone list whilst those that have discrepancies in character/location details are put into the non-canon list. Got that? To be honest I'm not even sure it's 100% accurate but hopefully someone will correct me if not!

Anyway, at the point of writing this I have reached the end of number 5 in the list of canon games and it is this one that is currently my favourite. Made by Dave Gilbert, The Repossessor is getting on abit although I would have guessed it was newer had I not known it's age. (Edit: Have been informed that this is because the game was recompiled last year to work on modern machines and take advantage of improved graphics.)


In The Repossessor, you control the Grim Reaper himself. The resurrection of Michael Gower (as a zombie) will not be tolerated by 'The Powers That Be', thus you must find him and reclaim his soul.

Now, people who haven't played any RON games will probably want to know whether this game is playable without having played the four earlier titles. Well, I would say yes, although you'll miss out on some in-game references. That said, you'll most likely still find the characters funny, particularly the zombie and chicken.

Nevertheless, as the game does refer to events from previous games, if possible I would recommend playing or watching a playthrough of the earlier games.

Download of game 1, Download of game 2 (Both of these are difficult to get to work on newer machines. N.B. Game 2 contains violence.) Download of game 3
Playthrough of game 1, Playthrough of game 2

The fourth game in the series wouldn't work for me either but not having played (or watched) it didn't affect my enjoyment of The Repossessor.

Gameplay length is short and will be unlikely to require more than one sitting. The story doesn't feel rushed however perhaps because of it's simplicity. The Repossessor is all about the characters really although the ending is great!


I thought the humorous and oddball nature of the RON town was represented very well, largely due to the aforementioned characters and their interesting personalities.

The backgrounds are a mixed bag, whilst some are great, others are merely average None of the backgrounds are poor though and overall they are the best I've seen from the RON games in my short time playing them. The character models and animation are also for the most part very nicely done. In particular I liked how Death's fingers move whilst he/it walks and talks. For me, little touches like that are well worth the extra time and effort required. Then again, perhaps I'm a freak...

The music isn't original however it fits nicely into the game and for me the tunes never get boring or repetitive.


Puzzles are of the inventory and dialogue variety. They're not tough, and shouldn't pose any problems, especially as there isn't a large number of locations to visit. Perhaps locating relevant hotspots may prove the toughest challenge - one location for example appears pointless without careful examination of a mundane part of the scenery. Certainly not a major problem though.

One area that did bug me slightly is that some objects that really stand out on the background provoke no response when looking at them etc. Again, not a major problem but something that reduces the quality of the gameplay just a little.

Finally, a special mention must go to the fast walking speed of the main character. This made moving between locations far less of a chore than it can be in many games. Plus, the animation doesn't suffer as a result as is sometimes the case when this is attempted.


When delving into the RON universe I was sceptical as to whether the games would be worth playing. So far they have been and The Repossessor is the best of those I've experienced thus far. It's funny, has some great characters, and provides excellent continuity with those that went before it. Whilst getting the full enjoyment out of this game will most likely require knowledge of the previous RoN titles, playing it as a stand-alone game should definitely still provide its fair share of fun throughout it's short duration.

- Great continuation of earlier RON games whilst still playable on its own
- Good humour
- Great characters
- Quick movement between locations

- Some stand-out background objects not clickable
- Shame it's short

Download for free;

Reality-on-The-Norm: The Repossessor (Be careful as walkthru is on the same page!)

Monday, 1 June 2009