What to expect from today’s adventure genre when a game comes along in the form of a fantasy comedy based on a web browser series? Jay Ziebarth‘s point-and-click creation gets the commercial premium treatment.
The Ballads of Reemus: When The Bed Bites (PC)
(Canada 2012, developer/publisher: ClickShake Games, platform: PC)
Medieval fantasy exterminator Reemus and his sidekick bear minstrel Liam have to get rid of a bug infestation in a small town, which takes them on a much longer journey than expected.
Fun and comedy in story and characters
Comic adventures constantly seem to struggle with having an inspired plot and offering laugh-out-loud funny jokes and situations when it comes to storytelling while characters are usually on the whacky side. The Ballad of Reemus: When The Bed Bites is no different. Even if not every line of dialogue succeeds, there’s a high amount of funny moments and crazy characters, like a bard telling the townfolk’s secrets in a bawdy style while even the fantasy creatures have their irony cut out for them. Reemus and his companion Liam (a purple bear chronicling his friend’s adventures with a song or two) are also a duo to sympathize with. There isn’t anything deeper to either them or the NPCs, so whoever expects some life stories with funny anecdotes will be disappointed.
The story is fast-paced, typically nonsensical and not that engaging, but like most comic adventures, that’s to be expected (even if LucasArts or the recent The Journey Down would are other examples). It’s too bad that despite the interesting places to visit, the scenery is changed a bit to often too quickly to really get a sense of place of the fantasy world. Maybe the free-to-play web-series The Several Journeys of Reemus gives a bit more insight and immersion, but the full-length game feels more like stitched together with various parts, lacking in consistency and characterization.
To the rhythm of the puzzling
What the game doesn’t lack is the variety of puzzles. Despite being a web browser game in which interaction is limited to picking up items and using them with the environment without the possibility of inventory combinations, it doesn’t simply rely on a trial-and-error method like the Samorost games which are more concerned with their aesthetics than actual puzzle-solving.
There are quite a few original ideas to be found in the puzzles, and without spoiling it, suffice it to say that it’s definitely not a casual game in that sense. It’s sure easy to pick up and play, but it needs lateral thinking as much as it requires a sense of orientation. First there aren’t that many places to visit, but later with multiple puzzle chains to solve, one has to remember where specific persons and interaction points are in order to progress. This open nature raises the difficulty bar, but it also means that one can tackle different things at the same time. It also gets more complex when the player has to switch between the two protagonists, sometimes solving independent puzzles, at other times working together.
I spy with my little eye and hear with my big ears some quality
The world and its characters are beautifully crafted and drawn with lots of detail and vibrant colors. It’s a shame then that animations are obviously in a repeating cycle, making the world look as if inhabited rather by puppets than lively people. It certainly beats most casual hidden objects titles to have more movement in the background, but when these are rooted to the spot and do the same actions too fast too many times, it takes away some of the immersion.
Soundtrack (which can also be downloaded in a pay-what-you-want way on Bandcamp) and voice acting are excellent throughout. Not only does the one offer a lot of catchy tunes and fun songs and the other have strong talents, but they both make the bizarre world of Reemus come alive and stand out as something unique. It’s hard to describe, but there’s a raw beauty behind the bard’s songs summing up the main story parts and the characters cracking jokes about the main anti-heroes and the fantasy world in general. There’s simply a lot to like here, but it’s unfortunate that dialogues can’t be skipped when they have already been listened to, another compromise due to the web browser engine, which also shows in its approach to some questionable casual game design elements.
Casually dressed for light conversation and gaming
Casual gaming is actually another point of discussion. Despite the many puzzles and places to visit, the game runs short of 3-4 hours, and only by finding hidden objects can it provide an incentive to delve deeper into its world. There are quite a few characters which give the player the task to collect a certain number of items, typically fragments of some sort. These just show up randomly in the locations and have to be clicked on, then reassembled like in a jigsaw puzzle. This might make the game longer and some of the characters are actually even more fun to meet than in the main story, but it doesn’t distract from the fact that it’s a rather cheap way of making the playtime longer.
Browser games are not all that bad when they’re this good
There are lots of free web browser games around and the number of casual titles with hidden objects mechanics are countless, so why bother spending money on a game like The Ballads of Reemus: When The Beg Bites? Simply because it’s good: some lovely graphics, a great soundtrack and voice acting complement the fun dialogues and puzzle design. It may be a bit short, but it has the heart in the right place and deserves much more attention than some point-and-click adventures which lose themselves in obscure puzzle chains without an emphasis on accessibility.
Buy the PC game on
ClickShake Games’ Website
Play the free web game episodes of
The Several Journeys of Reemus
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