Atlantis Evolution

 

Genre:   Adventure

Developer:   Atlantis Interactive Entertainment

Publisher:    The Adventure Company

Released:  2004

PC Requirements:   Windows 98/ME/2000/XP, Pentium III 850 MHz (1 GHz or better recommended), 64 MB system RAM (128 MB recommended), 24x CDROM Drive (32x CDROM or better recommended), 32 MB DirectX 8.0 compatible 3D video card (or higher), DirectSound compatible sound card, 4.0 GB hard drive space

Walkthrough

 

Additional screenshots

 

 

by Jenny100

Atlantis Evolution

Atlantis Evolution is the first in a projected series of Atlantis games made by Atlantis Interactive Entertainment. The development team for Atlantis Evolution includes among their members some of the same people who worked on the original three Atlantis games from the now-defunct Cryo Interactive Entertainment. Although Dreamcatcher/The Adventure Company makes it clear that Atlantis Evolution is the start of a new direction for their Atlantis games, there are certainly some resemblances to the earlier games. The graphics have a somewhat different "look" to them, being less "naturalistic" than the Cryo games. But the game interface will be familiar to anyone who's played the earlier Atlantis games. And since the previous Atlantis games all play so differently from one another, you could also say that Atlantis Evolution is continuing the tradition of its predecessors. (There is even an Atlantis4.cfg file in the game folder, which suggests another tie with the previous three Atlantis games.)

The story begins in 1904 with the hero, photographer Curtis Hewitt, returning home from a trip to Patagonia aboard an old wreck of a ship called the Lemuria. The ship goes down in a storm and Curtis survives in a lifeboat, only to be sucked down a whirlpool. What happens next has to be seen to be believed, so I won't spoil it. But soon afterward, Curtis ends up in "New Atlantis" and must find a way not only to get back home, but to free the Atlantean population from their terrible bloodthirsty "gods."

Installation

Atlantis Evolution comes on four CD's and installs completely to the hard drive. There is no need to have a CD in the drive in order to play the game. Congratulations to the developer and publisher for implementing this convenience.

Controls

The control scheme will be familiar to anyone who has played the previous Cryo Atlantis games. Atlantis Evolution uses a first person point of view for the interactive parts of the game, so you'll only see your character during cut scenes and conversations. Like the earlier Atlantis games, it uses a node based movement system with 360 panning available at the nodes. You are also able to pan upward and downward. You can't look directly up or directly down, but there is a good range of movement. The game uses fixed cursor panning and there is no option for edge panning.

When forward movement is possible, the movement cursor will appear. It is the same rounded arrow cursor used in earlier Atlantis games. Left-clicking on the cursor will move you to the next node. Movement is instantaneous with no transitions playing between nodes.

Right-clicking will bring up the inventory along the bottom of the screen. Hovering your cursor over inventory items will produce a tooltip type description of them. You can also examine objects in inventory by right-clicking on them. A full screen view of the item will appear. A left-click will return you to the game screen. Left-clicking on an inventory item will pick it up and attach it to your cursor. A right-click on the game screen will close the inventory and allow you to use the inventory object. Some inventory objects can be combined with other inventory objects.

Exploring your screen with your cursor may reveal pulsating hotspots which indicate potentially interactive locations. If a hotspot appears dead, it may be that you don't have the inventory item to use on it yet. Your character will often comment to cue you in on what might be needed.

When you can speak with another character, a hotspot with two heads rotating around each other will appear if you move your cursor over the character. Conversation choices appear as a group of little square icons that you can click on. These icons are small pictures of the subject of the conversation, which can be a character, an object, or a location. This conversation system will be familiar to players of the previous Atlantis games.

The controls for the arcade games will vary. Almost everything can be done by mouse, but with some games it may be preferable to use the keyboard arrows.

Menus and Options

I encountered the first puzzle immediately on starting the game: a Mystery Meat game menu - obscure symbols in shades of blue with no text. I had a moment of trepidation, wondering if my video card was having troubles rendering the text. But no, when I hovered my cursor over certain alien symbols on the screen, a light bar would pass over the symbol and a tooltip-type description would appear. In my opinion this is bad design. I think a control menu should be as simple and obvious as possible. It is all very well to be artistic with your game menus, but the art should not get in the way of functionality. The entire contents of the menu should be viewable at once, without having to explore the screen with your cursor. Imagine if every menu on your computer were set up like this. You'd miss seeing all sorts of options and controls. Just because the options menu of a game is more simplistic than Windows controls is no reason to make it a pixel hunt. And the gamer should never have a moment of wondering if their video card isn't displaying the text.

When you first start the game, you will be presented with a menu where you choose whether you want to play as Player 1, Player 2, Player 3, Player 4, or Player 5. You will probably have to load a player before you can use the Escape key to access the Save/Load Menu and Options Menus.

As far as I could tell, you are allowed an unlimited number of saves. Saves include a small screenshot of the location where you saved along with the date and time. You can't name your save. To save your game, you click the Escape key, locate the Mystery Meat tooltip that reveals the place to click if you want to save, and click it. Then click on a check mark to indicate that you do indeed want to save, or on an X to indicate you changed your mind. Then locate the Mystery Meat tooltip that says Return to Game or the Mystery Meat tooltip that says Exit Game, depending on which you want to do. The process is similar for loading a game.

The options menu is also Mystery Meat and it isn't at all clear whether you are toggling something on or off. The box with the little "+" in it will give you a cross hair if the "+" is visible in the box. You can choose to play in 16-bit or 32-bit color. There is an option to invert mouse orientation. A languages option only had English as a choice in my North American version of the game. (Perhaps European versions will have options for multiple languages?) There was an option to toggle "smooth mode" or "no smooth mode." (I can only guess at what that meant. I just stuck with whatever the default selection was.) Subtitles are toggled on when you see indecipherable letters in a little box, off when the box appears empty. Come on now, game designers. I don't want to have to play guessing games in the options menu. I appreciate all these options, but why make their selection so obscure?

The volume controls are available through a Sound Levels Menu that is accessible from the Save/Load Menu (not the Options screen). There are separate volume controls for Voices Volume, Music Volume, Sound Effects Volume, and Overall Volume.

Graphics

The graphics play in 1024x768 and are very detailed and colorful. The game is jam-packed with different kinds of animations. The unusual plant life in forest areas, which is somewhat reminiscent of various underwater flora and fauna, undulates and sways as if it were underwater. Spores and bubbles float upward from colorful fungi and mushroom-like plants. There are colorful birds, butterflies, and other insects flitting and buzzing around everywhere. Snakes slither along the ground and lizards skitter up trees. Most areas have water animation and it looks pretty convincing. The world is alive with animations.

Not all areas are "pretty." The game starts out with your character on the ship Lemuria, as decrepit a rust bucket as you could ever hope to see. The corrosion is detailed and  there are even some animations, like the flicker of Curtis' candle and the small circular porthole of a window in Curtis' cabin constantly falling open because the catch is broken.

The cut scenes that occasionally play in the game are real eye-catchers. The scenes of the storm at the beginning of the game are dramatic and get the game off to a promising start. Nearly all the major cut scenes are of similar high quality. The animation of the characters isn't quite up to the level of the animation of the landscape, though in this case that isn't so important. The characters are cartoony rather than realistic and can get away with moving in slightly unrealistic ways. One place where the designers appear to have taken shortcuts with the character animation is during conversations, when the characters use the same series of gestures each time they speak. Lip synch does not match up in the English version of the game, though this is not a major problem and is perhaps to be expected with a game that was developed in France. Also the character models for the guards come in two varieties, those with helmets and those without. The ones without helmets look identical to one another. I don't know why this would be the case unless they were clones. But the ex-guard Chel looked different, so he at least wasn't a clone.

Sound

Care was taken to match the high quality of the visuals with appropriate background sounds and music. The Lemuria had the sound of the storm outside, the creaking of the wood, the exhausting of steam, and the sound of the window slamming shut. The forest had the sounds of birds and insects. Water sounds were also varied and especially effective in the cave area. Music, when it played during interactive parts of the game, tended to blend into the background, though at times it was obviously meant to build tension or signal the presence of danger. My favorite music was toward the end of the game. The mysterious, somewhat ominous music that played in the gods' living quarters matched the rich satiny colors and the strangely alien, yet opulent quality of the environment. Somehow it gave me the impression of a mausoleum, which was not inappropriate.

Like the character design, voices were also somewhat cartoony. Most of them were good in a cartoony sort of way. But the voice of the little boy sounded like it would have been more appropriate for a talking frog than for a little boy. If independent game developers on a shoestring budget can manage to find children to voice the parts of children, I don't see why it should be so difficult for a game company. If for some reason a child is not available, then a woman with a boyish voice could do the part. But an adult male speaking in a strained falsetto is not an acceptable substitute.

I'm not sure why the developers had the game take place in 1904, because Curtis Hewitt's accent sounded very modern. I also wonder about the "modern" speech of the gods, especially the young goddesses Kama and Sama, whose slang expressions would not come into being for another hundred years or so. I guess we're not supposed  to think about this sort of thing, since if the game was "realistic," the Atlanteans and their gods would all be speaking Atlantean and Curtis wouldn't be able to communicate with them at all.

Puzzles

Sounds pretty good up to this point, doesn't it? A few niggles, but nothing critical. Well now comes the bad news. The creators of Atlantis Evolution made some really regrettable design decisions when it came to puzzles (or maybe I should call them "challenges"). You encounter death early in the game, and there's really no way to avoid it. You have to endure it until you can figure out what you're supposed to do to avoid it, or outrun it. Even though the game automatically restores you, it gets very tedious because of its frequency.

The worst part of the game (to my mind) isn't the first death-dealing area, but the area in the forest after you leave the village. Every few seconds guards appear and shoot you. You'll be trying to search the environment for inventory, not even sure what you're looking for, and control will be wrested from you by an automatic cut scene showing the appearance of a guard and your character writhing on the ground after being zapped by some sort of zap gun. Although you'll be restored, you won't be where you were when you were zapped. So you'll have to hotfoot it back over to the node where you were searching and furiously pan around trying to locate inventory before you're spotted and zapped again. Alas for those who have a tendency to develop motion sickness in games that use fixed cursor panning. Usually I don't have a problem with such games because I can pan slowly. But you can't do that in this part of the game. All you can do is grit your teeth, hold onto your stomach and hope for the best. Keep a bucket handy. Increasing the aggravation level is the screechy mechanical voice that you have to endure during this desperate inventory search. Such tired phrases as "Halt, deviant!" "Grovel immediately, deviant. You will be realigned!" "Deviancy is death! Do not move during targeting!" "We are here to help you!" "You have left the Beaten track! Report for realignment!" will get on your last nerve as they put an end to your explorations until the next die/restore. They will make you want to put your foot through your monitor and spout words you didn't know were in your vocabulary. It's just terrible. Bad, bad, bad. I don't want to see this kind of thing again. Ever.

There is also a part of the game that reminded me very much of certain parts of Atlantis: The Lost Tales. It involves timing the movements of guards and taking actions according to their movements. If you mess up, it's "Stop, deviant" time again. Your nerves, already frayed and sensitized by similar assaults earlier in the game, will go into paroxysms. Your monitor will tremble with fear as your foot looms ever closer. My advice is to save yourself twenty headaches and the cost of a new monitor and consult a walkthrough to get through this bit as quickly as possible.

Fortunately, the whole game is not like this. But there are some inventory searches that will probably cause other problems. Remember the star hunt puzzle in the Maya area of Atlantis II (Beyond Atlantis)? There's something very similar in this game. To be sure, the forest is much more colorful and fanciful than the jungle in Atlantis II, and you don't have nearly as many items to find. But there is the same mazelike quality and the confusion of 360 panning with sometimes more than two exit points from a node. It's hard to tell where you've been because the flora is so similar throughout the forest. Although it wasn't as difficult as the star hunt in Atlantis II, those who could not stand that puzzle will likely have problems with the forest in Atlantis Evolution as well. At least it wasn't timed and no guards molested you during your search.

And now we come to the mini-games. They really do not match the rest of the game. It's kind of like finding a slider on the door of a bathroom. The previous Atlantis games were relatively untroubled by this type of thing. Atlantis: The Lost Tales had the rat catcher's puzzle and the little game you had to play with the cannibal. But the mini-games in Lost Tales had some connection to the people in the game and their graphics matched the graphical style of the game as a whole. This is not the case with the mini-games in Atlantis Evolution. To open doors and other locks you access an ornate circular control panel and lo and behold there is this funny little brightly colored 2D arcade game there waiting for you. Now I'm sure some people would rather see an arcade game than a slider, but why should we see either one? Do you know anyone who plays adventure games whenever they're in the mood for an arcade game? I'm not particularly good at arcade games. Actually I stink at them. It took me about 20 tries to get past the "Monkey and the Boats and the Big Bacteria" game (a variant of Frogger). And then there's "Bombs and Lasers" where you fly a teeny little 2D Atlantean airship, dropping bombs and shooting lasers at little people who are shooting arrows at you from the ground and gods that fly through the air shooting evil pink, yellow, or green spots at you. Not all the mini-games depend on your reflexes. There was also the "Blast the Other Guy's Volcano First" game, which was more about aiming than about reflexes. It almost got to be a running joke in the game. Whenever I had to access one of those circular control panels, what new silliness would I encounter? You want crates? Here's the original 2D Sokoban - the easiest, most basic orientations you can find. And imagine my surprise to see a Tower of Hanoi puzzle with a whopping two disks to sort. Successive Tower of Hanoi puzzles would add a disk. It was like a trainer series. If the easiness of the Sokoban and Tower of Hanoi puzzles is any indication, I think the mini-games were all meant to be very easy versions. But the game designers don't seem to have taken into account the age and inability of some adventure gamers, who play adventure games instead of other genres because they hope to avoid physical "challenges."

Now lest you think Atlantis Evolution was all silly annoyances, the last part of the game, starting from when I finally reached the gods' place of residence, played much more like an adventure game and was unquestionably the most fun. I was no longer attacked by guards and could devote my attention to exploring and discovering the secret of what lay behind the situation at New Atlantis. There was more dialogue in this part of the game and I found a lot of it to be very entertaining in a camp sort of way. Also, the bulk of the story unfolded in the last part of the game. I only wish the rest of the game had been like this last part. It gave me a glimpse of how much fun the game could have been if it had been more consistent. The only really "unfair" puzzle I encountered toward the end of the game involved having to use an inventory item on the movement cursor instead of on a hotspot.  

Required Specs (as listed at TAC)

Windows 98/ME/2000/XP

Pentium III 850 MHz (1 GHz or better recommended)

64 MB system RAM (128 MB recommended)

24x CDROM Drive (32x CDROM or better recommended)

32 MB DirectX 8.0 compatible 3D video card (or higher)

DirectSound compatible sound card

4.0 GB hard drive space

The computers I played it on

Dell 4800

Windows XP Home SP1

Pentium 4 3200 MHz

1024 MB system RAM

ATI Radeon X800 SE 128 MB (PCI Express)

SBLive (OEM version from Dell)

DirectX 9.0b

 

Windows 2000 SP2

Athlon XP 1800+ (about 1533 MHz)

512 MB system RAM

16x/10x/12x/40x Toshiba SD-R1202 combo drive

Matrox G550 graphics card with 32 MB video RAM

SBLive Value 5.1

DirectX 8.1b

Possible Glitches

For most of the game, when I loaded a saved game, there was no music or background sound. Voices worked normally. But until I moved into another area that had a different background ambiance, there was silence. This happened with both of my test computers and happened whether I had just started up the game or whether I'd been playing and decided to go back to a previous save. There were some areas later in the game where the music and background sound loaded normally, but these areas seemed to be an exception. Except for this problem I did not encounter any technical glitches on either computer. And the game looked just as good and played just as well on the slower computer with its Matrox G550 video card, which is not considered a "gaming card." 

Additional comments

Atlantis Evolution is a relatively short game (unless you get hung up on one of the timed sequences, an inventory hunt, or the one spot at the end of the game where there is that subtle change in where and how you can use inventory). The third time I played the game, I timed myself. It took 3 hours and 48 minutes to complete, and this includes time spent exhausting all conversations and having to repeat some of the arcade puzzles several times. I would have liked to have spent more time with the Forest people (called "the First People" in the game). We don't learn much about them other than that they lived inside the earth before the Atlanteans came. Miranda and her grandmother were more interesting to talk to than the villagers who were either too afraid to speak or had been mind-wiped ("realigned"). Chel the ex-guard was also an interesting character and I would have liked to play as Chel part of the time, perhaps to create a diversion while Curtis snuck into an installation or something. I think the story in Atlantis Evolution could have been made more interesting if the characters had been fleshed out more and the story had had more twists and turns in it. Too much was left until the end of the game. If a story has a beginning, a middle, and an end, this one needed more middle.

Who is the target audience for Atlantis Evolution? Young novice adventure gamers who normally play other genres won't have any trouble with the arcade games. And they will probably appreciate the relatively easy adventure-type puzzles, with the exception of the inventory location puzzles. Inventory location doesn't require logical thought so much as patience. The 360 panning makes inventory tricky to locate. It is relatively easy to get lost in the forest and lose track of which nodes you have searched for inventory, and this may well prove frustrating for many gamers. I don't think the timed inventory hunt will please anyone. Despite the relative simplicity of the layout of the area, it is too easy to miss things simply because you don't have time to see them before you are killed. Established adventure gamers who like to challenge their minds will likely find the adventure game type puzzles too easy. Older gamers, or those with physical limitations may find the arcade games too difficult to complete, despite the ridiculous ease with which younger gamers (and those older ones with no reflex problems) will speed past what will seem to them to be beginner level games. The gamer most likely to enjoy this game would be someone who plays all different genres and is looking for an easy game, yet doesn't mind slowing down for an inventory hunt. Most gamers are going to find something about the game that will annoy them. The quality of the gameplay is too inconsistent for it to be considered more than an average game, despite the beauty of its graphics and (as far as I can tell) the stability of its game engine.

Recommendations

Atlantis Evolution is a good-looking game with some great animated sequences and a fun, if somewhat campy story. But since this is a GameBoomers review and I know some GameBoomers members are physically unable to handle even relatively simple dexterity-based "challenges," I can't give it an unreserved recommendation. However, if you can handle the action-based parts, you may enjoy the adventure-style parts and the exceptional graphics and animations.

Overall Grade   C

design copyright 2004 GameBoomers Group

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