My shameless love of polish

I’ve mentioned before (and some may have guessed purely from the infrequent postings on my only-half-joking game review site) that I’m a nut for highly polished games;  games which show a strong attention to the craft of making games, with love and attention lavished upon even their most inconsequential nooks.

So yesterday, I took advantage of TellTale’s “Play Like a Pirate” offer, and downloaded the first episode of their  Tales of Monkey Island episodic adventure, “The Launch of the Screaming Narwhal”, and spent some time playing it under Crossover, on my Mac (it plays beautifully, except for the launcher, which is mildly broken.  But TellTale’s launchers have always been mildly broken for me, even when running under Windows, so I can’t really blame Crossover for that).

Anyhow, I just had to mention that the first time I paused the game and saw the seamless transition to and from the pause screen, I almost fell out of my chair, and had to go preorder the rest of the season right that very moment.  This is a game which has had some serious care and attention in its construction, only marred by a single awkward transition between the end-of-prologue cutscene and the start-of-main-game cutscene.

The transition between these two cutscenes was clearly intended to be beautiful and completely seamless, but has a several-second-long black load screen smack in between the two, which totally breaks the flow of the narrative.  And this is the only rough spot in Screaming Narwhal‘s presentation;  otherwise, it positively sparkles.

All of TellTale’s games seem to have some sort of “unpack on demand” feature, where the first time you enter any area after downloading the game, it takes much, much longer to load that area than any later time that you enter that area, even when starting a new games.  It’s possible that this “unpack on demand” functionality may be responsible for that bizarre black load screen in between the two cutscenes which were clearly supposed to blend into each other seamlessly.  Maybe (I haven’t checked this) that load screen wouldn’t be there, if I was to play the game again, now that the first “slow” load has already been done.  TellTale guys, if you read this, I would happily accept an extra “unpacking” process during the game install, if it had given me that seamless cutscene transition!  :)

In terms of the game itself, it’s pretty much standard TellTale episodic adventure game fare;  if you liked the Sam & Max games, you’ll like this.  If you didn’t like them, this won’t change your mind.  To me, Screaming Narwhal felt shorter than most of the Sam & Max episodes, and it had a couple of (in my opinion) unfair puzzles.  As an example, at one point you’re following a map from a landmark to an unknown destination.  However, in order to actually wind up at the right destination, you must first “use” the map on the landmark, and then follow the directions on the map.  If you merely go to the landmark and then follow the directions on the map, you will not end up in the right place.  And if you’re like me, you’ll likely not even realise that there was a different place you should have ended up, or realise that you’ve done anything wrong, and just assume that you’d been misinterpreting the map.

But putting that aside, I still had a lot of fun with it, and I’m quite looking forward to the rest of the season.  And TellTale guys;  whoever created that pause screen transition deserves a raise.  Seriously.