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, 29 January 2010

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Towel Day

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

Towel Day is the work of James 'Dualnames' Spanos, the man also responsible for the full Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy remake which is currently in development.

Having read the books, I found them brilliant in places, yet drab in others. As for Towel Day...I found it to be rather good throughout, even if there is some room for improvement.


It's important to mention first of all, that although certain references will pass you by if you are unfamiliar with the material, it is not absolutely imperative that you have read the books in order to get a kick out of this game. Whether you like it or not will far more likely depend on your sense of humour. For those who are familiar with the Hitchhikers Guide, well, you will feel right at home.

Another point it may be relevant to briefly discuss is whether this game is suitable for those who plan to read the books in the future. You don't want to ruin that experience right? As the game is based on the last four chapters of the original book, there is always the chance that you might retain some of the information from the game, however, in my opinion, the game is more likely to make you read the book a little sooner than it is to spoil things for you.

The game is setup with the player having the option to play as both of arguably the two most loved characters from the series, Arthur Dent, and Marvin, the paranoid android. The two characters are in separate areas and the player can switch between them at any point. Arthur is attempting to evade capture along with three of his 'pals', while Marvin is trying to speak to a spacecraft. The story does come across as slightly incoherent, perhaps because of the game's short length, although it is unlikely you will be primarily playing this game for it's story.


Instead, it is the game's humour that makes Towel Day an enjoyable experience. The description, dialogue, and narration, are a mixture of new material written by the developer, and lines taken from the book. The 'old' material is well placed (and as I understand it, used minimally), while the new stuff is funny and almost always manages to capture the Douglas Adams style and charm. There are some spelling and grammar mistakes, however surprisingly this doesn't too badly affect the immersion (and I'm really quite fussy on this issue). That said, there are some lines that appear lost in translation, and getting the text grammatically correct is still something I would recommend for the full length offering.

The visuals supplement the game's atmosphere just fine, although the outside location does look somewhat muddled. Character sprites appear a little squashed, and while this isn't a big problem, I can't help but feel it wouldn't require much work to greatly improve their look.

Music is slightly hit and miss. Marvin's background theme fits nicely enough and reminds me somewhat of music from 'Beneath a Steel Sky'. The music accompanying Arthur however seems too mellow and therefore fails to match the drama of the scene.


Gameplay is on the very easy side, with the few puzzles on offer solved mainly through conversing with other characters or by manipulating objects, all done using a simple verb-coin interface. Make sure to try every possible interaction, as failure to do so will mean you are missing out on dialog and text which are the best part of the game.

From the options menu it is possible to choose between two narrators, Slartibartfast, and Great Green Arklseizure. This makes only an aesthetic difference however, and it would have added a great replay value to the game if the comments given by each narrator were different. Perhaps if one showed a greater disdain for the characters than the other? This is perhaps a slight opportunity missed, especially with the game being so short.

Not attempting to solve the first puzzle straight away will prolong Towel Day a little, as the game is cleverly scripted to fire new dialogue at you during the first scene if you do not immediately find the solution. If you wait too long you will be killed, but experiencing the extra conversation is definitely worth the small possible inconvenience of restarting your game at the end of it.


Despite the game's short length, Towel Day is still very worthy of your time. The problems I have mentioned throughout the review are only minor nuances that really wouldn't take alot of fixing for the full remake. The visuals only need tweaking, the gameplay perhaps a little extra depth, and the spelling and grammar some extra proofing. The coherence of the story may require more thought although this is naturally a challenge because of the material it comes from being somewhat incoherent at times anyway. It would however be advantageous to be able to follow the plot more clearly.

So, with a full-length game in production, it will be interesting to see how Towel Day is built upon as the potential is undoubtedly there, even if this effort is a little rough around the edges. Furthermore, and rather importantly, the game provides what feels like an authentic journey into the world of Arthur Dent and his comrades. Therefore, if you have any fondness (real or potential) for the humour of the Hitchhiker's Guide, then you should certainly give Towel Day a chance. Doing so has certainly persuaded me to keep a much keener eye on the progress of the full-length offering.


- Great humour
- Feels like an authentic 'Hitchhiker's Guide' experience
- Very well presented


- Very short
- Story is arguably a little incoherent
- Some spelling and grammar issues

If you like this, try;

- Breakdown

Download for free,

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Towel Day

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Danny Dread is on Call

Year - 2009
Length - Short
Engine - AGS
Suitability Factors - Occasional mild language, Alcohol & Cigarette use

So, I promised I would soon have a review up, and here it is. 'Danny Dread is on Call' is a short comedic title from AGS forum member Green Boy.


The player takes control of Danny Dread, whose boss has the impudence to call him into work on his day off. All Danny wants to do is spend time with his girlfriend, however his boss is probably not a man to be brushed off. This is on the basis that he is, as the developer describes him, 'an egomaniacal mad scientist'.

When Danny arrives at work, he is asked to find an animal sample for the 'splice-o-matic'. Reluctantly, Danny accepts his task, thus beginning the player's journey. As is to be expected, the story is simple. It does however have a couple of fun twists that prolong the game after you think it may be over. Overall, the story provides a fun backdrop for the game.

A really nice touch is the way the story actually begins on the main menu screen. It's only brief, but does do a good job of hooking the player from the start.

The game's non playing characters are also worth a mention, with two in particular showing traits of well loved members of the LucasArts back catalogue. I wouldn't always consider this a positive, but in the context of this game it works very well.


No matter the quality of the story, a game attempting to be funny will always live and die by it's humour. Danny Dread certainly lives. The game perhaps isn't always riotously funny, however there are more than enough quips to keep the player smiling throughout, and there are certainly moments where players will be hard pressed to suppress a chuckle.

The visuals are good, although arguably they would have benefited from some extra sharpness in places and perhaps a less faded colour palette. Animations on the other hand are excellent, and really add considerably to the game's charm.

The game's soundtrack has very cleverly been put together by Mark 'Mods' Lovegrove, with the use of some classic LucasArts sound clips that seamlessly supplement the game's original music. The timing of these interludes really does make them work brilliantly.

One thing that did spoil the atmosphere a little was that I couldn't get the game to run full-screen. This may be a problem that only I have experienced however, and in truth the game-screen I did get was big enough not to ruin things.


Successfully balancing the use of inventory puzzles it seems is a hard skill to master. Such puzzles are often too easy, too obscure, or just used in completely the wrong situations. Thus it's a pleasure to be able to say that Danny Dread seemed to strike perhaps as good a balance as I've seen in a freeware title.

As the game doesn't take itself seriously, the use of inventory puzzles fits in fine with the tone of the game, plus in general the puzzles are neither too easy nor too obscure.

Danny Dread is by no means the Mecca of adventure game puzzles, but from a personal point of view, it does seem to provide a very good example of how and when LucasArts style inventory puzzles should be used.

Furthermore, the custom user interface looks very good and is well implemented also. Verbs can be selected from the bottom left of the screen while the right mouse button can be clicked to cycle through them. Some players will prefer one method, while some will prefer the other, so it's nice to have a choice of both.


Danny Dread is a great game in terms of pick-up and play value. It's uncomplicated, funny, and will easily stir up memories of the LucasArts heydays. It's short length is a shame, however the game certainly does enough to cement it's developer as one to watch. Only time will tell if I'm correct, however the little things matter and the developer it would seem is aware of this. What I expected to be a run-of-the-mill game has actually surprised me by displaying bags of invention and potential, even if it does unashamedly owe plenty to the LucasArts titles of the past.


- Funny
- Inventive
- Great audio
- Well implemented SCUMM-like interface


- Too short
- Story is no more than a backdrop for the game

If you like this, try;

- Awakener
- Ben There, Dan That!

Download for free,

Danny Dread is on Call

Friday, 1 January 2010

It Starts...

Happy New Year all!

Hopefully 2010 will bring plenty of adventure gaming goodness to us all...and preferably free of charge too ;)

One of my New Year resolutions is to keep this blog updated regularly with new reviews. At least two a month is the aim.

In the time since I last posted here, a similar website has popped up reviewing games made in Adventure Game Studio, The Blue Cup Critic. I have no idea who the Blue Cup Critic is, however the site has five reviews up so far and the content and quality of writing are excellent, so if you haven't already, head over there and check it out.

While I haven't posted anything on my own blog since the start of December, I have been busy reviewing elsewhere, with my review of commercial title 'Daemonica' being published on Mr Bill's Adventureland. If you haven't visited this site before, I would very much recommend you do so. It is a family friendly site run by the very nice Bill and Lela, and has quite a comprehensive list of adventure reviews - even going back as far as the original Zork. There are some freeware reviews over there too, such as 'Night of The Hermit', 'Larry Vales', and they have just reviewed a newly released title, 'Island'.

That's all for now - but expect a review shortly.