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Penumbra: Overture Goes Open Source 74

As promised when the Humble Indie Bundle hit $1 million in donations the other day, indie developer Frictional Games has released Penumbra: Overture's source code. "The code for Penumbra: Overture is a continuation of the one used for the tech demo + some addition for the not so long lived Robo Hatch project. It also contains some code from Unbirth, giving it quite some history." The release also includes the HPL1 engine. "This is engine that has powered all of the Penumbra games and it even includes the stuff used to create the 2D platformer Energetic. The engine code was started in December 2004 and was actively developed until early 2008." The repositories are available at github.
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Penumbra: Overture Goes Open Source

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  • by retchdog ( 1319261 ) on Saturday May 15, 2010 @09:16PM (#32223516) Journal

    As a counterpoint, I'd just like to weigh in with my opinion that the second and third in the series are rather disappointing. I kept playing because the plot was, indeed, engrossing. There is no question there: they've absolutely nailed the video game "port" of a good Lovecraft story. There is no doubt that they are worth the price; however, I felt a bit cheated with the sequels. The plot begs you to continue, but the gameplay becomes a tedious challenge instead of a nerve-tingling joy. Overall, the series succeeds on the strength of its plot, despite gameplay; whereas the first entry masterfully combined them both.

    Part two, Black Plague, replaces a menacing enemy with an outright frustrating one, and its puzzles begin to wear thin. The horror in the first part, Overture, comes from a series of uncannily well-executed escalations: at the moment you are finally exasperated from running from an enemy, circumstances turn in your favor. As you acclimate to this, another enemy is introduced requiring more adaptation. This staging was nothing less than a stroke of genius.

    In contrast, for the entirety of Black Plague you are completely defenseless. This would be OK were it not for the scripting/AI of your sole enemy. Occasionally you may even need to engage and run away from an enemy since they are blocking a goal. Repeated ad nauseam, this is not scary; it's just annoying. These frustrations are also present in Overture, but as an exception. In Black Plague they have become the rule.

    Likewise the stealth-orienteering of Overture has been mostly replaced by puzzles which are either insulting straightforward or require rather silly, contrived solutions in the spirit of Sierra games (although simpler). Certain sections require the use of a (filth-encrusted) gas mask which serves, gameplay-wise, only to make life more difficult by obscuring your vision. Again, this is neither challenging nor scary; it's just annoying. To add insult to injury, your character has in his inventory a bottle of alcohol and a rag which cannot be used to clean the damned thing; you see, they are for use in a puzzle later on. Further, as in most physics-puzzle games, the promise of "multiple solutions" reminds one of the hillbilly bar in Blues Brothers which played both kinds of music, country and western. Indeed, one may cross an obstacle using either a stack of crates or a stack of barrels.

    With the final entry of the series, the developers seem to have finally accepted defeat in the combat/stealth genre; it's a pure first-person puzzle-platformer which, to put it mildly, deviates somewhat radically from the spirit of the first two and borrows quite a bit from the spirit of Portal (to which there is a bit of an homage in the second level), as a somewhat deranged alien intelligence guides the character through a sequence of tests. At least it's passable gameplay, but the gameplay and the plot have at long last become totally orthogonal.

I was playing poker the other night... with Tarot cards. I got a full house and 4 people died. -- Steven Wright