Charlie Foxtrot & The Galaxy Of Tomorrow

By John Walker on May 11th, 2008 at 11:53 am.

The best adventure game I’ve played in a long time? A freeware AGS adventure called Charlie Foxtrot & The Galaxy of Tomorrow, the current Pick of the Month on the AGS site.

OMG puzzle spoilers!!

This could be taken (accurately) as an indictment of the state of commercial adventures, but I think that would do an injustice to a very capable and entertaining game. From Hatter’s Guild Productions, and more specifically Alex V.D.Wijst, it’s a mid-period Sierra-style adventure (rotating mouse cursor, all point and click, text dialogue) telling the story of a cloned human attempting to escape from the boundaries of conformity.

The secret behind extra lives.

It’s also a series of sci-fi and TV spoofs, some far too obvious (Star Wars, 2001) but others pleasingly unusual (Tom Baker era Doctor Who, The Fraggles). There’s no subtlety in their delivery, but nor is there intended to be, and each is so brief that it doesn’t feel clanging.

The puzzles are remarkably well constructed. A couple are far too obscure without enough hints, but most are well flagged and reasonably involved (far better put together than anything in the last two series of Sam & Max, for instance). And for an AGS adventure, no shortcuts have been taken. It’s a good few hours long, with a huge number of locations, and a remarkable amount of original animation. A lot of work has gone into this.

Yoda and Kermit, hanging outside of copyright infringement.

But most notable is the utterly astonishing effort that’s gone into writing replies for clicking everything on everything. Not since the Space Quest series (that this game owes a lot to) have I seen a game that so comprehensively and wittily responds to every eventuality. Each of the dozens of scenes has a unique response on nearly every object, both foreground and background, for every cursor option. It means that entering a location you’ll spend a good while clicking “Look” on every rock, plant, doorway and spaceship, then “Touch/Pick Up”, then “Talk To”, and then even clicking random inventory items. Walk through a series of scenes each with the same skyline, click on the sky in each, and they’ll have completely different responses. And most of all, they’re all worth reading. I’m just bewildered by the effort that went in for that.

There’s a couple of rather significant flaws. The most immediate is a lack of a sense of completion in a location. Moving on to another planet, I was never convinced I’d done all that needed to do on the previous. It always feels disjointed. Better prompting and signposting would have smoothed things out, and created a greater sense of progress. That’s not to say there’s none – in fact, when it does signpost, it does it especially well. And there’s a few nice shortcuts to find, especially one involving the TARDIS.

Star Wars is too easy, but this joke's good.

The other more general issue is the lack of a stronger narrative to justify all that happens. Ostensibly it’s about escaping from conformity and being an individual, but it isn’t really about that. That’s just a thing that happens in order to string the scenes together. I’d love for the game to have had something to say, some sense of commentary, no matter how irreverent or irrelevant.

But I just can’t get over the effort in the writing, with the remarkable number of remarks. Trying to touch a distant rock it said to me, “Maybe if you cut off your hand and mail it there it will be possible to do that by next Thursday.” Mocking me. And the puns, the sheer volume of puns, put in place for someone so dumb as to try talking to a pathway. I feel a need to prove this, so have a look here. It’s fur-ree, from here, and well worth a look.

__________________

« | »

, , , , .

18 Comments »

  1. Mike says:

    I think AGS in general does a lot more for indie gaming than it’s given credit for. John links to AGS at the top of the post – they’ve got monthly and weekly picks as well as all-time greats there.

    Yahtzee, now The Escapist’s most popular weekly installment, has some of his earlier works on there too. And it’s all free. Great stuff.

  2. Ampersam says:

    I agree with Mike – Yahtzee’s early work like the Trilby series was really amazing. Start with Five Days a Stranger (http://www.fullyramblomatic.com/5days/). After that there’s two or three more in the series. And they get progressively weirder.

  3. Pemptus says:

    Ah yes, Yahtzee’s Chzo Mythos saga. Absolutely fantastic, if a tad confusing. The first in the series may seem a bit rough, but it gets progressively better (and weirder, yes). The premise remind me of the game Scratches for some reason.
    Also, downloading Charlie Foxtrot now.

  4. John Walker says:

    If you’re going through Croshaw’s collection, don’t forget to also have a look through the Dave Gilbert catalogue, especially his Blackwell games.

  5. Xander77 says:

    Not a big fan of the Chzo mythos (except for Trillby’s notes) but I sincerely recommend everyone check out Nelly Cootalot.
    It’s like Monkey Island, only cuter, and with less *stupid* puzzles (except for the last one)

  6. Redwall says:

    “Yahtzee’s early work like the Trilby series”

    The Trilby series is actually Yahtzee’s late, late work in AGS. There’s a lot of older games he did, most on his website still… of course, most of them aren’t anywhere near as good, but that’s because they’re his actual early work. ;)

  7. Nick says:

    I really enjoyed this one of his: http://www.fullyramblomatic.com/gfw/

  8. John Walker says:

    RPS is officially a big fan of Nelly Cootalot, Xander77. We covered it first back here:

    http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/?p=281

    And then made it one of our games of 2007 here:

    http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/?p=713

  9. Abe says:

    Can someone tell me what to do with K8?

  10. Lucky says:

    “I really enjoyed this one of his: http://www.fullyramblomatic.com/gfw/

    No, you didn’t. According to Yahtzee, no one really played it.

  11. Nick says:

    Well, I did. It was fun. I particularly enjoyed the fact you couldn’t leave any of the areas without killing your redshirt in some way.

  12. Xander77 says:

    Ah, neat.
    Do you happen to know any way to get in touch with the creator without registering on the AGS forum?

  13. John Walker says:

    Abe – you need to find something that dogs like to chase (this would be one of the unflagged puzzles I mentioned : )

    Xander77 – fraid not. But registering for the AGS forum is fun – there’s a quiz!

  14. Ozzie says:

    Yeah, and it’s a really challenging one. Needed some time to figure it out!
    ;)

  15. Cibbuano says:

    I’m going through a delirious phase of playing any recommended freeware adventure games – even if they’re not that polished, at least they’re a complete story from someone that’s not me. And that’s a little interesting.

    Also, they usually have no problems working with Wine, so I don’t need to boot up Windows…

  16. SSH says:

    For those of you who want to keep up with AGS happenings without registering for the forums, read my blog! Its all about AGS. But enough advertising: I was wondering if you picked this game after seeing it as AGS Pick of the Month?

  17. John Walker says:

    Yes indeed – as posted on your blog, it was seeing it highlighted on the AGS gaming front page that caught my attention.

Comment on this story

XHTML: Allowed code: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>