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Curse of Atlantis

Curse of Atlantis

Curse of Atlantis

Call me crazy, but since their closure due to bankruptcy, I for one am going to miss those quirky Cryo games (loosely) based on historical and mythical figures.


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Call me crazy, but since their closure due to bankruptcy, I for one am going to miss those quirky Cryo games (loosely) based on historical and mythical figures. Sure they weren’t all classics, but name one other company that had the audacity to publish games based on the legend of Faust, the travels of Ulysses and author Phillip Jose Farmers classic Riverworld series. Who else but Cryo would have the impudence to purposely misspell a famous author’s last name for an entire game – Time Machine?

Back in the early days of computer and adventure gaming – before most of you whippersnappers were even born – it was cause to be ecstatic to find a dusty copy of Dragon Lore or Atlantis hidden in a dark corner of the local software shop. There were no Internet stores from which to purchase these gems, nor was it yet possible to pursue overseas trades. Usually my only option was to jet to Paris to purchase the newest releases firsthand. Sure it was an 8-hour flight, but gas was cheap back then. In North America, either Mindcape or Interplay were usually the Cryo distributors and these graphically beautiful games were often praised by the American gaming magazines. Surely I jest you exclaim. Well, how about this quote from PC Gamer circa 1994 – “Dragon Lore is the first fantasy role-playing game to really exploit the capabilities of CD-ROM for an eye-popping 7th Guest-style graphics environment with which you can actually interact.” Whoa, steady my racing heart.

As twitch gaming became more popular, Cryo also endeavored to broaden their fanbase and fatten their pocketbooks by including ‘action’ sequences in some of their games. Who could ever erase the memory of that ‘magical’ sequence in Odyssey when you had to slay Medusa in her lair? Why, it only took me a measly thirty or forty attempts. Or, earlier in the same game, using your keyboard to have Ulysses literally run circles around the Land of the Lotus-eaters simply to induce a character to appear – la, la la? And believe it or not, I actually loved Odyssey and still do! Now The New Adventures of the Time Machine, there’s a game you don’t want to mention in my presence. H.G. Wales (sic) himself is rumored to have risen from his grave to spit on this abomination.

But enough of my reminiscing. If I continue to wax nostalgic any longer, then I will be able to write this review with a Q-Tip.

Curse of Atlantis is one of the last of a dying breed – a point-and-click, third person adventure chock full of frustrating hot spots and silly action sequences. It is also representative of the best and the worst of Cryo.

Curse of Atlantis is a computer game version of a popular European series of graphic novels. The game shows its roots by implementing detailed comic book pages that graphically portray important events from your journey. These pages are also an invaluable resource if you become stuck, for reading them will often provide a clue to your predicament. The main character – Thorgal Aegirsson– is a Viking warrior whose ship has been blown off-course by an ill wind and, much like General Maximus in the movie Gladiator, wants nothing more than to be reunited with his wife and children. To do so, all he needs do is cross to the opposite side of the island and board another ship. To make matters worse, a mysterious old man has shown Thorgal a vision of him killing his own son. Now he must journey through time and space to dispel the curse that has been placed on his family.

To be honest, the puzzles don’t always make sense and can often be solved by the process of elimination as the game is extremely linear. Still the most frustrating part is discovering that you need a specific item to solve a puzzle, but not having it in your possession as it was that one small pixel that you overlooked on the previous screen. The developers though have done their best to ensure that the puzzles and inventory items maintain that Viking flavor. But an attempt to make the gamer actually feel like a Viking warrior by incorporating poorly implemented action sequences into the game often leads to frustration rather than a feeling of achievement.

Easily half of these action sequences involve using a bow. At times it is as easy as slicing a rope with your perfectly guided arrow, but other times it is frustratingly maddening such as when you must prove your skill at archery by hitting targets on a revolving wheel. This dilemma alone elicited some new Viking oaths from my mouth. A Simon-like puzzle that you can only beat by memorizing a pattern of deadly light wisps never did jell for me and I only completed it by pure dumb luck. I later replayed this sequence and did determine that there was indeed a pattern to the lights, but it took at least fifteen attempts on my part.

Thorgal’s adventure is beautifully and colorfully rendered and the cut-scenes are as nice as I’ve ever seen though the in-game graphics are occasionally murky and seem to sink into low-res. Sequences late in the game when Thorgal travels between the lands of the living and dead, could and should have been memorable but instead appear to have been painted with a bottle of pink Pepto-Bismol. The music and sound effects are sparse, but effective, and there is a catchy refrain that lingers long afterwards. Has anyone else noticed how important music has been in recent adventure games? The wonderful score of Syberia was the first time I ever wanted to purchase a cd of game music and recently Post Mortem with its jazz riffs and the seductive lounge song from Pharoah’s Curse both managed to exquisitely add the appropriate atmosphere to the gaming experience.

As anyone who has ever played any Cryo game is aware, normalcy is not par for the course. Just as you begin to settle into the storyline and have your sandals rooted on good old terra firm, its off you go to not only the Land of Shadows – which I found acceptable as it fit the Viking mythology theme – but also to a *sigh* starship replete with robots and lasers. As ludicrous as this sounds, even worse was the criteria The Adventure Company used to include the word ‘Atlantis’ in the title. Three quarters of the way through the game, there is a brief flashback of Thorgal’s parents escaping from a crumbling Atlantis. That’s it, that’s the curse of Atlantis. Huh? And don’t even get me started on the starship.

Curse of Atlantis is a relatively short game and can be completed in under 8 hours. Still, it is a worthwhile purchase and recommended for anyone who is a fan of point-and-click adventures. Solid gameplay and a character you can empathize with outweigh the occasional pixel-hunting and action sequences. Give it a try as Curse of Atlantis may be among the last of a sinking breed.

Final Grade: C+

System Requirements:

  • Windows® 98/ME/2000/XP
  • 450 MHz Pentium® II or Equivalent Processor
  • 64 MB RAM
  • 12x CD-ROM Drive
  • 16 MB DirectX® Compatible 3D Video Card
  • DirectX® Compatible Sound Card
  • Subtitle option available

Randy Sluganski

Randy Sluganski

Randy Sluganski was a true adventure gamer and his passion for these games made him just as important as the developers and publishers of these games. Randy passed away after battling lung cancer for over 10 years. Randy can never be replaced but we would like to light a torch in his memory for what he did for us with his love of adventure gaming.We dedicate this site to the Memory of Randy Sluganski and his love for adventure games.

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