Alright, first episode is done, was lots of fun (8/10 I'd say), and now we're eagerly waiting for the rest of the series to unfold. Thanks for the game!
There's lots of threads already that review the first episode, but didn't find any that would gather thoughts specifically on "what to improve on in the sequels?". So, here goes. You may read this list as "biggest gripes" in SnM that I would not like to be repeated in TOMI. The text's a bit longish, I know, so try to bare with me :)
1. One of the more promising aspects of TOMI to me is that the episodes seem to be written to build as continuations on one another, instead of the more-or-less status quo endings in SnM. I hope this is right and we get to see active development of the story all the way to the end.
2. In SnM, the amount of art asset reuse between episodes got to a very annoying level. There might be practical reasons (time) for doing so, and you can justify it with story-related reasons as well. However, I felt that it lowered the overall experience, since there were less surprises and new stuff to experience. I hope TOMI doesn't fall into this cycle too bad and that the SnM -style of creating environments is avoided and it's "Goodbye Flotsam Island!" for good!
The same goes for characters. I wouldn't mind if DeSinge never reappeared in the season - in fact I'll be mad if he does come back in *each* episode! He was a fun character, but far from being anything else than a side story.
Building believable, nonshallow and at the same time humorous characters is a difficult creative problem. I wish that TOMI won't be filling the story with reappearing weak side characters like SnM did. Even though this is a cartoonish game, just building a set of caricaturistic/stereotypical appearance, a funny voice and an anticharacteristic act is not enough to make it a good persona! It's perhaps enough for kids, but it quickly vanes the interest in grown-up audiences.
To illustrate the point, play just the first ten minutes of Grim Fandango. That's an excellent example of how dialog is used to build the characters. After examining the first few rooms and having a chat with the secretary, you feel like you already know so much of one of the game's characters, Domino Hurley. And this is well before you've even met him for the first time!
Contrast this to SnM: it felt that they just had the main characters reappear again and again, switched their cue lines and hoped that it would've done the trick to make the characters deeper/more relatable, but it didn't really work.
3. Puzzles. 9/10. You managed to avoid the biggest sin, the duplication of tasks: "Do these X things to proceed." The puzzles in the game were beautifully written as separate problems, and even where you had to solve duplicate tasks (the 3 news tasks, the 4 statues), they were nicely decorated to look different, and the subtasks varied so that it didn't feel like you'd be solving mechanically copied problems. SnM had some serious problems with this respect, and I disliked it for that.
To score a clean 10/10, there should've been a puzzle that'd stay a classic. Something that was at first totally illogical, but oh-so logical after doing it (dying to get to the family crypt in CMI), or something that stretches the boundary between games and reality in a novel way (idol-in-the-water), or a good mathematical or a logical puzzle (The Dig!), or something really clever game mechanics -wise (swordplay).
4. More dialog, for grown-ups! I got the feeling from SnM that there was a target to make it more accessible to younger audiences. This hurt the main characters (and not to mention humor!). Dialog in the style of the original comic books never made it into the series. TOMI deserves more story with grown-up drama, innuendo and clever wordplay! I don't want to get this feeling that extra care was taken so that even an 11-year old gets the dialog. Happy to see the censorship department hadn't been overly awake in episode 1. Keep them at bay!
5. Graphics was great, 10/10 from me. Looked really beautiful, those clouds reminded me of CMI so much!
6. Music, on the other hand.. None of the tracks was bad, but they didn't really stand out (except the lovely intro of course). It was mostly ambient tracks and there weren't too many new themes, so I'm giving it a 7/10. In past MIs, I've just had to stop to do nothing and listen to the music to play to the end! Didn't happen here. :( Try to avoid the ambient tracks, especially the ones that loop after a minute feel really bad.
I'm expecting nothing less than TOMI to be up to par with Grim Fandango and the Monkey Island prequels in storytelling! Grown-up audiences are a lot more critical than teenagers or kids who still enjoy a comedy that offers nothing more than slapstick. Keep up the good work, I'm expecting episode 2 to rise to 9/10 at least!
What do you guys think? What's on your list to see in episodes 2 and further?