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Review by: Bob Mandel
Published: August 16, 1999
One of the attitudes prevalent among game reviewers that drives me up the wall is the tendency to disparage an entire genre as totally worthless. Before the box is even opened or the CD installed, the decision is made that the evaluation of the product is going to be negative. Companies involved in the development, publication and distribution of digital recreation often live in fear of their titles ending up in the hands of such close-minded critics, who do not give all the hard work involved in the product’s creation even half a chance.
Such a pattern has been particularly common lately in one of my favorite niches, that of adventure-puzzle releases. Have you ever noticed how many times you see vicious comments from hardcore game reviewers about the dreadful nature of MYST, the offering that spawned this genre? I read comment after comment about how point-and-click puzzle adventures are boring and outmoded in comparison to the latest FPS, RPG and RTS titles. These remarks belittle the intellectual challenges involved, claiming the puzzle-solving is unexciting, and they bemoan the relative absence of action, macro-strategic decision making and character conversation they find elsewhere.
Well, Ubi Soft is about to release a great title, Amerzone, that probably will be trashed by such people. However, after playing it from beginning to end, I have to say it is one of the best offerings of this type I have ever encountered. Developed by the French companies Casterman and Microids and out already in Europe, it will make its way without alteration to North American retail stores in October, and everyone is in for a real treat. It is the product of four years of intense effort by a design team led by famed French comic book writer Benoit Sokal, who — openly inspired by MYST — composed the story and did the artwork.
The story in Amerzone is one of the most engrossing I have ever experienced on the computer. It begins innocently enough with a postman riding on a bicycle in the French countryside in Brittany and encountering a young journalist — the role you play. You go to a mysterious lighthouse, in which you hear from an old explorer a fantastic story about the legend of the white birds in a distant part of the world. These birds, hatched from a giant egg, bring good fortune to the land over which they soar, and several decades ago the explorer had taken the egg away to explain its wonders to the rest of the world. Realizing the folly of his past action, the explorer desperately begs you, right before he dies, to return the egg to its rightful location in Central America. With little more guidance than that, you must figure out a way to get to Amerzone and accomplish this task.
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