Mr. Bill's Adventureland Review
As most of you know, we love the old games, and we always seem to gravitate toward them whenever we need something to take our minds off things and cheer us up. And this wonderful new (but deliberately retro) game filled that need perfectly. It made us smile, even laugh out loud, with its great writing and irreverent attitude, kept us interested with the constant parade of new problems to solve, and when it finally did end, it left us wishing that it wasn't over... which is always a sure sign of a great game.
The people who made it (now calling themselves Himalaya Studios) obviously love the old games too. They started out spending the last few years updating some of the really old classics for free ('King's Quest I & II' and 'Hero's Quest', later called 'Quest for Glory'), improving the graphics sound and gameplay, and programming them so that they would run without problems on the newer computers. But somewhere along the way they decided, 'Hey we can do this too!' So they did, and this, their first original game, Al Emmo and The Lost Dutchman's Mine, is the delightful result.
They took a freeware game-making program offered by Adventure Game Studio, wrote a story, created their setting and characters, and Voila! ... a new game made in the old style was born. Now all they had to do was convince people to buy it. So they offered a free demo. And not just your usual short demo, but a long, long one (325 MB once installed) that would really give people a feel for what the game was like, especially those who are unfamiliar with the older games. Smart move!
Now we don't usually play demos, but we did play this one, primarily to see if we would even be interested in playing the full game. And to be honest, when we first started it we weren't at all sure that we would be. Why? Well, first of all there's Al himself, the Woody Allen type 'hero' of this game. He's initially not very appealing to say the least, the perfect depiction of a pathetic aging nerd. He's a short, meek, balding 42-year-old with a paunch, big glasses, a high whiny voice, and he still lives with his parents. Then there's the ever-present narrator, a pompous, conceited, know-it-all who comments on everything, often with some kind of snide remark about Al. And at first we almost found ourselves agreeing with him. Plus the whole thing takes place in some God forsaken dusty old west town full of stereotypical smart-ass macho western types and big boobed women.
Could we stand it? We weren't sure, but we pressed on. And whataya know... by demo's end we were not only firmly hooked on the game, we were actually rooting for Al to win! We could hardly wait for the full game to arrive so that we could find out what happens...
When it begins, we find Al arriving by train in Anozira from back East somewhere. He has come to get a mail order bride to prove that he's a "real man". But the bride-to-be, a buxom hard-nosed gold digger, rejects him as soon as she finds out that he lives on an allowance from his parents and has no money of his own. In the meantime, of course, the train has left, and another one isn't expected for at least a week.
What to do? Well for starters, he's got to find a place to stay and a way to survive until then. And to complicate matters, he meets the town sweetheart, a beautiful singer named Rita, and falls head-over-heels in love with her. Somehow he must win her heart! Little does he know that the quest will lead him into all of the town's problems and secrets, and even past a 'villain', making him develop qualities of courage and fortitude that he never knew he had, until he eventually does discover the real treasure of The Lost Dutchman's Mine... all in the name of love.
This is a deliberately old-fashioned cartoon style 3rd Person point & click game, but great care has been taken to insure that graphics, sound and gameplay are modern and excellent. The interface includes everything you could hope for and more, and is exceptionally easy to use. One click for walk, double click for run, or hit Esc to just be at your final destination, plus a map becomes available later that will give you instant access to areas previously visited. The cursor displays your action icons (look, touch, talk) and they too can be quickly cycled through with the mouse. Even the inventory is just a mouse click away, and it appears across the bottom of the screen only when needed. Each item in it is labeled, plus a verbal description can be had about it if desired.
All of the menus are hidden but are easily available on the current screen, including a 'Help' section on how to run the game. There's also a manual on the CD, which you probably won't need but should take a look at anyway just because it's so funny and well done, like the manuals in the old classics were. Sound, music and speech volume can be individually adjusted to suit your preferences, and footsteps, special effects (like dust and sunbeams), and exit icons can be turned on or off. Apparently there are unlimited saves, and the game even keeps track of how long you've been playing it!
Subtitles are available for both voice and/or text, and trust us, this is one game where you'll want to use them, even if you usually don't. The way they are displayed doesn't detract from your enjoyment of the game, and many of the hints are given in the dialogue or descriptions. Besides, the writing is so good that you won't want to miss a line of it.
The hand painted backgrounds are detailed and colorful, and cut scenes and character animations have been prerendered in 3D. There are many delightful places to explore and over 2-dozen weird and wonderful characters to interact with, everything from talking prairie dogs to a Pamela Anderson look-alike. When you do talk to someone, an animated close-up of him or her appears, and lip-synching has been meticulously timed to speech so that it looks natural. The music (by Quest Studios) also deserves special mention, as it sets the mood for a game and in this case it does that perfectly. It's a good 2-hour mix of ragtime and standards (along with a couple of really cool songs from Rita) that is at once excellent and yet unobtrusive and non-repetitive.
It's a long, event driven game that is divided into 9 chapters, so although it is not strictly linear, certain puzzles must be solved before the next chapter will begin. And the game is absolutely loaded with puzzles, one right after the other. They're the good old fashioned kind that we love, mainly inventory based, and you can solve them all with a little logic and close attention to the hints given in details and remarks. Yes, you can die because of a poor decision (in the last chapter), but nothing is really timed, and the game automatically restores you to just before the fatal error so that you can try again.
So as you can see, no important detail has been neglected, plus it was all extensively tested to make sure that everything works without a hitch. But what really sets this game apart and makes it special is the same thing that made some of the old games so memorable... its laid back original humor, great voice acting, and sly, fun-loving attitude.
Because it is indeed a very funny game. It's apparently set in the late 1800's, but the jokes are all current, and it spoofs just about everything... from Hugh Hefner and our sexual preferences to extremists and weapons of mass destruction. But it's all in good fun, and although some of the jokes are sexually suggestive, there is absolutely nothing explicit, vulgar or offensive in the game.
Actually the banter between Al and the narrator winds up being one of the funniest parts. But there are hilarious moments everywhere, and they've included some great old-fashioned 'Easter Eggs' (hidden surprises that used to always be put into a game just for fun). So make sure that you look at, touch, talk to, and try everything (like winning the jackpot, or talking to the lamppost, the sky or rocks). And don't forget to watch the credits all the way through.
We really loved this game. It lifted our spirits during a very stressful time when that wasn't easy to do, and it's one game that we won't soon forget. We definitely recommend it!
© October 2006 Mr. Bill and Lela
Visit the official Al Emmo and the Lost Dutchman's Mine Website to learn more about the game, enjoy a video trailer, download a great demo, and see more fantastic screenshots.
Developed (2006), published and sold by Himalaya Studios.
Rated: (by Mr. Bill) T for Teen 13+ (suggestive sexual themes, very mild violence, little use of alcohol and tobacco)
Minimum System Requirements:
PC: Pentium 800 MHz Processor; Windows 95 OSR2 / 98 / 2000 / ME / XP; 128 MB RAM; CD-ROM Drive; DirectX Compatible Video Card Which Supports SVGA Display and 32 Bit Graphics [1 MB Video RAM Required (2 MB Recommended)]; DirectX Compatible Digital Sound Card; Approximately 1.2 GB of Free Hard Drive Space; DirectX 5 or Above (DirectX 9.0c Recommended); Mouse
Where To Buy This Game:
Walkthroughs or Hints: