Release Date: 2003
When I describe Abashera, I sense that hundreds of adventure gamers will flee in terror. Not because of violence (it has some) or profanity (none). Not because of sexual suggestiveness (none) or political incorrectness (debatable). For here is a game that is about mazes. Mazes, the bane of all adventurers. But, somehow these are lighthearted mazes. The author Max Magnus Norman was kind enough to send me a copy of the game and respond to a few questions about the game. Max is a Swedish artist who created this game “to see if I could”. Another one-man developer…in the words of Wayne and Garth: I am not worthy!
What the _______ is Abashera? It is Myst crossed with mazes with a dash of danger. The cute animals are far from innocent. They are wild and will kill you, adding a twist to the pure “get out of the maze” scenario. Most mazes are missions where you have to find certain items while avoiding being caught by the animals. The author stated he called the game Abashera partly because of the word “abashed” because mazes cause people to feel abashed. Although abashed can mean “confused” (obviously the author’s intent) it more often means embarrassed so I assume he didn’t mean that mazes make people feel embarrassed. If he did, I’m sure he will be receiving some hate mail from adventure gamers who will set him straight!
Abashera installed without a problem and didn’t crash once under Windows 98. It requires Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows XP and Windows 2000 (I’m not sure about NT), a 450 MHz processor, and 128 MB RAM. A 3D videocard is recommended. See my notes below about how this game ran.
It is obvious that the author is an artist. Some of the paintings on the walls in the game are the most interesting and beautiful that I have ever seen. It is to the author’s credit that he created the game from the ground up. This has resulted in some striking visuals as evident in the screenshots. I had graphic corruption especially at the menu screens (Alt-Esc helped with this on most occasions). The creatures were always formed well, as were walls, but some of the paintings had diagonal lines on them (see the screenshot). I thought it was a graphical effect until I realized the pictures were meant to be whole. Again, this was not a consistent error.
The sound effects are sparse, usually only the bark of a nearby Commie Dog or approaching footsteps. The music is all original and composed by the author but enough to drive you up the wall. Imagine being in an elevator in a skyscraper-even if you liked the tune, by the time you reach your desired floor it’s running over and over in your mind like a lunatic from a gothic horror. Fortunately, the muzak can be switched off. Apparently, some of the tracks feature vocals too but I never heard any in my brief foray.
The author states this game is “child-safe” however, there is a pool of blood when the animals catch you (see the screenshot), which is often, so parents may need to determine whether their young children are mature enough to play. Missions range from collect all the flowers to eliminate all the animals by leading them to traps or causing them to fall to their deaths. The animals are weird shadows but esthetically pleasing, mostly everyday types like dogs, rabbits, and frogs. Their names are equally bizarre, meshing faultlessly with their twisted natures and world: Commie Dogs, Imperial Dogs, One Who Sees, One Who Hears, and Monobites. On the positive side, the violence is brief and at caused indirectly. There are no handguns or other weapons in this game. It reminded me of The Most Dangerous Game at times.
The trial version of Abashera is downloadable as shareware of fifteen mazes which needs to be registered to unlock all mazes and save capacity. Alternatively, it can be purchased on a disk, complete with lovely artwork featured in the game and a space age CD-ROM case of a dispenser type (you push a button and the disk is ejected from the case). Registration entitles you to download more mazes and make your own mazes using the maze editor. The CD version does not require registration to allow the full benefits.
Max Magnus Norman is an artist (starving artist?) and asks 100 Kronor (Sweden), 10 Pounds (UK), or $10 (US) via PayPal or double the fees shown if paying by check for the downloadable version. The CD version is 150 Kronor, 15 Pounds, or $10. He also adds in the lengthy FAQ provided with the game that players consider buying the artwork from the game which are original paintings by the author available as prints or originals.
The website features a forum to answer questions and provide any updates as they are released. In future, there will be downloadable add-on mazes.
NOTE: I feel I have to warn players, though, about one problem. Although the author claims that because the game “is coded from scratch and not based on any of the already existing game engines” that it “runs smooth in any screen resolution”, unfortunately this claim is not fulfilled with GeForce 4 models. Guess what model I have?!? Apparently, the game engine does not make use of DirectX (using OpenGL instead). This is a major problem at least in my case. The game ran jerkily but I had intermittent times of smooth display. This seemed to be exacerbated by using the mouse but the game was never problem-free. I don’t know the reason for this incompatibility as all other OpenGL-based games work. I emailed the author about this. He was very helpful but doesn’t have a solution at this stage.
Most adventurers are going to enjoy this, especially if they have a black sense of humor and enjoy beautiful, artistic environments (on the fly!). It will make a good break from detailed storylines that adventure gamers expect-relatively non-violent escapism in amazing worlds. This game deserves a B.
Final Grade: B