you are a regular player of adventure games, you can’t hear the word
“Atlantis” without thinking of the famous series of games from
now-defunct Cryo Interactive. When
Cryo went bankrupt, it seemed unlikely that there would be a fourth game
in its Atlantis series. However,
it seems that when Dreamcatcher/The Adventure
Company purchased the Cryo catalogue, they also got the rights to the
Atlantis name and logo. Some
former members of the Cryo team got together and with TAC’s
blessing (and, we assume, assistance) and created The Atlantis Company for
the purpose of keeping the series alive.
Atlantis Evolution is
the first game to rise like a phoenix from the ashes of its ancestors.
it seems that the title font and a flying boat are all that this new title
managed to salvage from the previous games.
The tough puzzles and slow, thoughtful gameplay that were the
hallmark of Atlantis II and Atlantis
III are gone, replaced
with ancient arcade games, sneaking/timing sequences and a near constant
threat of death. AE
also offers a completely different graphical style, though this is not
necessarily a bad thing. During
the course of the game, had it not been for the familiar cursor and the
use of little boxed icons to represent different dialogue choices, I would
have forgotten I was playing an Atlantis
game at all. Now, I’m not
saying that Cryo’s Atlantis
games were the be-all-end-all of adventure gaming.
I thought both Atlantis: The
Lost Tales and Atlantis III
were turkeys, myself. However,
the series has garnered some very devoted fans, and Atlantis
II is often recognized as a pretty darn good game in its own right.
Unfortunately, fans of the series will find that most of what they
enjoyed about the earlier games has vanished, while critics of the series
will find that the alterations that were made are not any kind of
of which is a roundabout way of saying that when the new Atlantis team
retooled the series with AE,
they mistakenly threw the baby out with the bathwater.
was actually quite delighted and had high hopes when I started the game.
The introduction acquaints us with Our Hero, one Curtis Hewitt.
Curtis is a turn of the century photographer who is sailing back
opening cutscenes blew me away. The
character modeling is stylized but appealing, managing to convey a 3D
appearance while still being classic 2D animation.
The backgrounds and animations are dazzling, and the water
animation as Hewitt is swept out to sea is some of the best I’ve seen in
an adventure game. The voice
acting is pretty decent, with Hewitt having a likable and expressive tone
and a comically sarcastic undertone.
I was thinking “This game is gorgeous!
It could really turn out to be something great!”
thoughts soon came to a screeching halt.
soon discovered the true nature of AE:
continual repeated death. Early
in the game, Hewitt escapes from the New Atlantean
authorities and becomes a fugitive. For
the rest of the game, he is either running from guards or sneaking around
trying to avoid them. This
makes all of the detail and beauty of the scenery a complete waste in some
areas, as if you take a couple of seconds to actually look around and
appreciate the art, you die. The
sneaking sections are all a matter of timing and memorization.
Take a wrong step or move too quickly or slowly and you are treated
to a cutscene of a guard shooting you down.
Unfortunately, you don’t see where
the guard shoots you from, so you spend another few deaths locating him so
you can guess your correct next move.
(In one instance, the guard who kills you can’t even be seen at
all, as he is apparently inside a building and shoots you through the
door.) This sneaking around
section takes up a considerable amount of the total gameplay, and it is
more reminiscent of the arcade classic Dragon’s
Lair than any adventure game. Go
Left. Pause two seconds. Go forward-left.
Turn right. Pause five
seconds. Et cetera.
Dying means starting back over at the beginning of the sequence; at
least there is no need to reload a saved game.
resemblance to classic arcade games doesn’t end there.
As Hewitt becomes enmeshed in a revolution against the “Gods”
of New Atlantis while also trying to find his way back to the surface, he
is forced to activate or deactivate a lot of different machinery.
You would think that this is where most of the puzzling in AE
would occur. And you’d be
dead wrong. It seems these
Gods spent their youth pumping quarters into video games.
Instead of solving puzzles to get the machines running, I found
myself playing Tanks (two tanks
on opposite sides of a mountain trying to gauge the proper trajectory to
hit each other), Frogger,
Missile Drop (an early
Defender-type game) and even Pong!
There were, in fact, only two real puzzles
in the game. In the first
one, you must combine two inventory objects to make a third one.
This isn’t exactly difficult, as you only have three items in
your inventory at the time and you already know what one of them is for.
The other puzzle involves piecing together some runes to make a
combination. This puzzle is
quite easy too, but by this time my brain was so dulled that I actually
had to think about it for nearly a full minute.
(For those who consider this paragraph a spoiler, my response is
that this game was spoiled long before I got my hands on it.)
did find myself completely stumped by the final sequence.
But it turned out that this was not a function of any particularly
brain-teasing on the part of the designers.
Rather, progress and success depends on realizing that the game has
“broken its own rules” and wants you to use an inventory object in a
manner inconsistent with the whole rest of the game and where there is no
you aren’t busy dying or playing Frogger,
you spend most of your time in mazes.
Most of the maze areas aren’t extremely difficult (though one is
a real bear to navigate), and it turns out that every “dead end” is
essential to your quest anyway. Nevertheless,
the whole thing becomes incredibly tiresome.
To make matters worse, if you aren’t being chased through a maze,
you are pixel hunting in it. The
hotspots aren’t especially tiny, but the objects are frequently behind
you when you enter the screen, forcing you to look around the ground a
full 360 degrees with every step. In
a couple of places, the colorful palette of AE
actually works against you, as the requisite item is obscured in a riot of
is almost like this game was designed by two completely separate teams who
had no contact with each other. Team
A worked on the graphics, music and story.
They developed some gorgeous backgrounds and animations.
They gave us a superior score that really enhances the game and is
quite beautiful. (Though
the looped music in the final area is a bit too
reminiscent of the Harry Potter
theme music.) They drew
up a story that, while a pastiche of some of the worst of Star
Trek (“Landrew sees all!
You are not of the body!”), was at least coherent.
The plot advancement and acting did manage to draw me in and forget
how silly the story really was. The
dialogue system, which uses the traditional Atlantis
boxed icons instead of text was flawed, but
workable. There were
instances in which the dialogue tree would end the conversation sequence
before key topics could be discussed because I hit the “trigger” topic
out of order. However, there
was only one instance in which this was a major issue, and I was later
able to piece together the information I had missed.
Overall, this team was responsible for everything that was good
Team B was responsible for puzzle and gameplay design.
This team apparently grew up riding the “short bus” to school
and spent their afternoons hanging out at the arcade--until the regular
students got out of school an hour later.
And they did everything in their power to make sure that no
consumer would get the chance to appreciate the hard work of Team A.
you are desperate for some new eye candy or, like Team B, have an
overwhelming sense of nostalgia for the arcade games of the early
1980’s, then you might find some enjoyment in
Otherwise, your best bet is to give this one a miss and replay Atlantis
Thanksgiving—your turkey arrived early this year.
Final Grade: 5 (out of 10)
Mystery Manor Home