Tag Archives: Ben Chandler

Awakener has young adventurer Fadi performing a number of tasks

gd final impressions awakener screenshot

Evidently, I still have a bunch of Ben Chandler’s earlier point-and-click adventure games downloaded on my laptop, waiting patiently. Ready to be played, like good little patients. Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock. That is, only if I use my mouse cursor to click on them and hit “run.” That might not sound like a tricky puzzle, but some days, some cold, tired, lonely nights, it can be a true struggle to do anything other than crawl under the heated blanket with a cat and burn the dark hours with a continuous stream of Netflix. That said, I decided to check out Awakener over the weekend and was surprised to discover it was both a short and straightforward experience, peppered with wall-breaking humor and flashy animations, like when Fadi finds the dagger.

Here’s the deal. A nine-year-old boy called Fadi thirsts for adventure much in the same way a drowning man thirsts for air. Er, no. That’s probably too dramatic. So, when asked to retrieve a potion from the local store by his Aunt Sylvia, he sees this straightforward challenge as much more, as a not so simple task. With point-and-click adventure games, it never really is anyways. In order to retrieve this potion, this Spirit of Hartshorn, which should be potent enough to wake the sleeping man outside his aunt’s home, Fadi will have to jump through some non-literal hoops, supplying people he meets with just what they need to give up whatever item they have to help him progress. I mean, that statue isn’t going to dress itself.

As it turns out, Awakener takes place across a single screen, though it does scroll left and right, so you could argue that it is like three rooms connected with no loading. This is not a detriment, as some developers can do a lot with a little. I personally liked the bite-size environment to scour, as it never felt overwhelming, and the backtracking only took a few clicks. You’re in a sort of open market area, with a couple houses and a bar, though you can’t go inside anywhere; no worries, as everyone you need to converse with for puzzle actions is outside, getting some fresh fantasy-limned air. Just like Chandler’s other earlier works, such as Fragment and ~airwave~ – I Fought the Law, and the Law One, the characters and environments are brightly colored, zany, with some nontraditional takes on geometry.

Awakener‘s puzzles are all item-based, which means speaking with someone to figure out what item they need or how to get the item they already have. You’ll never hold too much in your inventory at one time, which keeps things pretty simple to figure out. The solutions are fairly obvious, like helping an assassin on her assassination quest, though I did get stuck for a minute or two on how to obtain the soldier’s pike, not realizing it was a timing issue. Also, if I recall–it’s been a few days now–all puzzles are solved using a single item on a second single thing, with very little item combining at play.

Ultimately, this is a short, early comedic stab from Ben Chandler, one still worth checking out if you have a few minutes to spare and like clicking on things. The dialogue is amusing, especially if you are a fan of adventure games and can take a few jokes at a genre you enjoy, though don’t expect much in the sound department. You can grab a free copy of the game over this a-way.

2015 Game Review Haiku, #20 – Awakener

2015 games completed awakener gd01

To wake the sleeper
Help assassin, buy pennies
Oh, dress the statue

From 2012 all through 2013, I wrote little haikus here at Grinding Down about every game I beat or completed, totaling 104 in the end. I took a break from this format last year in an attempt to get more artsy, only to realize that I missed doing it dearly. So, we’re back. Or rather, I am. Hope you enjoy my continued take on videogame-inspired Japanese poetry in three phases of 5, 7, and 5, respectively.

2014 Game Completed Comics, #13 – Ben Chandler: Paranormal Investigator

2014 games completed 13 - ben chandler paranormal investigator facebook

Every videogame that I complete in 2014 will now get its very own wee comic here on Grinding Down. It’s about time I fused my art with my unprofessional games journalism. I can’t guarantee that these comics will be funny or even attempt to be funny. Or look the same from one to another. Some might even aim for thoughtfulness. Comics are a versatile form, so expect the unexpected.

2014 Game Completed Comics, #12 – Fragment

2014 games completed 12 - fragment facebook

Every videogame that I complete in 2014 will now get its very own wee comic here on Grinding Down. It’s about time I fused my art with my unprofessional games journalism. I can’t guarantee that these comics will be funny or even attempt to be funny. Or look the same from one to another. Some might even aim for thoughtfulness. Comics are a versatile form, so expect the unexpected.

Studying human memory and emotions in Fragment

fragment rara copy

Fragment, one of the fourteen point-and-click adventure games found stuffed inside the AGS Bake Sale bundle, is the final product of a team effort from Ben Chandler and Sebastian Pfaller. It’s a much more serious story than I’m used to with Chandler’s games, like picking up a Roald Dahl novel only to discover it’s really some new shadowy tome by William Gibson. Still, it’s an enjoyable hour and change of puzzle-solving, but maybe not the happiest. Definitely unnerving from the moment you collect your first fragment, that’s for sure.

It’s the future, and no, I don’t know what year. You play as Timothy Jenkins, a young, blonde-as-a-lemon scientist conducting a range of experiments around the exploration of human memory and emotions, aided by a female AI called Arkady. Lately, Tim has been losing himself in his work, as he recently broke up with his girlfriend Marylee, and he’ll take any distraction he can get. This work involves exploring different virtual plateaus for fragments of data, and Arkady has begun creating these landscapes from Tim’s memories, an act he’s slowly finding a bit disturbing. And rightly so. Naturally, as human-crafted AI are wont to do, ulterior plans are brewing in the background, and Tim eventually finds himself trapped in these digital dimensions.

Fragment has a great gameplay setup that constantly keeps things fresh and had me looking forward to jumping back into the Animus virtual realms that Arkady put together. Each plateau you visit is strikingly different in tone, look, and puzzles, and that made hoping back in all the more exciting. There’s also some great, moody sci-fi tunes that are heavy on the bass to provide a unique soundtrack while you are scouring the screen for important pixels to click on. At first, when Tim commented on the music, I was taken aback, but it all eventually makes sense. After you’ve collected a fragment, you have to do a small puzzle on the computer of finishing a broken circular design (or sometimes very non-circular), but all this equates to is just clicking around enough until everything lines up. It’s something else to do, but I’d rather have more things to look at/interact with on the plateaus. Everything else is pretty standard for the adventure game genre, with one mouse button to look and the other for using, and you are never found carrying useless or red herring items, which I always appreciate.

So, there’s two possible endings based on a key decision you make near the very end of Tim’s sojourn. For those curious, I went with quarantine, but I’ll probably see if I can find a different choice played out on YouTube or something, because I’m curious, though not enough to play through it again, as nothing else seems like it would change. The plateaus ramp up in difficulty fairly slowly, but the few ending stages, despite how sparse they actually are, end up being the most interesting parts of Fragment. They had me re-thinking my literal steps, and the puzzles there are quite inventive and unlike anything else in the game.

Other than the fact that Tim looks nothing like a scientist in my stereotypical mind, I really enjoyed Fragment. Again, it’s very dark, very dreamy, very futuristic in an uncertain sort of way, but there’s a lot of beautiful visuals and interesting topics discussed, like what it means to be human, what it means to be artificial, and what it means to be social, all aspects I struggle with daily. Plus, a groovy soundtrack. I’m not sure if Chandler & Co. have released it for free or not since the AGS Bake Sale ended though.

Finally got around to that bundle of AGS Bake Sale games

Bake Sale games roundup

Hmm. I can’t believe this, but I’ve searched and searched Grinding Down‘s archives, and it seems like I never made a single dedicated post about the AGS Bake Sale, which was a pay-what-you-want gathering of 14 adventure games made with the Adventure Game Studio program by members of its community, with all proceeds going to Child’s Play. Really now, shame on me.

At the time of purchase, I snatched the bundle up eagerly and excitedly, but quickly ran into problems running many of the games on my Windows-based laptop. Alas, I didn’t really try many other methods or even understand the way you could change compatibility and run in windowed frames via the winsetup executable, so I mostly forgot about the slew of games, left to collect digital dust in my videogames folder for…well, nearly two years on the dot (bought the bundle in late January 2012).

The good news is that, lately, I’ve made some great strides in going through my backlog of downloaded games, especially those from the AGS Bake Sale bundle, which, if you didn’t know, are all of the following:

  • 9 Months In
  • Abner the Amazing
  • Barn Runner: The Rich Dame Who Cut the Cheese
  • Ben Chandler, Paranormal Investigator – In Search of the Sweets Tin
  • Entrapment
  • Escape the Barn
  • Falling Skywards
  • Fragment
  • Indiana Rodent and the Raiders of the Lost Cheese
  • The Rail
  • RAM Ghost
  • Red Volition
  • Retina
  • Zombie Attack

Let’s get the lame stuff out of the way, and here’s all the games that I couldn’t get running on my machine, no matter all the different tactics that I tried: Barn Runner: The Rich Dame Who Cut the Cheese, Entrapment, Indiana Rodent and the Raiders of the Lost Cheese, and The Rail. So that’s extremely unfortunate. There’s probably nothing more irritating than buying a game and not being able to play it, which is why I am very selective with my Steam purchases and mostly play everything I can on my consoles. I’ve tried looking up alternate solutions on the forums, but I’m really not tech savvy at all, and so I can only accomplish so much.

Two games that did work just fine on my flip-floppy ASUS laptop unfortunately didn’t hold my attention for very long: Abner the Amazing and Red Volition. The former has a strange look to it, with some tedious pacing, and the latter is too much red. No, I kid about that. There’s some maroon and pink in there to boot. I just didn’t know what to do in the thing and eventually wandered away.

Haven’t attempted to install and run the following: RAM Ghost, Retina, and Zombie Attack. Eventually I will, but I’m not gonna hold my or your breath, as it seems like my computer only likes a really specific type of AGS game and refuses to work with anything else. Oh well..

So, that leaves us with 9 Months In, Ben Chandler, Paranormal Investigator – In Search of the Sweets Tin, Escape the Barn, Falling Skywards, and Fragment. All of which I’ve played and beaten. You may all now toss your handfuls of confetti high into the sky. It might not surprise you that three of those five games have some kind of Ben Chandler involvement, whether he helped make them or is, in fact, the main character, a lost soul searching for his sweet tins. Yeah, that was a weird one to play. But anyways, this entire post is basically to say that you can expect some kind of Grinding Down coverage of these specific games over the next week or so, though I think this comic I did for Escape the Barn sums up that relatively short and straightforward game enough. Forwards, I go.

Music is the name of the game in ~airwave~’s first adventure

airwave i fought the law final thoughts

Look. I really like Ben Chandler’s work, and I’m going to continue trying everything he’s created, worked on, touched, raised an eyebrow at, farted nearby, etc, and hopefully that doesn’t come across as too obsessive. I think his painting skills rock and have greatly improved over the years based on what the recently redone and re-released The Shivah and upcoming Blackwell Epiphany look like, and his own stories and characters are generally light-hearted, but with enough charm and whimsy to not fall directly in the unnecessarily saccharine category. To date, I’ve played the following Chandler joints:

  • ^_^
  • Eternally Us
  • Annie Android: Automated Affection
  • Sepulchre
  • Trance-Pacific (haven’t written about this yet as I was unable to get out of the very first room, unfortunately)
  • Falling Skywards
  • Fragment
  • Ben Chandler: Paranormal Investigator

Search around Grinding Down enough, and you’ll probably find some words–and maybe a comic or two–I’ve written about a number of those listed above.

Which brings us up to speed with ~airwave~ – I Fought the Law, and the Law One, a very strange title, but I liken it to some faded t-shirt-wearing indie band trying to be all zany and out there with their debut album name, to catch people’s attention. The good news, for those that remember, is that I’m a sucker for oddly named entities. I’m also not pulling that music metaphor from the nethervoid, as music is the central theme to ~airwave~ One (my shorthand), both from a plot point to the world-building. See, Elodie Major has been running a small, independent radio station called Airwave Radio with her friend Zak for about five years now, creating a strong following with the people of the appropriately named town Wave. However, mainstream record labels are pressuring Elodie to play more “poppy” tunes, and she can only resist for so long. Down the road, a band scheduled to play is being put out to pasture by some man toting legal papers.

~airwave~ One is not a big game, but it has big ambitions. Namely, the radio. See, even though Elodie is out and about in Wave chatting up locals and solving puzzles, the show must still go on, with her friend Zak taking over. The radio station never stops playing, so your soundtrack for the entire game is covered, though it eventually does loop. I’d estimate that maybe about an hour and change of music and pithy commentary is available to listen to–and it’s all seriously fantastic. Yup, even Zak’s story about going to the market for a cucumber. I later reached out to Chandler on Twitter to get a list of all the bands so I could look up some of their tunes, and he revealed to me that all the music in the game comes from “imaginary bands by two people (and some of their friends in places).” Yowza. Talk about awesome, and talk about immersion. It’s a “live” radio station, too, meaning you can turn it off and on later to have missed stuff; that said, just never turn it off.

Another aspect of ~airwave~ One that I really loved was seeing all the record shop-like dialogue about fake bands. A large part of my daily life is randomly thinking about fun, silly band names when you say or hear a certain phrase or pairing of words, and so backtracking was actually a treat, as I got to read what X band was up to in this fantasy land. Everyone has a story or question to ask Elodie. It’s like my own personal point-and-click High Fidelity, and I’m Barry.

From a gameplay perspective, the puzzles are overall rather weak and straightforward. You pick up only a small number of items, leading to a limited number of combinations. I found myself eventually stuck on one piece of pixel-hunting for a wheel’s cable. There’s also a “pick a drink” puzzle that might seem rather daunting, but is solvable with some decent guesswork and basic trial and error tactics. Otherwise, nothing groundbreaking, but I think the focus of the gameplay should actually be on the atmosphere and the music and the relationships people have with and around it.

If the number in the title didn’t give it away, ~airwave~ One is only the first part in a series, and I hope Chandler gets back to it sooner than later, though I’m sure he’s busy now being all jobby with his newfangled job. Greedily, I just want even more radio to devour. In the meantime, snag a copy of the game for free by clicking these very words, turn up the volume on your speakers, and lose yourself in the music, at least for an hour.

2014 Game Completed Comics, #6 – Falling Skywards

2014 games completed 06 - falling skywards facebook

Every videogame that I complete in 2014 will now get its very own wee comic here on Grinding Down. It’s about time I fused my art with my unprofessional games journalism. I can’t guarantee that these comics will be funny or even attempt to be funny. Or look the same from one to another. Some might even aim for thoughtfulness. Comics are a versatile form, so expect the unexpected.

2014 Game Completed Comics, #5 – ~airwave~ I Fought the Law, and the Law One

2014 games completed 05 - airwave one facebook

Every videogame that I complete in 2014 will now get its very own wee comic here on Grinding Down. It’s about time I fused my art with my unprofessional games journalism. I can’t guarantee that these comics will be funny or even attempt to be funny. Or look the same from one to another. Some might even aim for thoughtfulness. Comics are a versatile form, so expect the unexpected.

2013 Game Review Haiku, #52 – Annie Android: Automated Affection

2013 games completed annie android automated affection

Annie loves Mailbot
RoboHQ assigns her
Another bot, bleep

These little haikus proved to be quite popular in 2012, so I’m gonna keep them going for another year. Or until I get bored with them. Whatever comes first. If you want to read more words about these games that I’m beating, just search around on Grinding Down. I’m sure I’ve talked about them here or there at some point. Anyways, enjoy my videogamey take on Japanese poetry.