pg1-729x1024There’s little doubt that travels to hidden magical dimensions often become the greatest secret desires. To kids anyway. And in a way we’re generously provided with all kinds of Narnias, Harry Potters or Simon the Sorcerers that allow to taste a bit of this sort of experience. So if you fancied at least one of the imaginary places from those pieces of fiction you’re now invited to venture into the world of troubled vampire pizza deliverers and pizza molding magicians via Pizza Morgana. Did I suggest it is mostly for kids? Well, everyone is allowed and none should feel out of place.

The Pizza Morgana indie adventure game series has recently premiered with its first episode Monsters and Manipulations in the Magical Forest and 4 more are to come. The story tells of a typical cocky teenage girl Jackie who receives an unexpected visit from a pizza delivery vampire Abbie Positive coming straight out of a magical dimension TerraMagia (magical, but not without its own twisted versions of junk food and bureaucracy). And as there is this inter-dimensional portal malfunction, soon enough Jackie appears in TerraMagia herself...

The whole Pizza Morgana episodic game series is an adaptation of a well-known Israeli comic created by Uri Fink. Some of his excellent original drawings can be seen in the game – when you reload your saved game a comic book like recap is an elegant and visually attractive intro in the game. When it comes to attractive presentations there is a bit of a problem with the in-game graphics though. The drawn backgrounds are usually simple, but decent enough, however the characters – realized as 3D models – can be somewhat underwhelming. While nicely animated and equipped with a variety of facial expressions, they stick out of their environments. It’s because of a low polygon count, an overly defined outline, and a general amateurish impression they give. The resulting look of the scenes was quite intriguing for me personally (I like unusual combos), but I’m quite sure many people will not be happy about this.

Fortunately, none of these problems carry through to the audio department. The music provides a very pleasant experience and you may even find yourself humming some of the catchier tunes. The characters are voiced by professional actors such as  Claudia Christian (recently interviewed concerning her involvement in the game by ACG), so the humour of the game is well delivered. The writing is quite good on its own, with some light satire bits. Understandably it avoid going to places that would alienate a younger audience.

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For the interface you are presented with various interaction cursors – you do get to choose between them, but the most important one turns on automatically depending on the object and situation context. As for the gameplay itself the puzzles are classic cases of using the right items, progressing through multi-choice dialogs and also making use of the environment. In fact making using household equipment around Jackie’s home to solve a specific problem seemed the stand-out puzzle of the game that pulls the player into it the best. On the other hand, I wasn’t exactly sure why some solutions worked, even if I found them easy enough to figure out (as everything pointed to them). This goes for the actually quite fun spell casting puzzle and the ultimate spell you have to create. Kudos for providing two alternate methods to get over a certain obstacle (although one is definitely the more fun solution than the other). It’s also nice to be able to switch the controlled character to Abbie sometimes although those moments were way to brief.

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Overall, despite the low budget graphics and a few bugs this is an enjoyable adventure. Probably the amusing characters with the quality voice-overs and the nice music in the background are its strongest aspects. So why isn’t this article a proper review with a score then? Well, the reason is that the first episode of Pizza Morgana is not only really short, but it doesn’t feel like its standing on its own storywise. Even in the land of episodic gaming this is far from a full-fledged gaming experience. It’s all fun and promising, but ends long before I would feel comfortable to pass on a definite judgment. In fact Telltale‘s episodes seem to be epic (not to mention self-contained) games in comparison. This is a bit of a bummer as evidently there is potential for a larger and exciting adventure. So here’s hoping that Pizza Morgana creators will be able to continue their series and make the following episodes prettier and longer like they promise.

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Note: In my articles I tend to have the policy to not analyze prices of games and let the reader decide for himself what are those specific gaming experiences worth to him, what can he afford, and if he feels it might be a good idea to support financially  the developer. Still, in the case of Pizza Morgana I feel compelled to say it probably makes the most sense to buy the short first episode mainly as a way to invest in the series and in Corbomite Games who according to what they say in interviews seem to wish to use the money to keep improving their creation.