Hot Tin Roof: The Cat That Wore a Fedora, by Colorado-based developer Glass Bottom Games, was released for PC, Mac and Linux last Friday after a successful Kickstarter campaign kicked off more than eighteen months of development. It sounds nuts on paper — a platformer inspired by old-school adventure games, where you solve murders and blast bubbles from a revolver with a feline partner. But how does it work as a full game?
Well, Hot Tin Roof is pretty nuts. The game's biggest weapon is the goofy sense of humor that's washed over the environment and the characters. The voice of Glass Bottom Games' founder, Megan Fox, comes through in the back-and-forth conversations between Emma Jones, hungry private investigator; her partner, Franky; and the pigeons, cats, rats and other creatures with which they cross paths. Even the lowliest rat has an agenda and Raymond Carver patter. But these chats and interrogations aren't just for fun and games: Asking each character what they know will often open up new clues to use in your investigation. Although Hot Tin Roof follows in the footsteps of Golden Age adventure games like the recently re-released Grim Fandango, it's not linear and pre-defined like many of them. To crack a case, you have to find motive, opportunity and means, then take them to your boss for a search and/or arrest warrant. That's pretty complex stuff for a bunch of hopping blocks.
Or... you could just bust in through the window, or get an alley cat to pee in a doorman's shoes, then snag the information you need. You'll feel dirty for going against procedure, but it's a valid and fun option. You can even get through the game without bothering to do much gumshoe work at all — what Fox's team dubs the 'loose cannon run.' There are about fourteen different endings in different configurations, Fox says, and you'd have to play through four times to get them all.
There are some slippery spots on this Roof. Moody lighting goes a long way toward burnishing the highly simple art style, but the sparseness of the environments and characters takes some getting used to. As with a lot of adventure games, extreme frustration can hit when the solution to a puzzle or the location of an important character seems impossible to find. Hot Tin Roof doesn't hold your hand, but sometimes you end up lost. Still, when you figure out the interplay between carefully timed jumps, the game's logic and the rhythm of shooting off grappling hooks, flaming bullets or explosive rounds, you'll find satisfaction.
With so many Kickstartered games ending up as disappointments or simply disappearing, it's nice to see a game that delivers on its promises, especially one made close to home. Hot Tin Roof is a funky flavor, but we can't wait to see what Glass Bottom Games comes up with next.
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