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Pendulo Studios made it on the map for games like Runaway: Dream of the Turtle and most recently, Runaway: A Twist of Fate. Their games combine a mixture of hand-drawn scenarios interspersed with usually memorable 3D avatars. The good and bad about The Next Big Thing is that it holds true to the old-school roots of hand-drawn backgrounds with a comfortable feeling of atmosphere surrounding the story’s progression. The bad part about this is that the overall game feels horribly lax, and the big payoff is somewhat rushed and stunted.
Still, as a budget-priced adventure game The Next Big Thing delivers what it promises in a sly and methodically unfolding way, with a jazzy soundtrack and more-than-adequate voice acting. Fans of old Sierra classics or recent 3D adventure titles from Lace Mamba will probably thoroughly enjoy this game, and you can find out why in this Next Big Thing review.
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I won’t say that was I ultimately disappointed with the story and graphics in The Next Big Thing, but I will admit that it was a bit of a letdown given that there is so much to the universe of The Next Big Thing that pales the main plot point by comparison. Not to give too much away, but there high-tech zeppelins, ancient pyramids of mystical power, movie-star monsters and teleportation devices, just to name a few. One would expect that the next big thing in The Next Big Thing would trump much of what we were introduced to throughout the game. However, things move at a moderate pace to unfold a story that feels a little like it’s been there and already done that.
With such a vastly unique world at their disposal I would have thought that Pendulo would have introduced gamers to something a little more unique as the crux of the story as opposed to what it was. Nevertheless, there is a bit of a twist to the whole thing that I don’t want to give away.
Still, in comparison to other games such as Broken Sword and previous titles from Pendulo, especially Runaway: Dream of the Turtle, it felt like the storyline in The Next Big Thing could have been a little bit more grandiose. For what it’s worth it manages to convey its point adequately enough and most point-and-click fans will find it about as enjoyable as a standard Pixar flick.
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There are several different settings in which the game can be played, including easy, normal and hard modes that make quite a bit of a difference in how long the total playtime will be or how convenient it will be for players to progress.
One of the things that makes The Next Big Thing different from other games is that the difficulty affects things like hotspots, which will show players interactive objects or places to go within an area, or helpful hints. On the harder difficulty settings the hints will be disabled, meaning players will just have to figure out what they need to do on their own. This will definitely extend the playtime of the game, but it still doesn’t compensate for the short runtime.
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I was torn on this topic of the subject because let’s be honest…a point-and-click adventure game is only about as entertaining as its lead(s). In addition to this, the drive to complete the game is only about as poignant as the villains that drive the plot or the supporting characters that lend clues to the overall story. In regards to containing interesting and unique characters, The Next Big Thing does a fantastic job of creating non-clichéd archetypes that I won’t give away here; however I feel that some of these characters lacked the development that they deserved, especially a character named Big Albert.
I suppose it’s a good thing, though, to want to know characters more and to want to see them on the screen more. It definitely will add to the anticipation of a sequel for The Next Big Thing. Nevertheless, I can’t ignore the fact that other than the two leads and a few other supporting cast members, players just don’t get enough out of the rest of the cast, which is quite sad because as I mentioned before, The Next Big Thing has a very rich atmosphere ripe for all kinds of stories, adventures and games.
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There weren’t quite as many puzzles in The Next Big Thing as I would have hoped there would be, still players will have a fair share of mind-boggling tasks to uncover. One thing I do commend the game on is the fact that it’s not overly-reliant on over-used puzzles. Many games of this type send players on redundant tasks that adventure gamers have done a million-and-one times over and over before, which is not the case in The Next Big Thing.
Luckily, given the game’s other-worldly universe and character archetypes it creates unique puzzle-solving circumstances that must be approached methodically and with deductive thinking that keeps the game feeling fairly fresh. Yes, there is a pattern to the approach to solving the puzzles but it’s nowhere near as redundant as some Nancy Drew or Sierra adventure titles.
If I did have a very, very minor complaint about the game’s puzzle mechanics it would be that there wasn’t one traditional puzzle-solving encounter, which usually find their way into Capcom's Resident Evil games every once in a while. I’m all for innovation and moving forward with video game interactivity, but sometimes a little bit of the old-school rearrange-the-blocks-in-this-order puzzle can sometimes help extend the gameplay and replayability factors.
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The Next Big Thing isn’t necessarily the next big thing in the world of interactive adventure games. More than anything it’s a throwback to classic point-and-click titles that made fans proud to be adventure gamers back during the early and mid 1990s. It lacks the innovation brought to the table with titles like Frictional Games' Penumbra Overture and Amnesia, and it lacks the length and engagement that came with previous Pendulo Studios titles such as Runaway. Still, what the Next Big Thing lacks it more than makes up for it with a steadily progressive tale that’s worth experiencing if you even remotely enjoy point-and-click games with odd worlds and crazy characters.