About 12 years ago Pendulo released a Spanish language game called
Hollywood Monsters. It featured Sue Bergman and Ron Ashman, rival
journalists working for The Quill, and on assignment together at the
Monsters Ball being held at the swanky mansion of movie mogul Otto
Hanover. The monsters were real, the journalists jocular, and it never saw
the English light of day (although an incomplete pre-production English
language version apparently exists).
Cue 2011, and
Pendulo releases The Next BIG Thing, featuring Dan Murray and Liz
Allaire, journalistic colleagues working for The Quill. Dan is hardboiled,
sports to the core, forced to do penance on the society pages. Liz is
perky, ambitious and hoping for greatness. On assignment together at the
Horror Movie Awards, Liz spies BIG Albert sneaking into the mansion of
monster (literally) movie mogul William FitzRandolph.
So do we have Hollywood
Monsters the sequel, or Hollywood Monsters in English, or a new
realisation of the old, or something else altogether? Do some Googling and
you will get more than one hit saying the Spanish version will be called
Hollywood Monsters 2. I have no idea whether it is, and it doesn’t
matter. Whatever it is, it’s fun.
Pull petals from the daisy
Pendulo is best known for the
three Runaway games, and there is a lot of Runaway in here.
However the absurdity level is cranked way up - offbeat, quirky and wacky
could all get a descriptive jersey. From Professor Fly (who really is) to
the Poet of Pain, about the only almost ordinary character is Dan himself
(and that’s by comparison).
From the moment you stare the
opening fish in the face, you know this is going to look good. The
cinematic cut scenes in particular stand out. Storyboarded then shot with
real actors before being animated, the final result is superb. The game
world itself is not far behind, being high definition and lavishly
coloured. Liz’s “headspace” is a highlight, as is her foray into the art
I haven’t encountered a character
I have enjoyed as much as Liz since…well, Isabelle
GameBoomers joke). Seriously though, how can you not like a hyperactive
tousled blonde who talks to herself, is afraid of crocodile paintings,
blurts out the occasional bit of nonsense (there are very few questions
you can answer with “vegetable soup”), and knows what others are going to
say before they say it? Plus she looks great in a cocktail dress.
Her foil is Dan. Hunkalicious,
brooding, introverted and self-centred, he ends up being not nearly all of
those. He doesn’t get to wear a cocktail dress, but his Tarzan loincloth
is a more than adequate substitute.
Other interesting characters
abound. The Poet of Pain is an ex-stuntman who has parlayed his pain into
poetry. However he now finds inspiration only in truly novel pain. Shortly
after we first encounter him, we find him burning his own flesh with a
magnifying glass. One really must suffer for one's art. Professor Fly is
half man, half fly and three feet tall. Repulsive even to himself,
corrosive spit just tops him off nicely. BIG Albert looks like
Frankenstein and appears to have been built the same way, but holds three
Nobel prizes. And the wolverine-ish FitzRandolph oozes charm and something
not at all charming.
Wounded like thousands of
The voice acting doesn’t let them
down. Dan is a little drab, but Liz shines. She flits between emotions,
sometimes in seconds, and battles to keep them under control. She knows
she is slightly mad, chanting a little mantra to maintain her poise. The
Professor sounds like a speaking fly should, and FitzRandolph sounds like
a mogul, all quiet power and ego. Others of note are the manically
depressed robot gardener Phil and Liz’s punctuation obsessed sister
The plot is BIG, and its telling
is rather good. The former involves FitzRandolph wanting to get out of the
horror business and into the family flick, interspersed with mind control,
kidnapping, robots and mad scientists. The latter involves a silver
tongued narrator and an end I didn’t see coming.
The game play is not nearly as
big, being very linear and self-contained within each chapter. There are
limited locations in each chapter, and maybe four or five hotspots in each
location. The most expansive environment is probably Liz’s internal world,
and I thought it had some of the best puzzling. The tango puzzle is one of
the few out-and-out puzzles and, despite being musically based, I liked it
a lot. The dance card conundrum was equally good.
The majority of the puzzling is
inventory based, and solves are not always, shall we say, obvious. It
isn’t obtuse, but at times it is somewhat absurd (but often in a good
way). It even pokes fun at some of its solves, with the characters making
wry comments about what they are doing. In hindsight some are quite
clever, although the illogical nature of some of them might be a minus for
The Next BIG Thing
isn’t a hard game, especially if you play with "help" and "reveal
hotspots" enabled. You don’t have to resort to them, but they are there if
you want them. Indeed, some players might find there is an overall
imbalance between what is either easy or illogical, although I thought the
game rolled along nicely and saw the more obscure solves befitting the
offbeat vibe of the whole thing. And yes, I did have to try everything
with everything more than once.
There is a lot of dialogue,
although much of it is for effect (as opposed to being necessary to
progress). It provides background, back stories and banter, and humour to
a degree that will be determined by your own sense. I defy anyone,
however, not to be amused more than once. Dialogue trees can be a little
confused, but by and large they are fairly straightforward.
My eye devouring my brain
Fun is everywhere, from the look,
to sight gags (Jimmy Love opening a door and the Oracle’s shadow puppetry
both tickled me) to the shirt on the Professor. Other things that are
everywhere are movie, song and political references, digs at popular
culture, and animation homage. You will recognise famous movie types in
some of the characters, and in some of their dialogue.
Don’t forget to check the stats
either. And what other game credits the Ominous Bespectacled Earthenware
Neither the sound effects nor the
musical score overwhelm. They are there, varied in the case of the music,
accurate for the sound effects. They add to the experience as opposed to
taking the focus from the experience.
There was the odd little
inconsistency (I hadn’t used the vegetable soup response and yet it was
commented on) and the game tried to install DirectX without asking me and
then the installer stopped responding (although the game started and
played flawlessly). That was it in terms of operating issues.
Actions are limited to "look" and
"take" (or a variant thereof) and game play is point and click simplicity.
Moving the cursor to the top of the screen gives you access to the
inventory, the control panel, and hotspots and help if you have enabled
I played The Next BIG Thing
over the course of two days and it probably took 10 hours or so. I got a
whole heap of enjoyment out of it, and if the obvious opening for another
tale was to eventuate, I would play without hesitation. It wasn’t perfect,
but Pendulo clearly knows how to do BIG fun animated adventures.
I played on:
OS: Windows 7
Processor: AMD Phenom 9500 Quad Core CPU 2.2 GHz
Ram: 4.00GB DDR2 400MHz
Gx card: ATI Radeon HD
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