Exclusive preview: 1112 Episode 02 – Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better…

A little over a year ago, while the App Store was void of even a single decent quality adventure game, a small independent developer called Agharta Studio released 1112 episode 01– the first adventure game to be exclusively developed from the ground up for the iPhone. The project came to fruition through the hard work of a small team led by Alexandre Leboucher and got high praise from critics all across the board (including an honorable mention in our The App Store’s Best Adventure). It was stylish, beautifully drawn and had an original storyline and puzzles to back it all up.

Despite the original promise of a sequel in about 4 month’s time, the team decided to take a little detour to make the excellent Rogue Planet, which messed up the schedule somewhat. Fastforward to April 20, 2010 – Alexandre has just informed me that the long awaited sequel has finally been submitted to Apple and graciously allowed me to take a full hands-on go with 1112 Episode 02. And here’s how it looks.

First of all – I am NOT going to go into every nook and cranny – that I will do in the full review as soon as 1112 Episode 2 is officially out on the AppStore. I am going to give you a few teasers and highlights, especially compared to the first episode.

Speaking of which – there is no need to actually play  1112 episode 01 to get full enjoyment out of the sequel. All of the necessary backstory about the previous events is told in a handy intro sequence and you find yourself right where you left off before – in an unknown hotel room somewhere in New York. You can’t remember how you got here, or where exactly HERE is. First things on the TO-DO list – find out what happened and finally get in touch with Goodman. The gameplay in this part is a bit more dialogue based than in the first part and to spice it all up, Agharta Studio added several minigame-like puzzles. Yes, be prepared for a little Sudoku and some wire-twisting.

The storyline in Episode 2 advances quite considerably, though by the end of it you’ll still have no idea what’s going on.  By the way, I’m being told that 6 episodes total have been laid out, which promises a consistency rarely found in sequels and the like. An interesting vibe I got when playing 1112 Episode 02 was one akin to watching the first season of LOST, arguably the best TV show of all time. The game sucks you in and constantly keeps you off balance with the events unfolding, and while it leaves you with more questions than answers, it feels natural and makes you hungry for more.

On the technical side the game is simply a massive improvement over Episode 1. The engine has been rewritten completely from scratch (which was the other fact responsible for the delay) and renders the beautiful hand-drawn scenes with music and sfx flawlessly even on the older iPhone 3G.

The interface also received a complete overhaul. Gone are the action buttons on the right – instead only a single small icon is present. With a tap and drag you can bring it down to reveal the same 3D backed inventory where you can take each and every item and spin it around to examine from all angles. One thing that got cut in the transition was the map – but I never thought it useful anyway. In the game scene, not only can you pan using a finger and zoom-in out using the pinch gesture, but scan around the area with a magnifying-glass-cursor that makes finding the active spots a cinch. And finally – you can do all of that at the same time (full multi-touch support – finally!).

What more is there to say?  1112 Episode 02 is a masterpiece – and once it is out it will definitely be the crown jewel of the 1st Person Adventure games on our App Store’s Best list. On my personal list, it is one of the best adventure games I ever played and I can’t wait for Episode 03 :) Coming Summer 2010 they say…

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