Cubert Badbone P.I.
Cubert is a hoot. I can't think of any reason why you wouldn't play this short piece of off-beat fun. Plus it's free.
Made using the SLUDGE game engine, Cubert can be downloaded from the maker's website for whatever it costs you to download anything through your ISP. At that price, it would probably be worth a look in any event. I looked because it recently won the award for best freeware game from The Crow's Nest, an internet site dedicated to independent adventure games. Whilst Quandary does not routinely review freeware games, winning an award suggested a closer look was warranted.
What I found was that all the humans on Ekrat Island have disappeared, and as the only private investigator on the island, it is up to Cubert to track them down. Not overly fond of humans, but (eventually) recognising their importance to the tourist trade, Cubert and his trenchcoat get down to business.
In the best P.I. tradition, Cubert is drawn in black and white, and whilst Cubert is not that noir, the look is a good one. The animation has a stylish simplicity that suits the tone of the whole event.
It also provides the canvass for what must be one of the better soundtracks since Faust. A collection of jazz and jazz inspired pieces, they soak the proceedings with just the right blend of sultriness and joi de vivre. You can listen to them (and even download them) separately at the makers website. All original music is credited to Ms Kiai, and as there is no other music credit, one assumes that all the compositions are her own.
Apart from the music, a small number of sounds accompany Cubert's efforts. A few screams, quite a few miaows (kittys are littered throughout the game), and the clacking of a keyboard come to mind. Speech, though, is all via text. No voices are featured, though lips flap to indicate who is "talking". I didn't miss the sound of voices, particularly given the music.
The characters are odd and odder, and the humour in the repartee nicely treads the line between silly and clever. Cubert will also share with you his thoughts, a la the first person narrative in a piece of detective fiction.
Homage is paid to the early Lucas Arts games, not just by the maker at her website, but also within the game. There is a great little Monkey Island gag at one location that kept me smirking for some time.
It plays like those games as well. It's a third person point and click inventory type quest; find and use the right items to move on. Examining items can be just as important as finding them. It isn't that hard, Cubert's thoughts and musings often prodding you in the right direction, but I retraced my steps more than once in an effort to progress, and on one occasion had to resort to the tried and trusted "use everything with everything" approach.
The download is just under 10MB and you can choose to play in English, Italian or Swedish. You can also download wallpaper and other stuff, and the website contains character profiles, a plot synopsis, and a history of the game's development.
Copyright © Steve Ramsey 2003.
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