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It's All Overture

Sad and good news at once – kind of like a puppy being born then immediately exploding.

Penumbra: Overture, the creepy indie physics-based adventure game spun out of an impressive tech demo, is to get a sequel, one that ties off its story’s various loose ends. Trouble is, it was supposed to be a trilogy. Now it’s a mere duology, like the Kill Bill films or albums by the UK band behind the best-ever number one single that’s probably about something to do with ejaculation but no-one’s really entirely sure, Frankie Goes to Hollywood.

After the jump: no more unnecessary pop-culture references, promise.

Because of major problems we have had with our previous publisher, Lexicon Entertainment, our development on Penumbra has been severly delayed and we have also been forced to cut down on making a triology. Instead we will release “Black Plague” as the final installment of Penumbra. This will be done with a new publisher, Paradox Interactive, and we are extremly happy that things have finally turned out this good. Not too long ago, we where not even sure that there would be any more Penumbra games, and greatly thanks to the involvement of Paradox we can finish what we started.

To be honest I think that releasing Black Plague as a final chapter will be a lot better than releasing the two planned episodes. The story will be a lot tighter and not have any drawn out segments as you usally see midseason in other series.”
-Thomas Grip, Frictional Games

I reviewed Overture a while back, and certainly enjoyed it enough to now look forward to its sequel, Black Plague. The gesture-based Newtonian physics system (want to open a door? Click the handle and pull the mouse backwards) worked a treat, and being snuffled at by hideous mutant dogs in the dark was the most unsettled I’d been for a while, at least until STALKER came along and really put the willies up me.

I didn’t quite click with it though – the mystery! destiny! exposition told by conveniently left diary! storytelling approach felt hackneyed and a little uninvolved, while a vast amount of the puzzles amounted to finding a new way to open yet another bloody door. Still, it was bold and brainy enough that I’d have loved for it to be a gentle success, but a few months more of polish could have made all the difference to that happening. In other words, I’m not entirely surprised that Frictional aren’t yet another Introversion.

Thomas’ comments suggest some awareness that Penumbra 2 (as I’m sure he’d really rather I didn’t call it) needs a bit more gloss than its forerunners, so I’m quietly excited about it. Much of this is because of Red, a character in Overture who acts as your unseen narrator/advisor (somewhat in the vein of Bioshock’s Atlas). He’s a truly splendid madman, your only real source of information in the game, but one who speaks in lyrical gibberish and sporadically explodes into inexplicable rage at you, the world, or himself just when you least expect it. He’s a compelling hint that Frictional could one day achieve something really special. He’s also well worth the £10.43 (or $20, US chums) you can now buy Penumbra for direct from Frictional. You should without doubt try the demo, at any rate.

So, best of luck to Frictional. It’s a real shame Penumbra the first didn’t make them the cash they deserve, but I’m hoping their determination is redoubled enough by the bruising to ensure Black Plague is a truly catchy middle eight, not a forlorn coda.

I would, however, suggest a name change for the game, for fear of terrible misinterpretation.

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Alec Meer

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Co-founder of RPS. Dungeon Keeper & X-COM 4 Life.

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