Genre: Online Adventure
Release Date: November 2003
When I received a copy of part two of Agon, I rushed through the last parts of The Feeble Files so I could install and play it. There have been mixed reviews about part one of Agon but I thoroughly enjoyed it, finding it at times like a Cryo/Wanadoo edutainment title with more commentary by the protagonist. When I left British Museum Professor Samuel Hunt last, he was on his way to Lapland. My journey as Professor Hunt awaited me…
The introduction to part two is nowhere near as elaborate as part one, instead featuring a few paragraphs summarizing the plot to date and showing a short video of Professor Hunt on a train platform in Lapland. Although this was an adequate introduction to the game, the text was not on screen long enough for me to read it all and I am not a slow reader by any means.
This is part two of a planned fourteen so it is of course shorter than the majority of adventure games on the market. Excluding time to work out the puzzles, this game can be completed in two or three hours. If each chapter ranges from two to three hours, this could make for a thirty-five hour game, which is quite reasonable a length.
As before, any player will be struck by the beauty of the graphics. The smoke and snow effects are superb, some of the best I have ever seen. This is an amazingly high-quality product. What makes this all the more impressive is that Private Moon Studios is an independent game developer with a team of seven in Hungary, not exactly the center of the adventure (or indeed, any type of) game developing world. It has been said before and I will echo those words-eastern Europe just may be the site of rebirth of the adventure game now that American studios are rapidly closing their doors to the idea of making adventures.
The graphics are, of course, only part of a good adventure title. Fortunately, the delightful story continues in part two, this time set against the chilling snow fields of Lapland. Dr. Samuel Hunt’s search for the Agon leads him from London to this desolate area to find his second clue. This time, however, he must play a board game to further his quest, the first of several board games planned for the whole fourteen part series.
The board game was very entertaining and really gave a sense of accomplishment when I finally (after many attempts!) won the game. A nice touch is that the board game can be replayed independently to the game after the game is over and subsequent board games are going to be similar. In addition, Private Moon Studios is setting up Agon NetBoard, an online version of the board games from Agon that will allow multiplayer and chat capabilities.
I found this part much harder than part one, primarily because of the inclusion of some obscure puzzles that I would previously have associated more with a game in the Myst series. Happily, though, most of the puzzles are more akin to the “find an inventory item and use it in the right place” type.
The environs of Lapland are suitably lonely and sound effects are muted but memorable. The voice-overs are again of a very high standard, though there are subtleties in his voice that betray that English is not the native language of the speaker. Similarly, written text is not always perfect English. This is merely picking, though, as most players would be blissfully unaware that this game was not made in the United Kingdom. Music is subtle and at the same time poignant, used very carefully to enhance he story being propelled forward in cutscenes.
There are some optional parts in this game. For example, early on there is a puzzle involving Morse code. This does not need to be achieved to move on but completists will want to make sure hey do it. Similarly, across a bridge later in the game, there is another optional component to the game. Unfortunately, if you do wish to do all parts of the game, you have to be careful as there are items that must be noted or collected to progress with these optional parts, otherwise you will find yourself in a “dead end’. Don’t panic, though, as the game can still be completed (hence my use of the word “optional”!).
I was very disappointed in the sudden ending. No real cutscene explaining what was happening next, just a James Bondish “the story will continue in Pirates of Madagascar”. I am a firm believer in the importance of a cliffhanger ending where it is planned there will be a sequel. Private Moon Studios needs to consider that in a serial game there needs to be more of an incentive to encourage people to buy the next episode. Although adventure games are thin on the ground compared with other genres, adventure gamers still need to be wooed like moviegoers. I will never forget the visceral disappointment that I felt when Fellowship of the Ring. I was instantly left wishing that I could watch The Two Towers immediately.
Fortunately, downloading the game is easier than with part one, no longer necessitating a link to the Agonsite (www.agongame.com) website to verify the activation code after installation. The game comes with a personal code that allows activation without going online. This addresses a problem experienced by some players where a change of PC necessitated a change of activation code with an obligatory two-second connection to the Agon site. I note that a patched version of part one is being re-released to those who purchased an earlier version.
I remain intrigued by the story and overall quality of this game series and award this game a B+.
Final Grade: B+