I left my heart in San Francisco, too bad I didn’t leave this game there too.
Golden Gate is a game centered on searching for the mythical treasure of King William. To do this you will have to travel around San Francisco to find clues by solving challenging puzzles. These clues are meant to help you find the next step in the treasure hunt, and also to help build up the story line. (We’ve all heard this plot before.)
Thus begins this first person adventure. All actions that you make are controlled by the mouse. The cursor allows movement in three directions as well as a warning system to tell you if there is an object that can be examined closer or manipulated in front of you. This adds efficiency to the game-play by allowing you to quickly determine whether a screen contains any important objects or clues. The cursor also changes when you are over the object so that you know where to click. It’s a shame they did not follow up their ideas with the cursor by programming the game well enough that when you put the cursor on the left side of the screen, it always meant that you were going to go left. In fact, the cursor’s inability to change quickly is one of Golden Gate’s greatest game-play faults.
Golden Gate features over 2000 hand painted, 16-bit images that are usually gorgeous. It also has a very nice musical soundtrack. Some of those scenes make you want to sit a stare at them for a while. Unfortunately, both music and images come at a price. The load time for each image is very long on all computers, both Mac and PC, and the music seems to randomly stop and start at times. In fact, these load times, on any but the best computers, can be as long as thirteen seconds or worse. To say the least, this renders the game almost impossible to enjoy, even for the most dedicated puzzle game followers.You end up spending more time waiting for scenes to load, as you move forward, or watching the either slow or choppy scrolling motion as you turn, then you do actually playing the game.
To make matters worse, the game really isn’t worth waiting for. The puzzles are somewhere between hard and impossible, badly thought out, and the story isn’t very intriguing. For example, the first person you see tries to build up some sense of danger in the game, but you end up spending more time wishing he would just go away and stop his boring speech. In fact, this brings up one of the games few redeeming qualities, the ability to click past boring videos. Also, the very first puzzle in the game involves a jack in the box toy that will only open if you play the right music. Almost sounds easy, eh? Well its not. To get the music right you have to switch seven levers that control the tones of the song, “pop goes the weasel,” around until they are correctly configured and the song sounds right. Unfortunately, even after you get them right the song still sounds wrong. It took me over two hours to get it right, by which time I was not only bored, but, in fact, only continuing because it was my job. To be fair to the game, the puzzle wasn’t impossible to solve. For instance my friend, who has been involved in music for many years, came close to solving the puzzle in under an hour. If it takes that long for a person who knows music well, imagine how long it would take for someone who has never played an instrument in their life. The greater part of the puzzles are not even worth solving. The ends just about never justify the means.
To continue, this game only contains 10 minutes of video, but you won’t get to enjoy it for a while. Just to see these videos, you have to find a necklace hidden in a place you would never think to look. Worse still, to get the necklace in the first place you have to solve a difficult, poorly designed puzzle. Of course you need the necklace, because without it you will miss many of the clues necessary to completing the game. This unfortunately, seems to be the general trend with this game.
Finally, I have to say one more thing, although I won’t give away the ending, just in case you don’t listen to me and actually decide to buy this game. In order to get there myself, I had to use a walkthrough. The ending of this game is perhaps the least satisfying one I have ever seen. You won’t just dislike the end, you’ll wonder why you even bothered playing the game in the first place.
These are just some of the many examples of this game’s failings. I could honestly write pages about its faults, but I feel there is no real point in going on. In a world where Myst and S.P.Q.R. exist, Golden Gate simply has no business being played. If you love San Francisco, Golden Gate gives you some very beautiful pictures to look at, but you can get that from a travel book. To sum things up, even if you are the ultimate puzzle game junkie, I would suggest you wait for the next title to come out.