Blood and Ruby
Developer: Hitpoint Studios
Publisher: Big Fish Games
Release Date: 3/31/2011
I’d never heard of Hitpoint Studios before this game, but they appear to have made quite a few games according to their website. The biggest series under their belt is Fate, a series of RPGs they made with WildTangent. Ashe reviewed the first game in the series in early 2010 and had nice things to say about it.
I decided to try Blood and Ruby for several reasons. The first is that I love adventure games, and it had been a month since I played and reviewed Gray Matter. The second is that I had my monthly free game credit from Big Fish Games, which is the largest publisher of casual games, but they’ve also been developing and publishing a good deal of point and click adventure games as well. Out of all the new releases on the site that I could use my credit on, Blood and Ruby had the best sample video, so I decided to go with that. Pretty simple, right? So how was Blood and Ruby for an independent budget game? Big Fish titles are overlooked by a lot of gamers who sadly ignore and eschew PC titles (yet they still refer to themselves as “hardcore gamers” somehow…), but as their games range between $2.99 and $19.99 for full length indie games with a decent sized budget, it’s a treasure trove for smart gamers. Is Blood And Ruby one of those games that helps to show why I buy at least one game a month from Big Fish…or should I have waited for Broken Mirror III or Jurassic Park to get my adventure game fix?
The main character of Blood and Ruby is unsurprisingly named, well…Ruby. Her brother Marcus, a hipster adventurer type, has disappeared in Venice while researching an ancient relative. Marcus anticipated that there would be trouble, however, and sent word to Ruby that he needed her help. Ruby travels to Venice to find Marcus’ hotel room sacked and a mystery going back several centuries featuring her great great something or other, said relative’s true love, an evil vampiric duo, and a fountain that has the potential to give vampires immunity to sunlight. Obviously this is not what Ruby was probably expecting. She was probably thinking Marcus was caught with a hooker or with pot. I mean, who expects an international vampire conspiracy when a relative asks you to help them out?
Blood and Ruby is about three hours long and it is spread across four acts, the last of which is longer than the other three combined. The story is well told for a budget game, but compared to a lot of other adventure games, there isn’t a lot of depth or characterization here. When the characters are allowed to have personality, the game shines, but there really aren’t a lot of those moments. The overall plot is fun, especially in comparison to what you pay for the game, but the game is simply told and while cute, it is far from impressive.
Story Rating: Decent
The cut scene animation is very nicely done. The look and feel of the game is very cartoonish, but there is a lot of detail to characters and backgrounds alike. This is a very pretty game and I really was impressed with the quality here. The only downside is full body character movements, which are anything but. It’s more like paper dolls moving across the screen. This was a bit jarring, especially considering how visually appealing the game was otherwise.
Like most adventure games, the in-game visuals are primarily static images with little to no animation. Like the cut scenes, the art work and detail are very impressive, but without any real animation to the visuals, some gamers will no doubt be turned off. This is standard far for most adventure games, so fans of the genre will be very happy with what’s on their monitor. The game looks very nice, but with a little animation added, this could have been wowed even people who shy away from the genre.
Graphics Rating: Enjoyable
I’ll admit it – the game’s score blew me away. I was not expecting a soundtrack this impressive from a budget game. In fact, it’s arguably the best score I’ve heard all year. The music is THAT good. Each track fits the horror-mystery theme of the game perfectly. Each selection will make you think of classic Universal horror films. They have that “golden age of horror” feel to them and I loved every minute of it.
The sound effects aren’t as impressive, if only because there aren’t a lot of them. The bulk of what you’ll here is a happy chime when you do something right or a scratching negative sound if you start to just randomly click on the screen. There are other sound effects like setting a vampire on fire or the sound of evil puppets chittering and dancing after they’ve murdered an antiquarian, but those tend to be the exception to what you’ll normally be hearing. That said, when you do hear them, they are very well done and a lot of fun.
There’s no voice acting to the game, and I think having some could have gone either way. With a nice sounding cast, it could have put the game over the top. With a cast like you see in the Mystery Case Files games, it could have easily ruined the ambience.
Honestly, the audio alone makes the game worth your $6.99/9.99. It’s one of the best I’ve heard in 2011 and it makes me want to put in an old Lon Chaney Jr. or Karloff film once I’m done writing this.
Sound Rating: Great
4. Control and Gameplay
Like all adventure games, you’ll be doing nearly everything with your mouse. Click on people to talk to them. Click on objects to interact with them. Pick up items with the mouse. Combine items by clicking on one and dragging it to the other. If you’ve played one of these games, you’ve played them all.
It’s the puzzles where gameplay can really differ. Blood and Ruby has a lot of different puzzles to play through. You have a lot of “hidden object” puzzles in this game, as they tend to be the casual gamer puzzle of choice these days, but there are many others ranging from “memory” type games, to battle sequences where you must pick your action and objects to survive. Of course, it’s an adventure game so there is no actual threat of your character dying per say, but these bits really put a fresh new spin on object interaction puzzles. My favorite puzzle in the game was a turn based strategy in Act III where you have to stealthily sneak Ruby’s ancestor past a series of night watchmen so that she could board a vampire’s cargo ship. This puzzle was a lot of fun and my SRPG background was a big help there.
Overall, everything here is pretty tight. The only bug I could find is that the game automatically shuts everything to mute if you Alt+Tab out (Say, for saving screenshots of a game you are reviewing), but this is so unlikely to affect anyone besides me, that it’s hardly worth mentioning. The game is rock solid from beginning to end and adventure fans will be pretty happy with this. God knows I was after playing the EVEN BUGGIER versions of the Strong Bad games by Telltale on the PS3 before this.
Control and Gameplay Rating: Great
Ah, the Achilles heel of the entire adventure game genre. As this game is extremely linear and everything unfolds in the same exact way from beginning to end without any deviation whatsoever, Blood and Ruby is almost certainly a “one and done” title for most gamers, even fans of the genre. However because it’s only $6.99, that’s not too bad, unlike say, a $50-60 dollar console title. That’s when you should be irate. With such a low budget pricing, you’ll definitely feel like you got your money’s worth with Blood and Ruby; you just won’t be playing it again any time soon.
Replayability Rating: Bad
Unlike a lot of adventure games that have some pretty outlandish solutions to their puzzles, Blood and Ruby‘s solutions are all pretty obvious if you think about them. Still, if you get stuck, especially on the hidden object puzzles, there is always a hint button to help you through the game. The hint button won’t work on object based puzzles that are the de facto puzzle in point and click games, but for those of you that are stumped easily on things, at least you have the option at times.
I found Blood and Ruby to be a bit on the easy side for this genre, but then compared to games like The Secret of Monkey Island and the like, it’s hard for it not be. Everything is pretty straight forward and as long as you pay attention to the verbal clues (which are usually bold and in red lettering), you’ll cake walk through this game. It’s a fun experience, but it’s not as if finishing this game is much of a challenge.
Balance Rating: Enjoyable
Although Blood and Ruby is charming, it really doesn’t bring anything new to the table. Adventure and hidden object games where the primary plot hook is about a sibling going missing are a dime a dozen. Games with vampires in them? Ditto. Even the puzzles in the game (aside from the turn based strategy one) are commonplace amongst the genre. Sure, Blood and Ruby gives a lot of these a fresh coat of paint, but by and large, it has all the trappings and clichés the genre is known for with little to nothing added to them. It’s fun, but in no way is the game anything but a paint by numbers title.
Originality Rating: Bad
I really enjoyed my time with Blood and Ruby and I played the last three acts of the game without a break. Usually if a game features vampires I’m automatically inclined to be pessimistic towards it, but for a budget game that’s only meant to last an afternoon or so, I found this to be really charming. The story was decent, the graphics were fun, the music was incredible, and the puzzles kept me entertained. Blood and Ruby is one of those games that won’t break sales records or win GOTY or anything like that, but it is one that is well worth playing and for seven bucks, you’re getting a game that’s better than a lot of higher priced games. I had a hard time putting Blood and Ruby down and I had a lot of fun with it. You probably will too if you’re remotely a fan of the point and click genre.
Addictiveness Rating: Good
9. Appeal Factor
Adventure games are a niche genre here in the states and although people still get excited for a new Sam and Max title, the genre has slowly been taken over by the “casual game” audience, which is funny because for a long time, games like Grim Fandango and the like were for the most diehard of gaming enthusiasts. Because of that, the market is pretty slim for these type of games and unless there is a big name or franchise attached, adventure games don’t received a second glance from the average gamer these days, much less a first one. Add in the fact that Big Fish doesn’t really market or publicize their titles and you have a game that is only going to succeed by word of mouth through those that frequent that website.
Still, adventure games are something most gamers find they enjoy on occasion once they actually sit down and play one, and Blood and Ruby‘s puzzles are diverse enough that newcomers and veterans of the genre will both find something they enjoy in the game. The fact the game is under ten dollars is also a nice selling point as well.
If you’ve got a few hours as well as a few bucks burning a hole in your pocket, you could do a lot worse than purchasing Blood and Ruby.
Appeal Factor Rating: Above Average
Seven to ten bucks for a well made point and click game that lasts a few hours is a bargain. Some old stalwarts are still trying to charge thirty to forty dollars for games in this genre but only Telltale seems to be pulling that off, and that’s by offering four to five games total at that price…which breaks down to roughly what you’d play for Blood and Ruby. Do you like vampires? Do you like horror, mystery, and fantasy all rolled into one ball of wax? Are you a fan of puzzles? Blood and Ruby has all that and more. It looks good, sounds great, and it’s a lot of fun to play. Again, this little budget game is a wonderful deal, especially compared to a lot of titles that are three to six times its asking price.
Miscellaneous Rating: Good
Control and Gameplay: Great
Appeal Factor: Above Average
FINAL SCORE: ABOVE AVERAGE GAME!
Short Attention Span Summary
Blood and Ruby is a fine little budget adventure game. With an asking price of $6.99 or $9.99, depending on if you are a Big Fish Games member or not, you are getting a fun little point and click title that will last you a few hours. The game’s visuals are enjoyable, if static, and the soundtrack is simply incredible. At less than ten dollars, you’re getting a charming little title that won’t win any awards, but it is an excellent deal for its asking price. If you’re an adventure or PC gamer, than by all means, scoop this up.