Pen and Paint

Owen Parish (2010)

Pen and Paint is another game written by Owen Parish. I remember Owen from last year, when he entered The Grand Quest in the competition. It almost ended up on the bottom of the list for me, and even though this game is a step in the right direction, I still feel both games share this surreal fantasy element that keeps the player detached from the game instead of immersed. And in this one it becomes jarring and disconnected.

The game starts off with you waking up in bed in the middle of the night, finding yourself in a strangely decorated room. Why the ceiling had to be covered in stars might fit into the overall story, but when itís the first things I see I feel like a 10 year old child getting out of bed because I heard something go bump in the night? You havenít set up whether itís a kids game, or a more mature one, and waffling in the middle just left me confused.

The game really seems to bottleneck itself at times, where youíll find yourself searching for the right verb. When I was trying to move some rubble, I picked it up and tried to throw it down a large pit. Why I had to type PUT CHUNK IN HOLE instead THROW RUBBLE IN PIT is beyond me. This is clearly a programmer that doesnít even know his own language and canít disambiguate between the rubble on the ground and the object that youíre holding. This example had to be the most frustrating for me, and afterwards I turned to the walkthrough. And CLIMB LADDER doesnít work but UP does. I think the game needed a few more testers too.

The section of the game that I did like was the gallery, a small crowed place, but with four key pictures that needed to be unlocked. I found that to be very inventive, looking for inspiration to write about each one. And as pen meets paper the world shifts and you find yourself within the pictures. But the worlds there feel uninspired, they seemed like clichť bedtime tales that served no purpose to the over arching story. Maybe they do, I could bring myself to finish it. The weakly implemented vignettes killed it for me.

In the end itís good to see Owen headed in the right direction. If he takes his time and masters Inform, and stays away from the overly done fantasy stuff, we might see some pretty good games come out of him. The setting in the gallery was great, but pull out the fantasy stuff and tie it all together with something that people can relate to, heart ache, suffering, touch them on that empathic level. Those are the games that do best, and you seemed to have a few of those elements going on here, you just need to tie them together with the right stuff. This one didnít have it. I scored it a 3.