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Desert Island Games: Telltale Games' Kevin Bruner

This week's column looking at the top five games notable industry personalities chats to Telltale's co-founder Kevin Bruner (Sam & Max: Season 1), who picks titles from Infocom's Witness to Nintendo's Animal Crossing and beyond for hi

Alistair Wallis, Blogger

March 26, 2007

6 Min Read

For this week’s Desert Island Games, a column that looks at the top five games of some of our favorite industry personalities, we speak to Kevin Bruner, Chief Technical Officer and Director with Telltale Games. The company was formed by former LucasArts employees Bruner, Dan Connors and Troy Molander in 2004, and went on to release four titles within its first 18 months, including the adventure title Bone: Out from Boneville. Around this time, the company announced its intention to work on an episodic series of Sam & Max games, the first of which, Culture Shock, debuted in October of 2006, with the other episodes following at a rate of roughly one per month since then. The most recent title in the series, Reality 2.0, is set for release on the GameTap service on March 29th, with an international release available through the Telltale Games site from the 14th of April. We spoke to Bruner recently, and asked him about his desert island, all-time, top five most memorable games – mostly in no order. The Witness (Infocom, 1993): "This is probably my all time favorite game. It's a text adventure from the good folks at Infocom from way back in 1983. In this game you play a hard-boiled noir detective in 1938 L.A. Near the beginning of the game, the player witnesses a murder that, upon further investigation, is not at all what it seems. The thing I love about this game is you only have 12 virtual hours to figure out what really happened, and the only way to do this is to replay the game over and over. This turns not only the player character into "the Witness," but also the player themselves, as you'll need to witness the same events from many different places and perspectives to unfold the ultimate story. I really like the time restriction idea, and that I needed to revisit the same events again and again but from different perspectives. Once you know this, it becomes very exciting to choose what avenues to pursue on any given "turn". I certainly think modern players would enjoy it! The actual events surrounding the murder make up one of the most convoluted storylines I've ever experienced in a game, and it's deeply satisfying to unearth. Another big win for me with this game is that I spent the better part of a summer playing this with my father when I was 12, which is one of the best ways to play any adventure in my book. I replay this game every couple of years or so." Animal Crossing (Nintendo, 2001): "This is another game that seems to suck up significant amounts of my time, but it seems to come in waves every few months or so. There is just so much to do! Aside from all the orchard farming, fishing, insect collecting, and general problem resolution, I really enjoy the way the game world shares the same time as the real world. I love how it's Halloween in Animal Crossing when it's Halloween for real. It really makes it seem like those little guys are really living out their little lives right there inside my GameCube; especially when I look in on them after a few absent months to find my home full of bugs and weeds in everyone's garden. There have been times when I actually don't play the game due to the guilt I'd have if I fired it up just to see my little world in disarray. Fortunately, I take much better care of my actual pets. I like the GameCube version because I've spent a lot more time with it. Some games just feel better on a larger scale as opposed to a handheld. I really haven't found the game to be polarising or irritating in my circle of friends - quite the opposite! This game has been a huge hit, so perhaps it's just one of the games people "get" or don't, and I seem to "get" it." Super Mario World (Nintendo, 1990): "This is a no-brainer. I've played far too many hours of this on every platform it's ever existed on and I still never get sick of it. It just never gets old. I believe it was one of the games that came packaged with my SNES, which I bought from a little mom and pop video game store, so it probably wasn't an official package like there is these days. Here's an example of a game that does work as a console game or a handheld, as I play this quite a bit on the TV, the computer and the DS, and find all to be satisfying. I think the lasting appeal can be attributed to having lots of depth and character. I tend to try to "unlock" a world by reaching the end relatively quickly, then go back and really explore every nook and cranny later. I still seem to find new hidden areas and new ways of playing the game after all these years. Plus, the music rocks!" Katamari Damacy (Namco, 2004): "This game never ceases to make me smile. "You play this little guy who rolls a ball over all kinds of stuff like Lego, tacks, kittens, cars and skyscrapers while 'block head family' is waiting for the astronaut to return. Plus there's this big rainbow dude..." How the hell do you get someone to green-light this premise?! And how can we get more games that are as original as this? Katamari at its core is about running things into the ground, but I certainly think it'll prove to be timeless. I think the first game is my favorite just because first impressions are lasting. Best bonus part of this game is the amazing soundtrack, which always makes me want to play just one more level. Everyone! Daaaa da da da da do dah dah do da da d-d-d da! Dug dug dug dug dug dug dug…" Brain Age (Nintendo, 2006): "If you're stuck on a desert island, you're going to need to keep your wits about you. Not only is this game entertaining, it's also supposed to make you smarter. I'm not sure how much it's making me smarter, but it does a good job of making me feel smarter. I haven't found the appeal of this game to wear off yet. It's kind of like a modern equivalent to crosswords or scrambles. I particularly like the tactile nature of holding the DS like a book and actually writing numbers as opposed to just clicking and dragging. It still find it very relaxing to sit and spend 10 or 15 minutes with Brain Age and still play it every week or so. I might not be able to start a fire, build a shelter or catch a fish, but damn if I can't count how many little dudes are left in that house! Plus - the little bouncy Dr. Ryuta Kawashima could become my own personal "Wilson" eventually, and that'd be nice."

About the Author(s)

Alistair Wallis


Alistair Wallis is an Australian based freelance journalist, and games industry enthusiast. He is a regular contributor to Gamasutra.

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