From The Adventure Gamer
Written by Reiko
Almost four years ago, I covered the original Ecoquest here on the blog, and now we’ve arrived at the sequel: Lost Secret of the Rainforest. Instead of diving deep below the sea, this time we’ll be exploring the rainforest. You may remember that Ecoquest had a bit of an agenda to introduce kids to concepts of conservation of nature and show them ways that human activity can harm the ocean environment. The rainforest is also a place with unique natural resources that can easily disappear if people mismanage them, so it makes sense as the subject of a sequel along the same lines. We’ll keep an eye on how the game handles its message while we play through the story.
According to the general plot summary, we rejoin Adam Greene and his father as they begin a trip to Iquitos, Peru, to search for the hidden Grove People and help them set up a local economy using sustainably harvested natural resources, so that the government doesn’t misuse their land. But after some luggage goes missing, Adam ends up on a wild trip to the heart of the rainforest to discover secrets of the people and animals and plants that live there.
|“Only you can save the rainforest from destruction”|
Sierra released the sequel two years after Ecoquest, again as part of the Sierra Discovery Series (“Your child will have fun AND your child will learn. GUARANTEED!”). While it’s certainly a sequel to Ecoquest, the official title on the title screen is simply Lost Secret of the Rainforest, without “Ecoquest 2”. But many places, including Sierra Gamers, an official Ken and Roberta Williams site, call it “Ecoquest 2: Lost Secret of the Rainforest”, so either title seems accurate.
The credits are quite different for this one. Instead of Ken Williams as Executive Producer (he seems not to have been involved with the sequel at all), we have Pete Fisher as Producer, and Robert Fischbach and Doug Oldfield as Lead Programmers. While Fisher also worked on Torin’s Passage (1995), after that he seems to have a long hiatus before getting involved with games again in just the last few years, and only as a sales analyst. Gano Haine, who helped design Ecoquest, is credited as Director, and Dan Kehler returns to do music again.
One other name of note is Josh Mandel, who is only credited under “Special Thanks”, so I have no idea what he actually did. Those who followed the development of Hero-U, the recent Quest for Glory spinoff, might recognize that name as one of the primary writers who has been working closely with the Coles on their new venture.
Someone again had fun making the Econews manual (you can download it and take a look here: https://www.sierragamers.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Ecoquest_2_Econews.pdf). It’s got an introductory letter from Adam, a brief letter from Del (Delphineus, the dolphin from the first game), some directions on how the ecorder works, some fun coloring and puzzle sheets, and even a brief walkthrough for the first part of the game. It’s part manual, part feelie, part puzzle book.
|Sierra menu bar|
As with the first one, the interface is classic Sierra point and click, with icons for various functions. The Recycle feature from the first game is back, so we’ll be picking up more garbage as we go along. But there’s also an icon that looks like a sort of bat, which brings up interesting rainforest facts. Later, Adam gets access to the ecorder, which Adam (and the player) will use to learn about things he sees in the rainforest. So the game is already showing itself to be explicitly an educational game in a way that the previous game wasn’t. Certainly the player could learn things by playing the game, but it seems that the educational content was more integrated with the plot and puzzles in Ecoquest.
|What could have caused this?|
When I start up the game, the main menu gives five options: Introduction (start the game by playing the introductory sequence), Play Game (start the game but skip the intro), Restore Game (load a saved game), Instructions (a long sequence of text boxes detailing instructions for how to call in for hints or how to troubleshoot issues), or Quit. The introductory sequence shows some of the main credits interspersed with glimpses of a plane flying above a rainforest with Adam and his father, a bomb going off somewhere, and two bats looking at a flattened seedling. This last shot is the only hint early on that we’re going to get extraordinary things happening like talking animals, as one bat is asking the other what they should do about the seedling.
The game itself begins with Adam and his father waiting in an informal customs line after having disembarked from their plane just outside Iquitos, Peru. Two people are ahead of them in line. We get some humor right away with the first person, who is asked to open his luggage and show the customs officer. He somehow makes very large things appear from his suitcase (shades of Mary Poppins and her extraordinary carpetbag), and finally a balloon appears from the bag, which he grabs onto and floats away (again, rather like Mary Poppins flying away with her umbrella).
The second person is a bit more sinister. He declares himself to be a surveyor for “Cibola Development”, which sounds like a company sent in to “develop” (exploit, rather) the rainforest. When he’s asked for identification, we the player (but probably not Adam or his father) can see that he slips the customs officer a bribe. Clearly he’s up to something shady, and I’m sure we’ll see him again later.
|Starting inventory: money and passport|
Adam’s father then shows his passport and declares himself to be from the Ecology Emergency Network. “We develop sustainable products with some of the rainforest tribes.” He’s cleared to enter and starts rummaging in his luggage, while finally it’s Adam’s turn to face the customs officer. If I look at Adam’s inventory, I find that he’s got some money and a passport to start, so it’s pretty clear what we have to do first.
Ecoquest ended up with a final score of 60, for “straightforwardly easy but mostly fun puzzles, a cliche-ridden, prophecy-dependent plot, beautiful and atmospheric visuals, memorable characters, and detailed but sometimes preachy text”. We’ll see if the sequel can maintain that high quality of gameplay without getting too slowed down by its educational aspirations. Make your guesses in the comments, and join me next time as we start exploring the rainforest! If you want to play along, it can be found in various places for download, or it can be played online at archive.org.
Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There’s a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no CAPs will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. As this is an introduction post, it’s an opportunity for readers to bet 10 CAPs (only if they already have them) that I won’t be able to solve a puzzle without putting in an official Request for Assistance: remember to use ROT13 for betting. If you get it right, you will be rewarded with 50 CAPs in return. It’s also your chance to predict what the final rating will be for the game. Voters can predict whatever score they want, regardless of whether someone else has already chosen it. All correct (or nearest) votes will go into a draw.