Benoit Sokal is probably best known in the adventure gaming world for his Syberia series, but before those critically acclaimed games he devised one called Amerzone. I had been looking forward to playing this game for a long time, and I finally got my chance with its release on iOS devices. Sadly, after waiting so long for what I was sure would be an engaging experience, I’m not sure after playing episode one if I was left wanting for more or simply disillusioned with the experience. Maybe it’s just the nature of the episodic experience, but I felt like I interacted with an intro rather than playing a full fledged game.
You play a journalist that has taken interest in the musings of an explorer touting the existence of a mysterious breed of “white birds” that is constantly in flight. When the explorer dies, you find yourself on a quest to return his prize position, an egg that supposedly contains one of these white birds, to the Amerzone. In part one of this three part tale you’ll rummage through the explorer’s lighthouse and eventually make your way to a craft that will get you to the Amerzone. The craft launches and… game over. I would be surprised if the game even took half an hour, and that includes me starting over at one point.
There are two encounters during this installment of the game, but most of your background will come from reading documents you pick up along the way. I certainly don’t mind reading the occasional letter or journal entry, but I much prefer interaction with NPCs as my prime conduit for learning about my adventure. This episode is also woefully light on puzzle solving. There are really only a couple of small “brain teasers”, and most everything else is a matter of wandering around and throwing the occasional switch. The overall feeling is very “adventure lite” compared to the Syberia series.
Navigation is a matter of dragging your finger to pan around the area (you pretty much have 360 degree vision), and tapping when you want to move or interact with something. To use an inventory item you select it from the inventory screen, and then it becomes the active item, so you just have to tap whatever you want to use it with. If you elect the “permanent help” option all pathways and interactive spots will marked, otherwise they won’t. I’d suggest turning this feature off for more of a challenge, but it makes it almost impossible to determine where to move without directional arrows. Plus, without the help on I was unable to pick up the first object I ran across that I should have been able to grab.
Graphically the game doesn’t disappoint. All the areas you navigate through are incredibly detailed and extremely well drawn. The character models aren’t great, but they look pretty decent. My one gripe is that some areas are too dark, even with the lights “on”. The sound effects are spot on and make you feel like you’re in a real place. When you stand right outside the lighthouse, for example, the rolling waves almost make you physically look up for the nearest seagull. There are a couple of spots where music plays, but for the most part your audio experience lies with the sound effects. This isn’t always bad, but some subtle background tunes would be nice.
I realize this is only the first part of three, so maybe I’m judging too harshly, but it really didn’t meet my expectations in any way except visually. The episode was too short, it didn’t stand well on its own, and there wasn’t a lot to do. After I realized that I had finished part 1, I almost felt like I didn’t really care to know whether your character gets the egg to the Amerzone safely or even if these white birds really do exists. Maybe as part of the whole package this is a fine segment, but since I haven’t played episodes 2 and 3 yet I can only offer advice based on this installment. As such…
Standalone: Not Recommended
As Part Of The Whole: On The Fence (until I’ve played parts 2&3)
And just so you don’t think I’m being unfair, here’s a perfect counterexample: Path Of The Dragon part 1 was not only good on it’s own, but it actually left me wanting to know what was going to come next. You can check out my thoughts on that game here: Path Of The Dragon Review