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Hot Tin Roof, a modern adventure platformer with a classic touch

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It's raining outside in this late summer afternoon and I'm feeling a bit under the weather too, so it's the perfect occasion to engage myself with a film noir adventure game like Hot Tin Roof: The Cat That Wore A Fedora.

As you may know if you're a regular of The Funding Crowd, this is an in-development game that's currently gathering funds at Kickstarter. Its kind developers provided me with a prototype demo of the game and so I'm going to expose my first impressions.

I fire up the demo and I am immediately greeted by an immersive score, a ringing phone, and the main character's powerful yet enticing voice as she narrates the story. That's right: she. All the inherent clichés of the genre come to an end with the two fedora-wearing feminine characters: private dicks Emma Jones -the narrator- and her partner Francine "Franky" the cat. Stereotypes make a brief comeback when Emma answers the phone call and it turns out to be their boss who orders them to go investigate a mysterious and grim murder that has occurred at the restaurant around the corner. That murder will of course lead them to an adventure with more deaths, and an ever-increasingly complex plot. I won't go into much more detail about the story, if only because I don't know it: the demo ends abruptly just when it is getting really interesting! :P

Brief as it is, the playable prototype gives an approximate idea of what the finished game can offer: a mood-setting soundtrack, dialogues with tons of references to both the film noir classics and the geek/gaming world, high-res but blocky graphics that convey a somewhat 8-bit visual style, and a gameplay more focused on action/platforming for solving puzzles rather than classic point-and-click mechanics. In fact, mouse and keyboard use is discouraged -at least in the demo- as the game is designed to be primarily played with a gamepad -- although a more user-friendly keyboard/mouse interface is promised for the final release.

Hmm... where have I heard that before?

Gameplay mechanics seem to be centered around Emma's special service revolver and the various types of ammunition it can shoot. None of them are lethal as this is not a shooter, but they all confer different abilities that are much needed in order to progress in the game, either to solve puzzles or to gain access to previously unreachable areas à la Metroid. As was said in in The Funding Crowd column where Hot Tin Roof was featured, there's a deep strategic component to the game as stunts and tactics need to be thought in advance, and load the gun accordingly with the exact amount and type of rounds necessary to pull them off. And planning ahead is one thing, but successfully carrying the plan out is quite another matter, so be prepared to fail many times before mastering the techniques.

Graphically it isn't anything spectacular overall. The characters have an extremely low polygon count and a hopping motion as their only animation, what has a certain air about The Real Texas, one of the creators' admitted influences for the game. But surely all that has been done for artistic reasons only, as the development team really knows their onions. It particularly shows in what they call warped plane side-scrolling, a technique that makes Hot Tin Roof a truly 2.5D game: most of the time the characters move in a 2D plane, but at certain locations they can make a seamless 90º turn and penetrate a perpendicular plane. Of course this isn't by any means a purely decorative gimmick, as it's at least required to access some secret areas (you can see it for yourself in the Kickstarter pitch video :)).

The warped plane side-scrolling technique at work

Finally as in every adventure game worth of its name, dialogue is another central part in Hot Tin Roof. As it stands, the whole dialogue system needs a polishing as it can be a little confusing: NPCs keep repeating their initial reply after they are finished with an answer, or the fact that the player cannot see more than one dialogue option at once -- the latter problem could be improved if e.g. the options got marked somehow after you used them, thus preventing unintentional repetitions. But technical aspects aside, the writing is very good and it perfectly fits the overall style: witty and sarcastic, but also dark and grave -- or at any rate as dark and grave as is possible in a world where catnip-dealing cats act as stool pigeons. :D

To sum up, Hot Tin Roof is a very promising game in the tradition of the old 90s adventures, but forgoing point & click pixel hunting and huge inventories and replacing them with some plaforming action. Don't miss its Kickstarter campaign and back the project if you also find it interesting. You can secure a digital copy of the finished game for $10, or get alpha/beta access for $40/$50. The game is also on Greenlight so go and vote it if you want it to eventually hit Steam.

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About the author -
A Linux user for more than 15 years, I've just recently rediscovered the passion for gaming. Couldn't have chosen a better time than now: the [second]( Golden Age of Linux gaming.
See more from me
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Orkultus 31 Aug, 2013
I love "The Real Texas". This one is looking like it will be fun.
tiger 1 Sep, 2013
Took my steam survey for the first time today ;)
Lord Avallon 3 Sep, 2013
I liked this game since it appeared on Greenlight, it´s atmosphere, the graphics, the 2.5 D perspective, Iliked every single detail, it´s on my list for sure!
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