EnvironMental: A New Beginning Demo

By John Walker on July 8th, 2011 at 9:30 am.

I imagine Daedalic must have been trying to localise it.

After Daedalic Entertainment’s flawed but appealing The Whispered World, it seemed there was hope for translations from this developer. They even hired an established UK writer (Steve Ince) to redraft the script into English English, adding in new jokes to make it work in this location. From the demo of A New Beginning, no such thing has taken place, making what is already an extremely clunky game feel like a parody.

This is in another part due to how incredibly sincere the Oh No Environment script comes across. Time travellers from the future, two weeks before a solar flare is to wipe out the remains of humanity, head back to our very own day to tell us it’s time to start changing our polluting ways. So they set their time clocks for 2050 only to find out – OMG! – that’s too late! The Earth will already be beyond repair by 2050! That’s soon! Are you taking notice of the message?!

The demo gives you a sizeable chunk that establishes this story. You begin playing a retired older gentleman, grumbling around his summer house by the lake, clearly soon after he lost his wife. His name, oddly, is Bent. Bent is trying to fix his motor, once he’s found where he drunkenly hid the key for his basement of course. Having a key for your own house would be too easy. Then he’s interrupted by a time traveller, Fay, who tells him the tale of her and her team’s failed trip to 2050, whereupon we start playing in flashback (flashforwardback?) as her instead. And in what could be a nice gimmick, Bent offers cranky disbelieving commentary on the events as the two chat about things in the future, their faces appearing in inserts over the main image.

Not from YOU, you freaky... whistle-creature? What the hell is that?

Sadly what you actually get is an extremely scrappy experience of scanning screens for interactive objects and clicking on them all, interspersed with some terrible translations, idiotically read out verbatim by the cast. Every other sentence is intoned incorrectly, or worse, plain broken English, and so often it’s something any actor worth his vocal cords would have questioned in the studio. But then the man offering the voice of Bent seemingly hasn’t even heard of Sisyphus to be able to take a stab at pronouncing “Sisyphean”.

The game also features that strange adventure trope of offering you choices that the character is shocked or confused by. “Why would I want to do that?” Er, because when I clicked it was one of the options. I love the idea that they, and so very many adventure characters over the years, tacitly acknowledge that their every decision is made based on the suggestions of some god-like player, but will sometimes refuse to obey the unseen force. It stands out here since the options they react to seem so incredible benign.

It certainly doesn’t inspire me to pick up the full game. Because as nice as the animations and hand-painted scenes definitely are (apart from the more minor characters, whose comic book faces look like doodles in the back of someone’s maths exercise book), the lack of care in translation makes it all feel so dismissive. It also doesn’t help that no matter how sympathetic one may be with the environmentalist message, it’s hard not to turn into Jeremy Clarkson in response to its being delivered in such an overtly patronising way.

Should you want to prove me wrong, you can get the 1GB demo from here. It gives you about 45 minutes of the game, depending upon how slowly you solve the puzzles I suppose.

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23 Comments »

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  1. Tei says:

    Looks very good. Also bland…. Bland in a good way. Confortable?.

    Time travel is the “bullet time effect” of writting. It cheapenize the whole, even if the whole is very good.

    Bland and cheapenized by travel time? thats a lot of confort and space for the writter to make something enjoyable. If he, or she want.

    • Temple says:

      As always Tei, I want to say a big thank you for existing.

    • Faceless says:

      Shouldn’t you thank his mum for that?

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      lowprices says:

      Hey! Don’t cheapenize his statement!

    • Wulf says:

      Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.

      Blah blah blah.

      Blah blah blah, blah blah blah blah.

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      Man Raised by Puffins says:

      Nope, don’t see it. What we have here is, at worst, a spot of playful cheek-pinching. Ain’t nothing wrong in taking pleasure from and riffing on Tei’s charming, poetic pidgin.

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      Daiv says:

      I find Tei’s English (Teinglish?) to be remarkably expressive in ways that those of us who speek it proper cannot mimic.

    • Rii says:

      Tei’s wisdom enlightens us all.

    • Synesthesia says:

      Slightly OT, but you should read Palimpsest, Tei. Best time travel story i’ve read so far. Everyone else in this thread should too.

  2. metalangel says:

    How is not polluting now going to prevent a solar flare? Or are they suggesting we need to grow back the ozone layer extra thick?

    • MadMinstrel says:

      Yeah, you’d think that if they have the tech to go back in time, they would have enough know-how and energy to make some extra ozone.

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      amishmonster says:

      I was wondering about this. I don’t think the ozone layer could save the Earth from a flare big enough to wipe out civilization, and pollution certainly has no bearing on solar activity.

      Maybe they meant to prevent humanity from abandoning space travel?

  3. Inigo says:

    That is the most intact-looking destroyed city I’ve ever seen.

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    Man Raised by Puffins says:

    whistle-creature

    It looked like a fountain pen when it cropped up again on the main menu. When your tooltip ‘thing’ compares unfavourably to the MS Paperclip, you know you’ve created an abomination.

    I was similarly unimpressed by the demo. During the San Francisco section, in particular, the adventure moon-logic clashes pretty hard with the plot: “Assemble a time radio antenna? If only I hadn’t skipped training for this life and death mission” “Recharge these batteries before the mission? Batteries shmatteries, I’ve got more important things to do like OH GOD, MY SPINE” “Whoops, butterfingers: There goes our only source of power. Oh well, nevermind.”

    Not good.

  5. matthias_zarzecki says:

    The scene in France that happens after you assembled your antenna is great.

    If you can make it to that point, the chances of saying “I am IN” rise greatly :-)

  6. diebroken says:

    Just got Whispered World (again) on Steam as it was reduced in the sale. Will have to pick this one up retail to enjoy the soundtrack cd from the release.

    Any word on Deponia yet?

  7. Was Neurotic says:

    As someone who has worked in English game localisation for nearly ten years myself, I can tell you that the number of things that can go wrong in the whole process often includes the devs themselves taking OUT the good stuff and replacing it with their own broken placeholder text, often crafted in the first place by somebody’s cousin who once went to London for a week. And that’s one of the minor problems!

  8. Zeewolf says:

    ANB has the same kind of lame, illogical puzzles TWW was full of, but none of the charm and beauty that made TWW worth playing despite the puzzles. Plus, as John notes, the translation is dreadful. I would not recommend the full version.

  9. BenLeng says:

    I started playing The Whispered World with my daughter recently and must say i find it extremly enjoyable. In the original german the writing is ok – even quite funny sometimes – and the voice acting is actually very nice.

  10. Springy says:

    The thought of meeting time-travellers who’ve ruined the planet through polluting and then tell me to stop polluting makes me very indignant.

  11. mihor_fego says:

    Why oh why are there no more good adventure games like Grim Fandango and The Longest Journey made? Please someone abduct Schafer and Tørnquist and get them back to making games where their storytelling genius can shine best… I’m willing to go through 2 rubber ducky puzzles for a good story.

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    Sagan says:

    I played the demo of this in German when it was first available and I didn’t even finish it. If I remember correctly, I didn’t like the writing and I didn’t like the puzzles. So yeah, as far as I am concerned you aren’t missing out on much.

  13. field_studies says:

    This just reminded me of a long forgotten game…
    Would have been circa 1995, a point-and-click adventure game, I think it may have even had “time” in the title. One of the first games I played with photo-realistic graphics (by which I mean the backgrounds images were photos ;-) and I remember loving it.

    Right a bell for anyone? A quick google search didn’t turn up anything.

    Oops, nix that, Wikipedia came through. It was “Lost in Time”:
    “It was promoted as being “The first Interactive Adventure Film using Full Motion Video Technology” and contained four graphical elements: full motion video, hand painted and digitized backgrounds and 3D decor.”