Genre:   Adventure

Developer:   Pendulo Studios

Publisher:    Focus Home Interactive

Released:  April 2011

PC Requirements:  

  • OS : Windows XP / Vista /Windows 7

  • CPU: Intel/AMD2.0 GHz

  • RAM: 1024 MB (XP)/2048 MB/(Vista/7)

  • Video Card: 256 MB DirectX 9 compatible

  • HDD: 8 GB

Additional screenshots






by flotsam


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 of existence

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 world.

I haven’t encountered a character I have enjoyed as much as Liz since…well, Isabelle (a little 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 bees

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 Anne-Marie.

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 some players.

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 Jug?

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 them.

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 3850 512Mb

GameBoomers Review Guidelines

April, 2011

design copyright© 2010 GameBoomers Group

 GB Reviews Index