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Nominee, Best Game; Nominee, Best Writing; Nominee, Best Story; Nominee, Best Setting; Nominee, Best Puzzles; Nominee, Best NPCs; Nominee, Best Individual Puzzle; Nominee, Best Individual NPC; Nominee, Best Use of Medium - 2004 XYZZY Awards
Where Future Boy! really shines is its story, and for good reason. Tessman's previous credits include the critically acclaimed independent film Apartment Story, and FB started out as a screenplay as well. As I played the game, I could imagine it as a cartoon or even live-action feature film. The story has all the elements of a big-screen success: good guys, bad guys, humor, sharp dialogue, and an in-depth plot that gradually builds to the action-packed climax. Near the end, it takes a subtly introspective turn, posing questions about who the real hero is and what makes a hero in the first place.
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In many ways, Future Boy! strikes me as a strange game to make a stab at the commercial side of things. It's not an especially user-friendly game for a start. People familiar with IF games will obviously have an easier time with it than complete newcomers to the scene (although as I've been playing IF for over twenty years and I struggled greatly with it, that might not be the case). While no one really wants a game to be too easy—where's the challenge in solving easy puzzles?—no one really wants a game to be as frustrating as this one often is. A fine balance needs to be made between what is easy and what is hard, and Future Boy! seems to step over the line into too hard frequently.
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I guess the bottom line is that I expect more when I pay more. If I downloaded a game like this from the archive, I would be both more impressed and more forgiving, because this would be one hell of a game to get to play for free. When I've paid, though, I find myself looking through "customer's eyes," and I expect to see no bugs or serious design flaws. As good as this game is, it doesn't reach those standards. It's probably true that Future Boy! is superior to many games that were commercially released at twice the price, but that doesn't let it off the hook. (It just means that those other games deserved, and probably got, even sharper criticism.) But because the author of this game belongs to a small, friendly community of which I'm a part, I find myself asking whether it's fair to apply those standards in this case. In the end, I've decided that it is, but I hope I've drawn enough attention to this game's many strengths to make it clear what an impressive accomplishment it is, despite its problems. Tessman continues to release patched versions of the game, which makes me hopeful that many of its bugs will eventually be squashed. For adventure game fans, Future Boy! may be a little pricey, but it is worth playing.
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The bottom line of this review is that, when taking aside the multimedia section, FB! is an average game that suffers from more than a few inconsistencies when speaking in terms of game design. Also, its story is far from being composed by the substance dreams are made off. Nonetheless, it should be considered that FB! has raised the bar so high in terms of graphs, sounds and voices that this sole fact may be enough to keep you interested in the game for a considerable amount of time. Mainly recommended for newbies in the IF subgenre that might be willing to play games offering a smooth transition from the typical graphical adventure to the text-only based IF.
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To minimize spoilers, let me just say that the plot takes many interesting and surprising turns and is beautifully designed. Plus, you meet very interesting characters, some friends, some foes, some something else. As in any good action comic (or movie, by the way) the pace quickens towards the end. At the same time, the difficulty of the puzzles rises, thus stretching the suspense to a maximum (unless you use the in-built hint system prematurely).
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The game is split into two parts, one with the parser, and one with little windows with graphics, usually one for the room itself, one for each character present, one for the compass rose, and one for effects like rain.
The game starts out fairly linearly, with a succession of challenges that set up the story. I found some of the early puzzles fairly difficult, which is unusual for commercial IF. I resorted to the hints as early as the second scenario.
After the first few scenes, the game opens up considerably. It ends up being reminiscent of Infocom's Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, with a cast of crazy characters and a variety of random locations that you can visit.
One of the highlights of the game is an unusually well developed (Spoiler - click to show)computer system. It's like a miniature game within a game, and gave me fond memories of the 90's.
My winning game was ~1500 turns long.
The plot is fairly intricate. Overall, I enjoyed this game. If it were an iPad app, I would price it at around $5-$10.
I came into possession of the game by contacting the creators using the email on the Future Boy! website.
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