Mr. Bill's Adventureland Review
Reviewed by Mr. Bill & Lela
Who knows? Maybe if we had played this game earlier in our lives, our careers might have taken a whole different direction. Because what these people have managed to do is take a subject that we always dreaded in school (and were never any good at), Chemistry, and turn it into a fascinating, as well as enlightening, adventure. It is a Myst-style adventure game that takes place within a story of parallel worlds, forbidden knowledge, and imminent danger.
As the story begins, we watch as a young man named Richard reads a letter from a friend. We learn that Richard is a chemistry buff, and while conducting some experiments, he accidentally stumbled upon a portal to an alternate reality, and found an amulet that allows travel between our two worlds. And what he has discovered in that world requires immediate attention. For theirs is an ancient world, a world that is built on the secret knowledge and power of science. But now it is a world in chaos, on the brink of destruction, and all but a desperate few have already fled. The energy source that supplies their world is rapidly dissipating, and time grows short. What will happen to our own world if theirs is destroyed?
Richard knows that he must return there soon to investigate, and he has asked his friend to accompany him. Now his friend has written to say that he will be unable to join him until Saturday, and Richard can't wait that long. But he has only just resolved to make the trip alone, when suddenly strangely determined men from that world appear, and attack, subdue and capture him.
It is now a week later and you, Richard's friend, arrive at his place as promised, only to find it empty, except for a hastily recorded and desperate message from Richard telling you what has happened. It seems that his sudden appearance in their world convinced them that he was an alien or demon of some sort, and they believe that he is the one who has stolen the missing 'transmission molecule' that protected their energy source. And unless you, a person with no knowledge of Chemistry whatsoever, can convince them otherwise, he may not survive! So you must hurry: you must get to that world. You must go to the other side of reality ..... to Chemicus.
This is a very long, 1st person, 3D, point and click game, with inventory and an on board encyclopedia. The interface looks antique and otherworldly, but it is easy to use and most of it is self-explanatory. It does contain one unusual item: an orb that looks like an old fashioned magnifying glass, which is dragged across the screen whenever you want to identify an unfamiliar chemical substance in inventory. Saving is easy (hit 'Score', then 'Save'), and you can't die in the game.
The almost deserted world of Chemicus is breathtakingly beautiful, with 3D rendered, slideshow-style graphics of stunning landscapes, strange machinery, and rich interiors. In many ways it reminds us of exploring one of the worlds of Myst or Riven, and both the periodic video messages that you receive from Richard and the ambient sounds that you hear only add to that feeling. As in Riven, there is no actual interaction with the few remaining people: you catch only fleeting glimpses of them, and they appear startled and wary. And so you have to somehow find your friend, and convince the people of his innocence, alone.
This game is a puzzle lover's dream. The puzzles are many and varied, and they feature rewarding cutscenes and animations. They involve things like learning how to operate the unusual machinery (such as getting the transporter to run so that you can visit other areas), or using inventory items with the lab equipment in order to make and repair things that you need (such as creating a certain perfume, or repairing a broken prism). They range in difficulty from relatively easy to quite hard, getting harder as you go along. But they are all logical and appear to be scientifically valid, and they can be solved with clues gleaned from information found along the way.
In fact, the game itself is so well designed that it can be played in any one of 3 different ways. If you have no knowledge of (or desire to learn) Chemistry, it can be played strictly as an adventure game by simply exploring, gathering items to try on the various puzzles, and noting down clues from the well illustrated journals that you find. Everything that you might have a use for, whether it's an inventory item or the equipment that you use it on, has been carefully labeled with a descriptive tag that highlights when the cursor is passed over it, and a full walkthrough has been provided on the CD in case you get stuck. We certainly needed one, because there were several times toward the end when we had no idea what we were doing!
Or, if you really want to understand why you're doing what you're doing, you can reference the easily accessible encyclopedia entries, taking the time to learn as you go along. Whenever you explore a new area, you always find a 'knowledge chip' that adds information about that particular subject, and all of it is explained in simple and easy-to-understand terms.
And then finally of course, the game can be played without referring to any help, in which case it is an excellent, and comprehensive, 'hands-on' review of your (or your older children's) knowledge of Chemistry.
The intriguing story, the well-integrated puzzles, and the stunning graphics alone make this game a worthy addition to the adventure genre. But the fact that playing it can also enjoyably teach you a formidable subject like Chemistry is awesome! And we understand that Tivola also publishes similar adventure games for Biology (Bioscopia) and Physics (Physicus).
We are seriously impressed!
© December 2002 Mr. Bill and Lela
Developed by HEUREKA Klett and published (2002) by Tivola Publishing.
Minimum System Requirements:
Hybrid Win / MAC CD ROM! (Hybrid means PC and MAC versions are on the same CD.)
PC: Pentium II, 233 MHz; Windows 95 / 98 / 2000 / ME / NT / XP; 64 MB RAM; 8X CD-ROM Drive; SVGA Graphics Card (32 Bit); Sound Card; 50 MB of Free Hard Drive Space; QuickTime 5 (we used 4.1.2 under Windows 98 SE with no problems); Mouse
MAC: 233 MHz Power PC, G3; OS 8.1 or Higher; 64 MB RAM; 8X CD-ROM Drive; Graphics Card (32,768 Colors); Sound Card; 50 MB of Free Hard Drive Space; QuickTime 5 (we used 4.1.2 under Windows 98 SE with no problems); Mouse
Where To Buy This Game:
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Walkthroughs or Hints:
A Walkthrough is included on the game CD. It can be accessed as Help where you Start the game. To read it you will need the Adobe Acrobat Reader installed on your computer. A copy of the reader is also available on the CD.