Self-Contained: Shifter’s Box

By John Walker on March 4th, 2009 at 6:39 pm.

Broken robots are legally required to be in all adventure games.

Browsing the lovely pages at AGS I found this recent adventure release, Shifter’s Box, by Ben Chandler, creator of the cute Annie Android. It’s the story of a young lady, Sally, who discovers a mysterious box in the park. Prising it open, she finds herself dragged through into a series of other worlds.

It works nicely. Each location is one screen wide, so there’s none of the tiresome traipsing that slows down many AGS games (including Annie Android, as it happens). The challenge is to find a new way to open the box, and thus a new area to explore, ultimately trying to get Sally back home.

The puzzles are pleasingly smart, if not especially tough. Each is well designed, and satisfying to solve – which, and I’ll say it again, is something missing from 95% of professional adventure releases. I would love it, so very, very much, if anyone developing a professional adventure would trawl through the AGS archives, find the talented puzzle designers, and hire them. Perhaps that way we’d not see the key-lock-newspaper-paperclip puzzle ever again.

I’d like to have seen more puzzles require visiting previous locations to solve, since all are accessible throughout. It would have added slightly more depth. And there are quite a few ‘look at’ responses missing. But this remains a splendid little game, with some lovely pontificating at the end. And it’s all doubly charming for the narration of Victorian gentleman, Ebenezer Leary. Worth a look.

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21 Comments »

  1. Pags says:

    Very pretty for an AGS game, they certainly know their way around a colour palette at least.

    Also, I thought we were done discovering now we’d discovered phlogiston! Ebenezer Leary must surely be pulling my leg.

  2. Markoff Chaney says:

    Whew. For a second there I thought this was a follow up to the game posted yesterday except, this time, I was supposed to Shit in a Box, instead of not allowing said fecal matter to pool in my pants.

    I’ll check this baby out when I get back home. Always a joy playing the better AGS games…

  3. Xercies says:

    Yeah the AGS community is great, and some of the better ones are almost like going back to the 90s and picking up a great point and click game on the shelf.

    God I miss point and click games.

  4. Angel Dust says:

    @Pags
    There are actually a fair amount of good looking AGS games as there are some quite talented pixel artists hanging around there. Of course Ben is one of the best.

    I will definitely check this out.

  5. Hidden_7 says:

    Rather embarrassingly I’m stuck in the first room, the steam platforms.

    I feel like I’ve tried literally everything, there’s so few elements in the room, and so few interactions available I actually have no idea what else I could possibly do.

    Shame, as the concept seemed pretty good.

  6. Hidden_7 says:

    Wow, and the second after I posted that…

  7. Gunrun says:

    Wow. That was really good.

  8. Z says:

    Wow.

    I’m so glad I missed the whole Adventure Game era of gaming.

    I have absolutely no patience for this (excellent game).

  9. Ben Chandler says:

    I won’t bore you all with a long, self indulgent comment, so I will respond thusly:

    Thank you for the mention, to those who enjoyed the game and said so, thanks, to those who tried it and didn’t enjoy, thanks for trying it anyway. I appreciate your feedback very much!

    Also, I’ve never been accused of pontificating before! How kind of you :D

  10. simonkaye says:

    Brilliant little game!

  11. Angel Dust says:

    Just finished and it was certainly a charming little game. I do agree that the puzzles could have used more depth.

  12. rei says:

    Loved it from start to finish. I hope we’ll get to see where Sally goes next :D

  13. simonkaye says:

    My favourite part was with the lamps and the floating door, as this is where I actually felt smart when I solved the puzzle quickly. More like this please!

    It really has reminded me of a certain feeling I had almost forgotten. It’s almost Proustian. I’m briefly but totally consumed by this classically ‘game-like’ scenario. It’s wonderful. Even better the next morning.

  14. Bayne says:

    I can’t be the only person who seen “Shitters Box” when first glancing over the title??

  15. Silent Witless says:

    Ohfer…right, this has gone on long enough. What IS it with this website that makes developers think they can just rock up and join in the conversations we’re having about THEIR games! I mean, honestly! If I wanted to know his/her opinions about life, the universe and everything I’d jolly well be bugging their phone lines or talking to the clapped-out old hookers in their local areas.

    Seriously, guys, just because you’ve spent many hard minutes crafting code into silly shapes for general amusement, don’t think you can then come here and wallow in the adultation/criticism bestowed upon it by we small-yet-vocal plebites!

    ….heh, but seriously (really seriously this time)…this just might be the best website in the gaming universe, where devs and gamers get together to swap stories, opinions and the occasional rude limerick. RPS forever! :)

  16. Markoff Chaney says:

    So I played this through last night. Brilliant game, it is. The sound puts you in the mood and the graphics are beautiful. I absolutely loved the writing as well. Some hilarious lines in there (especially by our floating head narrator) and the game kept a smile on my face. It wasn’t very challenging, but I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience none the less. Thank You!

    Feel free to be boring and self indulgent if you desire, Ben. Many of us that post here are and we just consume and enjoy product. You produce said product, so your pontification is slightly more justified and will more likely be be read and enjoyed by the teeming masses of slavish RPS followers.

  17. Pani says:

    Nicely done that Ben!
    Very reminiscent of the old Loom/Monkey island/BASK/Full Throttle days. Ahh, fond memories.

    Constructive feedback: I’d go with more of a story next time, one that you’re part of rather than just reading about in the background.

    Other than that, a very neat, pretty and pleasant game to play.

  18. Agrajag says:

    Brilliant, takes me back to good old Lua bars. One thing that alwasy bugged me in adventures – most of the steps are plain random and full of plot gaps. But this was a fun journey.
    Oh, and musn’t forget – pontificator!

  19. JonFitt says:

    Thanks Ben, that was good fun.
    A few more descriptions would have been good, but I liked the way your “use” text was something like “I’m going to put this in here”.
    I really thought that added to the game. It broke reality slightly as very few people narrate their actions. In other adventure games you use X on Y hoping that something will happen, but unless the animations make it very clear, it’s hare to tell what’s happening until you end up with the completed “home-made shark bait” or whatever. I much preferred her spelling out what she was doing.

  20. mcw says:

    Nice game, I especially liked the narrator.

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