Apr. 14th, 2017

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For a while it seemed like every article on every website about the indie adventure game scene had this sort of undertone to it like...

"Of course, it's all nostalgia for Monkey Island, Broken Sword and Gabriel Knight."
"They're cute fangames but they're not really substitutes for the classics."
"The age of adventure games is done, this is just a cargo-cult imitation of what used to be good about them."

Yeah well, Technobabylon exists, your argument is invalid.

I'm not kidding or exaggerating my reaction. You don't get to squat on nostalgia for 25ish-year-old games anymore unless you're Ron Gilbert in which case you are a statistical outlier and can be disregarded. Technobabylon is not just good enough to be mentioned in the same breath as classic adventure games of the past, it's good enough that you don't even have to BRING THEM UP to talk about how great it is. (I mean, I did but I was making a point.)

What makes this game great?

STRONG WRITING:
Technobabylon is a sci-fi adventure where you follow three characters. Charlie Regis (a cynical gruff luddite) and Max Lao (upbeat and tech-savvy) are police detectives working on a Ghost-in-the-Shell-ish case: A mindjacker is accessing people's neural interfaces, stealing their memories, then killing them off. Who? Why? They work with the city's Central AI network to piece together the mystery.

Meanwhile, the third character is Latha Sesame, or "Mandala" as she prefers to be known online. She lists The Internet as her home address and has absolutely no desire to spend any time at all in the "real" world. Then her apartment explodes. Who'd want a jobless VR addict dead, anyway? (I obviously found Latha relatable as hell.)

DETAIL-RICH BUT ECONOMICALLY-WRITTEN EXPLORATION SPACE:

Most adventure game characters have like one, maybe two sides to their personality. Characters in Technobabylon are better rounded. You can have a conversation with a minor side character, say a chef in a restaurant, about why he dropped out of college to go into cooking. It doesn't just give you some background about the chef, it gives you some insight into the PC you're following and it gives you some interesting worldbuilding, AND there's a puzzle tip or two worked in there. There is a fantastic economy of writing, almost everything you see and read serves to tell you SOMEthing. None of it is purely senseless detail. It's also illustrated intensely well by artist Ben Chandler, who deserves some kind of Best Of award for pixel arting.

LITTLE DETAILS:
Okay well I lied a little bit. There are a few senseless details in there. ost games, if you're allowed to use the phone to call random people, give you that one "booDOObeep the number your have called is not in service" recording, no? Because, who'd record some random people for wrong number voices?

According to the commentary, Technobabylon has 102 messages recorded for various wrong numbers you might dial. Just because, well, if you tried a few and kept getting the same message you'd get bored, right?

Or in a minor mechanics spoiler, you get a device that lets you swap the personality, job function, and memories of synthetic people. You can use it to solve a puzzle fairly quickly, sure... but there are three synths in the room and they have varying dialogue and reactions to each possible combination you can build with that structure. The memories of Synth A with the personality of Synth C, locked into the role of Synth B? Unique reaction. Make them ALL Synth C but they're in entirely the wrong body-type? Unique reaction.

Like my only real complaint is that one of the two endings was a little lackluster. Oh well, there's two. Keep a save where it looks like the plot might fork during the endgame. You'll probably feel it.

Even the Technocrat Games logo is cute.

Technocrat Games and Wadjet Eye did something amazing here. I can't wait for whatever comes next. I'm honestly just blown away and raving about this. It's just such a professional, high-quality game. I feel like this should've come in a big glossy cardboard box with a code wheel and a stack of 652 3 1/2 inch floppy disks.

That's all I got, I'll just gibber on if I keep going. So yeah. Technobablyon. Hot damn. Play it if you're into the genre.

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