The beauty of the Blackwell series was that its puzzles were inventive and really got the old grey matter working, yet never put players in that uncomfortable position of having to go through every permutation of item-person-scenery to find solutions. Currently, that breath of fresh air in the point-and-click genre has not been forgotten about with Technobabylon following suit. Nothing is overly confusing or illogical, and although getting stumped during even these early stages was something that occurred, taking a moment and using some lateral thinking suddenly made everything clear, giving a fantastic sense of satisfaction when unravelling what initially looked impossible.
There were two key scenarios available in this sampler, the first being a 'trapped in a box' section, focusing on Latha Sesame who has, for some reason, been locked in her room, and the second being a detective-style affair, revolving around Charlie Regis and his partner at the CEL police force, Max Lao.
First up, Latha - described as "a jobless agoraphobe addicted to the Trance" (a sort of cyber network for online communication, sheltering people from the world). She finds herself caged within her own apartment, which might sound odd given the 'agoraphobe' tag, but when having the freedom to leave, she chooses not to, but removing that liberty brings about a whole different train of thought. Using the very limited tools around her room, a complex situation must be resolved by not merely using the objects at her disposal, but also logical thought processes and interaction with computer systems that control her food machine and door controls. Going from seemingly super easy due to the lack of options, to then almost impossible when the first attempts at escaping do not work, what is gradually revealed in this first step is how complexity can be brought into even the simplest of circumstances…and how enjoyable it is to break everything down.
Whilst grafting away, it is apparent the Adventure Game Studio development tool is at play, with the core mechanics of the Blackwell games shining through in terms of the inventory and interaction elements, as well as the retro-pixellated graphical appearance of the characters and their surroundings (with new pixel art introduced by the talented Ben Chandler, it should be added). What is not retro in style, however, is the atmospheric soundtrack that - although still not finalised - exudes a chilling air of mystery, with a foreboding Dystopian future vibe where the feeling is that humanity is fading. As well as this, there is stellar voice acting, really complementing the already strong gameplay of Technobabylon - something that also drove the Blackwell games forward.
The final section tested was the dour world of CEL members, Charlie - someone that has managed to avoid being connected to the all-seeing network - and his female cohort, and technophile of the partnership, Max. This duo is hot on the heels of the Mindjacker, someone stealing the contents of people's brains, but there is also something else afoot, something that raises a lot of questions at this early stage, which definitely built up the intrigue levels higher and higher the more progress was made through the initial scenes on offer.
Intriguingly, there are even moments where key decisions may shape the way the adventure pans out, affecting certain elements. Depending on how this is implemented in the final release, it will indeed be a great step to encouraging repeat plays to see all outcomes. There has been player feedback incorporated since the first three freeware releases, so perhaps it is not outside the realms of possibility that this has been included because of user comments. Whatever the case, the second section - featuring Charlie and Max - showed more development, be it the increased interaction with other characters, opening up to reveal further exploration on the same in-depth level as the Blackwell games, and featuring some impressive brainteasers. From start to finish, not only are the characters well acted, they have personalities that resonate with players, creating a bond between those in control and the on-screen individuals. The wait to see how all the characters come together, and find out how and why they are linked, is going to be a painful one, even though the game is down as a May 2015 release.