There's gold in them there hills!
We as a culture has grown to love the idea of a good action-packed treasure hunt. Remember 'Chunk' from the Goonies? Or how about the Indiana Jones trilogy, the mother of all treasure-hunting films. These movies provide a sense of adventure as well as the prospect of gold and glory. It's no wonder that they easily fascinate us - doesn't everyone want to turn a quick buck?
Apparently, Ubi Soft does. Their new animated treasure-hunting feast, Gold & Glory: The Road To El Dorado (no, not that El Dorado), joins the ranks of other movie-to-video-game translations. Often, these games aren't worth the price of a beheaded Cabbage Patch doll (which is good stress relief - the beheading, that is). They're usually just a poor attempt at trying to cash in on a name.
The Road To El Dorado is a classic adventure game full of surprises, strange lands (at least to our two Spanish heroes) and more genuine comedy than a Johnathan Winters special. Unfortunately, it's laid low by control that is so bad you'll begin to question, as I did, the reliability of your own basic motor functions.
This adventure will take our two heroes across 8 attractively rendered realms. Join Tulio, the man who always has an idea (though very rarely is it a good one), and Miguel, the blonde chivalrous adventurer, as they embark on daring escapes and hair-raising rescues. These tasks will take them from the shores of Spain to exotic Mexico and finally to the lost city of gold: El Dorado.
El Dorado plays like an average adventure game and offers a refreshing break from shooting and killing. This kind of game is something of a rarity on the PSX, and unlike the obtuse (but much better) Discworld II, El Dorado is easy to understand. The gameplay mechanics are largely identical. Gamers will find themselves controlling Tulio or Miguel (depending on the situation) to bring about some truly zany occurrences.
Like the time I, as Tulio, needed to find a dress to distract one of Cortes' guards so Miguel could sneak through the city gates. Or the time Miguel needed to climb into a barrel of oil and fish to shield himself from the slingshot of an 8-year old boy.
Unsurprisingly, item acquisition is the way of the game here. You don't wade through hordes of mindless guards to achieve your goal. A little thinking and a lot of looking for the blinking piece of scenery to interact with is generally the best course of action. Thankfully, most of the item acquiring tasks are fun to perform and hilarious to witness.
The 3D character designs lend themselves remarkably well to this cartoony style of art. Coupled with the pretty backgrounds, this is a pretty game.
But the character animation quickly, as if by magic, transforms that smile into a rigid scowl. This is due to the clunky character movements. Walking a straight line immediately becomes a display of Spanish drunkenness, yet alcohol never touches the lips of either character. A simple left-tap on the D-pad will, at times, easily swing your character 180 degrees. Aaargh!
Sadly, the voice-acting isn't very good and the game seems to hang or choke up every time a new camera angle is presented. The game requires your PSX to load every single camera angle each and every time that angle is used or needed, and the transition is far from smooth or seamless. This gives The Road To El Dorado a very unappealing jerkiness that is reminiscent of an old claymation film like Frosty The Snowman.
The adventure is also a short one, which can be a real buzzkill considering there's pretty much no replay value.
For the most part, Gold and Glory The Road To El Dorado is little more than a below average adventure game, though at times it will have you laughing out loud. Still, if you're 12 years old and Mom won't buy you the game with the guns, then this is a relatively nonviolent and enthralling adventure that I think even adults can sink their teeth into.