Of Light and Darkness
Developed by: Tribal Dreams
Published by: Interplay
Reviewed by: Zachary Rounds
Are adventure games dead?
Next time you walk into your local computer store and meander through the shelves of games, look around. Try to find more than five adventure games (Myst and Riven do not count as they are screensavers). Having problems? You should be. Adventure games are in short supply these days. Gone are the (questionably) good old days where the shelves were lined with the latest Quest games from Sierra and the comedies from Lucasarts. With the exception of Lucasarts, game companies are making fewer and fewer adventure games each year. Why? Because most of the adventure games released in the past year and a half were terrible, pointless, pixel-hunting challenges. Game companies lost money on these games, but instead of improving, they just ignore the genre altogether. Unfortunately, Of Light and Darkness does little to prove that the adventure game will be getting a breath of new life.
One of the key elements of any adventure game is the story. Since adventure games are basically computerized versions of those old "Choose your own adventure" books, a strong story is needed to keep the players attention. The story in OLAD deals with the coming of the new millennia and how you're job is to prevent the world from ending with it. It seems that the Dark Lord of the 7th Millennia, Gar Hob, has kidnapped a bizarre looking woman named Angel in the hopes of turning her to the side of evil. If he succeeds the world will plunge into one of seven different apocalypses, each one a nicely rendered cutscene if you should happen to fail in your quest (more on this later). The story progresses through little floating movie screens that appear in certain rooms. Through the screens you are able to listen to Gar Hob try to influence Angel to the side of evil. Unfortunately, you have no way to affect what happens in the movies. You're challenge involves returning the souls of the damned to wherever it is they go. The end result is you running around while the story progresses on its own. Think of it like being the world's greatest mechanic in Star Wars. You may be vitally important in blowing up the Death Star since you're the only person that can fix Skywalker's ship, but it sure doesn't feel that way.
OLAD works a bit differently than most adventure games. Instead of running around, gathering objects, and using them to solve puzzles, you get to run around (in a nice Zork-like, 360 degree spinning view), collect colored balls and pointless icons, and use them to send souls back to wherever. Example: I want to blast John Wayne Gasey (yes, most of the souls were actually real people). I get the mask (his icon) from whichever room it happens to be in. I then take it to the room that corresponds with his type of sin (anger, in this case). Once there I click on the mask in my inventory and the colored ball that corresponds to him and hit the space bar. He is now blasted. The reason I don't know where his mask is to start with or his color is because every game is different. In an attempt to add replay value to the game, every time you start a new game the colors and locations are randomized. Too bad I never want to play OLAD again.
You continue to blast the rest of the souls until you run out. When this happens you go to a certain room and the level ends. You then start a new level. The new level contains more rooms (some were not accessible at first) and more souls. There are three levels altogether, each one tougher than the previous. This is due to the fact that if you have an icon and the soul gets to the room you're in, the soul will block the exit unless you A. Give it the icon, B. Blast it with white light (a combination of the 3 colors), or C. Teleport into another room by using an icon (these, along with the balls, are just lying about the level). Each icon represents a different room, and OLAD comes with a map of all the rooms and their corresponding symbols. These icons are important for one big reason: You are on a timer.
What!? A timer in an adventure game? In order to heighten the "suspense" OLAD runs on a timer represented by a huge sphere with stars on it. The clock can be pushed in reverse by blasting all of the souls from one color with white light. Although this is a rather cheesy way to make the game tougher, it does keep the game from becoming totally boring and gives some sense of urgency.
OLAD boasts that all its artwork was done by Gil Bruvel, and it shows. Each of the rooms has its own surreal look. Transitions between each step are fluid and pleasant. Most of the rooms are heavily animated, looking and playing well even on my aging system. The movies that pop up on occasion look very professional, with none of the bad dubbing seen in most games. The only problem in the graphics department are the colored balls and travel pyramids, as they stand out glaringly from the background. On the other hand, since these are vitally important to winning the game, the fact that they scream out their presence can be useful.
Sound and Music
The sound in OLAD is very nice. Each of the rooms has voices that talk about the subject of the room. While these voices are not necessary, they add greatly to the atmosphere. The only strange part is the purpose of the voices. While the game claims that there is supposed to be humor, I didn't see it. If anything, the voices only served to add a more depressing tone to the game (the game's message seems to be that we are going to wipe ourselves out if nature doesn't do it first). Of special note is the use of two well-known actors, James Woods and Lolita Davidovich, as the voices of Gar Hob and Angel. The quality of the voice acting from the two actors is superb, and should serve as a message to the rest of the industry.
On the other hand, the music in OLAD is a bit of a disappointment. Provided by a group called the M'Fers (never heard of them? Join the club), I didn't find the music all that interesting. However, since tastes differ, you might find the music appealing. I didn't.
While the game has high points in the graphics and sound, OLAD unfortunately falls way short in gameplay. The concept of having randomized games is great, but not in an adventure game where the story is the main point, sacrificing story for replayability just doesn't work. The worst part is that if this trend continues, the end of adventure games (or the point where only Lucasarts makes them) may soon be upon us.Our rating out of 10: 6.4
Click Here to Visit our Sponsor
All trademarks are properties of their respective owners