Mr. Bill's Adventureland Review
Reviewed by Mr. Bill & Lela
Back during the first half of the 20th Century, there lived a real-life adventurer whose worldwide travels to over 200 countries and whose encounters with the bizarre became legendary. That man was Robert Ripley (1893-1949) of 'Believe It or Not!' fame, and for 30 years he documented his extraordinary discoveries in a cartoon strip, which was published by 300 newspapers and read religiously by 80 million people every day. He also collected as he traveled, displaying his many weird and unusual artifacts in several wildly popular nationwide museums, called 'Odditoriums'.
But of all the countries which he visited, the one which fascinated Ripley the most (its history, its culture ..... and especially, its women!), and to which he returned time and again, was China. This game is drawn from some of those true-life adventures, an expert blend of historical fact and imaginatively extrapolated fiction that will keep you engrossed from beginning to end.
The year is 1936, that very dangerous period preceding World War II when megalomaniacs everywhere sought the secret to world domination. As the game begins, you (Ripley) and your female traveling companion, Mei Chen, are in the Sahara Desert, running for your lives from two thugs who are bent on killing you for some reason. Exhausted and cornered, you finally collapse against a giant stone statue. But just as they raise their rifles to finish you off, the statue itself moans(!) ..... it is the 'Speaking' Statue of Memnon ..... and the startled would be killers grab your satchel and run.
Upon your return to your ransacked New York office, you eventually discover what they are looking for: the 'Key' to the tomb of China's first Emperor, said to contain his Imperial Seal, a 2000 year old talisman which will bestow unlimited power on whomever possesses it. You must find it first, before it falls into the wrong hands ..... and the world is doomed!
To do so you will have to travel from New York to 6 exotic world locations: Peiping, Pomerania, Peru, Easter Island, Sikkum, and the Emperor's Tomb. The graphics are beautifully rendered (we could have stayed at 'The Temple of the Hidden Way' for weeks), and both the music and the sound effects effectively evoke the mood and romance of the period (turn on your speakers and refresh to hear some now).
The story is absorbing, with occasional moments of delightfully true-to-life humor (we loved the exchange between Ripley and Twelvetrees!), and the professional voice actors manage to convey both the renowned boyish appeal of Ripley and the strength and intelligence of Mei Chen, among other expert characterizations. And the historically accurate details included about the man and his era are fascinating: be sure to look at some of Ripley's actual circa 1930's cartoons and artifacts in the Odditorium.
The puzzles are the kind that we love: fun to do, ranging in difficulty (with some advanced puzzles), and requiring the logical and sometimes creative use of your wits, not your reflexes. There are some moves that will get you killed, but the game has an "auto-resurrect" feature that restores you to the point just before that fatal mouse click. However, do make sure that you save before entering the Baron's lab at the Ace of Spades castle: it's a very difficult puzzle, and you can't leave until you solve it.
It is a 2D, 3rd person, point and click game, with icons for various actions, inventory (a steamer trunk!), and a journal in which to note clues and make sketches. And yes, you do need to continue to sketch cartoons and ship unusual artifacts back home to your museum because, just like in real life, you have to keep yourself solvent even when you're busy saving the world!
One of the great classic adventure games, with a super ending. We thoroughly enjoyed it!
Developed (1995) and published by Sanctuary Woods (no longer exists).
Minimum System Requirements: PC Only!
PC: 486 25 MHz Processor; DOS 5.0; 8 MB RAM; 2X CD-ROM Drive; VESA Compliant SVGA Video Card (with VESA Driver Installed); SoundBlaster Sound Card or 100% Compatible; 8 MB of Free Hard Drive Space; Mouse
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