by Joseph Leray
Screwy Lightbulb in an awkwardly-named multinational indie game studio that stretches from South Africa to Minnesota. Their first game is called "The Maker's Eden," a stylish first-person sci-fi noir adventure game that's kept my attention all afternoon.
"Sci-fi film-noir adventure game" may remind you of Wadjet Eye's "Gemini Rue" (which is excellent, by the way), but "The Maker's Eden" stands apart in story and structure, though the tone is similar: terse, alienating, mysterious.
What immediately struck me about "The Maker's Eden," though, was its visual style. The game is made in Unity which has perfectly serviceable 3D effects, but its colors, art direction, and two-dimensional characters make the game feel like a shadowbox comic book panel. It's a neat effect that complements the first-person perspective and point-and-click mechanics well.
Speaking of which, I also really like the way the game's mouse cursor behaves: tooltips describe any object you hover over, and the cursor turns yellow to signal important items or areas. It's a small thing, but it's a smart touch that shows an understanding on Screwy Lightbulb's part: adventure games are at their best when I'm solving puzzles, not pixel-hunting.
The last thing I like about "The Maker's Eden" is the way its dialog and story pull the player along. The various characters you'll meet are generous with hints and ideas, and the puzzles and story combine nicely to create forward momentum. That's not say that the puzzles are easy -- the very first one stumped me for a bit -- but, by and large, you'll know exactly what to do and will need to figure out how to do it.
"The Maker's Eden" is in the death-throes of an IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign for its first act. If it goes well, sales from the first game will (in theory) fund parts two and three. Fortunately for us, Screwy Lightbulb promise that they'll finish the game whether or not they hit their funding target, and there's also, predictably, a Steam Greenlight campaign.
I can't find an official release date for the PC-, Mac-, and Linux-bound game, but do play the twenty-odd minute demo in the mean time. It's really, really good.
Joseph Leray is a freelance writer from Nashville. Follow him on Twitter