Review: Eternal Journey: New Atlantis (PC)

Eternal Journey: New Atlantis
Publisher: Big Fish Games
Developer: Alawar Entertainment
Genre: Hidden Object
Release Date: 08/24/2012

I hadn’t played a hidden object game since the days of Kyrandia and the invention of the mouse. Needless to say, I was a bit excited to immerse myself in a vat of nostalgia and recreate the feelings of dread and despair one can only attribute to scanning the screen relentlessly looking for a certain red and white stripped figure with glasses. As my excitement piqued and my rage on standby, I delved right into Eternal Journey: New Atlantis.

Story

You are, all parts considered, a female archeologist named Miss Stone, tasked with conducting your craft at the bottom of the ocean. Having found the lost city of Atlantis, you and your fiancé have partnered up to make the scientific discovery of a lifetime. Coincidentally enough, however, you find an artifact of unspeakable power during your dig and collapse the lost city once again.

Waking up one hundred and fifty years later, you were saved and cryogenically frozen, waiting for the time when your skills as an archeologist and linguist would be of use again for The Corporation. This time it’s a newly constructed compound on Mars that is at risk, as they are shuttling you to the red planet to investigate. Upon arrival, it’s glaringly obvious that life has ceased to exist. You are the only living thing still within the colony, and it is up to you to find out why.

From the first cut scene I knew the plot was extremely thin, like watching a Michael Dudikoff movie where your popcorn doesn’t taste right because your brain is so focused on analyzing the meaning of the film whilst forcibly saving yourself from an aneurism. However, the more I played, the less I cared about the story. Despite the first twenty minutes of explaining its unintelligible plot, the rest of the game played out nicely. Short, random cut scenes give insight to what happened to the colony in small glimpses, and after finding enough of these snippets, the full picture comes into light. Put it all together, and I don’t know what you have… I still really don’t.

Graphics

Having set the maximum resolution allowed at 1600×1200, the graphics picked up a bit and left me in a better state than my previous schema of the title. Although the character models seem a few years out of date for the engines of today, some of the backgrounds and storyboards were breathtaking. Animations in the mini-games worked nicely as well, increasing the desirability to progress and solve the riddle of the story. The colors were spot on, with the rusting and coral upon giant statues and temples representative of the amount of time spent at the bottom of the sea in the Earth-based Atlantis, to the reddened soot accumulated from the dust of Mars. The game designers put some effort in making the visuals work, and work nicely.

There were a few miscues, however, such as a cat with no ears that follows you room to room, or some objects in the HO areas that don’t truly represent the items they’re asking you to find. The cut scenes with dialogue also left me guessing, as the characters mouths moved less than a frantic villager in a Godzilla movie.

That being said, I still was not thrown off by the bad.

Sound

Typical. The background music was slow and melodic, representative of the genre. It does, however, recycle and begin to become draining after long sessions of gameplay. This is broken up by the cut scene audio and mini game sound effects, both done with a salute.

Despite their mouths not matching their emitted sound, the voice acting was quite good in this title for most of the characters. Fluctuations and pitch gave the characters life, sometimes embedding a creepy vibe that only wants to make you find out why everyone has disappeared… and why you haven’t, yet.

Control and Gameplay

As a Hidden Object game, Eternal Journey does not try to reinvent the wheel. The HO mini-games were few and far between, and obscure enough that you find yourself running in circles wracking your brain and pulling hair until you find the next non-linear progression game (more on that later). Picking up obscenely obvious objects in the environment and placing them in your inventory is the easy part however; figuring out what to do with them is the trickier variable.

At one point, I had sugar cubes I had snatched from a dingy countertop only Mr. Clean could scour, some scotch tape and a few other knickknacks. After some hunting, I found a grinder and turned my cubes to powder. Then, in a fit of ingenuity I may never see in my lifetime again, I used that sugar on a control panel on the other side of the giant compound, and pulled a fingerprint off with that tape all within the first thirty minutes of gameplay. I knew as things progressed, it would only get harder.

Having misplaced MacGyver’s direct phone line, I began to play with the Hint and Strategy Guide buttons on the bottom right of my screen. This system allowed me to breeze through areas I normally would spend abnormal amounts of time deciphering. I felt like I had that red Staples EASY button. Even though my hubris was strong within me, from time to time and only to quell the embarrassing thought of inadequacies, I used both the hint and strategy guide buttons to find my way. They also have a feature that allows me to quick travel to the location of my choosing. However, the role play junkie that I am I refused to use this feature except in the direst of circumstances (when the hint and strategy guide button said, “I will take you there if you really need help!”).

The puzzles were a bit too easy for my taste, along with an impromptu attack of meteors on the complex that needed some X-wing action, turret and all. The only thing that kept me from a fleetly experience were the moments of inept conceptualization of my task, made easy with that hint button.

Replay ability

None. The few hours that went into this title have passed, and no more will go in. Even though the story is fickle, it never changes. Items never change locations, nor do the puzzles change their properties or have any inherent randomness. Even cancelling out of a puzzle and re-entering puts you right back at a clean slate. Between the two difficulties, Casual and Normal, the only intrinsic value is the quickness in which your hint button illuminates.

However, being as it was the collector’s edition, an additional chapter was added at the end of the main storyline. Don’t worry folks, I tried that too after I beat the game and it answered some of the questions I had about our heroine and the games ending, though it opened up another wound in my already fragile brain.

Balance

The constant difficulty with a Hidden Object game is the way in which the developers expect you to be somewhat of a clairvoyant, encountering an item late in the game and realizing that it belongs to something you previously came across that held no value. The game also assumes you would realize that when you complete said task in one area, a mini-game HO area you’ve already exhausted is available for you in a room you’ve already cleared, with pieces you’ll need to progress.

However, the puzzles themselves are solvable, and in good form. Nothing was too outwardly difficult, and I didn’t feel as if my rage would take over only to see if the laws of gravity would defy my keyboard again. In the end, I felt as if a higher difficulty with more challenging puzzles could have sated my hunger for intellectual stimulation.

Originality

How could I say this game was not original? Sure, hidden object games have been around for at least a couple decades, and finding the lost city of Atlantis while sending a team to investigate is not new. However, an archeologist named Dr. Stone that finds the lost city of Atlantis in our ocean and dies in a collapse, is resurrected then cryogenically frozen only to find herself on mars over a century later to conduct more tests in a colony dubbed “New Atlantis” screams original to me. No one could make this stuff up, err, what I mean is, no one would ever try and duplicate this premise. Why would they? It’s horribly thin.

Addictiveness

I will admit, the cringe lines on my face during the opening sequence made my future-self cry in the mirror. However, as the game progressed, I was compelled to continue. I was poisoned, diseased or any other excuse I can manifest to explain the draw this game had towards me. Despite all the negativity I may have expressed, I can’t help but praise the addictive nature and frenzied fervor I would experience having completed a tricky sequence of object to location puzzles, or remembered my way back through a drawn out area to the next location without using the quick travel button.

Maybe it’s my long hiatus from the genre, but the deeper I got into the game, the less I wanted it to end.

Appeal Factor

I can see Eternal Journey: New Atlantis appealing to those that enjoy the HO genre and mechanics. Those that are familiar with the style and gameplay that a HO game has to offer would delve into this title with abandon. With the plot lines stretching from ancient island cultures to aliens within Mars’ catacomb system, it could potentially open up another wave of sci-fi savvy, introductory students to the ways of HO gaming.

However, with a price tag of $14 for the collector’s edition (which includes the strategy guide, additional stage at the games concept art), I would shy away anyone not familiar with this particular genre. If you haven’t yet experienced a hidden object game before, for the price of a movie ticket and the time investment of a good fantasy film, you might enjoy your Friday night elsewhere.

Miscellaneous

I would throw the extra content in with this section, along with the strategy guide that was built in to the game itself for the collector’s edition. Because the story was as obtuse as humanly possible, the additional scene helped tie up some of the loose questions floating around and added another hour or so of gameplay value. That of itself would not be worth its weight within this section, if it wasn’t for the strategy guide. Saving my hairline, the strategy guide bullet pointed each task and reward throughout the entirety of the game, leaving no stone unturned. Should you be stuck, the strategy guide will hand you, in outline form, every task for that chapter you’re currently in.

All in all, the miscellaneous really helped this title bump up my list of games, making it only somewhat appealing to anyone familiar with the genre.

Short Attention Span Summary

Despite the thin storyline and mindless plot, Eternal Journey: New Atlantis delivers for those familiar with the hidden object genre. This is only if, however, your goal should be to challenge yourself with puzzles and mini-games, both of which are infantile in conceptualization and difficulty. The visuals, though stunning and breathtaking in limited glimpses, generally fall short with miscued dialogue and an outdated engine. Overall, if you are a fan of HO games and like the casual appeal, you’ll have an afternoon or two of entertainment to be sure.

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