Keepsake Review

It's got some occasionally interesting puzzles, but the lame story and irritating characters kill whatever appeal Keepsake might have had.

The tagline of Keepsake is "An Unforgettable Adventure." That's not only about the most generic and vague description possible, but it's also completely untrue. Keepsake is so dull and forgettable that once you reach the end of the 10-plus-hour adventure, you'll have a hard time remembering why you were even playing it in the first place. To its credit, Keepsake does have plenty of unique and challenging puzzles, so if that's what you play adventure games for, you'll be satisfied with this one. But if you're looking for engaging characters and a compelling story to carry you between puzzles, you won't find them here.

Lydia shows up for her first day of school only to realize that the school has been deserted.
Lydia shows up for her first day of school only to realize that the school has been deserted.

The story of Keepsake begins when a young woman named Lydia shows up at the Dragonvale Academy, where she plans to meet up with her old pal Celeste and study the arcane arts to become a mage. When Lydia gets to the school Celeste is nowhere to be found, and in fact, it seems that the entire student body has vanished into thin air. So Lydia does a bit of exploring to see if she can figure out what's going on at the academy, eventually unraveling the mystery after solving many, many magic puzzles. The problem is that the story progresses so slowly that it doesn't even get slightly interesting until the very final stages of the game. The characters are devoid of personality, the dialogue is sappy and forced, and the voice acting is painfully bad. It all adds up to a go-nowhere story with annoying characters, which certainly won't inspire you to keep playing.

Keepsake sticks closely to the point-and-click adventure game template that has been in use for the past 15 years or so. You move Lydia by clicking on various parts of a static background. The camera angles are all fixed, so you move from one background to another as you reach the edge of each screen. Using this method you can explore the twisting hallways of the academy--although the place is deserted, so there isn't all that much to see. The cursor icon changes shape when you can interact with an object or go in for closer inspection, so if you're unsure of what you're supposed to do you can just move the cursor around until you find the right part of the background to interact with. There's an inventory system as well, but you hardly ever have to use it. Most of the time you just click your way through hallway after hallway and room after room until you find the right puzzle or item to move the story along.

There are quite a few puzzles in the game, and many of them are actually fairly fun and challenging. There are the standard mechanism puzzles where you have to align gears and flip switches in the right order to activate some machine; there are spatial puzzles that require you to move an item or icon from one space to another while obeying some convoluted system of logic; and there are even a few riddles to solve. Some of the puzzles are easy to figure out, but later puzzles offer no clue as to what your objective is. Thankfully, there's a built-in hint system that you can use to help clear any hurdles the game throws at you. Each puzzle has three hints, so if you just want a little bit of help you can ask for the first hint, which usually just gives you a basic explanation of how the puzzle works. If you're still stuck you can ask for two more hints, which pretty much spell out exactly what you need to do to solve the puzzle. If that's still too much work for you, you can choose to have the solution revealed to you, and you can then sit back and watch the puzzle solve itself.

Instead of rejoicing and taking the day off to go fishing with Huck Finn, she breaks in and starts solving puzzles.
Instead of rejoicing and taking the day off to go fishing with Huck Finn, she breaks in and starts solving puzzles.

By solving puzzles you can unlock doors or obtain special items that are required to progress the story. The problem is that the time between puzzles is spent aimlessly wandering through the academy searching for where you need to go next. You can use the hint system to tell you exactly where you need to go, but actually finding the place is still a chore, because it takes forever as Lydia trots along through room after room. Since you have to do a lot of item fetching, you end up covering the same ground over and over, which gets old very quickly. It might be excusable if the environments actually looked good, but they don't. The backgrounds are blurry, low-resolution images that only occasionally come to life during equally unimpressive video sequences. Even the cutscenes are just static, colorless images with horrendous voice-over narration.

Although Keepsake follows an old formula, it's the tired presentation and mind-numbing narrative that drag the game down. There's too much time spent running around looking at the same boring backgrounds and hearing the same old story that never actually gets anywhere. Unless you're a very forgiving adventure game fan in search of some new puzzles to solve, there's no reason to play Keepsake.

The Good
Unique and challenging puzzles
Handy hint system helps keep the game moving
The Bad
Some of the worst voice acting you will ever hear
Blurry, low-res backgrounds
Dull characters and an uninteresting story
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Keepsake More Info

  • First Released Mar 31, 2006
    • Macintosh
    • PC
    Keepsake is an adventure game that takes place in the Dragonvale Academy school of magic.
    Average Rating353 Rating(s)
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    Developed by:
    Wicked Studios
    Published by:
    Wicked Studios, Lighthouse Interactive, The Adventure Company
    Content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.
    Mild Language