November 1, 2007
Release Date: July 2007
I always have admiration for independent game developers. Never having done anything remotely like creating a game, I’m in awe of what one person or a small group of people can achieve with not a lot of money. We’ve had our fair share of free and commercial games over the years that have been of an amazing standard when you consider the lack of resources the creators have access to. Bob Johnston is a man with a mission-to make games with a Christian slant that are enjoyable and accessible to a wider audience.
The Antique Chronicles is another independently released adventure game, coming in three downloadable parts. Each part ranges from 14 to 28 MB in size so it’s pretty accessible for most people on broadband these days. Each episode costs $4.95 (US) but all three can be purchased together for the cost of two. For me, it seems like a lot of money for a very short game. Each part can be played through in about twenty minutes. According to the website, the game was two years in the making.
The game’s storyline is not really well explained. A professor has been kidnapped following an archeological find. He contacts you, an ex-student, I think, and asks for your help. You immediately drop everything and ill logic starts there. The game just moves from one new area to another with little explanation as to why or how these magical transportations occur. The website lists the archeological discovery as King Solomon’s Mines but I must have missed that when I played the game. Most of the puzzles are inventory-based and the standout for me was one based on Biblical Scripture. It reminded me of what Cheyenne Wolford achieved successfully in his Nacah, Derek, and the upcoming (I hope!) Mayabin. If Bob can build on this puzzle (and others in the game), he can create something that non-Christians are unlikely to consider putting in a game: a fresh perspective on potential puzzles. So, I really feel there is potential in what I saw in the gameplay but it never really seemed to hold together like I’d hope to make a satisfying experience. I got the feeling there were a lot of interesting ideas but not enough to link from one idea to the next. Heading from point A to point Z involves a few stops along the way but most of the stops are superfluous and do not seem necessary other than to pad out the game. In some ways, it reminded me of Timeline, but I enjoyed substantially more depth in that game despite the fact it had action in it.
The game is controlled with the mouse and arrow keys, similar to a first person shooter. There are no action parts in this game so don’t be alarmed! There is a certain degree of freedom in wandering but there is nothing to be gained by not sticking to the linear route to get from point A to point B. The movement is rather intuitive but some of the action controls could use tweaking. There were times in the game where I could see the item I needed to pick up but because of the angle I was at, the action cursor didn’t appear. Moving slightly to the left or right often rectified this but an inexperienced gamer might think there was no opportunity for interaction because of the inflexibility in the game design.
Sound effects are sparse and loudness levels vary. Some of the sounds were over the top and didn’t really sound much like I would have expected the actual event to sound in real life. Voice acting is atrocious, either mumbled (the professor and the male characters in general) or yelled in a high-pitched scream (the protagonist). The protagonist is a young black woman, who has an accent that is almost a caricature of southern US black people we used to see portrayed by Hollywood in the 1930s-1950s. I actually cringed many times through the game. Music was reasonably atmospheric at appropriate moments but isn’t anything to write home about. It’s certainly not intrusive and fits into the game quite well.
Take a look at the screenshots and it’s easy to see this is a pretty good looking game. Bob has really concentrated on details in places. Some of the hieroglyphics are very detailed and character faces look very good. Some of the items that are collected into inventory aren’t as detailed, especially the smaller they are. In most cases, it is relatively easy to discern objects in the environments and pick them up as required. This is not the most beautiful game but Bob deserves credit for the beauty he’s achieved. He obviously has potential to develop other games with eye candy.
The game was stable for the most part. Initially, I did find some stability problems. Bob is very committed to making customers satisfied with his games and responds to questions and problems promptly. I had crashes in episode 2 of the game but downloading an updated version fixed that problem. The rest of the game ran flawlessly. By the way, don’t Alt-Tab between other applications while playing this game-it crashes the game immediately. This is not recommended in any game so I don’t consider this a game flaw. Support from Bob can be reached here:
All in all, this is what feels like a rough demo of a potential game. It’s short but has glimpses of quality, especially in the graphics and the nature of the puzzles. With some more work, particularly in linking successive adventure environments, Bob could have a winner on his hands. I’d love to hear some better voice acting in the game, too, but commercial games have had their fair share of bad acting too. Ten dollars may be a price that gamers would consider paying for this, but there are many freeware games that are going to offer a better experience to most players. However, having said this, Bob has shown potential. I look forward to his masterpiece. Overall, this game deserves a C-.
Final Grade: C-