Midnight at the Celestial
Palace: Chapter 1
We start with a story being
told, a story about a magical dreamworld with fantastical beasts and
dastardly villains. And Gregory, an approaching forty year old man who
has a problem with paying bills, holding a job and personal hygiene.
Determined not to make a mark, he has, says the narrator, abandoned the
burden of ambition.
We first meet Gregory lounging
on his couch, garbed in shorts and a greenish dressing gown. Old pizza
boxes and other unsavoury objects litter the room, and Gregory’s only
desire is to find something to eat before going to bed. His desire is
your desire, so hop to it.
A short while (and a tutorial)
later, you should have him fed and snoring on the couch. Then things get
Enter Sir Squiggles, through the
window as a falling twinkle of star light. He is a Knight of the Court
of Princess Exaltia, the ruler of Dreamania, and he is in search of a
champion. He is also an otter in a lavender hat. Rather than a champion,
he finds the wrong end of a lusty forehand with a tennis racquet, but
insists that Gregory is his man. Gregory disagrees.
And so Sir Squiggles bursts into
song. By the end, Gregory is singing along and stepping through the
twilight portal, bound for the land of Dreamania, to vanquish (or at
least check out) the “rising great evil”.
And so it begins in earnest. I
did think the whole sequence involving the song was a little lengthy
given the game had only just started and during the sequence you just
watched and weren’t actively involved (although you did get to choose
how the song progressed), but once in Dreamania, things open up
Sir Squiggles wants to get you
to the palace asap, the only problem being a giant chasm that has
appeared and which prevents you getting near. Another way must be found,
and every location in that part of the game is available to you. A house
you can visit will have no one home until a certain piece of information
has been revealed, and some items won’t be of use or interest until you
know something about them and have a reason to take them, but there is
nowhere you can’t go. Sebastian the horse filling in the chasm with a
bucket and spade, the nefariously difficult putt-putt golf course, the
bugs waging aerial warfare over a cake, the less than helpful museum
attendant and all her exhibits, and the Merman Coffee tavern with the
tragically awful minstrel and the coffee addicted and uninspired
pirates; all are available to interact with.
Which you must do. Conversations
are important – they lead to information which will open up more
conversation topics, allow you to access items and trigger ways to move
I liked this part a lot.
Progression was iterative, things building as you explored. You weren’t
confined to one or two locations, which meant if you got a little stuck
you just went somewhere else to see what you might find. Getting stuck
was rare though – the game isn’t painting by numbers but nor is it hard,
especially if you utilise the try this inventory item there just to see
approach. To be fair, I almost inevitably had a reason to do what I
tried, and Sir Squiggles can be very helpful if questioned. So too can
looking at items (right click) elicit useful information.
There is a single out and out
puzzle, and it is worth mentioning. It was simplistically bewildering,
until the simplicity hit. Kudos to the designer.
I was less enamoured of the
songs (there are four not counting the very first maudlin minstrel
dirge), but when have you encountered a singing adventure? And while I
am not a musical lover, we all thought the singing Buffy episode was
awesome (the less said about Cop Rock the better), so kudos again for
doing something a bit different.
And the ode to coffee did shiver
my timbers a tad.
When you eventually get across
the chasm, the game closes down a bit, with limited locations available
at any one time. You do get to play Sir Squiggles though, which
There is a gawky, goofy look and
feel to things that keeps things on a slightly odd-ball plane. Voices
can be a little silly, but so too can horses riding bikes, flautist cats
and otters in hats. It is a fairy story of sorts after all, and weird
and silly things are bound to be involved.
There is background music as
well as the songs, which helps set an appropriate mood. Sound effects
and a muted colour palette round things out.
I didn’t laugh out loud, but it
can by smirksome at times. Plus how you relate to the characters may
increase your mirth levels. I did have fun.
The inventory slides out right
of screen, and you can examine and combine items in there. Right click
to look at things in the game world, left to interact. The cursor will
generate a label of anything you can interact with when hovered over
said item. Some things can have more than one hotspot, so explore
carefully, but pixel hunting is not a factor (there is some close
separation between one or two hotspots though).
You don’t die, you can save at
will, and you can replay any song from the menu once you have heard it
the first time. Locations can slide left and right, and sometimes other
directions as you move around, but many are limited to what you see on
screen. Exits are indicated by a double arrow icon, and double clicking
will jump you there. Loads between screens are virtually non-existent.
There are some cut scenes, There are some interestingly framed screens
which limit the perspective, otherwise it plays full screen.
Midnight at the Celestial Palace
is left with the narrator saying that what is to come is the place of
other stories, so you won’t get resolution. Gregory and Sir Squiggles
certainly have more to do in Dreamania. It proved about 4 hours of
enjoyment, and I will come back.
I played on:
OS: Windows 10, 64 Bit
Processor: Intel i7-6700 4GHz
RAM: 32GB GDDR5
Video card: AMD Radeon RX 470 8192MB
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