Release Date: September 2001
We American adventure players suffer great confusion when trying to keep track of game titles as they cross
the Atlantic. Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templar infamously becameCircle of Blood when released in North America. Other games underwent similar moniker mangling. When Dreamcatcher prepared its NA release of the sequel to Cryo's Atlantis: The Lost Tales, they decided to call it Beyond Atlantis, thinking that saddling it with the title Atlantis 2 would be a handicap, as the first game was little-known in America. Now that there's a third game in the series, there's bound to be a bit of a rumpus over whether to refer to it asAtlantis 3 or by Dreamcatcher's title, Beyond Atlantis 2.
I don't care what you call it. I'm calling it "Go Buy This Game." Because, though perhaps not quite a home run, Beyond Atlantis II is a whole lot of what adventure players have been pining for. Are you in the mood for a breezy, gorgeous adventure game with more of what you like and less of what you hate? You're in luck, folks.
The story begins in near future as your character, a pretty young archeologist (is there any other kind?) is in search of some very out-of-the-way Egyptian ruins. She inadvertently stumbles onto a mysterious, guarded excavation site that contains a portal to a mysterious alternate reality.
I don't want to spend much time on the actual plot, because a) it actually doesn't make tons of sense and b) that totally doesn't matter. What does matter is that the designers of Beyond Atlantis 2 seem to have a good grasp on what adventure gamers love. The game is a treasure trove of off-beat puzzles, beautiful environments to explore and breathtaking cut scenes to enjoy.
Graphically the game is a delight. First, there's great variety, and the environments are a pleasure to explore. There are outdoor areas that live and breath like something out of Riven or Timelapse. And there are fanciful exotic locales that bring to mind the most entertainingly excessive Hollywood Technicolor costume dramas.
Frequent use of in-screen animations - such as swaying tree branches, running water, and flickering flames -- add greatly to the atmosphere. The presentation is first person point-and-click with 360-degree panning. The cursors are intuitive. In fact, the whole presentation is elegant and straightforward enough that a manual isn't really necessary. Most of the nodular movement is slideshow, but occasionally the steps are animated.
The character models are fantastic-looking, if you can overlook the curiously smug look plastered on the face of the heroine for the entire game (you'd think all the wild things she's seeing would shock her a little).
You can die in several places in the game, but - hallelujah! - when you die the game very sensibly restores you to the point right before you made your fatal mistake. No tedious reloading.
The cut scenes are also a consistent delight, especially the ones that deal with transportation. I don't even want to spoil them here, but let me just say this: Think Arabian Nights and Thief of Baghdad . . .
The voice work is fine but nothing to write home about. The musical score by David Rhodes, however, is exceptional. Rich and varied as the graphics are, the music really helps create a series of vivid moods. This is particularly evident during a cave scene, when the score echoes the whispers of long-lost Siberian hunters.
As I said before, those looking for a strong plot need not apply, but I promise you it doesn't matter a bit. (Can anyone honestly tell me more than ten words about the plot of Beyond Atlantis?)
Since this is a sequel, I also must report that the designers have done an admirable job of improving on the previous game. Remember how trying some of those puzzles were? This time around, there's no hunting
stars in the grass or searching for arbitrary spots to hold an orb up to the sky. The puzzles range from the very easy to the fairly challenging, and they are all entertaining, with one pretty big exception.
There is an arcade puzzle late in the Ice Age sequence that I found pretty frustrating. It reminded me (shudder) of the "shoot the arrow through the hole in the rock" puzzle in Timelapse. If you're able to deal with this toughie, you'll have smooth sailing for the remainder of the game.
The game takes place in several interesting areas, including what may or may not be ancient Egypt, a bewildering floating maze and a gorgeously-rendered ice-age wilderness.
Easily the most entertaining segment of the game, however, takes place in a stunningly-imagined mythical Baghdad. You actually assume the role of Scheherazade as well as the wily thief in the story she's telling. In your pursuit of a black rose you encounter a kaleidoscopic parade of puzzles that are a tremendous pleasure to solve. There's everything from using a cat to divert a guard to guiding a unicorn through a tricky maze to becoming a piece on a gigantic spiral game board. The entire sequence is a triumph of design.
I've been pretty hard on games with the Cryo label in the last few years, so it's nice to be able to report that Beyond Atlantis 2 is such a pleasure to play. It's as if someone sent out a memo reminding everyone that, ahem, adventure games are supposed to be fun. And this game is the most fun I've had with a Cryo game since their underrated 1999 Ring: The Legend of the Nibelungen. It's a game that will bring much pleasure to the desperately deprived adventure game audience.
Way to go, Cryo. Way to go, Dreamcatcher. Please tell us you have this team working on three more games right now! How about assigning them to make sequels to The Crystal Key, Beyond Time and Lightbringer?!
Ray's Grade: A
Pentium II 300 MHz
64 MB RAM
DirectX® Compatible Video and Sound card
8x CD-ROM Drive