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Return to Mysterious Island

Return to Mysterious Island is a little adventure which wouldn't offer a compelling and exciting story, but would charm you with its addictive game-play and small extra features used in many modern platformers. It's one of those rare unambitious little games crafted with loving hands and a great deal of attention to provide us with relaxing atmosphere, good quality gaming and desire to play it over once we watched the credits roll.

A new creation of The Adventure Company is a small shine in a steady stream of poor adventure releases, although, like its siblings, it has several stability issues. First of all, the optimal refresh rate for the game is no less than 70 Hrz, otherwise it might occasionally stall or crash. It might run slow with hardware rendering or even lock up. If you experience such problems select software rendering option and set higher refresh rate of your monitor.

As it was mentioned above, Mysterious Island is not about an exciting storytelling. It might seem a bit simple and naive, but it keeps a touch of innocence and good air about it. You play Mina - an adventurer, Jule Verne fan and a photojournalist - who finds herself on a shore after surviving a terrible storm somewhere in the middle of the Pacific. Right from the start the game tries to put you within the limits of a real world. It offers you tasks on survival and gives some basic lessons on how to stay alive on a deserted land. Already in the beginning developers throw you a mystery - some shadow of a man high on a cliff. That fills you with enough motivation to proceed further and complete the tasks. And the first one will be to feed oneself with any food one can find, crash, smash, drink and fry. Therefore, most puzzles are inventory-based and here you'll surely be provided with the means to do numerous combinations with zillions of goodies lying all around and waiting to be picked up. And there's a lot to pick up and to do during the game. Some objects might be used for several purposes and even combined with other items. That possibility adds a note of creativity and excitement to the game. Later on, you'll find yourself an assistant - a monkey (which should be healed and properly fed prior to joining your party). Your pet wouldn't make the game more interesting but will be a very helpful hand in your countless quests. All puzzles are there with the reason. If you need to start a mill, then you'll most certainly be using it more than once. Some of the puzzles are optional - they might simply give you extra bonus points or even open an extra story line. And sure this feature gives a non-linear feel to the game and no doubt you'll miss a lot while playing the game for the first tme.

Apart from inventory scramble you'll encounter several puzzles during the later stages of the game, although after the stunning diversity of item-crafting they are narrowed down to disappointing code breaking, childish mini-games and a trivia quiz. They are quite simple even you've never played a quest before. But prepare yourselves for a real challenge with a trivia quiz and music puzzle. The latter is optional - if you successfully pass the quiz you won't need to solve this puzzle, but will lose extra 10 points.

Mysterious Island implements a clever reward system. You're added certain points for finding and combing items and after completing certain tasks and puzzles. Sure these points aren't for nothing - creators prepared something extra for your delight. During my first time I managed to collect some 295 points, although I heard that it's possible to collect up to 359 points, so it is a way to go for me. I wouldn't suggest using a walk through for this game. Even if you're stuck after some time you'll find an inspiration to overcome an obstacle, although, there aren't many serious obstacles on your way to discovering the very few mysteries of this unique, but small volcanic island.

The game also houses an extensive hint system. Hints are given by Mina, by short descriptions of items and by an all-enticing mobile encyclopedia. Despite its attractive game-play features, Mysterious Island gives away minor logical lapses. They wouldn't annoy, but rather amuse you. For example, Mina's mobile phone oddly survived the water or you'll find a lonely maple amidst lavishly green tropical palm trees. Some puzzles were simplified and you can't hide an ironic smile while watching some small cut scenes.

Graphics is not a big word in Mysterious Island. You'll be offered pleasing backgrounds and neatly detailed surroundings with 360 degree orientation in scrolling locations. In other words, it provides you with the sufficient means for playing, but it's not the issue for marvel. Although even here developers have come up with original and intelligent idea for cutting down the budget and extra CD space. Most of cut scenes are made as comic-book drawings with some comment from the main character. This is a really nice feature, which adds extra cosiness to the game. Musical score and sounds are pleasant and non-disturbing, but nothing in particular either. Despite these little shortcomings developers created an excellent playground sharing all their dedication and positive attitude.

Mysterious Island employs average audio and video presentation values. It has a weak storyline which basically amounts to - Let's save Mina. But this game would attract all adventure fans as well as the rest of the gaming community as a nice change from recent hard-core releases.

The Omega Stone - First Impressions

First of all, I hardly managed to lay my hands on this game, although it's been only some three years since its release. Clearly, not many gamers would venture themselves into this feat and, frankly, I'd understand why.

First, a note to XP owners - you might experience some difficulties installing this game. It might take a while for the installation program to start running and the progress of installation might as well be slow. After the first stage is complete the program will ask whether you want to install the contents of other three CDs on your hard disk to avoid CD-swapping madness. I would recommend to do it to avoid wasting your time changing CDs. Apart from small installation challenge and time-consuming change between key locations, the game runs smoothly and never disturbs your experience with glitches, sudden lock-ups or crashes.

The initial premise of the game is quite stupid. After a trailer-type intro you'll wake up in a tent with professor giving you an extra headache for about 5 minutes. The game starts from where the previous episode ended. You've suffered a huge blast, because the ritual you've performed was not complete. The second scroll is missing. Professor mentions some predicted cataclysm and we're to put together all missing parts of this predicament and find the so-called Omega Stone. After a long monologue you're left all alone in a deserted, enigmatic and slightly depressing world of the ancient past.

The entire atmosphere of the game and our whereabouts is just overwhelming. It's clear that a British developer duo did a hell of a job mounting this piece of crowning exploratory adventure. Most of the times you're crawling inside some long-forgotten caves and ruins of temples, which, strangely enough, were not properly searched through by other archaeologists before your arrival. Omega Stone has a somewhat claustrophobic feel and when you emerge from yet another dungeon you'll be grateful for vast expanses developers created around archaeological sites. But these moments are rare compared to amount of time you'll spend underground making countless notes, drawing and interpreting symbols and trying to activate mysterious mechanisms. Puzzles are not easy and involve both brain-twisters and item-collecting - so prepare yourself for another pixel hunt. Many objects are blended into dark surroundings, but, if you're careful enough, they're quite easy to discover. The only problem, the game employs so many locations, that you'll pretty soon get tired of scouring every single area. This is a drawback. Moving around the game is a real headache. Developers did a huge job creating mile-long tunnels, connecting half ruined rooms and halls. Sometimes you'll be tempted just to click through these depressing corridors, although I wouldn't suggest doing that. Occasionally, creators would hide an object or a small passage just next or above you.

The puzzles and their elements may be described as a brilliant masterpiece. They reflect intimidating amount of work, research and dedication of the team. Each puzzle perfectly blends in with a certain area not only visually, but historically and logically. Although, they're admirable enough, sometimes you'll have to do tons of travel around the globe in order to complete some key puzzles. The problem here is that you spend so much time and do so much paperwork in one location, that you completely forget what you did elsewhere. So I suggest preparing at least five separate notebooks one for each location. Due to heart-stopping amount of reading, interpreting, drawing and relation activities, developers gave you a camera to make shots of most elaborate symbols and drawings. Although, it's a good feat, the camera won't take the picture of entire document and you'll have to photo parts of it.

Graphical presentation is not bad considering the fact that the game was released in 2002. Nothing outstanding, but the backgrounds are quite realistic and convincing. So, if you're inside a Mayan temple, you get a certain feel that it is a Mayan temple and nothing else. Although, low resolution issues belittle your exploratory experience and your eyes might start itching after peering at pixel-infested screens. Whilst objects inside your active area are quite recognisable the further locations are a one big blur. Music and sounds are minimalistic, but they're enough to add a touch of mystery to a game.

While Omega Stone is lavish with its puzzles, it fails to present any motivation to solve them. You'll meet almost no one during your travels. Your only connection with past and present will be heaps of fiction and documentation and your personal fat moody driver. And I bet, I'd get all that groggy too, if had to spend countless hour waiting for some creep digging earth in the middle of nowhere. Your only goal is to find Omega Stone and no one cares what happens next.

So, my first impression, The Omega Stone picks on another level of puzzle-making and out-stands its fine predecessors, like Myst, but it's far behind in game-play and presentation values. This is not a must for most adventure fans, but hardcore puzzle crackers might find here enough challenge and headache.

Journey to the Center of the Earth

This is a warning for everyone who is reading this.

Never - you hear - never buy this game. Unless you want plenty of headache and an eye sore.

Journey looks and sounds as lame as it plays. The game is pain and bore already starting with the menus. Graphics are bleak, music is dull and you gotta spend some time fine-tuning the game to make it run more or less smoothly on your PC. While I didn't notice any serious technical problems during the early stages of the game, I have encountered numerous mysterious crashes and frequent bugs during game-play. Since Viva Media have not released any patch regarding these problems you'll have to save a lot.

Apart from technical issues Journey has many game-play glitches. Quite often you'll have to blind click on the edges of the screen in order to get your cardboard character to move to another location. In other instances you'll have to click countless times on an object in order to make it work - and, sure, you need to know precisely what you're doing. So, if you decided to test yourself against this click torture, get yourself loads of paracet and download a decent walk through from Internet.

The game might not be tough mind some obscure puzzles with no decent hints, lots of laborious walking and backtracking around half-dead underground world and eye-itching item hunting over and over again. And while game play is overall a tedious experience the world around you is not involving, models of characters are hilariously simplistic and remind home-made 3D non-pcs from freeware games. The backgrounds look like pics from a school contest - from seen-already to just novice. They are filled with small 3D objects and emotionless marionettes - marching around the streets or just chilling-out. You can actually interact with some of them in order to receive a new dull quest on your way back to the surface.

Music is a rare blessing and is as unmemorable as everything else about the game. From time to time developers give you a small emotional cut scene, but that doesn't make up for the utter tediousness of your adventure.

Journey is yet another game with nothing to see and nothing to do about. I found it as unmoving and unsatisfying as dry muesli without milk in the morning.