Developer: Pendulo Studios
Mac Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
System Requirements: Mac OS X v10.6 or later
Review Computer: 3.2GHz Intel Core i3 iMac, 4GB RAM, 512MB Radeon HD5670 graphics card
Network Feature: No
Processor Compatibility: Intel only
ESRB Rating: 12+ infrequent/mild sexual content, infrequent/mild horror/fear themes, infrequent/mild alcohol, tobacco or drug use references
Availability: Out now
Demo: Free lite version
Official Website: www.thenextbig-game.com
In the reality of The Next BIG Thing, Hollywood horror movies are acted out by actual monsters. Maudlin robots toil away in menial jobs while contemplating life and (mostly) death. Flies become brilliant scientists. And amidst it all, reporters can find love. Kind of. First they have to foil a sinister plot and save their own skins (and jobs) in order to hopefully get to the big boxing match on time.
You play through most of The Next BIG Thing as Dan Murray (or perhaps it just seems that way because his puzzles tended to be tougher), a cynical but charming sports writer for the local paper.
Dan’s lazy attitude is offset by the daft and “disconcerting” Liz Allaire, a coworker whom Dan accidentally touched inappropriately a while back, something Liz hasn’t forgotten, apparently, considering how much she reminds him (and others) of it.
These two barely tolerate each other, which of course means they’re wildly attracted to one another. Sadly, this angle isn’t fully developed because Dan and Liz spend the bulk of the game separated.
Liz, it seems, has stumbled upon a bit of a mystery while the two are covering a lavish party at MKO Pictures. Such events always require a bunch of sneaking about, which in adventure games means tricking characters into letting you into areas you shouldn’t access, finding objects, combining them, using them and eventually getting caught so the next character can come find you. The Next BIG Thing, therefore, doesn’t offer much new to the genre, but it does provide a unique setting with outlandish characters and some wonderful puzzles.
The bulk of the non-player characters (NPCs) are monsters, many of which resemble those from the type of horror and sci-fi movies you may stumble across on Saturday afternoon TV. Here, though, they act like humans just trying to find their way in a Hollywood that sees them as being good for only one thing.
Interacting with the monsters provides for some laughs and most of the puzzles. As with the majority of adventure games, some are quite logical and satisfying, while others are maddeningly ridiculous. My absolute favorite came somewhat early on when Dan needed to enter a matter transporter to beam himself into a well-guarded mansion. The device wasn’t tested, so to show he should be a test candidate, I had to prove that he didn’t have long to live, that he was worthless to society, and that he was psychologically damaged. What better way to do that than to speak with the resident poet? Puzzles like that were clever and funny, and I wish there more like them in the game.
Instead, most of the puzzles center around exploration, often searching the same areas multiple times. You may unsuccessfully look for an item in a certain room, leave it to engage in what seems like irrelevant dialogue, only to return to find the item in plain view.
Thankfully, the locations are fun to explore thanks to some excellent design work and meticulously illustrated 2D animation style backdrops. As you’d expect, the whole game is built to resemble the heyday of Hollywood cinema, with plenty of film references peppered throughout the locations and the dialogue. And although the characters mostly fit well within their settings, there are times where they appear oddly disjointed, even warping a bit as they move from the background to the foreground. Such issues don’t detract from the game, but they are something you have to get used to.
Despite these few problems, then, The Next BIG Thing ultimately works on the strength of its characters and the mystery. It’s a well told story, and although some of the humor does fall flat, there are enough laugh-out-loud moments to make you forget the bits that don’t work.
And as for the puzzles, adventure gamers won’t find a whole lot new. However, there are no gimmicks or mini-games to distract from the pure adventure approach, and I found that quite refreshing.
The Next BIG Things feels very much like the type of adventure games I used to play back in the mid-90s, but with updated graphics and voice actors who can actually act. Despite its faults, I completed The Next BIG Thing feeling like I’d just finished watching a rather enjoyable movie; one I was looking forward to discussing with friends, and for which I’m eagerly anticipating a sequel.