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When you think of the term The Next Big Thing you’re probably thinking about some infomercial with $19.95 plastered all over the screen before it ends. If you translate what the next big thing might be the form of a video game, you’re probably thinking some fancy new game engine or, the next big thing in interactive entertainment. However, who would have thought that it would be a point-and-click adventure game set in an alternate universe?
Well, The Next Big Thing is the next big project from Pendulo Studios. It’s the developer’s new gig following the likes of their other smash hit, Runaway: A Twist of Fate. The game’s presentation is a mix of art deco meets the Greaser culture with flashy 1950s cars, clothing and robotics while at the same time combining these elements with futuristic technology. It definitely gives the game a visual style all its own.
Nevertheless, what’s graphics without gameplay and story? For a point-and-click adventure title, The Next Big Thing doesn’t necessarily disappoint with its story, however, many of the properties proposed as being the driving elements for the main storyline seem more important than the main plot point itself.
Not to give anything away, but I’ll just mention that the game includes out-of-this-world style elements like an immaterial man who is invisible, monsters who are brand name actors and actresses, as well as teleportation devices and a pyramid that houses mystical powers. When you take into account that the main villain of the game is going about his nefarious plans in such an odd way, it makes you question why he just didn’t use some of the crazy technology already at his disposal to accomplish his goals. Still, the plot takes enough turns to be interesting for most point-and-click fans, and the two lead characters, Liz Allaire and Dan Murray, are charismatic enough where you just can’t get enough of them at times.
For many of the other characters in the game, though, I feel as if we just don’t get enough of them at all. There were some truly wacky personalities littered throughout The Next Big Thing and I’m not sure if it was due to time constraints or just trying to keep the story within perspective, but a lot of characters that play pivotal roles in the advancement of the storyline hardly receive much of an explanation of who they are and what they’re about. Two characters I felt were unjustly camouflaged with a Deus Ex Machina complex throughout the game were Big Albert and the Immaterial Man. One of the villains also receives a very poor showing that left much to be desired. Nevertheless, at least the game was overflowing with unique and original characters as opposed to not having enough. And it’s better for a start-up franchise or new IP when there are more characters and elements available to be exploited and explored as opposed to not having enough.
When it comes to the actual gameplay, though, The Next Big Thing doesn’t shy away from having plenty of original puzzle sequences. In fact, one my only gripes would be that there weren’t enough traditional puzzles – many of which can be found in Resident Evil games – where players have to rearrange floor tiles or decipher a phrase using pieces of various words. That’s certainly not to say that the puzzles are lacking in The Next Big Thing…they just aren’t what you might be expecting. Nevertheless, if you’re familiarized with the unorthodox adventuring approach that was used in Pendulo’s previous projects, especially the Runaway series, then you’ll be right at home with how the puzzle and story progresses in The Next Big Thing.
Speaking of puzzles and progress…that brings us to the difficulty of the game. Now, most point-and-click adventure titles are a handful of hours long and much of the playtime consists of walking back and forth after having been jammed on a ridiculously hard puzzle. The good thing about The Next Big Thing is that such puzzles are accompanied with helpful hints and hotspots to show off what can be interacted with within a specific scenario. However, the hints and hotspots are only available on the Easy difficulty setting, and gamers who go in wanting a full, lengthy play experience with The Next Big Thing might want to ramp up the difficulty to Hard.
If I had a major gripe with the game it would obviously be with the length: the playtime clocks in (on the easy setting) at anywhere between five and six hours. The replay factors aren’t necessarily high but for perfectionists it might be fun to replay the game on the hardest setting. The art style is definitely one of the game’s high points; it’s just a little disappointing that more wasn’t done with the characters and universe created for the game.
Assuming The Next Big Thing sells well, I’m sure Pendulo will be a little more liberal with their expansion of the story and characters in future sequels. As it stands, The Next Big Thing isn’t necessarily a groundbreaking point-and-click title like some of Frictional Games' masterpieces (i.e., Penumbra Overture, Amnesia, etc.,) but at least it will manage to quench the thirst for adventure gamers looking for a fun point-and-click title..
Developer: Pendulo Studios
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive