From The Adventure Gamer
Written by TBD
It’s time to see how Amazon: Guardians of Eden fares in our PISSED rating. In my rating I’ll be specifically comparing it to the developer’s predecessor, Martian Memorandum.
|Do I feel like I was treated to an incredible journey of adventure? Let’s find out.|
Ah, puzzles. Those who’ve been reading along have probably noticed my frustration with many of the puzzle choices in this game. In previous Final Ratings I’ve mentioned my trilogy of ‘bad’ puzzle design. I’m going to add a fourth bad puzzle to that list in future due to this game.
- Mazes: No mazes in this game. And they could have easily done a repetitive jungle maze so, thank you Access Software.
- Dead-ends: Sigh – there are a lot of dead-ends in this game. I came across a few myself but could see many potential others. I see no good at all in these dead ends. They detract from the atmosphere and urgency and add to the frustration.
- Bad mini-games: There are a few little mini-games; the river canoeing, the walking around the slaver boat avoiding the first mate and solving puzzles. They work well. They both add to the game and don’t overstay their welcome (okay, paddling down the river overstayed its welcome a bit with its three long sections – I did four sections, but that’s largely a dead-end issue.)
- And now…Timed sequences: Oh, the timed sequences in this game. In general these timed sequences add to the atmosphere that I’ll get to in the “E” section. But from a puzzle standpoint – constant deaths without giving me time to think are just annoying.
Some of the inventory puzzles are baffling. Giving the boat Captain cigarettes and a nugget of gold as passage is ridiculous both from a story perspective and because both items can be easily missed and even if I knew a gold nugget would be required, which I had no indication of, the last way I’d expect to get it would be from a poor serving boy in a small village.
Some other puzzles would be much more rewarding if I hadn’t been rushed by timed sequences. The bridge of death sequence could have worked excellently but I spent most of the time there just dreading the moment I ran out of time – let me try a few things before I die, game!
I can’t think of any particularly good puzzles. Turning on the librarian’s car headlights so she leaves her post back in Chapter 2 was one of the few times I got some information and had to work out what to do. I also somewhat enjoyed the cannibal village where I had to solve a few simple puzzles – but the potential enjoyment was quickly tempered by frustration as I was in a timed sequence.
The Chapter style hurt here. After the first few chapters each screen was largely separate and once I entered I couldn’t leave without solving the puzzle. This would have made the game easy without the dead-ends – perhaps the dead-ends were an attempt to make the game more challenging. Have I mentioned how much I think dead-ends detract from the puzzle-solving experience?
I mentioned when I was stuck near the end that I wouldn’t be happy if I needed an arrow after not being able to take obvious arrows earlier – fear my wrath, Access!
|The empty eye socket stares blankly toward me and the arrows sticking out of his ribs steadfastly refuse to be interacted with…|
|… however, a different arrow hiding behind a nondescript bush needs to be taken in order to proceed two chapters later|
I told you I wouldn’t be happy, game. I was already going to score very low here so this issue isn’t altering the final score but I still wanted to vent my frustration.
I considered giving this game either a 2 or a 3 for this category, but I also thought I might give it some credit for the included hint system. So how about we stick with a 3.
Final score: 3
Interface and Inventory
The interface itself is largely a slight improvement over Martian Memorandum’s. The inventory list and verb icons have changed from text to graphics.
The lack of tooltips, which I’ve mentioned as a negative in a few of my recent Final Ratings, has more of an effect here than other games. When I’m at the Bridge of Death, the middle of the bridge is a different item to the rest of the bridge. But of course, I don’t find that out until after I’ve died quite a few times because I’m in a timed sequence and don’t have time to properly examine my surroundings. Pixel hunts aren’t fun!
The inventory works well enough. The graphical representations have a text label when I move the mouse over them. (See Access Software, you do know how to do tooltips – try using them in the game screen as well.) There is combining of inventory items, which was used a few times and worked simply, with the graphics of the two items zooming out before the graphic of the combined item zoomed in.
|It is good that items that are no longer useful leave my inventory so I don’t spend too long trying inventory objects on everything when I’m stuck, but why do I have Jason’s car keys with me for the entire game?|
I gave a 3 to Martian Memorandum, so I’ll leave it the same. There are some graphical improvements but the negatives are exacerbated by timed sequences and dead-ends.
Final score: 3
Story and Setting
The story was good. Much of what I liked about it will actually be covered in the Environment and Atmosphere section so I’ll stick to story and setting for the S rating.
The story was simple, but fun. It didn’t have the emotional impact that Martian Memorandum had on me, and it wasn’t anywhere near as fun an adventure story as Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, but it was still good. Even when I was frustrated by the puzzles I still wanted to keep playing to see the story play out.
|I’m still wondering why Maya decided to spend the night just outside the secret door to the safety of her temple, giving Sanchez the opportunity to catch up to them, shoot Maya and find the secret door.|
The Amazon jungle makes a good setting for an adventure game. My first thought was that the jungle setting was slightly underused here, but as I thought more about it I recalled that there are a lot of set pieces in the jungle – we saw cannibals, piranhas, a small village, an old Spanish treehouse, and of course the Amazon river itself. Most of the sequences are very short and the ones that are long are only long because they’re full of deaths and reloads.
The game is worthy of a solid score here.
Final score: 6
Sound and Graphics
The FMV sequences were an admirable addition – having full video when talking to people was nice and added to the movie serial atmosphere they were going for. Fully voiced adventure games are becoming closer to the norm now but full motion video is still new and only used in a few games. I’m sure it will take on and most games will be using FMV in a few years…
Apart from the FMV, the graphics and sound are about as expected for the time. It’s not as good as some of the best games, but it’s good enough. Things generally look like what they are supposed to. Which is understandable when you realise they actually used toys with paintings as backgrounds.
|They did make some alterations after digitizing. Including turning an orange car blue!|
The voice clips have a noticeable clicking sound at the start and end of each, but I’m not sure if that’s a dosbox emulator issue and it’s not distracting enough to change the rating.
The music again does its job. As usual for me I don’t remember much game music but when I go back to sample it for this rating the different pieces are appropriate for each situation and do their job of not distracting me from the game, so a thumbs up without being exceptional there.
Martian Memorandum got a 4 for the sound and graphics section. The slight improvement gives this game a 5.
Final score: 5
Environment and Atmosphere
The atmosphere is great. They were aiming for an old fashioned serial feel and nailed it. I felt somewhat Indiana Jones-y (it’d probably give me more of that feeling if I hadn’t recently played an excellent adventure game that made me feel extremely Indiana Jones-y.)
|Though technically swinging on a vine is more Tarzan-y than Indiana Jones-y|
And despite my disdain for them, the timed sequences do help the atmosphere here! They add to the urgency and the feeling of danger. I still hate these sequences with a passion, but for the purposes of environment and atmosphere, they do have a positive effect!
One negative though – the dead-ends detract from this somewhat. After a few deaths I stop thinking about the setting and game and just concentrate on trying to do things before time runs out.
What would Indiana Jones do if he forgot to pick up something that would become useful two chapters later? Would he give up, upset that he missed the item, or would he find some way to solve the problem with the items at hand? Alternate solutions to puzzles could have helped here – this game was designed to live by its atmosphere – bringing the story to a dead halt and forcing me back a few chapters lessens the impact considerably.
Martian Memorandum got a 6 here, and this game does the atmosphere a little bit better but undoes some of the good work with the immersion breaking dead-ends. I’ll stick with a 6 for this one.
Final score: 6
Dialogue and Acting
The dialogue was pretty good. Almost every character was a stereotype and written exactly as you’d expect. But that fitted in to the cheesy 50s serial vibe they were going for and worked well at evoking that vibe throughout. The game never fell into the trap of taking itself too seriously. Colonel Sanchez in particular is very over the top, both in writing and acting.
|Colonel Sanchez – just a pair of glasses and a sense of humour away from being Groucho Marx|
The dialogue puzzles in the game weren’t as successful. Maya leaving after I failed the dialogue puzzle because I was mistrustful of her made little sense, particularly after I found out her history. They’d work better if we got multiple chances to succeed or if they were less specific about what was required – the chances of me working the puzzle out by thinking it through rather than trial-and-error was low, but at least failing dialogue resulted in a death screen rather than another dead-end.
Ah the acting. In some ways it hits the ‘so bad it’s good’ mark – my particular favourite was Jason’s “Nooooo” when his brother sacrifices himself for their safety. Other times it just hits the ‘it’s bad’ mark.
It’s no surprise that when I looked the game up on IMDB, almost all of the actors had only this game as an acting credit. But they give it a good go.
I did like that there was physical acting as well as voice acting. Talking to people and having them physically move their mouths and bodies as they reply added to the realism.
I gave Martian Memorandum a 7 before taking away two points for bad grammar and spelling. I was pleasantly surprised that I only found one error in this game. I wasn’t particularly looking for them so there may have been more but they were a major distraction in the previous game so I’m very happy Access put the effort into getting it right this time.
This game also improved on Martian Memorandum by having more acting – the cheesiness of the acting, while often bad, served a purpose. How much of that cheesiness was a deliberate decision rather than just a consequence of actors unable to convey subtleties doesn’t change that the result worked often enough. If the game had taken itself seriously the acting would have been a negative here.
But the writing evoked less emotion than Martian Memorandum. I still feel something when I think of the massacred colonists of the Stanton Expedition. So I’ll give us a 6 for this. A slight step down overall but a step up in proofreading and acting.
Final Rating: 6
This gives us a Final rating of… 3+3+6+5+6+6*10/6, which equals…
48 seems fair. I liked this game a little less than Martian Memorandum, which scored 50, and while I appreciated the dedication and success at emulating the cheesy mid-20th century serials, as a game the frustration to enjoyment ratio ended up rather high. It started on a good note though and I was really enjoying it, but it started to get increasingly frustrating around Chapter 6 or 7, which was coincidentally when I started hitting dead-ends and timed sequences.
In fact, this entire Final Rating can be summed up by a comment made by ShaddamIVth in the penultimate gameplay post…
The B-movie element is surprisingly gripping, they seem to be well aware of how cheesy they are being and using it to good effect. If only they were aware of how frustrating they were being with the timed sequences, I have never felt them to be fair in adventure games where you’re supposed to explore as much as possible.
Well said, ShaddamIVth. I couldn’t agree more.
So for my personal PISSEDOFF rating, where I include how much fun I thought the game was. What would be my Overall Fun Factor rating? 3. A score of 3 from me means I won’t be playing the game again in the future but it did have some kind of redeeming quality. The bottom line is that I just didn’t like this game as a whole – it wasn’t terrible, but the frustrating parts made much of the second half of it a chore rather than fun and that frustration quickly overtook the good the game did. I’d have likely enjoyed it a lot more if I wasn’t playing it for the blog and could just use the hint section as soon as I started to get frustrated. But I wasn’t, so the PISSEDOFF rating ends up as… 3+3+6+5+6+6+3+3+3*10/9 which equals 42! A much lower score but a much more ultimate answer.
The crew from Access Software will be back in 1994 in their continuing attempt to combine full motion video with adventure game puzzles when they release Under a Killing Moon! And we’ll be there to cover it sometime between 2019 and 2022!
100 CAPs to TBD
- Blogger Award -100 CAPs – For playing through the game for everyone’s enjoyment (I would have gotten more CAPs if I got 1 CAP every time I reloaded to an earlier saved game)
55 CAPs to Joe Pranevich
- Classic Blogger Award – 50 CAPs – for playing through Wishbringer for our enjoyment (MEOW!)
- Telling Tales Award – 5 CAPs – for passing on the news about Telltale Games going out of business after making a number of Adventure Games in recent years.
30 CAPs to Laukku
- Psychic Prediction Award – 10 CAPs – for guessing the Final Rating of Amazon by simply averaging the other Access games
- While Stocks Last Award – 5 CAPS – for letting us know that we should download our Telltale games again because they should now work without DRM
- Aces High Award – 5 CAPs – for letting us know that the Ace Attorney series will be coming soon to current consoles and PC for the first time
- Classic Prediction Award – 10 CAPs – for guessing the Final Rating of Wishbringer
24 CAPs to Lisa H
- Does Whatever a Spider Can – 5 CAPs – for pointing out that the Amazon must be home to a new terrifying creature – the spider-jaguar!
- For Granite Award – 3 CAPs – for pointing out that the useless clue may be useful in some circumstances
- Film Crew Award – 4 CAPs – for pointing out that Allen Roberts’ favourite film is actually real!
- If Wishes Were Horses – 7 CAPs – for pointing out more alternate solutions to Wishbringer
- Get Out of Jail Free Award – 5 CAPs – for mentioning that there are more ways to escape jail in Wishbringer
20 CAPs to Leo Velles
- What’s Your Story Award – 20 CAPs – for submitting his What’s Your Story answers
20 CAPs to Michael
- Appreciation of Your Appreciation Award – 4 CAPs – for twice thanking TBD for sacrificing his time to constantly reloading old saved games.
- Abstinence Award – 3 CAPs – for being disappointed that there wasn’t a sex scene at the end
- Six Degrees of Murray Award – 3 CAPs – for playing the Kevin Bacon game without including Kevin Bacon
- Tell it to the Judge Award – 5 CAPs – for pointing out that Darlene looks (and acts) suspiciously like Judge Judy
- Dog People Award – 5 CAPs – for noticing that with the exception of the Coles, most adventure gamers aren’t nice to our feline friends in their games (MEOW!)
12 CAPs to Alex Romanov
- Assistance Confirmed Award – 2 CAPs – for confirming that Voltgloss’ hints would be required
- Assistance Granted Award – 10 CAPs – for helping TBD when he got stuck in front of the Amazon Queen
11 CAPs to ShaddamIVth
- Succinctly Said Award – 6 CAPs – for inadvertently summing up TBD’s final rating in a single paragraph
- Bad Luck Award – 5 CAPs – For pointing out that there may in fact be graphics in Wishbringer and that the graphics just meld into the black background (MEOW!)
10 CAPs to Voltgloss
- Assistance Granted Award – 10 CAPs – for helping TBD when he had gotten himself dead-ended by not breaking into a truck and stealing the driver’s cigarettes
10 CAPs to Ilmari
- Solidarity Award – 5 CAPs – for showing sympathy at TBD’s annoyance with timed sequences
- It Is Very Dark Award – 5 CAPs – for pointing out an alternate solution to getting to the theater in Wishbringer
10 CAPs to MisterKerr
- Friends With Benefits Award – 5 CAPs – for having a friend’s dad work for Access during the day and being able to see this game while it was being made as a kid
- More Friends With Benefits Award – 5 CAPs – for having helped members of Access Software at Comic Con as an adult
6 CAPs to Will Moczarski
- Encoded comments Award – 6 CAPs – for discussing Wishbringer with possibly the longest sequence of ROT13 ever seen in our comments section
5 CAPs to limbeck
- Choking On Ambitions Award – 5 CAPs – for pointing out the dangers of treating precious gems as food.