Double Fine: Double the Fun

Forewarning: I’ve got a lot to talk about here, so this one is going to be a doozy. Also, this is more of a humor piece than a straight review, so take it with a grain of salt. See my other reviews for something more… informative. Forewarned!

This being one of my first posts, I want to get this out of the way – I am a fickle beast. I fall in love with a game and two weeks later I’ve forgotten it exists. I’ve got mad ADD, and if a game loses me for a second, it loses me forever. But for those first few days, man. I cannot get enough.

Anyway, Double Fine! I’m currently binging on Double Fine’s latest game, Trenched. It is awesome. Is it perfect? No. But it is pretty freaking sweet. I’m going to take this opportunity to talk a little bit about Double Fine, their games, and what makes them pretty freaking sweet also.

Exhibit A. Tim Schafer

Tim Schafer is the man. You are not as cool as him and never will be. He makes fun of press events during press events and does it in a way that is funny instead of creepily trying to buddy up with the journalists in the audience with one of those sly “You and I… We are the saaaaaaaame” looks. You know why? Because he is one cool dude and everyone knows it. Just watch the video below.

Tim Schafer being cooler than you at E3 – “Unleash the simulated family”

Tim Schafer is a legend. Even if you started making games right this second and created a million original IPs, you know what you didn’t do? Make The Secret of Monkey Island or Day of the Tentacle, which are just about the only PC games I remember from my childhood. They oozed awesomeness until all the others were buried under an awesome mountain of witticisms and plot structure. I haven’t played Grim Fandango or Psychonauts, but I hear those were even better, which just blows my mind. Side note: maybe something new from Psychonauts coming soon?

Also, and this might just be me, but I think he looks a little bit like Bruce Campbell. Probably just me.

Exhibit B. Double Fine’s web site

Specifically the hiring page:

But maybe we’ll see your samples or your web page and all at once the laughter will stop, and our jaws will drop, and then somebody will say, “Whoa.” And then I’ll look at them and I’ll say, “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” And then someone will yell, “I’m way ahead of you buddy!” as they pull up in the company bus/monster truck and as we all pile in, somebody shouts out, “LOCK AND LOAD!” And we drive full speed to your house and you come out and say “D-D-D-Double Fine? But–” and we put a finger to your lips and say, “You had us at hello!” And then your parents try to stop us because they don’t understand, so we duct tape them to a streetlight and peel out, popping a wheelie all the way down the street while “Sweet Home Alabama” blares out of the radio and then you and I try to say something at the same time because we’re both so excited, so then we both shut up so that the other can talk, and then we both say, “No, you go!”, but then we both start talking again at the same time, and we have to just laugh until we’re crying tears of joy, and we sense in our hearts that we will all be best friends forever and ever, and never think about what or who we were before. We will just enjoy the ever-unfolding kaleidoscope of happiness and discovery and adventure and laughter that lie before us.

And then we pull up to the office and I yell, “Alright, back to work suckers. And no talking!” And weld the door shut with everyone inside as I laugh and laugh and laugh. Oh, the fun.

Do I want to work there? My god, yes. Do I have any sort of skill set that would allow me to work there? Absolutely not. Sad days, friends. Tim Schafer, if you are reading this I am just joking about the skill set thing. Do you need an in-house baker? I make a mean cupcake. I also played The Baker in Into The Woods twice, if you’re thinking about starting up an in-house musical theater troupe.

Exhibit C. Double Fine’s current portfolio

I’m going to be honest, I haven’t played Brutal Legend yet (though I own it and am going to as soon as I get a chance), but if the things I’ve read are true it’s basically going to fit in with the generalization I’m about to make about the rest of these games: really awesome games with incredible substance and atmosphere and one or two little flaws that stop them from being perfect.

Here’s a rundown of the last few. I’ll generally be better with reviews in the future, but since this is already quite long I’m going to assume that you, the gentle reader, know what the general premise of these games is:

Costume Quest: This game was fun. I loved it. My girlfriend loved it. It had atmosphere and character in spades, an awesome premise (Halloween RPG where you become the costume you are wearing for battles – each with its own strengths and special abilities), and interesting gameplay. Unfortunately, the battle system was so easy that my (imaginary, for now) dog probably could have probably beaten the game with only a little bit of luck. Well, if I had said dog and I taught it to lie down on an Xbox controller and roll around in a series of interesting ways so that the characters could move through the game successfully anyway. The house-to-house looting mechanic was also a little repetitive. So, a couple of flaws, but the game was interesting, and different, and so damn cute that I couldn’t help but fall in love. If you’re a casual gamer, I would definitely check this one out.

Stacking: I love puzzle games. I love games where you can solve things in more than one way. And boy do I love unlockables. And I still find fart jokes pretty funny. Throw all of these things into a game with a unique and relatable concept (who doesn’t love Russian nesting dolls?) and you’ve got a winner! I know I had some minor issue with this game towards the end (maybe a little repetitive?) but looking back I honestly just want to go download the DLC and play it some more. Then again, now I’m remembering spending ages wandering across huge levels searching for that last missing doll needed to complete some challenge. Despite that, I’ve got to give it some bonus points for being yet another Double Fine game with terrific atmosphere. Throw in some extra points for story, presentation, and the absolute hilarity of it all, and baby, you’ve got a stew going. The final boss battle had me falling out of my chair laughing when I realized what was going on. More bonus points because the gf liked it too! Lots of bonus points. I would recommend this game to anyone.

Trenched: I’m going to be honest. I haven’t beat Trenched yet. I really like Trenched. If there is another game that is quite like this interesting combination of shooter and tower defense, I haven’t seen it. There is so much customization! I’m having the time of my life designing ridiculous trenches (mechs) and saluting my way up and down the ship (you can buy different hats for your marine and each one comes with a different snappy salute. And I love hats! (not you, Team Fortress 2)). I think I heard in an interview that they took typical mech games and then ripped out all of the potentially boring things like ammo and overheating. Then added tower defense. Yep. That is this game. I love the self-professed “manly” style of the game and can’t wait to get a bit farther in the story to see how things play out. But why couldn’t you give us local multiplayer! Single player is fun and all, but… maybe Tim Schafer will see this and play with me. Or one of my RL friends will man up and buy the game.

Also, freaking Sesame Street! The only thing close to this awesome for both children and adults was when the world learned Jason Segel was making the new Muppets movie.

Anyway, I think Double Fine is one of the few companies out there pumping out original content that has all of the requisite pieces to be great. And it pretty much always is! Sure, I have a few gripes with each of the titles, but I think you’ll find that I have a couple of issues with most every game. If I was the kind of person to give number grades to videogames, they would probably never be above 9/10, but these would all be pretty damn close. Tim Schafer, if you read this, do so with rose-colored glasses and then give me a job.