Mr. Bill's Adventureland Review
Reviewed by Mr. Bill & Lela
If you think that a game about a Watchmaker couldn't be very interesting, then guess again. Because this was no ordinary Watchmaker ..... and so this is no ordinary game. It is a spellbinding paranormal mystery, created by the talented people at Trecision who gave us Nightlong, and it contains all of the elements that make for a totally engrossing game: a great story, a beautiful setting, challenging puzzles, and music worth listening to all by itself.
The mystery begins with an apparently straightforward request. At 3am, a London law firm representing an unnamed client asks two young Americans to go on an urgent mission. They are Darrel Boone, an expert in paranormal phenomena, and Victoria Conroy, a young lawyer. They are hired to find a strange Pendulum device, supposedly stolen by a fringe group of religious fanatics and traced to an ancient Austrian castle, now owned, modernized, and used as a Conference Center by a multinational drug company. They are told that the device has the ability to magnify the power of the invisible energy grid on the earth's surface, known to psychics as 'Ley Lines'. And so unless the Pendulum can be found and stopped before midnight, the coming solar eclipse will trigger a global catastrophe.
They arrive at the castle shortly before 9am and are welcomed by a seemingly cooperative staff: the company's administrator and his beautiful wife, the old caretaker and the new young gardener, the housekeeper, the maid, and the cook. But it isn't long before they discover that there is much more going on here than they've been led to believe.
What is the company selling besides prescription drugs? What was a kingpin of organized crime doing at one of their parties? And why is the CIA involved? And just what does all this have to do with a 400 year old Pendulum? Why is everyone so desperate to find it? Why did the mysterious Watchmaker invent it in the first place? What does it really do? And how can that possibly have anything to do with the problems that we see in our world today?
Belatedly, our two young detectives realize that they have walked right into a web of deceit and corruption that spans centuries ..... and now it threatens their very lives!
This is a real-time, 3D, 3rd person game, and with a few minor exceptions, it is very well done. You can play as either Darrel or Victoria, or alternate between them, which is desirable at times since they each have different personalities and skills. But changing to the other character is easy, and you can just as easily switch inventory items, or jump one character to the other's location. You can walk or run using either the mouse or the keyboard (although we did find that the arrow keys offered better control), and there's a first person view available when you need a different perspective.
The story is one that evolves slowly, only gradually building to a crescendo as you discover the truth, so you have a lot of time to look around this beautiful 3D world. And the castle and grounds are magnificent: lush and richly detailed, a joy to explore. We were particularly impressed with the close attention to accuracy in the period furnishings, and with such realistic special effects as the moving cloud formations and mirror reflections, and the ever changing play of light and shadow on the characters faces. And the music that accompanies you is wonderful: atmospheric and unobtrusive, yet good enough to make you pause occasionally just to enjoy it. We especially liked the selection chosen for the main menu screen.
Time of day changes only when certain puzzles are solved, and so serves mainly as a measure of your progress in the game. And the puzzles are excellent. They are inventory based and yet story related, so their solutions can only be deduced as you unravel the mystery. There are a couple of timed puzzles, where you can die, but once you figure out what to do, you find that you have plenty of time to do it. And be forewarned that there are also a couple of gruesome scenes. But thankfully they are brief, and are presented with as little direct observation of the event as possible.
The game has only a few weaknesses. We were disappointed that the characters themselves didn't look quite as real as the world they were in, and often seemed to be superimposed on it rather than in it. However we realize that this was probably unavoidable due to the level of 3D technology available for characters when the game was made. But we do think that the voice acting could have been improved, particularly in the case of the two lead characters, since they often came across as unfeeling and uninvolved. And we do wish that some of the main elements of the story had been more fully described, like the political organization spawned by the Watchmaker's mistake. Then people who are unfamiliar with the many fantastic stories that have been told about that organization could better understand why the so-called 'fanatics' were so intent on destroying it.
Nevertheless it is still a fascinating story, one that will provide many hours of entertainment. So if you've been looking for a good mystery, then this is the game for you!
Developed 2001 by Trecision and published 2002 by Got Game Entertainment (in North America).
Minimum System Requirements:
PC: Pentium II 266 MHz MMX Processor (Pentium III Recommended); Windows 95 / 98 / 2000 / ME / XP; 64 MB RAM (128 MB RAM Recommended); 8X CD-ROM Drive (24X CD-ROM Drive Recommended); DirectX 7.0a or Higher; 3D Graphics Card with at least 8 MB Video Memory (16 MB Video Memory Recommended); Sound Card with Full Support for DirectX 7.0a; 150 MB of Free Hard Drive Space (400 MB of Free Hard Drive Space Recommended)
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