April 16, 2015

Connections: Getting it Together

Discovery Channel Multimedia, 1996

Connections, also known as James Burke's Connections is an excellent educational as well as traditional title based on a famous TV show and a book by the same name, hosted and written by James Burke respectively. James Burke is a famous broadcaster, who hosts many excellent shows on technology and social sciences. In this CD-ROM version of Connections, James Burke introduces himself as your guide and asks you to help him in reorganizing the technological history in a Web, which is disturbed by an evil character. Your quest lets you explore five different timelines in history that starts from galloping the vast and Wild West to exploring the medieval ages of our world and to venturing the Egyptian mythology in the ancient land of Pharaohs. Dig up clues and find links or connections between the technological races of these times. During the game you will meet many live character from different times and places, which will help you solve the puzzles and challenges in the game. James Burke, as your host will also pop up at many points and guide you on your quest.

Puzzles are mostly traditional and logical, while they are very informative and thought provoking and can be solved using different inventory items. Some mind-boggling slider puzzles and lock-combination puzzles are also thrown in for extra fun. Excellent graphics are 3D rendered and quite dated in standard. Real actors presented as game characters are acting quite well in the game. Interface is traditional point and click in a 1st-Person perspective. Overall, keeping in view the excellent educational value of this adventure game I highly recommend it to all the fans of the genre and especially to the viewers of the James Burke's TV shows.

The Case of the Cautious Condor

Tiger Media, Inc., 1990

The Case of the Cautious Condor is an interactive drama and the second game from Tiger Media, which is utilizing the vast capacity of CD-ROM. The game is set in the summer of 1937 aboard a huge flying boat Condor when the dark clouds of war were gathering on the distant horizon.

Rich industrialist, Bronson Barnard, who owns Condor, is launching its maiden transatlantic jaunt from Baltimore to Lisbon and a select group of guests are invited to celebrate the launch. You play as Detective Ned Peters and old war buddy of Bronson Barnard. As the champagne flows and the pampered party-goers revel in the elegance and splendor, no one realizes that their gracious host is setting a trap for a murderer.

Bronson's hidden purpose was to demonstrate his abilities as amateur sleuth for Ned Peters by exposing the killer of the U.S. Customs Official who was, in fact, Branard's own illegitimate son. But when a sudden heart attack foils his plan and the plane must be turned back, he entrusts his secret to Peters, imploring him to step in and solve the crime before the plane lands. With only thirty minutes in hand can you help Ned Peters in unraveling this mystery?

The game has a unique mouse-driven interface and the player explores the various rooms of the Condor using the blueprint of Condor found on Peter's Desk and talks to every guest, most of whom are considered suspects. There is a notebook on Peter's Desk to enter significant details about every guest as and when you gather it. The graphics in the game are very nice for the time and give an interactive-comic book experience to the player. Speech and digital audio soundtracks are excellent and enjoyable throughout the game. Though the puzzles are quite hard for novice adventure gamers I only recommend this game to professional gamers and also to the fans of whodunit adventure genre.

Return to Zork

Infocom, 1996

Return to Zork is an epic adventure, a brand new saga into the Great Underground Empire of Zork, which was destroyed and all the evil magic was dispersed. But now, a company has discovered a hidden realm of Zork Empire and you have won a sweepstake for a vacation in the Valley of Sparrows where this archaeological digging is going on.  But, no sooner you enter the Valley, which is now known as the Valley of Vultures, you realize that something is really suspicious about the place and the evil forces still rule the place. As the unwitting traveler, you must save the Underground Empire once again from the manacles of the dark forces by restoring all the building that are vanished and finding all the missing persons, but be vigilante and save your game very often as one wrong step could be fatal.

When Return to Zork was first published after a long period of silence, the fans of Zork trilogy were enthralled to see the graphical changes and mesmerizing interactive interface this episode brought them by still keeping the standard values of their favorite text adventures. Though, they might have missed the legendary text parser, which was replaced with a point-and-click interface that pops up a group of action icons by clicking the right-mouse button on an object or a person. The player can also choose a mood while talking to the characters depending on the situation. Undoubtedly, Return to Zork was an innovative game that revel in a superb soundtrack with over 180 original compositions and more than one hour of spoken dialogue found in the CD-ROM version only. Real Hollywood actors were cast in the game, which the player interacts throughout the game. All in all, it's a delightful game to play and I strongly recommend it to all the novice adventure gamers and especially to all the Zork trilogy fans.

Qin: Tomb of the Middle Kingdom

Learn Technologies Interactive, 1997

Qin, Tomb of the Middle Kingdom is an excellent educational adventure game that sheds light on the ancient Chinese culture and heritage. The game starts in the year 2010, where an international group of archeologist is excavating the tomb of Qin Shi Huangdi, the first Emperor of China. You play the game as a young member of this group and somehow, you get trapped inside the tomb. Now, the only way to find your way out of Qin’s tomb is to unravel all its secrets and mysteries. The tomb consists of five realms: the Palace, the Crypt, the Plaza, the Garden, and the Mountain. Each realm is full of mind-boggling puzzles and traps, which the player must solve or cross in order to get access to next realm. Educationally, solving the puzzles in the game provide you immense amount of information on the ancient Chinese mythology, culture, medicine, religion and architecture, put together in the encyclopedia available in the game.

Visually, Qin exhibits state of art graphics spiced up with exuberant music and sound-effects. Game controls are mouse-driven with a point & click interface mended in a 1st-person environment. I do recommend this game but not whole-heartedly as it contains more educational input than adventuring but if you want to learn about ancient Chinese heritage then you will definitely like Qin.

Wanted: A Wild Western Adventure

Revistronic, 2004

Wanted, A Wild Western Adventure is a point and click adventure game with a wacky storyline guaranteed to suck up every serious adventure gamer. The game is a sequel to 3 Skulls of Toltecs, which came out many years ago. You play the role of Fenimore Fillmore, our cowboy hero from 3 Skulls of Toltecs, who unwantedly gets involve in helping the poor farmers by saving their lands from evil landlord, Mr. Starek, who wants to buy them by force. The farmers are poor and they need weapons to defend themselves and they have no hope except you.

The game starts and your have a bunch of jobs in hand, which includes gathering enough carrots for your horse -- Stealing and earning money to buy different useful items from the hardware store -- Blasting the bridge so the train arriving with a lot of Mr. Starek’s goons can not arrive -- Freeing a poor farmer from jail so he can aid his fellow farmers in the fight -- Buying weapons for the farmers and most of all, winning the heart of Mr. Starek’s beautiful niece, Rhiannon whom you are madly in love. Keeping in mind your previous experiences we can hope that you won’t let down farmers' hopes.

While the game has few disturbing arcade sequences like shooting gallery or catching a fish that really need extraordinary reflexes to overcome, the puzzles are very logical and inventory based. Another annoying puzzle is a rhyming duel similar to the insult duels in the Monkey Island series. The 3D graphical environment is unique, pleasant and very eye-catching, where the player manipulate his 3D rendered cartoon like character in real-time. Sound, music, pleasing voice acting and the wacky humor is very nice and add extra fun in the game. Overall, the game has a great storyline and fun to play if we just overlook these odd arcade sequences and some other minor flaws.