Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Frasse and the Peas of Kejick review

One sunny day, Frasse found a note from the king, offering reward to anyone who would find the fabled Peas of Kejick. Armed with nothing else than his armless friend Gurra, he set on an adventure that brought him to the highest peaks of the kingdom and the lowest depths of the king’s cheese cellar, let him meet fantastic and not so fantastic creatures, and had him ultimately prevail against the evil that’s got to be present in any self-respecting adventure game.

This, in short, describes the story of a very well thought out and polished adventure game. You play as Frasse and Gura, in the search for the peas. Frasse is a blue, hairy blob of um…something, while Gurra is a green, armless something else. You may want to call Frasse a monster; at least that’s what the game is inclined to do towards the end, but thanks to the very cute graphics he is an extremely likeable monster. He only has one problem: he is not too bright, and you won’t be able to have him lead intelligent discussion with people. Fortunately, there’s Gurra who you can switch to for dialogues. He is not only smarter, but he can also kick things, swim and eat nasty bugs. He’s not perfect, either. He lacks hands, and so he can’t manipulate objects or hold an inventory.

This tag-team of two complementing characters is the main theme of the game. We’ve seen similar tag teams before, in games like Gobliiins and others, but here they are much better integrated into the story. And while the two characters are being used to complement each other, the developer avoided the trap of overusing them at the expense of focusing on the story. To mix up things a little, in addition to having different puzzles for different characters, there is also a section of the game where the two must work together, each in a different location.

Frasse and the Peas of Kejick is a traditional point-and-click adventure, which lets you collect items, combine and use them, sometimes in very weird ways. Some puzzles are of the FedEx variety, where you need to deliver an item to someone in order to receive another. To the author’s credit, I must say that none of the puzzles was too straightforward. Instead, you’ll be faced with the task to collect and combine several items before being able to exchange the resulting contraption for the next thing that helps you in your journey, and sometimes you even have multiple paths to accomplish a certain thing. One interesting feature here is that items that are too big for your inventory are simply too big. As a result, Frasse needs to carry them on his head, and he won’t be able to do anything else while holding them.

Unfortunately, not all puzzles are obvious, and in a few instances the author opted for well-meant references to other games, but forgot to leave a hint to the player. As a result, despite the relative linearity of the game, the player may face a few frustrating moments.

The game itself is quite linear. It is divided into four parts that are defined by a series of locations, and even though you’ll be able to move across all the screens of a location without too many limitations, the writing forces you to focus on one puzzle at a time. This is not inherently a bad thing; in fact, it serves the game very well. The author has been very good at writing an engrossing story, and thanks to complex puzzles you’ll never feel like you’re being lead through the game on a leash. At least, this is true for the first three sections.

The biggest drawback of the game is its fourth and final section, which seems a little rushed. Here, you’ll lose Gurra and will be able to play only with Frasse. Due to this, you’ll be limited to a much more conventional adventuring experience, and the quests will become much more linear and simple. You’ll realize what a big part of the game the interaction between the two characters was, and how bland a game with only one lead protagonist feels. Not only that, though; you may feel that the last part of the game doesn’t have that innocent, playful spirit of the first three segments.

The defining moment of the game came early for me, when, as Frasse, I climbed on a branch and took a nap. The atmosphere was very peaceful and lighthearted. As I waded through the story, I never feel threatened in any way. I engaged into snow fights when I was supposed to look for the Peas, and even encountering the big bad dragon was just an excuse for sledging. This changed in the last segment of the game, where I uncovered a dark plot, after my own life and freedom was threatened. Frasse had to resort to quite destructive activities, and Gurra had to attack someone. I felt that the disconnect between the first three segments and the last one was great enough to hurt the integrity of the story.

Fortunately, all other elements of the title were nearly perfect. As I mentioned before, the puzzles and the use of two characters were fitting, and the writing was excellent. Characters themselves were very well developed and believable. The author has realized that the scope of the story was very small, and he wisely decided against any character development throughout the story. While some may claim that this makes Frasse and his friend one-dimensional, I was very grateful for having no distracting underlying side stories.

The production value is very fitting. All backgrounds are hand-drawn, and all graphics are large enough to convey the feeling of a light, comfortable adventure. In fact, none of the graphics is in any way threatening, and I would expect many parents have their children try this game out. The music blends in well, and never gets overwhelming.

All in all, Frasse and the Peas of Kejick is an excellent independent adventure game. I really admire the author’s self-control to keep the adventure simple and focused, even though he had enough opportunity to overload it with puzzles or a more complex story. The game conveys a feeling of comfort and playfulness, which puts it into a stark contrast with all the dark or overly realistic titles out there. And despite the disconnect between the final section and the rest of the game, the story remains very engaging and likeable, also thanks to gentle humor. Frasse and the Peas of Kejick is a well-polished game that fully deserves your attention.

6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where are you Jozef! Hope you're not missing again!

8:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it seems this website has decided to die. oh well, it was good while it lasted. cheers, and thanks for all the reviews.

4:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

dead dead dead.

good riddance.

9:52 AM  
Blogger Alex said...

well, i for one keep checking back in the vain hope.
i always fond this the best source for indie adventure news and reviews. many thanks.

2:23 AM  
Anonymous gnome said...

Just found it... Please, revive it... It would be such a nice thing to do...

5:45 AM  
Blogger Trumgottist said...

Hi,

Today I released a Special Edition of this game.

News in the special edition include:
* Support for Mac OS X as well as Windows.
* Voice acting.
* Improved Music
* Improved Graphics

Regards,

Rikard Peterson

6:42 AM  

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