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The Ballads of Reemus: When the Bed Bites Review

The Ballads of Reemus: When the Bed Bites Review

Sam & Max fans, adventure fans, heck, fans of good games in general should do themselves a favor and treat themselves to a good dose of Reemus.


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Genre: Point-And-Click Adventure 
Release date: Act 1 – January 28, 2014, Act 2 – April 28, 2015

It was 2008 when Jay “Zeebarf” Ziebarth brought exterminator-cum-minstrel Reemus and his long-suffering bear sidekick Liam to life, and since then, the two have racked up many a “best adventure game” award. Though the latest in the Reemus series, The Ballads of Reemus: When the Bed Bites, dates back to 2012, it was greenlit by Steam just this year. That’s good news for gamers unfamiliar with the series, as The Ballads of Reemus  though short – is one of those adventure games adventure fans really shouldn’t miss.

Modern-day adventure games are embracing the episodic model, and the Reemus games do the same. The Ballads of Reemus takes only about ninety minutes to complete, but it’s narratively self-contained. That’s nice because although it represents one of Reemus and Liam’s many adventures, it doesn’t end on an annoying cliff-hanger. Now, if only it began as well as it ended.

The Ballads of Reemus begins by throwing you into the action with absolutely no introduction. Though this can work in some cases, here it’s handled such that if you’ve never played any of the Reemus games, you’re likely to be confused. It takes awhile to understand who Reemus and Liam are and what they want. That in itself isn’t such a bad thing, but it does make it hard to identify with them and care about what they’re doing. Once you get it, though, (Reemus lives in the shadow of his heroic brother and desperately wants the villagers of Fredericus to recognize his talents) you’re in for a good time.

Reemus’ overreaching goal in this episode is to perform a ballad for the villagers, but his ambition is thwarted by a sleep-deprived pub owner who’s unable to serve drinks. No drinks means no patrons, and no patrons means no audience. Reemus decides the answer is to get a better bed for the pub owner, and thus begins a series of events as entertaining as they are ridiculous.

The main strength of The Ballads of Reemus is its humor. In fact, Reemus and Liam, with their clever cooperation and sly humor, could easily be mistaken for another great adventure game duo – Sam & Max. (Some particularly absurd sequences occur inside a termite hive.) The Ballads of Reemus’ secondary strength is its approach to gameplay. Both Reemus and Liam are playable, but each approaches problems differently. And though Liam, like his rabbity counterpart, is likely smarter than his bigger-boned buddy, he’s content to put his skills to use achieving Reemus’ goals.

Swapping between characters is fun to do, especially since puzzles and item-use are so well-designed. Evidence of this is that if you think carefully in every situation, there’s never a reason to reference a walk-through. That’s not to say the game is easy; what it means is that designer Ziebarth has struck a great balance between practicality and sideways thinking that makes for clever and amusing puzzle solutions.

In addition to wit and mechanical excellence, The Ballads of Reemus looks and sounds remarkably good. Its traditional 2D animation look gives characters and settings more vitality than many games rendered in 3D, and the voiceover cast is both varied and comedically adept. If anything audio-visual needs work, it’s the music. The few simple musical themes sound like they’re nothing more than short, monotonous loops. In the end though, this isn’t all that noticeable, especially with so many good things going on around it.

The Ballads of Reemus: When the Bed Bites is a lot of fun on its own, and provides ample motivation for players new to the series to go back and play the other four chapters. Better still, it’s a great set-up for the next chapter, The Ballads of Reemus 2, on which Jay Ziebarth is currently hard at work. Sam & Max fans, adventure fans, heck, fans of good games in general – should do themselves a favor and treat themselves to a good dose of Reemus.

Grade: B+
Traditional animation-style graphics
Off-beat humor
Clever puzzle design

Self-contained narrative

Good voice acting
– Short playing time
– Monotonous music

System Requirements
OS: Windows XP or newer
Processor: 1 GHz 
Graphics: 128MB graphics memory
DirectX: Version 9.0
Hard Drive: 100 MB available space

Neilie Johnson

Neilie Johnson

My love of video games began back in the 80s with my parents' arcade business and took a professional turn when I went to work for LucasArts in 2002. After working on more Star Wars titles than you could shake a stick at, I became a freelance video game critic, a job that more fully enabled my full-on video game obsession.My favorite games are Grim Fandango, The Longest Journey and Deus Ex, which goes to show I love good stories, strong heroines and black leather trenchcoats.

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