Episodic releases are a pretty new thing for games. We’ve had a few successful releases (such as Tales of Monkey Island, or the Wallace and Gromit games, both by Telltale Games, and Amaranth Games’ Aveyond series). Taking Uri Fink’s successful Pizza Morgana comic and turning it into a game should be a piece of cake – or a slice of pizza. The problem is that the game ends just as it starts to cook.
Taking its cue from other point-and-click adventures, Pizza Morgana‘s first episode – subtitled Monsters and Manipulations in the Magical Forest – has everything going for it. The graphics are well-drawn, with a great sense of style. The music is appropriate, and the voice acting is top-notch. In fact, if you’re a science-fiction fan, you may recognize the voices of Claudia Christian and Robin Atkin Downes from the TV show Babylon 5.
Interacting with your environment is simple enough, and the comical help button on the title screen tells you everything you need to know. Left-clicking allows you to perform an action or drag an item from the simple inventory on the bottom. Right-clicking allows you to perform secondary actions with certain items.
The story is taken directly from the panels of the Pizza Morgana comics. It centers around a girl named Jackie who is suddenly whisked into TerraMagia, the land of magic, by a vampire named Abbie Positive.
Unfortunately, the "episode" is inexplicably short. Not just slightly short, but very, very, very short. In fact, the first playthrough only takes about 90 minutes if you choose to look at absolutely every object in the game. It can probably be finished directly in a much shorter time than that.
There are only four puzzles to solve, but they fit very well in the story. A particularly clever one involves figuring out a magical language to help your vampire friend summon the item you need in a pentagram in the middle of the Magical Forest. In trying to combine magical words, we got anything from a skull with bulging eyes that talked to us, to a cake made of fish, to a motorcycle helmet. It’s this off-the-wall sense of humor that really helps drive the interest of the game.
So what fills most of the time? Dialog, and more dialog. It’s well-written (again, taken directly from the comic) and well-acted. But, by the time the credits suddenly and surprisingly appear, you have only just begun to connect with these unique characters.
If you look at other episodic games, most episodes tend to be in the three- to five-hour range. Given the fact that these episodic titles tend to cost less than other full releases, it’s very fair. But players and consumers have come to expect something more from their purchases. You can play many free web-based Flash games for longer than this one.
It’s really a shame, because all the ingredients are there for a great puzzle adventure. But instead of getting a party size, someone ordered an extra small. It’s a good game – easily a four-star title if there had been about triple the gameplay – but there’s just not enough here to justify the cost of a self-contained release. This has the feel of a demo, not a full episode by any measure. Hopefully the second episode will be a lot longer than this, to lend more weight to the series’ promising start.