The Tales of Bingwood Chapter I: To Save a Princess

Posted by Gustavo Calvo-Simmons.
First posted on 10 March 2009. Last updated on 11 August 2009.
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The Tales of Bingwood Chapter I: To Save a Princess
Tom lives a humble life as the son of a fisherman.
The Tales of Bingwood Chapter I: To Save a Princess
The Inn o'Cent is the gathering place for the village locals.
The Tales of Bingwood Chapter I: To Save a Princess
The guards in the front of the castle are not paying attention, to Tom or anyone else.
The Tales of Bingwood Chapter I: To Save a Princess
A map allows for quick travels between different locales.
The Tales of Bingwood Chapter I: To Save a Princess
The game interface uses the familiar system of verb coins for character and object interactions.

In the best tradition of adventure games inspired by LucasArts of yesteryears, The Tales of Bingwood is an episodic indie adventure that tells the story of a fisherman's son who becomes a hero when he saves the royal princess from the evil wizard. While it is true that The Tales of Bingwood is not strictly a LucasArts adventure clone, its retro graphics and SCUMM (Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion) like interface will bring back fond memories of LucasArts classics to the likes of Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion. It is a game that can be easily recommended to any nostalgic gamer seeking a dose of vintage adventure gaming.

Similar to Telltale Games' Sam & Max or Hothead Games' Penny Arcade Adventures series, The Tales of Bingwood is being developed by BugFactory as an episodic series. This allows the developer to spread the development of the series over a longer period, during which the developer can elicit player feedbacks and secure additional resources to make subsequent episodes better. The game's theme pays heavy homage to classic LucasArts games as well as to European fairy tales. Despite this, much of the humor of the game is told in a more contemporary style. The game is also a story about the coming of age, as the main character tries to discover his own identity and destiny besides being the son of a humble fisherman.

In The Tales of Bingwood Chapter I: To Save a Princess, you play as Tombrandt Driftwood (not Guybrush Threepwood... Arrr!), a young fisherman who lives with his father in the village of Bingwood (modeled after a classic fairy tale village). After having a strange premonitory nightmare in which the princess is kidnapped (told through the game's tutorial), Tom wakes up to find out that his dream has indeed come true when he hears the bad news from the king's herald during the royal anniversary. With no other (and more quantified) candidates volunteering for the rescue, Tom decides to follow the advice of an absentminded sage to take on the quest himself. Whoever can rescue Princess Liliana will also be given her hand in marriage, though Tom's own motivation to save the princess is more noble.

Gameplay in The Tales of Bingwood is fairly easy to understand and master. The game's interface mirrors the SCUMM interface made popular by early LucasArts adventure games. Interaction is based the familiar verb object design paradigm, whereby the player controls the game character to interact with a scene by pointing and clicking a menu of verb coins that gives the player the option to choose items from the scene and to combine items from the inventory. The mechanic is easy to grasp, and the game even provides a clever tutorial (because it is given, somehow, by a future self of Tom visiting himself while asleep) for adventure game novices.

The graphics in The Tales of Bingwood are decidedly retro. The game vividly recreates the pixelated 2D graphics from the early era of graphical adventures to give the player an impression of playing a classic oldie. The sound effects are equally befitting, and the background music is always upbeat. The developer claims that 25 minutes of original musical scores have been created for the game. The developer has also wisely chosen to hire professional voice actors for the game (rarely done for an indie production). All the voice actors have done a splendid job lending their voices to the cast of quirky characters, including a blacksmith named Arnold Smith whose voice bears an uncanny resemblance to a celebrity with the same first name. The dialogs are quite clever, with plenty of in-jokes and inside references to past LuasArts and Sierra adventure games.

This game is surprisingly difficult, not because of any technical issue but because of the puzzles. The game offers a variety of puzzles, from fetch quests to inventory puzzles to timed trials. All of the puzzles are fun to solve and not absurdly unfair. A map is available and can be used to travel quickly between locales to avoid any excessive backtracking. You cannot die in this game. You can also save the game at any time, though the game is limited to only 4 save slots. Understandably, this first chapter is quite short in length and lasts only a few hours of play. Future chapters, however, are expected to greatly expand the gameplay and to finish the story that this chapter has started.

As a game, I praise The Tales of Bingwood for its vintage appeal. The game is inexpensive and costs less than other episodic games of comparable production. I also congratulate the developer for taking the risk to create its own engine and tools that are used to develop this game. It is unusual for an indie adventure game to emulate "old school" classic adventures as cleverly as it does without "borrowing" from an existing license. Simply stated, The Tales of Bingwood Chapter I: To Save a Princess is beautiful, vintage, and perfect.

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