Markus Ritter: a dark Knight on Kickstarter
Is it wise to back a Kickstarter campaign after only watching a trailer?
I love full-motion video (FMV) video games because they’re never perfect. The narratives might be spot on but there’s always something which prevents them from becoming too glossy and plastic: a bad camera angle, a lack of dialogue options, an inelegant script or over-the-top acting. But rather than shy away from what could possibly be seen as negatives, the games embrace them and seem to have no problem with making fun of themselves.
Because these titles aren’t flawless, they’re more grounded than triple-A releases and this can inspire players. I’m always left considering whether my friends and I could band together to create an FMV game after completing one – sure, it would likely involve a few beers and would be more in the style of General Horse and the Package of Doom than Dark Side of the Moon, but the development process could be a lot of fun.
One person who was inspired in such a way was Michael Kozmann, a cosplayer and one half of Flimmersoft from Vienna, Austria. Despite having no experience in video game development, the duo decided to take a brave chance and fulfil their dreams by creating an FMV title in the style of the famous point-and-clicks from the 1990s. Markus Ritter – The Lost Family was released last month on 20 August 2021 and is planned to be the first chapter in a full-length game, available for download for free from Steam.
Markus is an aimless young man who drifts through life from one day to the next, having no ambition except to make enough money from his photography job to be able to keep up his weekly delivery of coffee capsules. His situation changes dramatically when he begins having nightmares about a mysterious woman in an old white dress who seems to be trying to contact him. Although he initially chalks this up to his mind going into overdrive after news of a serial murderer in Vienna is published, research into who she is reveals there’s far more to it.
I pledged my support to the Kickstarter campaign based on the trailer alone, and don’t have any regrets in doing so after playing the first chapter.
You arrive at the start of the first chapter without a tutorial, but anyone who’s played a point-and-click before will quickly pick up the controls. There are three types of hotspots within the environments: one to walk to a new scene, another to examine an item or area and a final one to take a photograph using Markus’s camera. Right-clicking will bring up his phone and it’s from here that you can access the inventory, open a map and check out what’s next on his to-do list.
Most scenes are formed of still images and clicking on certain hotspots will result in a video. The change between these two elements isn’t always smooth and there are frequently jerky transitions, but there are some interesting angles and movie-like ideas for which the inexperienced development team deserve praise for their effort. The stills have only been taken from one direction so it can sometimes feel as though you’re walking down a path backwards, but this can be helpful when you’re trying to navigate a maze.
The largest puzzle in The Lost Family involves one such labyrinth. Markus is tasked with finding a specific grave within a cemetery and you’ll find yourself walking in circles as many routes lead back to the start. I love it when challenges have you reaching for a pen and paper, and this is what Pete and I found ourselves doing here as we tried to reach the heart of the location. Other puzzles are very simple but enjoyable enough, such as finding a way to melt a pot of ice to get at a key.
There are some small inconsistencies in terms of the story and videos. For example, when Markus receives a phone call from his publisher warning that she needs him to be at her office with his photographs by 14:00 in the afternoon, it’s hard not to notice that the clock on the oven says it’s already 15:15 when he makes his morning coffee. There are also some localisation issues including spelling mistakes and incorrect words, along with phrases where it feels like something has been lost in translation.
But does that matter? Not at all if you’re into the adventure genre. The Lost Family is all so melodramatic and emotional that you won’t be looking out for these small problems anyway. Markus’s anguished looks as he quickly turns around to see if someone was calling out to him, his despair as he questions whether he is going mad, the stirring music by Tina Mali playing in the background – it’s exactly what you’d expect from an FMV and I can’t help but love it.
I don’t want to give too much away but adventure fans, particularly those who enjoyed the Gabriel Knight series, are likely to enjoy the story. It’s a tale about a family with a haunting legacy and duty, which now falls to young Markus to continue. Flimmersoft score points for the reference which appears during a scene at the publisher’s office: lifting a manuscript entitled Voodoo Murders by G.K. reveals another one called Werwölfe in München: A Gay Lovestory by the same author underneath.
The Lost Family ends on something of a cliff-hanger and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next. It’s good news then that the developers are currently working on gathering resources to create a full-length point-and-click game and continue the protagonist’s journey in Markus Ritter – The Ghosts of the Past. I pledged my support to the Kickstarter campaign this month based on the Steam trailer alone, and don’t have any regrets in doing so after getting around to playing the first chapter.
With the £1,707 fundraising target already being passed, Flimmersoft are now concentrating on several stretch goals. A second playable protagonist has already been added and additional locations will be introduced once £3,416 is reached. There’s still over a week to go before the end of the campaign on 23 September 2021, so why not spend a couple of hours giving The Lost Family a try and show your support to The Ghosts of the Past if you like what you see?