Release date: April 1, 2016
Sometimes you enjoy a game for the wrong reasons. Or sometimes you can enjoy a game that’s really not very good. That’s what happened to me while playing Adam’s Venture: Origins. Based on an episodic 2009 game and newly rebuilt with the Unity 5 engine, the new version of the seven-year old game is now available on PC (Steam), Xbox One and the PS4.
The game starts in Oxford, England in 1924. Adam Venture is an energetic young man who stumbles upon a tantalizing ancient mystery deep below the University. This mystery sends him to Jerusalem, where he and a plucky sidekick explore, believe it or not, Eden and Solomon’s Temple.
And here’s the thing…the game is just so easy to make fun of. I can’t help it. And I won’t help it.
As I played Adam’s Venture, so many questions popped up including...
Why is the voice performance of the would-be-dashing main character so badly matched to the character visually? Adam is supposed to be like a junior Indiana Jones, but he sounds like a tax prep guy at H&R Block. He doesn’t even have an English accent, even though he’s from Oxford.
Why is the original Eden located in a cave?
I can deal with Eden being strewn with puzzles. It’s an adventure game, after all. But why is it strewn with puzzles which are all in, uh, modern English?
Early in the adventure, you meet another researcher who, by his own admission, has worked for ten years in order to figure out how to get a secret door open. Why is there a perfectly large, obvious, visual clue to the lock located not five yards from the door? What has this guy been doing for ten years, playing Minesweeper?
The production company behind the game, Vertigo Interactive Entertainment, is a Christian organization, and the game has a very clear Christian agenda which is actually fine. Why not? But if you’re going to make a Sunday School game, please get your theology right. To wit: All through the Eden sequences, Adam is beset by a red spirit who taunts him with comments like, “I banished you from here!” “Wrong Adam!” our hero keeps wailing back to the snake spirit. (And yes, that’s about the level of the humor in the game.) Adam begins to complain about this Snake who is tormenting him. But, uh, hello, pick up your Bible, Vertigo Interactive. It’s not the Snake who banished Adam from Eden. It was that other guy. What was his name. Oh, yeah, God. He also banished the Snake1! Pretty dopey mistake for a religious game to make.
Why have your characters lips move at all if you’re not even going to try to synch with the vocal performance? Still lips would have been less distracting. As it is it’s like watching a badly dubbed 1960s Mothra movie.
Back to the character of Adam. He’s constantly making extremely unfunny wisecracks. Wisecracking isn’t as easy as you seem to think it is, Vertigo. The would-be amusing comments throughout this game are so bad they remind me of the ones in Traitor’s Gate 2 thirteen years ago, and that’s saying something.
And the biggest question of all: Why does the game drop the Eden exploration abruptly and instead switch to Solomon’s Temple? The Eden sequence feels brutally unfinished.
Despite all these failings and more, I found myself enjoying Adam’s Venture. It’s kind of stupidly fun in a breezy, meta way It’s got a terrific musical score by the talented Jonathan van den Wijngaarden. The graphics are pretty excellent as well.
The game is broken down into eighteen bite-sized chunks, which give it a fun, serial-adventure feel. Adam does a lot of climbing, swinging, and exploring through a series of visually pleasing and interesting environments. There’s even some stealth that’s not too bad. And no combat to annoy adventure purists!
I must point out, however, that even though Adam is technically exploring, the levels offer very little freedom. It’s all pretty much on rails. (Some of the game is literally on rails, as it has a few Temple of Doom-inspired mine cart sequences.)
The game is also full of puzzles, and they're pretty good ones, too. A couple of them repeat too often, but that’s about the worst thing I can say about them. There’s one involving a library ladder that I particularly enjoyed.
It’s as if your sweet teenage niece and nephew really loved video games, particularly the Broken Sword series, and you gave them a pile of money to go and make one. That’s what this game feels like. And believe it or not, that’s not a completely bad thing.
If you’ve ever played one of those hybrid hidden object games that actually turns out to be a decent and mildly diverting adventure game, you’ll know what it feels like to play Adam’s Venture Origins. I truly had a consistently good time playing through it. I would have never mistaken it for an actual Broken Sword game, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t fun.
To discuss the game’s biggest problem, I have to delve into an area I don’t usually discuss in reviews: Price. The biggest issue I have with the game is its damn price tag. The Vertigo Interactive team seem to be operating under the delusion that they’ve made a real, grown-up game, and they're charging a grown-up price for it: $39.99 on Steam.
Please. I can get the new Ratchet & Clank game for less than that. That’s just silly.
I cannot recommend this game at that price. However, if Vertigo drops the price to $19.99, or better yet, $9.99, I’d say go for it.
1And, to be technical, in the Bible it's a Serpent, not a Snake.
+ Terrific graphics
+ Lovely, evocative musical score
+ Fun episodic structure
+ Fun environments to sort-of explore
+ Diverting puzzles
+ Breezy, enjoyable gameplay
- Awful, mismatched lead vocal performance
- Really dopey treatment of the Biblical Eden concept, particularly for a religious-themed game
- Stupidly overpriced