The Next BIG Thing is the latest adventure from Pendulo Studios, the Spanish developer behind the Runaway adventures. It's the sequel to the little-known (internationally) adventure Hollywood Monsters, which was released in Europe in 1997, but which never made its way to North America. In some parts of the world, The Next BIG Thing is also known as Hollywood Monsters 2.
The Next BIG Thing takes place in a world where movie monsters are real, and even have their own Oscars-style awards ceremonies. You play a pair of intrepid reporters -- newbie Liz Allaire and veteran Dan Murray -- as you first uncover a plot involving the movie monsters, and then do your best to put a stop to it, plus write an article for your paper.
If you've played any of the three Runaway adventures (only two of which were released in North America), then it probably won't come as any surprise to you that The Next Big Thing isn't a terribly serious game. All of the characters you meet, including Liz and Dan, are strange, and because of the movie monster angle, you encounter beings like the Immaterial Man (who is invisible), Big Albert (who can unzip his head and remove his brain), and Professor Fly (who can fly). The situations and dialogue are also fun. Liz and Dan start out not liking each other, and while their banter isn't going to confuse anybody with His Girl Friday, it's still entertaining and keeps the game rolling along.
Almost all of the puzzles in the game are inventory-based, where you first need to find objects and then figure out how to use them. For example, early in the game you have to help a wimpy movie monster improve his self-esteem, and this involves you tracking down the parts of a new costume for him. For the most part, the puzzles are pretty straightforward (even if you get stuck, there aren't a lot of inventory objects or places to use them, and so you can just methodically try every possibility until you get something that works), but if you have trouble, then you can play the game at one of three different difficulty levels. On the easiest setting, you can make all of the hotspots at each location visible, and you can also ask for hints for what to do next. That means The Next BIG Thing should be playable even for novice or younger players.
As with all of Pendulo's games, The Next BIG Thing is played using a third-person perspective, where you left click on the ground to move your character (and double click to move quickly), and you left click on a character or object to interact with it. Right clicking only changes what activity you perform (for example, between looking at a monster or talking to it). This is roughly the same interface that all third-person adventures use, and it worked fine for me. The only thing I didn't like about the interface is that it's a little more cumbersome to access the inventory than it should be. Instead of having, say, the right mouse button bring up the inventory, you either have to move the mouse pointer to the top of the screen (which brings up the interface buttons), or you have to press the Tab key, both of which are a little bit awkward.
Overall, The Next BIG Thing is humorous, well-acted and well-presented, and it might take you around 10 hours to complete. The game's puzzles are a little bit on the easy side, which isn't necessarily bad, and because of that, and also because of the difficulty settings, The Next BIG Thing might work better as an introduction to adventure games rather than as a challenge for veteran players. But I enjoyed my time with the game (with the caveat that I got to play it for free), and I'd give it a modest recommendation.