Framed: A Review

I don’t delve into the world of mobile gaming too much, but a while ago when Joystiq was still a thing and the site produced a weekly podcast I heard about the game “Framed” developed by Loveshack. Recently it went on sale so I went ahead and lavishly spent a dollar on the title and I’ve been slowly playing through the levels. My encounter with the game makes me miss the Super Joystiq podcast and its hosts all the more, it was a great group of journalists and the only place I frequented to learn about games other than MMOs.

The concept of Framed is simple, you’re aiding two protagonists of a film noir tale by rearranging the frames of a comic book page so that the story ends in their favor. As far as narrative goes, this means you are maneuvering the frames in such a way that the authorities and an antagonist I like to call “Mr. Sideburns” are eluded. Mechanically, you are changing the order, rotating the frames, and even reusing previous frames so that you can navigate the hero and heroine to safety.

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In this level I had to reuse several frames repeatedly to ensure that the heroine was always sneaking above, below, or behind the law enforcement officers chasing her.

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You can see here how the top, middle frame in the first picture is now in the top left with the policeman uh, taking a nap. Yes, that’s what happened…

Having played through several levels I don’t see the replay value for this game, but even a single play through is well worth the dollar I spent and then some. Now if you’re expecting the Sin City styling of Frank Miller, Framed will be a poor substitute with regard to artwork and storytelling, but the game mechanics are really clever and the art assets are still attractive in their own way. The biggest criticisms I have thus far are with the limited number of tracks used as background music, the apparent lack of a main menu (seriously, I’m flabbergasted by this one), and the all-too-repetitive scenario of “sneak behind the police officer and bop him on the head” like you’re little bunny foo foo.

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For this level I had to cause the policeman to stumble by pulling the alarm. Then, as he chased me into the next room (bottom left) I released the luggage rack causing him to take another “nap” (he’s got a newborn at home people, give him a break).

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See that key in the officer’s left hand? Once he’s lying unconscious on the ground I’ll have to rearrange the frames once more so that our heroine passes back through the room with the luggage rack in order to take the key from his cold, dead… err, sleepy hand. Otherwise Mr. Sideburns will catch up with her at the locked door (bottom right).

I have yet to see how the gameplay and narrative will develop more fully (or less) as I progress but as far as game mechanics, Framed is fantastic; I’d love to see the idea stretched even further. Imagine a game of this sort equally focused on narrative elements so that not only does the arrangement of the frames determine the successful completion of a level, but also plot development and character relationships. Now that would be a title with clever mechanics, story, and replayability.

And while I’m thinking about the folks of Super Joystiq podcast, I want to say thank you for all the informative and entertaining hours you gave me during my daily commute. The talent, commitment, and heart you demonstrated at Joystiq was irreplaceable, much like the folks from Massively-that-was (whom thankfully I did not have to replace). I often attribute my determination to blog to the closing of Massively which is true, but I was equally inspired to quit delaying and start writing when I listened to the final series of podcasts you all produced, in which you shared your individual journeys into gaming journalism. Thank you for all of your reviews, opinions, and for the stares I received from adjacent drivers as I laughed at your humor in a car all by myself. I wish you well.

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