DreamCatcher Games' new graphical adventure game, Curse of Atlantis: Thorgal's Quest, begins when the protagonist, a Viking stranded and shipwrecked at a small island village, is shown a vision in which he kills his own son. This is not a vision of the future, he is told, but of a possible future. While it would seem that the child is safe--the killer, after all, is stranded--Thorgal is immediately determined to escape the island and rush to his son's aid.
With this illogical decision, Thorgal's Quest begins. The game is related to the bizarre series of Atlantis games only in name. Like those games, however, it is yet another European adventure game imported to the US by The Adventure Company, and once again the decision is questionable. At the outset, Thorgal's Quest seems refreshing; it appears to be a traditional third-person adventure game of the type that has become increasingly rare. You guide your character around with your mouse, clicking on things, talking to characters, and solving simple inventory puzzles.
But after a few hours of playing, any hopes you might have had for the game being even a generic adventure will be dashed. Not just because of the puzzles or the strange story, but because the game will be over. Thorgal's Quest is less of a quest and more of a short jaunt, since most players will be able to finish it in a single sitting.
If the substance of those few hours were better, the short length of the game wouldn't be such a problem. However, Thorgal's Quest doesn't offer much in the way of puzzles. The game has a few inventory-based puzzles, one of which involves getting over a chasm with some boards--a fairly clever one, if a bit easy. Some of the game's other notable puzzles include a three-dimensional version of a slider puzzle, and a game called "Runes" that you play against Death incarnate. This last puzzle is the best part of Thorgal's Quest; it's a fun and simple strategy game that involves using tiles to occupy spaces on a board. If Runes had been included as a minigame that could be accessed at any time (rather than only at a specific point), the game, as a whole, would be a much better value.
The majority of the other puzzles are incredibly simple inventory puzzles (mostly requiring you to give someone something they've asked for), but there are a few action puzzles as well. Occasionally, someone will attack you. Though Thorgal is supposed to be a capable archer, these action sequences never involve killing someone outright. Instead, there is always a trick to the combat, but finding the trick never amounts to more than moving your cursor across the screen until it changes to a target icon, though there are three action puzzles that require a bit more skill, since they require you to hit a moving or spinning target. The variety of puzzles is noteworthy, but only a few are very inspired.
The inspiration for the game itself comes from a series of European graphic novels. However, the source material doesn't inform the game's design in any noticeable way, apart from the black-and-white sketches that appear in the game's loading screens and in a single cutscene. Aside from these, the game looks fairly typical and uses three-dimensional characters on two-dimensional backdrops that are bland and generic. The voices for the characters are passable, though the actors overenunciate words to make them sound more dramatic. However, the sound quality on the voice recordings is awful; Thorgal sounds as though he's speaking into an aluminum can for the majority of the game.
What he says doesn't make much sense, either. The story of Thorgal's Quest is bizarre, as the title might imply--though be warned that the following description contains plot spoilers. The story doesn't seem to have much to do with Atlantis at all, instead involving Norse gods and, eventually, spaceships. When Thorgal is informed that he is descended from a race from beyond the stars, he doesn't seem at all shocked. Nor is this Viking at all astounded when he finds himself onboard a spaceship fighting a laser-spewing robot. Perhaps Thorgal's lineage is a well-known fact in the graphic novel, but in the game inspired by it, it just seems strange.
The game's one genuinely interesting moment comes at the end, when Thorgal learns what the vision actually showed him. It isn't an amazing plot twist, but it's more interesting than anything that comes before it. But again, that end comes all too soon. If it had given you a bit more to do, the game would be a simple and somewhat straightforward adventure game, but as it is, it's simply too short. To its credit, the game is budget-priced, so serious adventure game fans--the kind who like adventure games no matter how generic they might be--may find the short length to be less of a problem. Otherwise Thorgal's Quest seems like a demo for a bigger, if not necessarily better, game.