The Average Gamer

Moebius Hands-on Preview

Moebius Canopic Chest
Malachi Rector is a very successful antiques appraiser. His eidetic memory and keen attention to detail make him the perfect recruit for an agency sifting through connections across the grand scheme of humanity. Problem is, he’s a bit of an asshole as a protagonist, and not in that sexy, bad boy way.

I really wanted to like Moebius. I absolutely adored Jane Jensen’s 90’s Gabriel Knight series, so the news of another supernatural adventure game from her studio was welcome. (I never played Gray Matter)

But the first chapter is just so dull. Malachi is gloomy and snobbish, lacking the easygoing charm of Knight, the hilarious snark of Grace Nakamura or any other entertaining characteristic that would make me want to spend 10-odd hours with him. He just wanders around with his interminably slow animations, being rude to people and refusing to dive into a river to for an object that I know is absolutely crucial to the plot.

Yeah, I got stuck on an inventory puzzle in the first chapter of a point-and-click adventure. What else would you expect? But this problem is exactly why I found Malachi’s snobbishness so annoying. I’m travelling from room to room, examining everything I can click on in the hopes that I find something I missed the first half-dozen times. Instead of helpful information, I get “Boring”, “Boring”, or “Boring”, over and over again. I know it’s boring, Malachi. I’m bored too. No need to make it worse.

There’s a hints system that provides unhelpful information, mostly telling you to open the object you can’t open, or pick up the object you can’t yet reach. More usefully, holding down the space bar or clicking on a menu button highlights all usable objects in a room. Once I discovered this, the solution was obvious. As you might expect, I had mistaken a crucial object for background dressing.

Malachi is prized for his ability to observe tiny details, so you have the option to analyse every major character you meet. Click the brain icon and the game will present you with an image of that person. It’s up to you to play Sherlock, noticing all the pertinent details that could lead to new dialogue options.

In practice, however, these critical details look just like every other part of the character and there’s no rhyme or reason to what’s important. A pattern would be useful – examine the head, face, clothes, fingers, shoes, etc. But that’s not the case – sometimes you need to click the head and the face. Sometimes the left shoulder will reveal a muscular physique but the right shoulder will not.

Moebius BarEventually, you’ll realise that it’s easier to just frantically click all over their body, searching for that elusive last hotspot which could be an invisible tear in their jacket, or a mouth that’s “always smiling, moving: dishonest, a liar” which you’re somehow expected to notice on a static image.

The puzzles aren’t engaging either. A darts match is available to win the trust of one of these men. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the nearby vent blows the darts off course, nor that when Malachi can’t reach the off switch, he should drag over the wooden crate that sits nearby.

During chapter two, Malachi wishes to find out more about a man he’s supposed to meet. Rather than, say, talking to the receptionist at the hostel next door, all I can do there is walk away. I detest this arbitrary restriction – a simple “I’ve seen him around but we’ve never spoken” would do wonders for the feeling of freedom. Instead, I feel like I’m struggling down the designer’s path, tripping over invisible obstacles at every turn.

The premise behind Moebius is intriguing – Malachi is initially hired to find connections between a recently-murdered woman and a famous figure from history. Presumably the repeating patterns will relate in some way to the Moebius strip evoked by the game’s title. Sad to say that I can’t stand the world long enough to find out.


8 Comments

  1. Scary Granules

    29th Jul, 2013 at 3:20 pm

    These are the type of games I want to play lately, because I use to play a lot of them in the past. But none seem to really be…that great or worthwhile. I love point ‘n’ click, I love mystery games ect but yeah this one seems to be passable.

  2. Debbie Timmins (Weefz)

    29th Jul, 2013 at 4:42 pm

    Yeah. While writing this, I did wonder if I’ve just fallen out of love with point and click adventures but I think that no, it really is that this game doesn’t give you anything to enjoy.

    A new character called David is introduced in chapter 2 and he has loads of enthusiasm in the cutscene at the end of the demo but it was too little too late by then.

    The Raven looks promising. I’m going to start on that for review this week but here’s the official website for it: http://raven-game.com/en/game/

    [Edit: Also, wow, I’d completely forgotten that I played a PC demo of Gray Matter. Just saw my impressions post linked in the “Related Posts” section. No wonder I never bought the game.]

  3. Nico Sels

    4th Oct, 2013 at 10:10 am

    It’s obvious from both articles that you’re just no longer into classic adventure games, so is it fair to trash this game and Gray Matter, based on some early testing?
    True, the first chapter of Moebius is a tad boring, same with gray matter, gabriel knight I, II and III… Jane has a tendency to build up VERY slowly in the early hours of a game and that’s dangerous, you tend to lose interest. But if you know Jane Jensen a little, you also know that ‘in the end’ you’ll LOVE the game and story. Like you said, you can’t remember having enjoyed running around Neuschwanstein in GK2 in the nineties.. you probably forgot that the story grabbed you back then, and just BECAUSE of the story, you didn’t mind so much to do more tedious things like pixelhunting. Just TRY to finish one of her recent games completely (Gray Matter for instance), let me know if you feel the same. Best, Nico Sels

    • Debbie Timmins (Weefz)

      4th Oct, 2013 at 12:41 pm

      I’d say it’s more that I’ve grown up and so have adventure game systems. I really enjoyed Memoria a few weeks ago and playing that just served to underline the problems with Moebius. You need to make people care about the characters from the start and Malachi is just an unpleasant person. With no foil like Nakamura, he just makes the whole first chapter feel so glum that even the mystery isn’t enough to make me want to keep playing. There are hundreds of other games out there, books, podcasts, videos, a whole internet of leisure time that wasn’t around in the 90s.

      Top that off with technical systems that don’t provide enough visual clues to let you reach your own conclusions (i.e. the brain icon section I mentioned and one other) and it’s clear Mobeius needs some serious work before it will be good.

      And I did enjoy Neuschwanstein – you have completely misinterpreted that section. Looking at the Neuschwanstein murals and learning the story was brilliant but clicking on tiny bits to find hotspots is crap, especially if they only get activated on a minute change of game state. This is accepted by pretty much everyone, hence adventure games let you highlight the hotspots now.

      • bzyofptb

        4th Oct, 2013 at 12:57 pm

        Of course, I agree with you in most parts. Malachi is a jerk and that doesn’t help you care for the game, but I think that later on, we’ll understand why he is/became who he is.. it will probably make sense in the ‘whole’ of the story.. But like I said, it’s a dangerous approach for a first chapter, not everyone will ‘hold on’, especially since- like you said – there is much more ‘entertainment’ out there now than in the 90’s. I just think you shouldn’t be so quick in dismissing it, until you can play more, or better :the finished moebius (albeit with it’s first chapter pretty much like it was) Same with Gray Matter. It’s a pitty you never bothered to actualy play the game,just having dismissed it based on a ‘preview’ from a demo, gives you a biased opinion on her recent work. imho. :-)

        • Debbie Timmins (Weefz)

          4th Oct, 2013 at 2:24 pm

          Well, the whole point of a demo is to draw you in and sell you the game, no? ;)

          Yeah, I agree that going so slowly in the first two chapters is a problem. As I said above, David – who we only properly see at the end of chapter 2 – could well be that counterpoint that it so desperately needs.

          I don’t know if you played the same build I did but the interface to narrow down the clues for the women was awful as well. Maybe this is my data analyst job history talking now but it seems to work against you, rather than helping make deductions. So much scrolling up and down pictures with lots of wasted space on the right hand side of the screen.

          But that’s the whole point of game previews – provide an honest response to the game as it is, and with any luck the developers still have time to address things if a lot of people have the same issue.

  4. Nico Sels

    4th Oct, 2013 at 2:40 pm

    I’ve played the last beta and that was indeed chapters 1 & 2. Like with you, the game only started to interest me at the point where David joined. There was a lot of feedback from the betatesters since then, and the concerns were as you said with the data analysis and some of the other puzzles, so there is clearly a pattern in the criticism.. But you know that’s the whole point of the betatesting, to get the author to consider making the necessary changes before anything becomes public..

    I’ve ready very few game ‘previews’ online that have a negative outlook or go very deeply into criticism of any game still in production, because it might hurt interest and future sales and it wouldn’t be fair. Now a review on the otherhand is of the finished product people pay money for, so it should be straightforward and honnest. I just feel previews should be neutral and ‘soft’ (unlike betatesters comments in a private forum), as a preview writer, you hold a sort of responsability since people are already so quickly biased. But that’s just my opinion which I wanted to point out here ;-)

    • Debbie Timmins (Weefz)

      4th Oct, 2013 at 5:56 pm

      Yeah, I’m aware of the responsibility. That’s why I can’t, in good conscience, tell people that this looks like it will be a good game. Gotta be specific as to where the issues lie so that people can make up their own minds as to whether or not they think they’d be bothered by the same things.