In the last few years point-and-click style games have resurfaced with a passion. Telltale's Walking Dead started the fire with its compelling storytelling and consequence driven gameplay. They swiftly followed that up with the Wolf Among Us, another episodic title based on a comic series, this time Bill Willingham's Fables. After those two titanic hits, Telltale blew up and is now making Game of Thrones, Borderlands, and Minecraft adventures in the same vein.
What this "Point-and-Click Renaissance," we'll call it, did was open the door for hundreds, if not thousands of indie developers to make the same types of titles. Titles that, while graphically (and developmentally) less tenacious (without sounding rash) than major AAA titles like The Elder Scrolls or Mass Effect, had the opportunity to do what so many games today fail to do: Tell a truly enveloping story in an enthrallingly stylistic visual manor.
Last month I had the opportunity to preview Technobabylon, a point-and-click style adventure game from Wadjet Eye Games (Gemini Rue, The Blackwell Epiphany). The Cyberpunk adventure takes place in a city called Newton in the year 2087. Immediately it was clear that the game drew heavily from sci-fi influences, especially those of the great Philip K. Dick, author of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and We Can Remember It For You Wholesale (inspiration for classic sci-fi films Bladerunner and Total Recall, respectively).
Newton is dirty and clean at the same time. Technologically advanced and repressed. New and old. All aesthetics that lend themselves to a story that, in my playthrough of the preview, weighs heavily on dichotomy.
The three characters that I got to see were Max Lao and Charlie Regis, partner agents at CEL investigating killings that bear the indicatory marks of a serial killer (affectionately named the Mindjacker due to his M.O.), and Latha Sesame, a user and addict of a technological activity called Trance. Trance, a virtual domain love-child born from likes of Surrogates, Inception, and Tron's Grid, is a cyberspace in which people can enter and do anything that their heart desires.
The story that I encountered was setting up what could only be a gloriously tangled web of choice, consequence, and the world left behind. And in world where people can effortlessly link themselves to anything with an interface, Technobabylon also warns of an environment we may find ourselves a part of in the not-so-distant future. The less-than-comforting AI running the city, Central, is unnerving and omnipresent, creeping wherever it wants with no one to stop it. Trance addicts would sooner abandon the tangible world for the digital. And here we have our triumvirate of ordinary characters, thrust into unsettlingly extraordinary situations.
How Max, Charlie, and Latha will intersect remains a mystery, but the suggestion that Latha might be a future Mindjacker target is enough to assume that their intersection will be wrought with peril.
Technobabylon is set to release on May 21st on PC. Come back to NerdyBits that same day for our full review.