The Arrangement

 

Genre:   Adventure

Developer & Publisher:    Michael B. Clark

Released:  2004

PC Requirements:   Pentium with 300 MHz, Windows 95/98/2000/ME/XP, 32 MB RAM
900 MB hard drive space, 640x480 resolution, 24-bit color display,4X or faster CD-ROM drive, Windows compatible sound card and mouse

Walkthrough  

 

Additional Screenshots

 

 

by Jenny100


This review of The Arrangement is written in question and answer format.
The Arrangement was developed almost single-handedly by Michael B. Clark, who also developed the game Harvest.

Q: What is The Arrangement about?

Your character is an attorney whose wife gets kidnapped on the eve of their fifth wedding anniversary. Your goal in the game is to find your wife. The kidnapper enjoys toying with you and has set up a bunch of puzzles for you to solve. If you solve them, maybe he'll let you see your wife again.

The story unfolds as you receive phone calls and emails from the kidnapper, discover correspondence between your wife and the kidnapper, listen to messages on peoples' answering machines, and find other evidence of the "arrangement" the kidnapper had with your wife. You visit several locations in the game, including virtual worlds that the kidnapper has somehow set up for you.


Q: What are the controls like?

The Arrangement is a first person point-and-click adventure game. There is no panning. You use the mouse to explore the screens. The default cursor is a little white arrow. If the cursor changes to a fat arrow, it indicates that you can move or turn in the direction of the arrow. The cursor changes to a magnifying glass to indicate you can zoom in on objects. A curved arrow means you can back up - or back out of a zoom. The cursor changes to a hand to indicate you can interact with an object in the environment - for example to push a button. A different hand cursor indicates you can pick something up. One click puts it in your inventory. If you've played Michael B. Clark's previous
game, Harvest, these controls will be familiar to you.


Q: So moving around the game is fairly easy?

Most of the time. There are a few locations where it can confuse you. Sometimes you leave a screen by clicking on sideways arrows to turn around and then on forward arrow to move forward and exit the location. And sometimes you leave a screen by clicking a curved arrow to back out of the area the same way you'd back out of a zoom. There are a few areas where there are diagonal arrows as well as side arrows, and you may miss the diagonal arrow if you don't explore the screen carefully with your cursor.

There is one place where you have to access three consoles. Accessing any of the consoles other than the first one is tricky because it can't be done using the usual horizontal arrow cursors and there are no hotspots directly in front of the other two consoles. Instead of using the arrow cursors, which will only rotate you, you must search for a new type of cursor - a pointy finger - which
will sidestep you to the next console. I spent an embarrassingly long time trying to figure out how to access the second and third consoles because I kept looking for hotspots in front of them.


Q: What about inventory?

You access inventory by moving your cursor over a black box that says "Inventory" that is in the upper left corner of your screen. This causes the inventory bar to appear at the top of the screen. There is a magnifying glass in your inventory that you can drag over items in inventory to examine them more closely. This is useful for reading notes and labels on things you find.

To use an inventory item, you drag it from the inventory to the hotspot over the object you want to use it on. Potentially interactive locations in the game environment are indicated by a cursor change. Using inventory is usually fairly easy, but I remember one location in the game where the place where I had to use the item was very close to the inventory bar and it was a little tricky to avoid putting the item right back into the inventory. Nothing insurmountable, but I would have appreciated the ability to close the inventory after selecting the item.


Q: What are the puzzles like?

There are a variety of puzzles. Most of them are fairly easy as long as you are observant and methodical in searching for inventory and don't miss something like flipping an inventory item over to see what's written on the back. The puzzles range from inventory puzzles to various types of memory puzzles to color matching puzzles to puzzles where you have to figure out a code. There was one
particularly challenging puzzle where you had to match a diagram of a floor plan to what you saw in the game.


Q: How about saved games? Can you save wherever you like?

Yes. There are two ways to save. One is from the Menu screen you see whenever you exit an area. The other is through the toolbar. During the game you can right-click to make a toolbar appear at the top of the screen and choose to Save, Load, Exit the game, or adjust Options from there. You are allowed an unlimited number of saves.


Q: What are the Options?

You can choose to Disable Transitions or Real-time Effects through the toolbar that appears when you right-click. On the Menu screen there is an option for subtitles.


Q: Harvest took place in essentially only one location - an underground complex underneath a park. Do you visit more than one location in The Arrangement?

Yes. New locations become available as you play through the game. They appear on the Menu screen along with Save, Load, and Exit instead of on a separate Map screen. Locations are identified by a small, labeled screenshot and you click on the screenshot to go there.


Q: What are the graphics like?

The game runs in 640x480 resolution and 24-bit color. If your video card doesn't have a setting for 24-bit color, it will work in 32-bit. The backgrounds are mostly good. Some of them are very nicely detailed, with a nice interplay of shadows on surfaces. There aren't many background animations other than a few areas where there is a fire in the fireplace or candles are lit or you see city lights blinking and stars twinkling outside a window at night. The models for the people in the game were less satisfactory than the backgrounds. They are somewhat stylized, and the bodies look a little bulgy sometimes, but the main problem with them is that they aren't animated all that well and the lip synch often doesn't match up. At some points in the game a series of still images was used instead of animation, and I thought this worked better.


Q: Would you say it was bad enough to detract from your enjoyment of the game?

Not really. Most of the time you're alone in the game and don't see any characters.


Q: How much interactivity is there in the game?

As far as character interaction, you rarely meet other characters in the game. When you do, there are no conversation trees to contend with. The text for your character's speech appears onscreen and there is only one option for you to select. The person you're talking to replies, and if your character has more to say, more text will appear for you to click on. Sometimes a character will give you an item for your inventory.

There is considerably more interactivity with objects in the game world. There are drawers and cabinets you can open and machines you can manipulate. One of the most interesting machines is the Red Herring Checker. Put an inventory item in the machine, process it, and the machine will destroy the item if it is not needed. If it is, the machine will flash a sign telling you to retrieve the item. Games like The Omega Stone could certainly have used something like this Red Herring Checker. Also, for those who are interested in such things, the game has some working plumbing. There are two toilets that you can flush if you feel so inclined. Unfortunately the lids are down so you don't get to see the water going round and round. Maybe next game we'll get to see the water.


Q: How was the sound?

The music was very good for setting the mood of the game environments. The music was written and recorded by Christopher Brendel, who is currently working on his own new game, titled Lifestream.

In general, sound effects were also good, though some of them seemed a bit louder than they should have been with respect to one another. Footsteps sometimes sounded like the wrong type of footstep for an area and the sound of climbing down a ladder sounded to me more like the sound of priming a pump. But most sounds were appropriate and there was usually good audio feedback when you accomplished something while working on a puzzle.


Q: Does the game have a full install option?

Yes. The game installs fully to the hard drive. You can put away your game CD after installing.


Q: I've heard it's a short game.

Yes it's fairly short - about the same length as Harvest. But sometimes that's just what you want when you're going to have to leave on a trip soon and want to finish your game before you leave. Or when you've just finished a long and difficult game and are looking for something less taxing for a change.


Q: Are there any Easter Eggs?

Yes. If you wish to know more about the Easter Eggs, you can find them listed at the end of MaGtRo's walkthrough here: http://www.gameboomers.com/wtcheats/pcAa/arrangement.htm

There are also references to Michael B. Clark's earlier game, Harvest. You don't have to have played Harvest to play The Arrangement, but it's kind of fun to recognize references to the events in Harvest when they appear.


Q: What are the required system specs for the game?

The specs as listed on the instruction sheet that came with the game are

Minimum system requirements:
Pentium with 300 MHz
Windows 95/98/2000/ME/XP
32 MB RAM
900 MB hard drive space
640x480 resolution, 24-bit color display
4X or faster CD-ROM drive
Windows compatible sound card and mouse

Preferred system requirements:
Pentium with 733 MHz
Windows XP
64 MB RAM
900 MB hard drive space
640x480 resolution, 24-bit color display
4X or faster CD-ROM drive
Windows compatible sound card and mouse

Here's what I played it on:

Pentium II with 266 MHz
Windows 98SE
DirectX 7a
320 MB RAM
Matrox Mystique 8 MB video card
10 GB free hard drive space
4.8X/32X Toshiba SD-M1202 DVD drive
Soundblaster AWE 32
Logitech trackball

I also played through it on a slower AMD computer

AMD 233 MHz
Windows 98FE
DirectX 7a
64 MB RAM
Matrox Mystique 4 MB video card
32X Toshiba CD drive
Soundblaster AWE 64 Gold
Logitech trackball

and on a computer closer in speed to the recommended computer for the game.

PIII 750
Windows 98SE
DirectX 8.1b
512 MB RAM
Geforce 2 TI 64 MB video card
16X/48X Toshiba DVD drive
Hercules Fortissimo II sound card
Logitech trackball


Q: Did you have any problems playing it on a slow machine?

Sometimes when I loaded a game I'd get a message saying the script was taking longer than expected to run, etc. etc. But the game always loaded OK. This only happened on the slower computers. Overall the game was very stable with some minor graphical glitches, such as a cursor that sometimes flickered and a black rectangle that would sometimes flicker on and off around a character's eyes. The flickering cursor only appeared on the slow machines, but the black rectangle also appeared with the 750 MHz computer. I wouldn't recommend running The Arrangement on anything as slow as the 233 MHz, not because it can't be done, but because the feedback you get while doing puzzles is delayed. Some puzzles are worse than others this way, but it would have been very frustrating trying to solve some of them for the first time on a sluggish machine.


Q: Where can The Arrangement be purchased?

The Arrangement is available online at http://www.members.aol.com/arrangementgame/ You can order using either Paypal or Kagi. The total cost is $14.95, which includes shipping. The game arrives in a DVD case with printed instructions and a separate soundtrack CD with about 22 minutes of music from the game. Like Harvest and most other self-published games made by independent developers, it is on CDR.


Q: Comments?

I enjoyed playing The Arrangement. I even enjoyed the ending, though I'm aware that not everyone did. It's a very stable game. I don't know of anyone who's had any serious technical problems with it. There have been reports of occasional script errors that don't seem to interfere with playing the game. I only had them myself when loading a saved game on the slower computers and the save always loaded despite the error. The Arrangement may not be the most technologically advanced game you can buy, but there's something to be said for a stable game that can work with any version of Windows from Windows 95 to XP. There are no timed or action puzzles and the story is interesting enough to make you want to keep playing. I look forward to Michael B. Clark's next game.

Overall grade: B-

 

design copyright 2004 GameBoomers Group

 GB Reviews Index