Author Topic: 5 Days A Stranger Review  (Read 1683 times)

Offline Fanghawk

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5 Days A Stranger Review
« on: December 07, 2006, 02:48:05 AM »
LB's Freeware Games Review #1: 5 Days A Stranger

Ever heard of the AGS (Adventure Game Studio) engine? It's a freeware game engine known for it's easy interface and wide-range of capabilities. Scanning the website, one will find a range of high-to-low quality games available as stand-alone downloads. Hazards of a free engine, not everything will be very good. But of course, it's all in the abilities of the creator.

Take "5 Days a Stranger" for instance, created by Ben 'Yahtzee' Croshaw, a recognized name in the AGS community. Usually recognized for the irreverant humour on his website, this horror-themed game won 5 AGS awards in 2003: Best Game, Best AGS Game Scripting, Best Gameplay, Best AGS Dialogue Scripting, and Best Puzzles. I think you get the idea that this was a game that by all accounts stands out from the rest. Even if you don't play many AGS games alongside it to judge, you can tell in itself that 5 Days has many good qualities.

You play as Trilby, a British gentleman thief and cat burglar who has made quite a name for himself in legal and illegal circles. He is forced to put his skills to the test when he breaks into the supposedly empty DeFoe manor and finds himself trapped with four other strangers by an 'invisible intelligence'. As tensions rise with the body count, Trilby must learn the secret of the dark force haunting DeFoe manor and their dreams before it finishes off the remaining captives. Only by using books, house records, objects of the normal and not-so-normal variety, and old-fashioned skill will Trilby be able to get everyone out of the manor in one piece.

The game story is straight from the plots of horror movies, complete with the dramataization and character interaction that won Yathzee one of those awards. This quote is take from the readme file: "For those of you who have gotten used to me injecting a sense of humour into all my games, prepare to be disappointed. This was more of an experiment in programming and characterisation than a humourous effort. So, don't come running to me when you expect a light-hearted runaround, and find instead insane ghosts and people being murdered in nasty ways." And he does a fine job of it too; the game's personalities are distinct and the story is well-written, allowing for a quality in this short game that one may not always see on the free gaming scene. This man had a fair amount of practice with AGS design under his belt before he made this particular game, and it shows. Although he borrows slightly from horror genres (I'm sure a careful player will notice the similarities,) the story is his own, with his own original twists.

The graphics themselves resemble the style of 80s adventure games. I'm not certain if this is a visual imperitive the engine creates, I'm not sure how the creation process works. But as the readme notes, all original content is created by Yahtzee, and since most of it is original, that's quite a feat. Creating gaming animations is something I can respect, but not do, and thankfully it's well-done enough to keep on enthralled in DeFoe manor, and the gaming experience.

You may've noticed an award for puzzles up there, for yes, there are puzzles within, being an adventure game. And yes, they are well-thought out ones. There isn't much (that I can think of after playing through a few times) that aren't huge stretches on the imagination, although there may be a point or two where you're wandering around scratching Trilby's head wondering what you're supposed to be doing next. Thankfully, there's a walkthrough on the website. Giving it a fair chance is always nice though, see if you can prove yourself better then award-winning puzzles!

Cause I can't.

Anyway.

If that isn't enough for you, consider this. For a donation of five dollars or more (US) through Paypal, you can download the special edition of "5 Days A Stranger"! With this, you can turn on full-game length author commentary, a new 'Interview' scene, three concept sketches, and the four music tracks reformatted into MIDI. I have not availed myself of this, but if you feel like getting that extra little bit out of your gaming experience, you can always give it a try.

But free or not, is it worth the download? Certainly! Despite its size as a medium-length adventure game, it will certainly provide gaming enjoyment with barely noticeable drawbacks, such as a slightly repetitive "scary" music track, and one of the more unattractive interfaces you've seen. Once you've finished that, try out the sequels "7 Days A Skeptic" and the recently released "Trilby's Notes", which carry on the story and skills that Yahtzee worked with here.

Graphics: 4 out of 5! (for original and independant design)
Gameplay: 5 out of 5! (well-designed adventure game)
Replay Value: 3 out of 5! (good story, albeit straightforward)
Overal Satisfaction: 5 out of 5!
Weblink: http://www.fullyramblomatic.com/5days/, complete with screenshots