Atlantis II aka Beyond Atlantis - Review 2

Ten, descendant of Seth, the original Hero of Atlantis, holds within him the key to a mystery and is bound on an adventure in which he gradually discovers his destiny

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Genre: Mystery/Adventure/Episodic
Release Date: 12/99 
Platform: PC, Mac 

Note: Original date of publication unknown

I was quite eager to play this title, having seen the demo of it after last May's E3 in Los Angeles. I'm a big admirer of Cryo, the French company that's so admirably committed to the adventure genre.

After four feverish days of playing, I completed the game on Saturday night, and I'm here to report that it is a very mixed blessing.

Atlantis II is, of course, the sequel to Cryo's fairly notorious Atlantis, and it tells the story of Ten, a mysterious young boy who is a descendent of Seth, the hero of the first game. The game begins with him awaking in a mysterious frozen wilderness and stumbling onto a ship where he finds a guru to help lead him through a series of strange journeys. The plot has something to do with the Atlanteans splitting the essence of the extraterrestrial life force that created their civilization. For millennia, these two halves, Light and Dark, have been separated, and it's Ten's job to pull them back together.

All well and good: an effective, if standard, adventure game framework.

I don't know what's in the water over there where Cryo's studios are, but Atlantis II plays as if the creators were on some gorgeous, protracted, ecstatic fever dream. This has both good and bad consequences for the game.

First the good news. The creators of Atlantis have truly unleashed their imaginations, and the result is one of the most visually enthralling games I've ever played. There are moments of pure transcendent beauty. I won't soon forget the stone horse that comes to life and gallops on the surface of the sea with our hero hanging on for dear life. And the creepy jungle of the dead, with its odd lighting and fungi on steroids, will haunt my dreams for a while.

In many ways, this game could be called "Cryo Does Timelapse." In the generous gameplay spread out over four CDs, your character travels to a remote Irish island monastery, a Chinese monastery, and a besieged Mayan city, among others. In addition, each of these three episodes include visits to more fanciful worlds--including the inside of a book populated with legendary Celtic characters, a magical garden complete with a flying mechanical dragon, and the aforementioned Jungle of the Dead. All of these scenarios are presented with 360-degree panning, a combination of slide-show and animated movements, and drop-dead gorgeous cutscenes.

Add to this one of the best and most varied scores I've ever heard in a game and you've got a presentation that's quite irresistible to the senses. Atlantis II is a game that never fails to entrance the eye and the ear. The brutally primitive vocal and rhythm riffs during the spider web sequence are unforgettable.

Cryo's human characters continue to improve. In Atlantis II, they are startlingly lifelike, with twinkling eyes and realistic features, aided by competent voice work. I only wish these computer "puppets" were better actors--their expressions never change one iota, giving them a sort of high-quality Disney animatronic feeling. I hope in future games Cryo will build on this excellent character foundation and create characters who have a range of expressions.

Unfortunately, all of this extravagant imagination has its price, and in Atlantis II the price is coherence. In order to complete many of the puzzles in this game without a walkthrough, I guess you'd have to be on the same hallucinogens as the game's creators. Many of the things you have to do to successfully complete this game simply defy logic. Your character needs more direction about completing his tasks than he is given, or than is available anywhere in the game. This problem can lead to wasting tons of time and having to play large sections of the game over again.

Let me give you but one shocking example. In one area of the game, you are working your way through a hellish (literally) bureaucratic maze worthy of the Bureau in Obsidian. Your goal is to get the correct three stamps on a form. However, the only way you can get the vital clue as to which stamps you need is for you to have performed an extremely illogical act (moving the position of a hunter's arrow from the animal to the hunter) earlier in the game. There is, first of all, no compelling reason to move this arrow. Even worse, there is absolutely no clue whatsoever that the two puzzles are connected. If it doesn't occur to you to fiddle with this arrow, you'll literally be wandering around the hell maze for ... well, for eternity.

Sorry, Cryo--no bueno. You're breaking Ray's Adventure Game Rule #3084: Puzzles can be hard, but they have to make sense.

Also, even with all the exotic locations I got to visit, I was disappointed by one geographical aspect of this game. It seems the "II" in Atlantis II could have referred to the number of minutes you actually get to spend in Atlantis. I'm sorry, but if I load up a four-CD game called Atlantis II on my computer, I expect to get to spend a bit of time in the titular location! I know, I'm funny that way.

It's a glaring omission in a game full of such breathtaking beauty and imagination. After location after gorgeous and exotic location, Atlantis itself turns out to be a few drowned Greek columns. Come on, Cryo, toss me a bone here! It's not like you couldn't do it ... look how great Ireland, China, and Maya look!

And I'm not going to even mention the lame action-element final confrontation with Evil Octopus Thing which is the climax of the Atlantean sequence (and, in fact, of the game).

These failings are a pity, because the good stuff in Atlantis II is so very good that, if the whole game had operated on such a high level, Cryo would have had a masterpiece on its hands.

As it stands, however, Atlantis II is merely fabulous, gorgeous, imaginative, and not to be missed. Maybe we'll get a masterpiece tomorrow, but Atlantis II is plenty to celebrate today.

Final Grade: B

If you liked Atlantis II:
WatchAtlantis, the Lost Continent (1961)
ReadHow the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill
PlayCelticaTimelapse

System Requirements

    Mac:
    Mac OS 8.6-9.1
    G3 233 MHz
    64 MB RAM
    Minimum 80 MB free hard drive space
    8X CD ROM drive
    Quicktime 4.0

    PC:
    Pentium 200 MHz processor
    32 MB RAM
    8X CD-ROM drive
    2 MB video card
    65,000 colors
    Soundblaster-compatible sound card
    70 MB available on hard drive
    DirectX 6.0 compatibility (supplied with game)

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