Distributed by: Microids
Release Date: March 25, 1999 (France)
Note: Originally published March 1999
Just Adventure is proud to present a review of the French version of The Amerzone. We will also review the English version of The Amerzone when it is released later this spring. Many thanks to our French correspondent, Christian C. Fischer, for his excellent review!
Once, for a change, let's talk about French adventure games, especially when they are worth a chronicle. You probably already know the brilliant Atlantis 1 from Cryo Interactive. This time it's about an adventure game called The Amerzone: The Explorer's Legacy, developed by Microids. The game, which takes place mainly in the Amazonian ( I am sorry, I mean "Amerzonian") rain forest, comes from the imagination of a very talented and creative Belgian comic strip writer, Benoît Sokal, who wanted to try his hand at multimedia format. And what a graphical success indeed for his first attempt!
You play as a journalist who comes to interview Mr. Valembois (an old explorer) about the legendary "white bird" that he discovered in Amerzone in the early 1930s. Indeed these rare birds are said to keep flying in the air from birth to death and to bring prosperity to the local Indians. The explorer's discovery was ridiculed by the scientific community on his return. The problem is that you arrive at the Explorer's lighthouse minutes before he dies. He has enough time to ask you to return an egg, which he had brought back from his travels, to the Indians. It is up to you to find where the egg is stored on the premises, start the multipurpose aircraft designed by the explorer himself, find your way to Amerzone, fight the mosquitoes in the swamps and return the egg to the right place (an Indian village and finally a volcano) so it can be hatched. Lots of work ahead in perspective ... I guess a good sequel would be to ... oops, we don't want to give away the surprise ending! Of course, one of the first objects you find is the original logbook of the explorer, made up of beautiful sketches from Benoît Sokal himself. It will be very helpful throughout your journey. I rate the plot A thanks to its originality and the environmental aspects of the scenarios.
The graphics are really a masterpiece. Benoît Sokal probably saw Myst or Riven and told himself that he had to do the same. Indeed, the game has already won an official award for its graphics. Actually, the game graphics are amazing for several different reasons.
First, they all come out of Benoît Sokal's imagination and are in some sections reminiscent of Myst's Channelwood world. Benoît Sokal imagined a whole new flora and fauna for the swampy world. For instance, you will encounter the pechausaurus, some kind of a three-horn buffalo that will block you from sailing back upstream on the river, and the aquatic giraffe tamed by the Indians. Needless to say, mosquitoes (which unfortunately also exist even in real life) abound in this luxuriant vegetation. The variety of the locations is also worth noticing: apart from the rain forest, there are an isolated island and a Mexican village to discover.
Second, there is the quality of the 3D engine made by Lightwave. It is close to Cryo's Omni 3D, and it really gives an impression of fluidity and natural movement (at least on a Celeron 300A). It makes the old slide-show games really obsolete.
Third is the quality of the details: one thing is for sure, the graphics of this game have not been botched, contrary to lots of games these days. Objects have been aged to make them more real, the luxuriant vegetation pictures are very realistic. Even the cursor, the menu interface, and the "save" menu are very nicely designed. Sound effects (insects and animal noises, waterfalls, mechanisms) blend with the general atmosphere . Therefore, I rate the graphics and sound effects A+, as the rendering is close to perfection.
The puzzles are the weak point of the game. For his first attempt, Benoît Sokal tried to appeal to a broad public. The puzzles are somewhat too easy to solve for an experienced adventure gamer. It took me eight hours to reach the fourth and last CD. Most puzzles (about 50) consist in finding miscellaneous objects and manipulating them within the environment (including levers and some dials). Besides, the game is too linear. For this reason, I rate the puzzles B-.
Overall, I hesitated to rate the game B+ or A-. Because of the " French touch" and because it's Benoît Sokal's first attempt, I finally give Amerzone an A-. It misses the A because of the puzzles, which are too easy and too short. It is very much suitable for new adventure gamers or for addicted gamers who can't wait until The Riddle of the Sphinx is out. Mr. Sokal, please next time make it a bit longer!
Another particularity of this game is the fact that it is in French! This can artificially add to the difficulty of the puzzles, at least for those for whom English is their mother tongue. It can be interesting and challenging to improve one's French through this kind of multimedia format. There are indeed some reading and talking involved. Conversation cannot be replayed, so you'd better concentrate or save. Nevertheless, it is not critical to puzzle-solving.
Windows 2000/XP/ Vista/7
Pentium 166 (233 recommended)
32 MB RAM (64 MB recommended)
8x CD-ROM drive (16x recommended)
Soundblaster or compatible sound card
2 MB graphics card (4 MB recommended)