Ayo! What if horror movies’ monsters were played by real monsters? What if the situation was not all beer and skittles and they decided to rebel?
This is the stellar concept behind Pendulo Studios’ The Next Big Thing. It’s such a good idea in fact, that the game struggles to live up to its potential, but comes pretty darn close.
TNBT is a classic point-and-click adventure with gorgeous scenes peppering your eyes. You move the cursor about the screen, searching for things to examine, people to speak to and items to thieve and fondle. These stolen goods end up in your inventory to which you return in order to combine them and solve the various puzzles which tickle your brain. All of this is delivered with one of the most sumptuous art styles I have ever seen.
You play as Dan Murray, the ex-sportswriter who hates beetles, and Liz Allaire, the odd-ball journalist who is so refreshing a character in an industry saturated with generics. The voice work delivered by the actors is also percolating with charm, bringing each character to life in such a way that I can still hear their voices in my sleep.
Each area has a number of puzzles to sleuth and entices you to explore the detailed environments. Unfortunately, some of the scenes do very little to let you know that there is any more to them, resulting in me occasionally getting ‘stuck’ because I missed 2 inches of screen space I didn’t realise were there. In addition, as is unavoidable it seems in the genre, some of the puzzle solutions are incredibly vague, and while there is a hint system, it is only available on Easy Mode, so if, like me, you choose Normal, there is no way to use it without beginning anew.
The game is respectable in length, but there is very little replay value considering you can experience everything the game has to offer in one play-through. It would have been neat to explore the adventure from multiple characters’ perspectives during the same timeline, since the story lends itself to such an idea. You also only get to experience but a sliver of the brilliant world Pendulo have crafted, and I would have loved to have explored other locations, met additional monsters and unravelled more to the concept than I was allowed to.
The Next Big Thing has clearly been forged with a love for the genre by an incredibly talented studio who know their craft. Unfortunately they seem to have held back diving into the deep end of their own story, and as a result the game itself is held back from reaching greatness. Regardless, it’s a great ride which has me interested in what this studio have up their polygonal sleeves. We are in for delicious treats. Aya!