Mr. Bill's Adventureland Review
Reviewed by Mr. Bill & Lela
This game is the latest adventure from the creators of Reah, and the extraordinary talent involved in its production is immediately and consistently apparent. It is a class act in almost every respect! The story was written by the famous Terry Dowling and is a sci-fi mystery reminiscent of one of the all-time favorite Star Trek classics. Add to that the startlingly beautiful alien environment with its unique and extremely challenging puzzles, and you have the recipe for a totally immersive, almost mesmerizing experience... even for those of us who consider ourselves seasoned gamers.
The year is 2083 when the first humans land on the planet Argilus. But what they find there is totally unexpected. There are cities and towns with highly sophisticated technology, but they are all deserted. And there is clear evidence everywhere (meals unfinished, machinery still running) that the inhabitants have only just departed! Where are they? What could have possibly caused their disappearance? And what role does the temple and an entity called Matia, the Good Servant or Wanderer, play in all this?
Alarmed, Earth places the planet under immediate quarantine and sends in 3 teams of highly trained scientists, almost 100 individuals, to set up separate bases and find the answers. Unfortunately direct reports to Earth are not possible due to the strong electromagnetic interference, and they soon find that it is becoming increasingly difficult to even maintain radio contact with each other. So their only recourse is to record their observations individually, and hope to be able to put it all together later.
But then the unthinkable happens. Their ship, their only way home, suddenly disappears from orbit! And then they themselves start to go missing... disappearing, one by one, for no known reason, whether working alone or in a group!
It is now 4 months later and a supply ship, manned by Sam Mainey and Hannah Grant, has been sent to check on the scientists' progress. But they see no sign of the base ship and get no response from the planet's surface. Cautiously they try to pull back, only to discover that their own main systems have failed and that their orbit is beginning to decay! They have no choice... they must abandon ship. They agree to rendezvous at Base One and set the coordinates on their life pods accordingly. They know they must stick together at all costs if they are to survive.
But as the game begins, both Hannah and Sam find that they have landed separately... Hannah on a living island adrift in the Ocean, and Sam miles above the surface on some sort of organic balloon. And when they do finally manage to meet again, despite the erratic nature of their radio communication, it is only to discover that they are still physically separated, even when standing together in the same place. They are in different dimensions!
This is a 1st person, point and click game with a smart cursor, 360-degree panoramic views, a very small inventory, and subtitles. It was designed for a double sided DVD (the version that we played) and was cut down for the 5 CD version, with reportedly a reduction in graphical quality, fewer puzzles and the lack of the fascinating living creatures. The author, Terry Dowling, is very disappointed with the results of the CD version (see his website). There is a full install option, and we would recommend doing it if you have the space (3 GB +) because there's quite a bit of disc turning even with the DVD.
You can alternate at will between playing either Hannah or Sam, and the game doesn't have the usual solitary feel because of their communication with each other. The world in which you find yourself is incredible: decidedly alien and yet strangely familiar, with a living oceanic ambience. And it is absolutely gorgeous! Breathtaking vistas and scene after scene of brilliant exotic colors and strange lifeforms compete for your attention at every turn. The details are unbelievable (lace filigree on elevator panels, iridescent webbing between fins), and the rides are fantastic (water and air ships, a gondola, a trolley, and even hanging chairs), with all movement smoothly animated. And the world is alive with moving wind and water and creatures, time of day changes... and 16-bit 360-degree real time stereo music and sound! It is well worth playing for the visual and aural experience alone.
Along the way you will find an occasional mission log and have brief encounters with the ghostly figures of a few of the missing scientists and natives, all apparently trying to give you direction or cryptic clues (use the subtitles to better understand them). The mystery is unraveled and the game advances as the puzzles are solved.
But be forewarned, these are no ordinary puzzles. They are all based on observation and/or logic, and are solvable. But they are extremely difficult. First of all they are integral to the alien environment, and consequently many require some knowledge of the alien language and numbering system before you can even begin. That means that it is absolutely essential for you to pay close attention from the outset, noting down any clue, diagram, or language sound or symbol that you encounter. Not only that, but also many of them require coordinating the work and/or movements of Hannah and Sam. One must do something before the other can go on, and remember they are in different dimensions. And often you can't save mid-puzzle, they may reset randomly, and you may not even know when they are solved!
It requires a serious investment of both time and patience. Our best advice is to save just prior to doing a puzzle and then try things in different orders, making notes about what happened. Even then you may still need a walkthrough. We did, and our hats are off to those intrepid souls who wrote them. Even so you will still have to solve 2 puzzles all by yourself (the telescope puzzle and the bridge puzzle), because they change randomly and so a walkthrough doesn't help much.
It's an original and very challenging game, and our only criticisms are minor ones (better voice acting and a splashier ending). We were very impressed. It should absolutely delight anyone who enjoyed Riven or Obsidian. Highly recommended! Our choice for Game Of The Year 2001.
Visit the SCHIZM WEBSITE to view more beautiful screenshots and learn more about the game.
Developed (2001) by Detalion and produced by LK Avalon. Published by The Adventure Company (in North America) and Project Three Interactive (in Europe).
Rated: E for Everyone (mild language)
Minimum System Requirements:
PC DVD-ROM Version: Pentium II 333 MHz Processor; Windows 95 / 98 / ME / XP; 32 MB RAM; 2X DVD-ROM Drive; DirectX Drivers; DirectX Compatible Video and Sound Cards; 300 MB of Free Hard Drive Space
PC CD-ROM Version: Pentium II 300 MHz Processor; Windows 95 / 98 / ME / XP; 32 MB RAM; 12X CD-ROM Drive; DirectX Drivers; DirectX Compatible Video and Sound Cards; 300 MB of Free Hard Drive Space
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Walkthroughs or Hints: