Dateline: 1970s - the height of the Disco craze. The place: the Ozarks, middle America. The event: an alien named Gnap runs out of gas, crash lands on a hick farm and befriends a duck-billed platypus. The game: U.F.O.s...
Take one look at the screenshots and you'd think that this would be on of the blockbuster adventure games of 1997. It was certainly ambitious in scope and features some very talented designers, programmers and animators but somehow it is not particularly well known. If there is any particular genre of game that I prefer amongst all others it is the point and click adventure game and I would've loved it on release had I been aware of it - an unfortunate casualty of a small time publisher.
Created by Artech Studios and released by Akella in Europe a year after it's US release, it was perhaps more popular in Germany where it was known as Gnap. The adventure genre began to wane in the late nineties, with only a few notable titles to recommend. In mainland Europe, it continued to thrive with Germany and Poland in particular keeping the genre alive. Most of the games that saw its resurgence such as The Longest Journey and Secret Files: Tunguska originated there (some I'm very interested to play even stayed there like the beautiful looking Die Hohlenwelt Saga).
The game's visual aesthetic is heavily influenced by the anarchic animated shows at the time like Ren & Stimpy. It uses 2D hand-drawn animation for the sprites on 3D pre-rendered backgrounds which gives the game a great polished look. The puzzles are all inventory based, which are all fun to figure out. Even the usually tedious staple of trying things on other things is dun here as you'll most often get a unique animation.
Gnap doesn't talk so the are no conversations in the game. Those characters that do have a voice aren't performed by trained actors but by members of the development team. You wouldn't really guess at this as there are only a few sentences in the entire game and each one is delivered with character and passion.
It won't be long during your play-though until you come across a platypus trapped in a bear trap. Free him and he will be your lifelong companion, who you can use to solve puzzles in a similar way to Max in the Sam and Max games.
Also like Sam and Max, the game is broken up with some arcade sequences. The first is innocent enough. It sees you avoiding obstacles on the road while driving a stolen truck. Later in the game you'll also have a Mortal Kombat-esque tongue fight in order to obtain some gum. It's every bit as bizarre as that sounds.
The humour is excellent throughout. Since our main character only speaks in brain-swelling telepathic electronica, he has a lot of animations to convey his emotions. It's very much like a silent comedy in the vein of Charlie Chaplin or Mr. Bean, but a bit more brutal. It can be a little too brutal, though. If you can handle the exploding pigs on the first screen, you'll probably be okay with the rest.
The only negative I can find with this game is that it is very short. It could take you only a couple of hours to complete if you know what you're doing, but I'd rather have an excellent and entertaining short game than a dull and tedious 40-hour epic.
This game is definitely worth checking out. It runs well on Windows 7 out of the box, but you may have to tweak your screen resolution to get it in full screen. If you like the comic stylings on Ren & Stimpy, give this one a try. You won't regret it!
To download the game, follow the link below. This is a custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber. It will run natively on modern systems, but is best run in 640x480 compatibility mode. Tested on Windows 7.
U.F.O.s is © Artech Studios
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me