Adventure games on mobile devices, part 2

My last post took at the look at the possibility of making simple adventure games using Google’s App Inventor, among other things. In the six months that followed, Google discontinued App Inventor – and then MIT revived it.

The impetus that made me look up App Inventor once more was, of all things, a Square Enix game called Imaginary Range. I’ve just completed Episode II, and I must say that I found it a very compelling form of interactive fiction. It’s more like an interactive comic, with some mini-games interspersed. I can definitely foresee more of something like this in the future of mobile adventure games. And I would love to be a part of it.

If you have a smartphone, why not download it and give it a go? It’s completely free, and runs on iOS and Android. If you do try it, let me know what you think in the comments section below.

Adventure games on mobile devices: what’s the story?

Having just got a spiffy new smartphone last week (Samsung Galaxy S2 if you’re curious – sorry Apple people), I began to itch for some good old point-and-click games to play on the commute to work. It seems to me that touchscreen devices are by nature eminently suitable for adventure games, so I figured there must be at least some good ones out there.

It turns out that a couple of classics have been converted for the iPhone – The Secret of Monkey Island for one, and Simon the Sorceror was another. (Oh man, those screenshots sure do bring back memories!) Even Beneath a Steel Sky, a game I’ve been itching to play, is there.

But for the Android? Nothing. Well, none of these classics. There is The Mystery of the Crystal Portal, which I’ve downloaded but haven’t played yet. In order to play the classics on Android you need ScummVM. On the good side, you get to play ALL the classic games (I think). On the other hand, the thought of setting up this stuff is a bit of a stumbling block for this relative smartphone newbie. All right: I’m lazy.

And having created a game (one! game) means that my thoughts now naturally turn to game development: why don’t I create an adventure game for the Android? Head puffed up with visions of portable, story-heavy adventure games, I set out to find out exactly what lies in between me and having something with Team Effigy’s name on the Android Marketplace.

It turns out that the biggest wall is named Java. I’m not a programmer, and neither are most people I know. The few programmers I do know are better versed in various versions of C, and anyway they have better things to do than to help me on some half-baked idea of programming for the Android. It seemed like Android was a land out of my reach.

Then I discovered two things that make the Android platform seem closer. One is the App Inventor, an attempt to bring app development to the masses. It works using blocks, and I’ll probably make a separate post about that one of these days. The point is that it is simple to use, and I wondered if it was possible to make a very basic adventure game with it. A quick google found me this page, so yes, it does seem very possible. But is it good enough?

The other thing I found was Andengine, which looks more like something meant for action games – but I wonder if it could be adapted for a point and click adventure. After all, it seems to me that mobile devices are ripe for innovative, interactive puzzles, what with integrated cameras, swipes, gestures, internet connectivity, tilt sensitivity and what have you.

If only I could program in Java!

What point-and-click adventures have you seen on the iPhone/Android? Share your discoveries and recommendations in the comments!

A little character study

The last update we did on Out of Time introduced the character of Javier Rios. Just for fun, here’s a little vignette setting out what life is like for our detective down at the station.

Picture and story after the jump.


When the posters started going up around town, Rios went out of his way to avoid them.

It wasn’t that he didn’t look good in them. He did – he had always been told that had things been different, and if he had been just a little taller, he could have been a model or an actor. He usually just shrugged and smiled in response to such comments. He knew that they meant it well, probably thought they were delivering compliments. No point being a dick about it.

It wasn’t that he didn’t see the need for a recruitment drive. The department was always understaffed, and he would be overjoyed to see new blood.

It was the fact that he was in the posters at all. The posters showed five of the best-looking officers in the town’s police force. Three of them were male junior officers in full uniform, arms folded across proud chests, grinning into the camera. Just behind them to their left was a female officer, decked out in too-tight white blouse and pencil skirt, clutching a clipboard, wearing more makeup than she usually did in a month. To their right, shrunk to a size that suggested that he was even farther behind them than the female officer, was Rios, stiffly posed in suit and tie with his hands on his hips, lips pressed together grimly in a stubborn effort to resist the photographer’s exhortations for him to relax and smile.

All of them were white, except for him.

As a representation of the local police department, it was a travesty. There were all of three people of color at the station, four if Janice the cleaning lady was included. The rest of the 130-strong force was overwhelmingly made up of white males. There were perhaps a dozen or so female officers, but they came and went. The poster didn’t even come close to depicting reality.

And so more idealistic young men and women would be lured into the service, to have their dreams and ambitions cruelly smothered.

Rios sighed and put his pen down. He was supposed to be working on a report due the day before, but he simply could not bring himself to concentrate. He leaned back in his chair and rubbed his eyes wearily. His reflection gazed back at him from the darkness of his computer monitor, occasionally obscured by the rainbow lines of the screensaver. He looked terrible. His short hair was sticking up in all directions, his jaw lined with three days’ worth of stubble, and his eyes ringed by a week of insomnia.

The phone on his desk rang shrilly. It was Captain Houseman.

“Rios, you got that report for me?”

“No sir.”

“No?”

“I’m working on it right now, sir.”

“Well work a little faster, boy. You don’t get paid to just sit around on your ass looking pretty.”

Rios bit his lip. He really, really wanted to tell Houseman to fuck off, to tell him and the entire department to take the express route to hell.

Houseman seemed to sense that something was wrong over the line. “Rios? You there?”

It was another two seconds before Rios trusted himself to speak. “Yes sir. I’m working as fast as I can.”

There was another pause, and then Houseman asked in a slightly less abrasive tone, “You okay?”

The answer left Rios’s lips before he could stop himself. “Y’know, boss, if you’re not happy with my performance, you could just get me fired and get a replacement. Write ‘insubordination’ or something in my file. Fenton would be more than happy to take my place. He’s had his sights on me for months now. He thinks I’m here due to what he calls the department’s kowtowing to the altar of political correctness, and he’s been calling for complete transparency in the selection of officers for promotion. So why don’t we give you and him what you both want, huh?”

He clamped his mouth shut, breathing heavily, his stomach in a hard knot, and waited.

Houseman’s response, when it came, was slow and measured. “Rios. You’re right. You do need a break.”

Rios’s heart dropped like a stone.

“But not right now. Come see me in a couple weeks when we’ve wrapped this case up, and you can apply for your vacation then. But right now I still need that report.”

Rios wasn’t sure he’d heard right. “Come again, sir?”

“I know you’ve been under a strain. This last case has been hard on you. We’re ridiculously short on manpower and we’re expecting miracles from our detectives in the field. You’re not the only one in that respect. But I know too that you’ve had to handle shit that others don’t. The next time Fenton gives you a hard time, document it and send it my way. I’ll send it on to the Chief.”

Rios immediately regretted his outburst. “No, forget it, sir. What I said was completely unprofessional, in a moment of anger.”

“Bullshit. Fenton’s accusing the department of reverse racism. We need to clear that sort of thing up before it festers. It’s bad for morale.”

“I totally agree, sir,” Rios said drily.

Houseman let out a bark of laughter. “That’s the Rios I know. Just get that report on my desk before you leave today. I’ll deal with Fenton. And don’t worry – I won’t mention your name.”

“Thank you, sir,” Rios said with genuine gratitude.

He hung up, feeling as though he had just been put through the wringer. Although he had probably just scored himself a small victory – however unintentional – he somehow could not feel good about it. In fact, he could not shake off the feeling that he had only succeeded in digging himself in deeper. He was going to have to watch his back very carefully for the next few days.

He sighed, picked up his pen, and forced his attention back on the report.