Mmmm, tastes just like white bird.
Once upon a time, three idealistic lads decided to take a trip to the Amerzone,
a jungle in an undisclosed region. As their paths split, one decided to steal
the egg of the white bird, which was sacred to the natives, and take it back
home to study. He never returned.
Thus begins Ubisoft's new Myst-like adventure, Amerzone, a slow,
quiet, satisfying gaming experience. You play the part of a young journalist
who happens across this egg-napper, now an old man. He pleads for you to take
the egg back to the Amerzone to set things right, and consequently you set off
on your journey.
in this game are simply incredible. Every detail is included in rendering the
scenes, ranging from the sunlight filtering through the jungle canopy to the
mist that hangs over the swamp. The game uses a full 360-degree view, so you
can look in any direction and gaze at the beauty of the backdrops. The only
problem with the visuals is that the backgrounds are just that: flat backdrops.
There is hardly any motion in any of the scenes, save the occasional door opening
or machine working away. Given, this is more than Myst had - I just expected
more improvement so many years later.
The sound is also well done. From the creaking of doors and echoing footsteps
to the ambient noises of the jungle, everything sounds just as it should. Even
the voice acting (which, unfortunately, is in short supply) is good, much better
than the video game standard. The actors are actually convincing, sounding like
the jaded adventurers they're supposed to be.
But the most interesting part of the game is the world the developers have
created. Combining '30s art deco design with (semi)modern elements, Amerzone
supplies a very vivid game universe, incorporating a strange combination of
technology and nature. Though this may sound clich'd, you sometimes believe
you are really there. Much of this is done by adding little things that aren't
necessary to the game. For example, you can look closely at much of the fauna
of Amerzone, even though it won't help you in your quest (and there are some
weird animals there).
But of course,
you must all be wondering about the gameplay itself. Are the puzzles too hard?
Too easy? Too obscure? The answer to all these questions is yes and no (helpful,
eh?). Many of the puzzles are very appropriate, with clues in the right places
to give you the not-too-obvious answer to your problems. A little reading and
a little observing will often do wonders. But there are a few puzzles, mostly
towards the end, which have unclear solutions, and some which just seem to require
some random clicking.
Also, parts of the game center on your ability to search out various objects
lying around that are difficult to see in the super-detailed scenery. And yes,
this game, like most first person adventure games, occasionally suffers from
the hard-to-find-hot-spot problem. Because of the 360 degree view, if there
is only one exit, it isn't always obvious. Amerzone is best suited for
patient explorers who like to look at and poke at everything. Those who are
more goal-oriented may find some puzzles a little frustrating.
However, there is one small disappointment lurking out there for you prospective
adventurers. It is not possible to go every place that looks like it can be
explored. For example, there's a ghost town in the game that has many doors,
stairways and so on. But only a very few of these are actually clickable. Most
of them are just part of the background environment. Other games, like Riven,
solve this problem by making the world fantastical, the paths obvious, and steering
the player away from those areas that are impossible to reach. Since the people
at Microid wanted to make the game look more like the real world, they had to
include all those extraneous things that would make the town look real. Unfortunately,
they couldn't include all of the locations in the amount of space they were
given (the game already takes up 4 CDs). Perhaps with a little work they could
have designed it better. Still, it's only mildly frustrating and it doesn't
hurt the game much.
Amerzone is a high quality game with a good story, excellent graphics,
and a convincing soundtrack. But it's not without its flaws. Although it's better
than most other Myst-like games, it still suffers from some of the basic
problems, like the occasional confusing puzzle and hard-to-find hot-spots. For
fans of Myst who have despaired over the recent lack of adventure games,
who just can't look at one more violent, big-gun shooting mess, Amerzone
is an attractive, solid entry in an old genre. Quick-twitch Quake junkies
need not apply.