Friday, October 23, 2009

Retro Watch: The Neverhood and Skullmonkeys

In the early-mid nineties, "point and click" adventure games ruled the PC genre world. These games consisted of static images with invisible "hot spots" over areas of the image that, when clicked using a mouse pointer, caused a pre-determined action to happen (usually demonstrated by a pre-recorded movie or another static image). Game designers flocked to the genre because they could create game graphics imagery that looked years ahead of its time. Instead of the relatively weak computer drawing the rudimentary graphics in real-time, designers could create their own art/animations in another medium and then have the computer play movies of the art/animations when the player clicked the correct area. In modern terms, it is the difference between clicking a play button to watch the movie "Up" or watching Maya render each scene of Up frame by frame based on your computer's graphical powers. The former is much quicker than the latter and does not rely (much) on your computer's graphics card power to create an amazing visual experience.

Quick history lesson aside, one of my favorite game series from the era is "The Neverhood Chornicles" created completely using stop motion clay figures.

(feel free to click on the links in the paragraphs below for more info these games, I will embed the more interesting videos in the post itself)

Creator Doug TenNapel has a style all to his own. He shares this style by creating an entire world (The Neverhood) using clay and letting the players explore it. If the player clicks the correct areas he is shown a short clip of the main character interacting with other clay figures as a part of an overall storyline. The main point of this post is not to relish in the gameplay of these games, but admire that, even in the absence of a game, these animations are very well done and still highly entertaining. The following movies from this game (and its sequel, "Skullmonkeys") are a few animation clips and not the actual gameplay of the game.

(just watch the first 2 minute clip, you can then watch pt 1 of the entire Skullmonkeys games a few videos below and finish the rest here)

Half a cheer for The Neverhood!

"Hip-hip, HOO!"

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