Nick Bounty is back in this sequel to the successful independent adventure game of 2004 called A Case of the Crabs. Staying true to the style of its prequel, the Goat in the Grey Fedora is entirely in black and white, with an atmosphere that will remind you of the Noir films of the 1940's and 1950's, while using the same Flash-based engine as its predecessor. However, the game also sports a significant number of improvements over the previous installment.
The first enhancement that you will notice is the graphics. While the original game was completely in 2D, The Goat in the Grey Fedora offers 3D character models over pre-rendered 2D backgrounds. Commonly referred to as '2.5D' graphics, this style has pretty much become the mainstay in modern adventure games, found in commercial releases such as the Syberia games and Still Life. As such, it is not really a big surprise that Pinhead games opted for this approach. Overall, the Goat in the Grey Fedora, while still not as good-looking as professional games, is easily one of the best looking independent games around.
The second improvement you will notice as soon as you start playing the game is its interface. It is very similar to some of the latter LucasArts games such as Full Throttle and the Curse of Monkey Island and is commonly called the "verb-coin" interface. By clicking a hotspot you are presented with three options. You can look at the hotspot, use your mouth with it (not as dirty as it may sound, if the hotspot is another character you talk to them, for example), or use your hands with it for actions like picking up items. This new interface allows for a less-complicated gameplay experience that is intuitive while leaving room for plenty of random interactions with the environment to ensure that we get several funny comments from Nick.
Speaking of which, the humor found in the Goat in the Grey Fedora is as good as the one found in the first game, if not better. That is definitely not a bad thing, given that A Case of the Crabs was a pretty hilarious game. The adventure again feels like some sort of film Noir from Bizarro world, since there are still several of the "rules" that define a Noir, such as the dangerous blonde woman who gets the hero in trouble. Yet the situations in which the characters find themselves often feel almost surreal.
Overall, the quality of the writing is also as good as the prequel, yet sadly there are still some spelling and grammar errors to be found, which is somewhat baffling given the obvious work that has otherwise gone into the game. It is also worth noting that the game has certain scenes that pay tribute to famous Noir films of the past such as Casablanca, and famous adventure games of the past such as the Secret of Monkey Island, usually in a very humoristic manner. The Monkey Island homage in particular is really endearing, as it is based in one of the funniest parts of that game, the "behind the bookcase" off-screen sequence.
Voice-overs are again one of the game's finest qualities, and they are again improved over the ones in A Case of the Crabs. Jason Ellis, one of the writers and the person that provided Nick's voice in the first game reprises his role in The Goat in the Grey Fedora, and seems more comfortable with it this time around. The rest of the voices are provided by professional actors which do a solid job and make the characters seem more believable and charming. The music is also very good and will definitely remind you of any Noir films you may have watched in the past, so it definitely gets the job done.
Despite all these changes, The Goat in the Grey Fedora plays very much like its predecessor. There are no unfair or blatantly irrational puzzles, and even if you get stuck momentarily, you should always have a clear indication of what you should be doing in order to solve the puzzle. The game is of average length for an independent adventure, and should take you roughly about two hours if you take your time with exploring your environments and following every single dialog option.
Overall, The Goat in the Grey Fedora is a worthy follow-up to A Case of the Crabs, and an entertaining game in its own right. Given the numerous improvements over the first Nick Bounty case, it is recommended not only for those who enjoyed the first game (as they would play it anyway) but also to those who were somewhat disappointed with it, but still saw potential in it. After all, do not forget that it is still free!
The Goat in the Grey Fedora can be found at www.OtterArchives.com/Bounty2 and as with all other Pinhead games, you may choose to either play it online or download it. At roughly 40MB it could be a while before the download is over for modem users, but it makes for a better gaming experience, especially given the fact that fullscreen play is only available in the download version.