Manifold Garden

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Developer: William Chyr Studio | Released: 2019 | Genre: Puzzle, First Person

Do you know the feeling in a FPS or a first person puzzle game when you suddenly walk into an exceptional open space with enormous structures disappearing into the horizon, and you stop for a moment to take in the awe inspiring vista? This game not only takes that to another level, it does it virtually all the time.

The game reminded me of both Antichamber and Fez, both games I also completed. Antichamber mostly because of the graphical style, and Fez because of placing cubes at the end of levels for great effect. But the game was definitely its own. It supposedly took William Chyr 7 years to make it, and it’s understandable. Apart from the tech itself, just creating those infinite levels must have been a daunting task.

The game was a mixture of solving local puzzles and navigating infinite levels that wrap into themselves like a lithograph by Escher, repeating its structures as you fall through it. The direction of gravity changes when walking up to a wall and pressing space. Now the entire level tilts around, turning walls into floors. Falling not only doesn’t kill you, it’s often necessary to navigate the enormous levels since you can’t jump.

See that ledge over there? Drop down for a while until the level repeats itself, then steer towards the ledge as it approaches again and land. The sound of wind and a fear of heights still makes it feel dangerous.

My Time with IO Interactive

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Did you know I was once employed in IO Interactive, the creators of the Hitman series of games?

It was Ole Mogensen who got in contact with me in the end of October 2014 and offered a time limited job as a consultant. Ole is the older brother of Thomas Mogensen, whom had been part of my C64 music group Vibrants as Drax. So it was definitely a network thing. Ole was a producer at IO Interactive, and here the animators wanted to organize a database with animation assets.

Work in the video games business with people I knew? Definitely interested!

The company was located opposite Islands Brygge, not far from Dybbølsbro, which was pretty much right in the center of Copenhagen. Commuting would take less than an hour for me. I was unemployed at the time and had recently had quite a few uncomfortable job interviews, but I had a good feeling about this one. The guys I spoke with seemed much closer to me in spirit. One one them was the animation lead, Kenn. He was from America and thus the job interview had to be in English. My job would be to gather information about animation assets from the animators and put it in a Jira database.

I started in November 2014. The building was a tall and modern building with four floors and an big, open central shaft. It reminded me of Scala, a shopping center in Copenhagen that has been demolished years ago by now. I was shown around and greeted people. Almost all of them were nerdy to a certain degree. They also came from all around the world, not just Europe. That also meant that most of the talking at IO Interactive was in English. Apart from Ole, I didn’t know most of these guys.

The First Three Hitman Games

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As preparation for playing a couple of modern Hitman games in the near future, I’ve decided to transfer my diary sessions of the three first Hitman games which I completed about 20 years ago. This is part of a nostalgic series of the games I played many years ago, but this time it will be adaptations rather than direct transcriptions.

There will be spoilers in these diary sessions.

Hitman: Codename 47

Developer: Io-Interactive | Released: 2000 | Genre: 3PS, Stealth

I completed this game in February 2002. I hesitated before starting it as I had heard it was supposedly very hard, and it was true. The game often had long and complicated missions with no in-game saving of any kind, and it was generally merciless. One mistake and all hell could break lose.

The game was quite original at the time. I had not seen anything quite like it before. Instead of going in guns blazing or just camping with a sniper rifle, I had to research the surroundings of the levels, learn some of the hints for bypassing security and preparing the assassination, then orchestrate an ingenious way of killing the target. And preferably without being detected.

It was a great idea in theory and the game series have always had its stalwart fans. I was never one of them. I quickly disliked the way these games required me to constantly restart and research the same missions over and over, until it was possible to complete it with as little commotion as possible. I never liked having to repeatedly sit through the same sequence in a game, and this game did that in abundance.

Nevertheless, I just had to try out the game. It was the first really big game produced in Denmark, my home country, and it had music by Jesper Kyd, whom I had briefly met at an Amiga demo party. His music was often a bit too minimalistic for my taste, but it was good in this game. It fit nicely.

Moebius: Empire Rising

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Developer: Pinkerton Road Studio | Released: 2014 | Genre: Adventure, Point & Click

I’ve completed the three Gabriel Knight games many years ago and gained a solid respect for Jane Jensen’s writing. That’s also why I backed the Kickstarter campaign for it in 2013. However, since its release it has received a mixed bag of reviews and it always had me avoid it in the Steam backlog.

Until now. And I confess that once again, it was originally my intention to play it for an hour or so and then dump it into my series about Short Sessions. The 3D models was not exactly doing it any favors.

But in spite of the mediocre walking animation, lip sync and those crazy eyeballs of persons trying to look behind their own ears, the story and the analyzing puzzles quickly grabbed me.

The protagonist, Malachi Rector, was a Sherlock Holmes kind of guy with a very high IQ. As an expert in antiquities with a photographic memory, he was sometimes hired to evaluate new antique findings, which he then ruthlessly declared to be trash. In spite of his elegant demeanor, he was sometimes belittling requests and sarcastically denounced objects around him. And he was regularly taking pills.

I immediately liked him.

Perspective

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Developer: Widdershins | Released: 2012 | Genre: Platform, Puzzle

Cute little puzzle platformer that only took me 1½ hours to get through. It’s free on Steam. User reviewers there claim it took them an hour or less to get through it. I also admit I was almost stuck a few times, but eventually I always figured it out. But take heed – this is no walk in the park.

The gimmick in this one was controlling the perspective for a 2D space guy. I switched between 3D mode for adjusting the perspective in first person, like lining up platforms close to each other, then switched back to controlling the space guy for jumping across. There were blue graphics for walking and jumping on, while all orange graphics killed the space guy if touched.

Legend of Grimrock

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Developer: Almost Human | Released: 2012 | Genre: RPG, First Person

Legend of Grimrock was another one of those that I kept postponing for years because of the majority of reviews claiming that it was very difficult. It did have a difficulty selector though, and I made sure to choose the easiest one as I usually do anyway, when this is available. Fearing a level of ruthlessness I try not to allow myself these days, my plan was for an hour of gameplay for Short Sessions.

But damn, this game was fun! I ended up playing it for almost 5 hours.

This first person RPG is supposedly a modern take on Dungeon Master, which I wouldn’t know since I never played that. However, I did know a lot more about the another inspiration, Eye of the Beholder, both from seeing the game on the Amiga back in the day, but also because an awesome version of it was recently ported to the Commodore 64. I’ve watched a lot of development videos of this.

If you’re still tinkering with the C64 today, go check it out. It’s fantastic.

Going back to Legend of Grimrock, the game moved in grid steps like on a chess board. I could move in all four directions and also rotate. Mouselook was there, but I rarely used it. I selected a premade party of four that was thrown almost naked into a mountain dungeon for crimes I could only guess at. Time to walk around in the dark dungeon and pick up armor, weapons, solve puzzles, and fight monsters.

BABBDI

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Developer: The Lemaitre Brothers | Released: 2022 | Genre: Adventure, Facile

In case you’re wondering – yes, I discovered this game in Jacob Geller’s YouTube video.

This was a free game on Steam. At first it seemed obvious why it was free – the textures were low res and the buildings very simple – often just blocks with a few ledges. Find a train ticket and escape the city. There were few persons to meet, and most didn’t have much to say.

But the more I explored the city almost entirely made out of cement, there was something about it that fascinated me more. It didn’t make all paths easy to find, especially not upwards. In the beginning I found a barking dog (with a high resolution mouth) and a few motorcycles for traversing faster. A few secret items for a collection quest. A torch. A trumpet that could have its scales rotated.

I even found three persons dancing to a silly tune on the radio in a sewer section.

Just Cause 2

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Developer: Avalanche Studios | Released: 2010 | Genre: 3PS, Sandbox

This is a post in a nostalgic series with transcriptions of my diary sessions of the games I played many years ago, translated and adapted from Danish. There will be spoilers in these diary sessions.

February 22, 2013

I finally started the sequel to the Swedish open world agent-style game – now from 2010. I ended up playing three hours over two turns. Although the game was basically just a strong embellishment of the same game rules as in the first one, the gameplay, the graphics and the atmosphere were still improved so much that I thought significantly better of it and even seriously considered playing it through properly.

The 3D engine in particular was unparalleled. It had a totally unobstructed view to all horizons and no immediate corner cut to achieve this. Huge mountains and volumetric clouds with beautiful sunsets, foaming waves on the beaches, detailed forests and palm trees, large cities with skyscrapers but also small villages with huts on stilts. Cars and people were finely detailed, and textures were of a reasonable high quality. There was a world of difference since the first game from 2006. The music was also of a more symphonic and professional quality – although I still missed the furious Spanish guitar a bit.