The idea of selling an adventure game in small (and cheap) installments sounds like a very good idea. Upon reflection, I have decided that the entire concept won't work too well. All of the effort you have expended to explore your surroundings, take notes, etc. becomes wasted effort if you don't get to finish the game. Instead, you have to hope that your memory is good enough to serve you when the next installment is released, or re-install the previous installment and play it all over again.
All of this discussion leads naturally into The Forgotten, since this is not a complete game, but merely the first installment in a larger story. For the same reasons that I refuse to buy just one novel of a trilogy, I will decline (in the future) to purchase a single installment in an adventure game. Games really have to stand (or fall) in isolation, and a single portion of a larger whole must still be playable by itself. The problem is that The Forgotten doesn't succeed in doing this very well; there are large numbers of complex symbols which I spent much time writing down, and then finished the game without ever using them.
Graphics (quality, animations, cut scenes)
The graphics are very well done, with good cut scenes and lots of detail. In multiple places, you could even click on waery areas with your cursor to make little waves. The actual viewing area was quite small, with a "lacy" surround. Add in a large navigation and inventory area at the bottom of the screen, and the end result was very distracting and messy. To cap off the annoyance factor, there was a spinning globe in the navigation area which was quite distracting from the game.
Sound (music, voices, special effects)
There were no voices except in the introduction movie. The music was quite good, and definitely atmospheric. The sound effects were very well done, and enhanced the game atmosphere greatly.
Story (plot, theme, depth)
The story was reasonable for what we got; the problem was that it was a partial story at best. Definitely more game was required to make it an intelligible story/plot.
Characters (depth, development, interaction)
The was no character interaction at all (very Myst-like).
Puzzles (difficulty, uniqueness, suitability, ugliness, linearity)
You could not die, there were no timed puzzles and no mazes. Some puzzles were too easy (I solved them entirely by accident). Some puzzles were mechanically senseless (in one case, turning a water valve caused some other mechanical devices to change position).
Controls (user interface, save/restore, sound/video adjustments)
The game provided a picture at start-up to adjust the gamma, but no gamma adjustment was provided. This turned out to be quite frustrating, requiring multiple starts of the game before I got things adjusted correctly.
Navigation was node-based and cursor driven, with two modes (interact with objects or move around). There was a navigation globe which started spinning when you were in the "move around" mode; this was extremely distracting and unnecessary.
Bugs or problems
The cursor feedback was quite inconsistent. Some items were hot spots, but the cursor never changed shape to indicate this. The "reverse" arrow was sometimes active when the cursor was at the bottom of the game display area, and other times you had to hover the cursor over the navigation globe before getting the shape change.
There were some more serious bugs as well, indicating that the game was poorly tested before release:
- If you closed a dungeon door and backed up, you ended up actually inside the wall. You are stuck there forever until you restart the game.
- Close ups of some item or area sometimes stuck; the only way out was to exit and restart the game.
- A pair of stone walls closed up/down, but opened left/right (looked silly).
There was no full install option.
This is a game that uses Quicktime, which placed me squarely in the middle of Quicktime hell. The Quicktime installation screen offered me options to perform a minimum, custom, or fullinstall. Not wanting to have my browser polluted, I chose custom, and the game subsequently failed to run. I found out that the full install was the only one which allowed the game to work, but there was no mention of this in the manual.
Uninstalling the game did not uninstall Quicktime.
Good sound effects
Fun world to explore
Seems like the start of a good game
Buggy (poorly play tested)
Not a complete game -- story ends abruptly
I enjoyed this game, at least the amount that was there. The company obviously rushed this one to market (lack of finances?), and it required a better conclusion, and better testing before release.
If you come across it at a second hand store (i.e. cheap), then it is probably worth buying. However, don't waste any time taking extensive notes, and don't expect any satisfying conclusion to the story that they started. Given the time period that has elapsed, I assume the next installment of the game will never appear.
This article copyright © 2002, Murray Peterson