Pizza Morgana: Episode One - Monsters and Manipulations in The Magical Forest

Posted by Erik-André Vik Mamen.
First posted on 23 September 2009. Last updated on 24 September 2009.
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Pizza Morgana: Episode One - Monsters and Manipulations in The Magical Forest
Jackie needs to get the flyer before she can order the pizza.
Pizza Morgana: Episode One - Monsters and Manipulations in The Magical Forest
Pizza is here!
Pizza Morgana: Episode One - Monsters and Manipulations in The Magical Forest
Even a vampire has to deal with all the unwanted vampiric bureaucracy.
Pizza Morgana: Episode One - Monsters and Manipulations in The Magical Forest
A magical broom is not the safest way to fly!
Pizza Morgana: Episode One - Monsters and Manipulations in The Magical Forest
The game is based on a comic of the same name by Uri Fink.

Episodic gaming seems to have resurrected the adventure game genre in some critics' opinions. The relaunch of Sam & Max and Monkey Island series in episodic format has proven to be a huge success for Telltale Games. It is not difficult to see why other game developers are also jumping on the bandwagon and trying to copy the same formula. Corbomite Games, an independent game developer from Tel-Aviv in Israel, has launched its first episodic adventure game called Pizza Morgana. Pizza Morgana: Episode One - Monsters and Manipulations in The Magical Forest (also known as Pizza Morgana - Episode 1: Monsters and Manipulations in The Magical Forest) is the first of 5 planned episodes for the Pizza Morgana series, based on a comic book of the same name.

The game begins with a 12-year-old girl named Jackie who finds herself stuck on a flying broom on a tree and recounts the story that eventually leads Jackie to her current strange predicament. As it turns out, Jackie has just come home from school and hopes that her mom may have remembered making some dinner for her. Rather, Jackie finds herself home alone and a note from her mom telling her to order herself a pizza with the money that has been left for her. Jackie does what her mom tells her and is in complete disbelief when, suddenly, a vampire named Abbie Positive arrives to deliver the pizza! Jackie is understandably scared and tries to find a way to make Abbie leave. Instead, Jackie is transported to the magical world of TerraMagia where Abbie lives. Without a way home, her only choice to escape is to befriend Abbie, who turns out to be completely harmless. Jackie learns that Abbie has actually arrived at her home by accident and it is illegal for Abbie to visit the world of the "numbskulls". The name "numbskulls" is given to people from the non-magical world (think "muggles" in Harry Potter). As Abbie has broken the law, she is now being chased by the Watcher who wants to imprison her for her violation. Can Jackie and Abbie help to save each other?

Pizza Morgana is based on an English comic drawn by famed Israeli comic artist Uri Fink. Fink is best known as the creator of Zbeng! (or Zbang!), a comic series (in the style of Archie Comics) that is popular in Israeli, but lesser so elsewhere. Like the comic, the game employs highly stylized cell shaded cartoonish graphics that focus more on simplicity than realism. The characters are all rendered in 3D (a detail attributable to the fact that the game is built using the Wintermute Engine), but they are all drawn to look 2D. Unlike the comic, however, the hard line edges that are used to accent the character models in the game look much better from afar than in close-up. There are also odd glitches in the graphics (for example, a character sliding instead of walking across the screen). The overall visual is thus somewhat weak.

The voiceovers in this game are rather (and surprisingly) good, in large part because of a professional voice cast. Abbie is voiced by American actress Claudia Christian, who is best known for her role as Susan Ivanova in the American sci-fi television series Babylon 5. The Watcher is voiced by English actor Robin Atkin Downes, another Babylon 5 alumni who plays the role of Byron Gordon in the last season of the same show. Jackie is voiced by Mia Alon, a popular Israeli voice actress who has previously voiced the Hebrew versions of many popular animated television series and movies. All of the cast have played their roles well and are able to deliver the game's humorous dialogs with ease. There is also plenty of original music in this game. The beautifully melodic music befits the story's fantasy atmosphere and is seldom repetitive.

The game uses a traditional point-and-click interface. Left and right clicking the mouse buttons controls your character's movements and actions. An inventory bar is located at the bottom of the screen, and you can select items by clicking on them from the inventory. At all times, a task bar is displayed at the upper left part of the screen and lists the current goal which you must complete (such as "get pizza flyer").

You begin the game as Jackie but switches to Abbie near midway through the game. An icon in the character selection area indicates which character you are currently playing. Clicking on the other character icon switches you to the other character. The help button from the main menu explains the basics of the game's basic mechanics for novice players. There is also a built-in hint system which will automatically prompt you with the next action you need to do in the game.

The game offers 2 levels of difficulty (Easy and Hard). The difference in gameplay between them is minimal, at least in this episode. On the Hard setting, there are lengthier dialogs but no extra puzzles. A few of the same puzzles require slightly more complicated solutions, however.

Without a doubt, the great criticism of this game is its short length. Any experienced adventure gamer can easily finish the game in about half an hour. This makes Telltale Games' episodes look like full-length games by comparison. All of the puzzles are extremely easy, and there are less than 15 tasks to do in the entire episode. The game is almost totally linear.

The game ends exactly where it starts, with Jackie getting herself stuck on a tree. The game is currently released only in downloadable format from the developer's site. Even as a budget release, however, the first episode cannot fully justify its full price. Still, there is good potential for the storyline and characters to develop as the series continues. Adventure game fans who are familiar with the Pizza Morgana comic may find this game to be of interest.

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