Spoiler Warning Presents Batman: London City, EP 2

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Dec 28, 2011

Filed under: Spoiler Warning 51 comments

Link (YouTube)

It pains me to poke fun at an indie game like this. For my part, I didn’t mind Holmes in a top hat. I thought the scenery was charming in parts. (If I’d been in charge of the set design I would have put more lights on the streets. Too much flat lighting, not enough contrast in some places.) I thought the voice acting was great in a few spots, and acceptable in others. I liked the character models. Just a few years ago, this sort of full-on first-person scenery (with animated human characters!) was pretty much out of reach of indies, and it’s nice to see them close that gap as the tools and tech become accessible and affordable.

But I just can’t make excuses for the nested fetch-quest structure of the game. Maybe you do detective work eventually, but buying medicine so you can get rid of an old man so you can talk to a guy so you can get a jacket so you can get a file folder for a police report that Sherlock Holmes wouldn’t need or want? (Or however the chain went.) You can give an indie game a pass for a lot of things, but if you’re aiming your title at Sherlock fans then this is the sort of thing you really need to get right.

I hope it got better later.


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51 thoughts on “Spoiler Warning Presents Batman: London City, EP 2

  1. tengokujin says:

    Oh, goddess. That drunk sounded like Kermit.

    EDIT: Wait, am I first? Woooooooo.

    More EDIT: The deer cap is actually not canon, if you want to be stickler about it. It only became associated with Holmes due to the first TV series.

    This game seems like a licensed game, with no actual adherence to the licensed property except for likenesses. Why isn’t Holmes chummy with the seedy underclass? Why is he actually deferring to the police? WHY? Ugh. I need to go wash my brain of this nonsense with more brainless action.

    That’s right, I’m gonna go read the original books by Sir Doyle! :3

  2. Simon Buchan says:

    Ehh. I watched this on Chocolate Hammer, when it was cool.

    I’m always a little sad when someone stops a game, no matter how bad. I’m not quite sure why – I’m going to get a new (probabilistically), better game sooner, so it should be a net win, right? Then again, I’ve often had more fun watching people play worse games than better…

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      “Ehh. I watched this on Chocolate Hammer, when it was cool.”

      Same.Although now you can read the subtitles.Also,its funny to see Rutskarn troll himself by cutting to the end mid sentence,just like Josh does when he is the editor.

  3. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Dont be so negative towards homes,its not his fault.

    So are we going to get a new season in the beginning of the new year?Personally,I wouldnt mind another hl2 intermission.In fact,I would even be glad.

    1. 4th Dimension says:

      GlaD? How about Portal intermission. So we can see Reginald Cufbert stumble around and fail repetidly the puzzles.

      1. ACman says:

        Yeah! Portal 2 spoiler warning! Though I would get annoyed over them yapping over all of J.K. Simmons’ stuff.

  4. silver Harloe says:

    Rest assured, mumbles, that at least one person got you were making a Deus Ex reference before Rutskarn made it obvious. Not that you know me, but if I got it, it seems likely a few other people did, too.

    1. Reet says:

      I am ashamed that I totally did not pick up on that until it was explicitly stated that it was a deus ex reference. Plus, according to the laws of reality I now want to reinstall it which, sadly, is impossible seeing as how I lost it.

    2. BeamSplashX says:

      Seconded. Mumbles gets a free internet candy bar for the reference. And free boobs.

      | CHUNK O’ HONEY |

      You’ll understand why I’m not drawing boobs, I hope.

    3. Mumbles says:

      thanks you guys. i hate when ruts steals mah jokes.

      1. Rutskarn says:

        My thought process was, “Oh, hey, that’s a slick Deus Ex reference. Let me give the direct quote so that she knows I got the reference, and also make it more obvious to everyone else that it was a reference.”

        Also, wanted to do my impression of starving Battery Park kid. It’s a fun voice to do.

        1. BeamSplashX says:

          It’s still goin’ on, isn’t it? Ruts and Mumbles arguin’ right outside the BWAH!

        2. Mumbles says:

          We get paid by the obscure pop culture reference, Ruts. All I want is what I have coming to me. All I want is my fair share.

          1. Gamer says:

            Just out of curiosity, why is Mumbles not in gold like Shamus, Josh, and Rutskarn are in the comments section.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              They sometimes forget they have that power,and post in simple colours.You can see those sprinkled in numerous places around the blog.

              1. Jarenth says:

                And Mumbles is lazy and can’t be bothered to log in.

                1. Mumbles says:

                  I AM THE 99%

  5. Hitch says:

    Not having played this game, but having watched a “let’s Play” at the hands of a competent player, I can say this game is much better than you made it look. The nested fetch quests are a bit annoying right there, but if you’d been able to read the subtitles or hear Holmes’ dialog, you would have caught him lampshading it. Also, if you have a basic grasp of what you’re doing, you can get through that segment in about 5 minutes. basically, it involves listening to the dialog to hear where to go next, opening your map and fast traveling to the next stop.

    Shortly thereafter, you get to investigate crime scenes, search suspects rooms, conduct interrogations, then Holmes and Watson have little puzzle segments where you arrange the evidence and sort out what’s important, and what it likely means to determine the next step of your investigation. You know, the sort of stuff you’d expect.

    Given the current price on Steam for that game or the series it’s from, it’s probably worth picking up if it appeals to you at all. Just play by yourself so you can pay attention rather than inviting three friends to make fun of it and you to distract you from the game.

    1. Rutskarn says:

      Lampshading only works if you’re *watching* something stupid. If you’re playing it, tracking back and forth across town to accomplish a simple objective is still pointless and obnoxious, and makes you feel less like Holmes and more like the town errand boy.

      I’ll certainly grant that I didn’t follow the directions very carefully, mostly because of the three people talking in my ear, although I will say some of them were quite vague, like the one to the Captain’s niece.

    2. NihilCredo says:

      Having played this game after my brother’s recommendation, everything Hitch says is pretty much correct.

      If you reading this want a third opinion, there’s an unusually good ActionButton.net review of the game.

  6. Stellar Duck says:

    For what it’s worth, Holmes, in the Jeremy Brett series wears a top hat a lot of the time. So I would say that whoever made the game are clear on that, at least.

    In fact, right now, I can’t recall if it’s ever really mentioned in the stories what sort of head gear he sports.

    1. Jeff says:

      I don’t think it was, nor was it ever mentioned what configuration of pipe he smokes. AFAIK, anyway.

    2. Eruanno says:

      It is pretty weird that he wears one hat in the picture in the game menu and a completely different one in the game, though…

  7. hardband says:

    I would like to point out that it technically isn’t an indie game as it has a publisher… just sayin’.

  8. Falcon says:

    The problem with making a Holmes game strike me as the same for making a Doctor Who game. The character simply will break either the gameplay, or gameplay break the character. The problem with Holmes is deductive reasoning. While Holmes can identify the writer of a note just by observing word choice, writing style, and origin of paper, the player cannot. A player won’t be able to go, yeah that’s paper from southern Austria. Yet thats exactly Holmes. So you either take the power to solve the mystery out of player hands, and into the writers hands, or subvert character.

    The Doctor solves problems in often unexpected, contrived, silly, or overly complex schemes. That or he sonic screwdrivers it. Again the player either loses the core of the character, or just goes and uses the sonic screwdriver on everything.

  9. krellen says:

    In London’s defence, is there anything cooler than getting Sherlock Holmes to do your laundry?

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      That doesn’t sound safe at all. He can deduce your job from a handshake; I cant imagine what he’s do with a whole basket full of laundry! He could probably deduce your bank account number and password, along with your mothers maiden name, SSI, and what songs you like but are too embarrassed to tell anyone.
      Keep Sherlock away from your laundry!

    2. Reet says:

      Getting batman to do your laundry?

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        How about getting sherlock holmes to do your batman?

        1. Graham says:

          Careful, we’re verging into fanfic territory here.

    3. Some Jackass says:

      I don’t want Sherlock freaking Holmes going through my dirty laundry…that’s only asking for trouble.

  10. JAO5 says:

    Holmes DID lampshade the fetch-quests, at 15:19. I’m surprised nobody mentioned it, although granted it’d probably be hard to do so with the quality of the livestream…but, hey, Rutskarn, why didn’t you say anything?!

    1. X2Eliah says:

      But.. does lampshading really improve anything? The player *still* has to go through all that nevertheless.

      1. JAO5 says:

        You still have to do it, but at least you know that the developers know that you aren’t enjoying it.

        …Shamus said it better than I during the AC2 season.

        1. Retsam says:

          That’s a little like saying it’s okay for a game developer to punch you in the stomach, as long as he says something like “Man, this must hurt you.” while he’s doing it.

          Yes, lampshading has it’s uses, but it’s not a free-pass for lousy design. (It’s better used when the gameplay element in question is necessary for some reason)

          1. General Karthos says:

            In my head, I just got memories of the ME2 guy, Harbinger, saying “This hurts you.”

            Over. And over. And over again. Until it actually hurt.

        2. Rutskarn says:

          I caught the lampshade, but I didn’t get the chance to point it out. And besides, it was pointless. Lampshading alleviates your frustration at how stupid something is, but not at how boring and tedious it is to play.

    2. Nidokoenig says:

      The main purpose of lampshading is to point out the error, and to make the player feel more connected to the protagonist or writer because they’re noticing the same things, and, very importantly, to improve the player or viewer’s experience, for example by saying “We all know this song, so let’s up the tempo” or using the lampshade as the start of poking fun at the stupidity of the form.
      Flower, Sun, Rain on the DS did this well, in fact it was the main shtick. There was one quest where the first step was working out which cocktail you needed to give to someone to clear them out of the way, and were sent to talk to a bloke who told you directly, even though you had good enough clues to get the info you needed. A couple of cocktails later he stopped bothering to explicitly give you the answer, just waffled on about flags for a couple of minutes, then offered to set the flag you needed to complete the quest.
      That works because the stupid adventure gaming quest structure was used as the basis for some of Suda51’s quirky humour and some character building for the guy you were sent to talk to by establishing that he likes football and is the sort of dork who can and will waffle about flags for ages, and because it defused the main objection to the quest structure by cutting out the bit where it insultingly tells you the bleeding obvious.
      The Holmes example is not that, at best it’s the game acknowledging that this shit is getting tiresome and implicitly promising it’s about to end. It doesn’t give us any insight into the characters, gives some fairly minimal insight into the game world, and isn’t funny or engaging. It’s a dull nested fetch quest with only a rather drab lampshade to spruce it up. The fetch quest has no worth in terms writing, gameplay, or characterisation and we’d all have been a lot happier if the original conversation had gone:
      “I’d love to give you a copy of the report, but it’s been lost. It’s a leather folder about this big. Maybe you could ask around for it”
      “What about that folder under the cabinet right there?”
      *picks up the folder* “That’s it! By Jove, well spotted!”
      Then we’d feel better about the game and Holmes because we’ve been “rescued” from a tiresome fetch and/or pixel hunt quest, and it shows how Holmes is always taking in everything about the world around him, similar to how in Saints Row 2 the cutscene before the raid on the Ronin casino lampshades heavily scripted missions in sandbox games, “saves” the player from a tiresome forced stealth section and tells them in no uncertain terms what kind of person Johnny Gat is and that he’s always going to speak up in favour of fun for us.

  11. Dasick says:

    I hope it got better later.

    Are you giving them the slack because they’re “indie”?

    Not technically indie someone says, but I think what Shamus means is “a small, underfunded game company where the developers call the shots”. If that is an accurate description (and judging from their respect for the Sherlock Holmes mythos, it is), then there is absolutely no reason to give them any slack for this type of quest structure.

    I know it’s “hip” to defend the little guys and rage against the sell outs that make AAA games, like Bethesda, but imagine the questions Pete Hines has to answer when he goes to ask ZeniMax for money.

    “Why are you making this huge, free form game with stuff most players will never see, when using the time and money we gave you, you could have given us 6 CoD knock-offs?”

    I think that deserves a bit more leniency than having all the creative power you have as an “indie” and using it to make fetch quests.

    This comment may sound angry, but I just feel like this is an important point people don’t quite get.

    1. Drexer says:

      Like Shamus said, he isn’t excusing the fetch quest structure; he’s merely hoping that the game got better later, probably because the term indie here indicates us that it was developed by a small group of developers and that they fell back on the use of fetch quests by what seems to be just to pad out the game. Usually most indie games only resort to this once they’ve implemented their main gameplay setpieces and find themselves with too short of a playtime, thus artificially inflating it; it’s a bad practice, but when we’re talking about small studios which might have put themselves into quite strict deadlines and not have the flexibility to move them around or to create more assets quickly enough it’s more understandable.

      When we’re talking about a big studio on the other hand, with dozens of people who can create assets and content far more easily, this kind of behaviours is far less excusable.

      1. Dasick says:

        Actually, a bigger studio, while having more manpower, would spend the same amount of time (if not more) on the same assets, since the AAA are all chasing “graphical fidelity” this and “16-poly grass” that. Shamus has griped about the rising costs of creating the same damn thing, so yeah.

        My point is that Bethesda, while being a big developer, are making the kinds of games nobody else is making, and which the industry doesn’t consider profitable.

      2. decius says:

        Putting all the same content into a longer game doesn’t make a better game. Make your game exactly long enough to contain all of your content, and ship it.

        How long is Portal? Would it be improved if there were more tricky jumps and turret hell scenes, or if the final boss had 15 more stages of “hit me with my own rocket and burn the piece that falls out”?

        1. Dasick says:

          I’m not making a quantity vs. quality argument. I’m saying that Bethesda are making games that A: Fill a unique role in the market B: are ambitious in scope and C: risky for the publisher (6 years worth of salaries and tech, all riding on one game. How is ZeniMax not bankrupt yet?).

          So, y’know, overrated in some areas and completely underrated in others. The usual.

  12. Phoenix says:

    Lot of whores, lot of urchins. Urchins suffer in the street. The ripper loves urchins doesn’t want them to suffer so kills the prostitutes so there are less urchins to suffer in the street.

  13. Johan says:

    Was it really the style of the late 19th century for ALL the women to wear those low cut tops?

    1. Jakale says:

      I’m fairly sure it wasn’t 19th century style for EVERY woman, excepting that quest dude’s niece, to be a prostitute. For that matter, was it normal for prostitutes to peddle in the middle of the day?

        1. j0rdm31s73r says:

          Rutskarn called,
          he wants his lack of humour back.

  14. DerBarchen says:

    Hey Shamus, I know this is neither here nor there but I was just watching this:

    And recognised the tune instantly as one of Kevin McLeod’s songs you used for SW. But then at the end it says the music is by some dude called Timothy Pinkham (lol) Whats the deal with that do you know?

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