In the face of massive games, big money publishers and the whole tilt the industry seems to have gone for bigger is better Ė Indie developers are often swept under the carpet, hidden like some old dust or plainly tossed aside in favour of something with a bigger budget and a massive development team.
Iíve always been a fan of mavericks, loud voices that rise above the clamour of the big guns. Who bravely shoulder the responsibility of making a game that rightly requires a lot more money and a bigger development crew than it has. Sometimes the results are a disaster and sometimes you find thereís a diamond hidden away in the rough.
A while ago we ran a preview on a game called Penumbra Overture, well; finally we got our hands on a review copy and have been putting it through its paces.
Penumbra is a curious game; a mix of first person Alone in the Dark style horror with physics based gameplay puzzles. The one important thing to remember is: itís a game made by four people on a limited budget, and itís a good one. (So if you donít read below this line, we get that out of the way right now)
The story puts you firmly in the shoes of a gentleman who finds himself alone in Greenland, underground and with no way to get out (it seems) Ė itís the first episode in a trilogy and lays the foundations for what could be an excellent series of games.
The story is a little clunky in places but this comes from the fact that hey, itís a 3 part story and trying to do a trilogy is an immense undertaking in its own right, so rather than being trashed for it, the developers need to be commended for taking a big and bold step.
Penumbra seethes with Lovecraftian atmosphere and thatís one of the strong points of the game. If you are looking for an action title like Half Life 2 or a shooter that lets you play an invulnerable Adonis grunt that lets rip with big guns, Penumbra best stay on the shelf. If you want something a little trickier that will have you reloading your save more often than not because itís quite hard in places, is genuinely creepy and has some innovations in gameplay and puzzles, then you want to snap it off the shelf now and take it to the counter!
Penumbra is a fantastic game for such a small team and in the sea of big budget titles it gives us a sense of hope, that more games like this that ooze love and attention, that are the product of a dedicated group of developers who give a damn about their game are on the horizon. As mentioned previously, it isnít an action game and the character that you play isnít built for fighting, itís best to try and think your way around various enemies.
If a fight is inevitable (as sometimes it is) then you may well take some brutal hits, since the combat system is a bit quirky and takes some getting used to. The whole thing relies on the movement of the mouse, to take objects in the game world and interact with your environment (or an enemiesí skull). Pick up a hammer, try and smash a floor, smash an enemy and so on.