I've reviewed many other adventure games on Amazon.com and Epinions over the last several years, and I thought that I'd add my two cents worth since the few official reviews I've seen for Agon: The Lost Sword of Toledo have been largely negative (AceGamez, 40%, PTGamers, 35%, Hexus, 3/10, HonestGamers, 8). I feel that the game has much to recommend it despite being grossly behind schedule (understandable since the developers are a small outfit out of Hungary).
I've been eagerly awaiting Agon: The Lost Sword of Toledo ever since 2005, when I was living and working in Madrid (and visiting Toledo and other cities on the weekends). I would periodically check Private Moon's website
and send them e-mails, to no avail. It seemed as though Agon: Lost Sword of Toledo
was not to be throughout years of silence, continually delayed release dates, and switching distributors, but I was finally rewarded as Kalypso released Agon on Feb. 22, 2008. My import copy arrived from Interact CD
at the beginning of March, and I played the game slowly, savoring its atmosphere and comparing it to the Spain I knew from living and working there on two different occasions. I had previously downloaded the demo, so I was familiar with the inventory system and one or two of the locations featured in the game.
I did have a bit of trouble installing it, but after several tries, I was rewarded and started by exploring the “Extra Features: More Details” option on the main menu. Not having played Agon: The Mysterious Codex
other than the demos, I was not familiar with much of Professor Hunt’s backstory and appreciated the brief synopsis of his journey thus far. “Extra Features” includes Dorothy’s Table: The Journey to Toledo, which chronicles the Professor’s journey via period postcards, maps, and letters. Some of his adventures called to mind stories in Washington Irving’s excellent “Tales of the Alhambra.” The table in question is set with Spanish ceramic tiles and pottery, a nice touch, as well as a framed photo of the game’s cover art. Also available is an interesting little biography of the professor at age twelve that hints of supernatural abilities.
On to the game itself: the opening cinematic sets the tone as Professor Hunt describes his arduous journey to reach Toledo. His first inhabitant is less than welcoming; he shares his coach with a silent, disapproving priest. Arriving in the picturesque and typical Spanish plaza, he sets out to find Salvador Diez-Palencia, an art teacher from whom his wife Dorothy had taken lessons. There are a few townspeople with whom you are able to interact as you seek to locate the painter’s house. I wished that more of the square was available for exploration, as it was beautifully rendered (despite the beautiful rendering, there is generally little to interact with in any given frame).
Arriving at the painter’s house, he is greeted by Salvador's daughter Carmen, who regrets to inform him that her father passed away from tuberculosis a year ago, but Hunt is welcome to stay in her home for a few days. Carmen has troubles of her own, including the fact that her beloved Francisco is currently in jail on theft charges, and she’s been railroaded into marriage with the son of Alonso Garcia de la Rica, a local influential politician. Hunt promises to do what he can to smooth out the situation, and the real adventure begins as he pieces together the clues left behind by the crafty painter, who also had a talent for making music boxes. The professor finds himself in a web of intrigue surrounding the famous Lost Sword of Toledo, crafted by Francisco’s grandfather Juan Candelas, and must ferret out the true villain in its disappearance. His search for the AGON is largely secondary here.
Lost Sword of Toledo is largely dialogue-driven, and as other reviewers have mentioned, there is no apparent way to skip over the vast amounts of dialogue. However, there is a feature where you can reread all conversations, which is useful for uncovering clues that may have been missed the first time around. Subtitles are available, but at least one puzzle is purely based on listening to musical pieces.
My greatest curiosity (and concern) was on the authenticity of turn-of-the-century Toledo, a city I came to know and love as I visited it several times, spending happy hours wandering the warren of medieval streets. The early screenshots looked promising, and I needn’t have worried; Private Moon has captured the feel of Toledo amazingly well, down to the spiky towers of the Alcazar visible from a character’s garden, bundles of electrical cables that run along the outside of buildings, the Moorish architecture (brickwork arches, glazed azulejo ceramics in geometric patterns), and even the “Ayuntamiento de Toledo” engraved on sewer covers. Standing in Carmen’s courtyard, if you pan up to look at the sky, the white-hot summer sun is blinding. In another courtyard, a fountain splashes gently as you sit surrounded by elegant glazed tiles and plants. You are able to pan 360 degrees, and scrolling generally handled smoothly.
The interiors of the buildings are equally authentic, down to the aged sepia portraits that hang on the walls, the shields, swords, and family coats of arms, and trinkets that line the shelves. The game excels at reproducing authentic print materials such as great works of Spanish literature (yes, an English translation of Don Quixote makes an appearance, as does a Spanish-language text by Calderon de la Barca), books on tauromaquia (bullfighting), the artwork of El Greco (which is on display throughout the real Toledo), and other treasures. If you’re fluent in Spanish, it’s absolutely fascinating to take the time to read through some of these transcriptions; they felt so real, I could practically feel the brittle pages between my fingers.
The music is pleasant enough, with Spanish influences here and there, but at many points the music would either loop incessantly or lapse into silence. The sound effects, particularly the birdsong and outdoor noises, more than made up for any lack, though. Voice acting is decent; it’s obvious that several of the actors portraying Spaniards are native Spanish speakers, while others are passable. Character modeling is less successful that the gorgeous backgrounds; oftentimes blocky, the animations are repetitive and jerky, and many of the characters exhibit very limited facial expressions ( MZone Studio
of France did much of the graphic rendering). Transitions are presented in a comic-book style of panes, which was an unusual (and enjoyable) addition. The inventory system is simple and you are rarely called upon to combine items, nor do you carry more items than necessary (you can minimize the inventory bar by pressing the spacebar).
The puzzles themselves are logical and mostly straightforward, and only one or two required a hint to proceed. Thankfully, there are a variety of puzzles: some mathematical, some astrological, some based on mechanical manipulation, and others on technology of the era. The game was of a decent length, enough that gameplay comfortably covered a week’s worth of evenings, and the reproductions of print materials and the gorgeous atmosphere of the locations will make you want to stop and linger (I find myself returning to Carmen’s courtyard again and again).
Unlike the majority of reviewers, I loved Agon: The Lost Sword of Toledo
, and didn’t find that it was dull or too slowly paced. The game’s atmosphere and technologies are perfectly recreated for the turn-of-the-century period that it takes place in, and the conversations are natural enough, even enjoyable. I have a nagging suspicion that “modern” sensibilities of MTV-style editing and our cut-to-the-chase communication style may have influenced the opinions of other reviewers. Spanish culture is highly social, and when I spent time with older Spaniards, they would happily chat away an entire afternoon with little thought as to the time, and I found myself caught up in their tales of life in a Spain long ago, much as I did with The Lost Sword of Toledo. I did encounter several glitches / bugs late in the game, but was able to complete it by loading a saved game. Final verdict: if you enjoy period dramas, leisurely exploring, and uncovering tales of betrayal and family secrets, Agon: The Lost Sword of Toledo
is for you.