AGON: The Mysterious Codex


Genre:   Adventure

Developer:   Private Moon

Publisher:    Viva Media

Released:  March 2006

PC Requirements:   Windows® 98/Me/2000/XP, 800 Mhz Pentium® III or equivalent processor, 128 MB RAM, 32 MB DirectX® 8.0 Compatible 3D Video Card (GeForce2 or equal), DirectX® Compatible Sound Card + Stereo Speakers




Additional screenshots

Episode 1   Episode 2  Episode 3




by Becky


AGON: The Mysterious Codex is a compilation on CD of three games featuring the adventures of Professor Samuel Hunt of the British Museum.  The games originally were (actually, still are) available as self-contained individual downloads.  AGON: The Mysterious Codex maintains this episodic character and you must complete each episode before you can continue to the next one.

Our protagonist is a “scientist of culture,” a lover of history, and an unlikely hero.  He’s in his early 50s -- an age at which most folks are too worn out to go gadding about the globe on eccentric quests.  The game takes place at the beginning of the 20th century.  The London episode opens with Professor Hunt working late into the night, surrounded by leather-bound volumes which presage some of the locations and mysteries the gamer will encounter.  Professor Hunt has just received a letter from an anonymous source.  It contains a page from an unknown Codex (ancient manuscript) and a hint that this strange document is somehow related to an artifact in the museum’s collection.

Professor Hunt’s character is one of the strengths of AGON – after a brief time in his company you understand his intellectual zeal, and you sense his magnetic personality.  It is his mission to acquire twelve long lost board games (the Ancient Games Of Nations), which were given long ago to twelve families across the globe.  Hunt must not only locate each family, but he must also beat the current master/caretaker at his own game.  AGON: The Mysterious Codex chronicles Professor Hunt’s quest for the first two Ancient Games.

And So It Begins

Part of the fun of playing AGON is the chance to explore the exotic locations in a colorful, historical past.  Once Professor Hunt zeros in on the first Ancient Game, it’s off to Lapland for some intense sleuthing and negotiations with the locals.  You will visit a Laplander village and wander among snowy vistas looking for people and clues.

Graphics are node-based, using first person perspective with 360 degree panning. The interface is point-and-click.  The graphical resolution is not as sharp as I’ve seen in recent games.  But while exploring the environments that is a minor issue.

Lapland is so well rendered that you actually feel the cold.  Tree trunks are contorted, weighed down by their ice encrusted branches.  The Laplander huts are huddled, smoke rising from the chimneys.  There is a sleigh ride here that is affectingly nostalgic, through a windswept forest mantled in snow. 

Conversation with the Laplanders and other characters in the game takes place via a dialog box at the bottom of the screen.  Questions can be asked in any order.  I couldn’t click through the dialogues, but conversations are sufficiently succinct that I didn’t need to speed through them anyway.  The voice acting throughout the game is excellent, particularly that of Peter Meikle in the role of Professor Hunt.

Each location features ethnic music authentic to the locale; the musical loop is short, provocative and memorable.

Once Professor Hunt has located Tablut -- the Ancient Game in Lapland -- and has beaten its master, the episode closes abruptly.  Then, while you are still trying to catch a glimpse of the mysterious stone Hunt has just acquired, he is heading toward another part of the world – Madagascar, as lush and vibrant as Lapland is icy and stark.

Out of the Freezer and Into the Tropics

A quick transition between episodes is provided by a map of the globe with Professor Hunt’s travels traced on its surface.  Next to the map are letters detailing his experiences while in transit, as well as an excerpt from his biography.

It’s in Madagascar that AGON really settles into what it does best -- immersing the gamer in a remote, treacherous environment, creating hazards for the Professor to overcome in his quest, and introducing characters who tell a touching story.  Madagascar is longer than the other episodes -- with more backstory and greater interaction with other characters. 

The Madagascar jungle is a labyrinthine tangle made up of thorny branches, tall grasses and silhouettes of leaves against the sky. Deep within is a treehouse, surely inspired by the abodes of famous fictional castaways.   AGON’s treehouse has gauzy, netted curtains blowing in the breeze and it’s strewn with books and remnants of technology from across the ocean.  Late in the episode, you exit the jungle and explore the beach where a flamboyant sunset paints the water and sky.  The final path to the Fanorana Ancient Game is surprising, as is the game’s master (and his unpronounceable name).

Try to Consider the Whole Board Simultaneously, Professor

The Lapland and Madagascar segments are punctuated at the end by an Ancient Game that you must win to complete the episode.  I played both board games on the “Easy” setting, designed for people who don’t often play them.  Winning at Tablut wasn’t too difficult, but Fanorana was hard because the moves are more complex.  I felt a sense of accomplishment each time I defeated my opponent.  Overall, I think the board games are a novel and successful addition to this particular adventure series.  Once you’ve beaten them, you can go to the main menu and play against the computer as often as you’d like.  After practicing against your virtual opponent, you may find that you wish to play these games online against flesh and blood opponents – though I couldn’t discover a way to do this using The Mysterious Codex disk.

Dot Dot Dot Dash Dash Dash Dot Dot Dot

AGON is a puzzle-heavy game and includes inventory, mechanical, and pixel-hunting challenges.  I struggled mightily in AGON, particularly with a puzzle type I haven’t mentioned yet -- symbol interpretations.  There are several places in the game where texts have to be decoded, then entered into a pop-up keyboard.  Make one tiny error while decoding/translating these texts, and the game simply sits there, giving you no indication where you went wrong in this complicated, time-consuming process.

The longest puzzle of this type – the Morse Code puzzle – was fun for about the first thirty letters.  It was not fun for the next sixty.  After laboriously distinguishing dots from dashes, the game still didn’t credit me with the solution, and I had to glance at a walkthrough to see why not.  After I finally realized the last “twist” and entered everything correctly, I did not find much reward for my efforts – the solution gave me information, but nothing in the game seemed to have changed at all.

I found other problems.  The physical proportions of a few of the puzzle items in AGON made it difficult to understand how they related to one another or to the task at hand.  One goal could not be achieved until a tangential puzzle was solved that had no “real” effect upon the goal.  Too often it was easier to solve challenges through trial and error than to figure out the clues.  A couple of times I didn’t even find the clues until after I’d solved the puzzle.  Twice I missed inventory items altogether, and couldn’t return for them.  After consulting a walkthrough, I had to go back to a saved game to correct my mistakes.

At times I knew that something was a clue, but I couldn’t see it because it was blurry or because it was a symbol that was almost indistinguishable from another symbol.  In one sequence, I literally had to put my nose up to the screen to make out the shape of the clues.  For a sound based puzzle, I had to put my ear right up to each computer speaker before I could distinguish the clues.  I’ve never played a game that forced me get so up close and personal with my computer.

AGON cries out for an in-game hint system.  The first level of hints for the decoding challenges should be the text/symbol clues printed in a clear, black, standard font; for the sound based puzzle, a description of the sounds and direction they are coming from would be useful.


AGON’s interface is easy to use.  In rare instances, navigation became frustrating while I searched for the directional arrow between nodes, but otherwise interacting with the game environment was a breeze.

There’s a Dial in the upper right hand corner of the screen that provides access to the main menu, the inventory, and files -- including the Codex page for each episode (once you’ve found it) and also a description of the game’s controls.   The Dial changes during board games, so that you always have the rules handy if you need them.  The options menu allows you to tweak the graphics and enables you to individually adjust sound levels of the voices, music and sound effects.

One quibble – there are only eight save slots (also an autosave, so technically there are nine).  This was not nearly enough.  Since AGON includes three separate episodes, I would have preferred to maintain a couple of saves from each, plus a save at the introductory map screen.  This is a game in which it is helpful to go back to those previously saved games – for instance, to refer back to the Codex pages, which are not carried over into the later episodes. 

AGON installed without problems – installation requires the gamer to enter an AGON Registration Code from the back of the manual (include the hyphens when entering the code).  I had to adjust my flat panel monitor to center the game in the middle of the screen.  The game crashed to the desktop twice.  One interesting oddity: I exited a game while hanging onto an inventory item, then loaded a previously saved game -- only to find that the item was now carried in my inventory in the previously saved game.

Quick List for AGON: The Mysterious Codex

Episodic adventures taking place in early 20th century London, Lapland and Madagascar.  Point-and-click, first person perspective.  360 degree panning, colorful graphics, dramatically contrasting locations.  A quest-based story with a hint of nostalgia.  Characters with intriguing personalities and backgrounds.  Very good voice acting.

The puzzles seem straightforward at first, but there’s almost always a twist.  Inventory puzzles, mechanical puzzles, pixel-hunting challenges, symbol interpretation and decoding challenges.  Puzzle difficulty – clearly on the tough side.  No sliders, one sound-based puzzle, one maze, no timed puzzles, no puzzles requiring color discrimination.  You must beat the computer at two historical board games in order to finish the game.  You cannot die.

8 save slots.  No problems with installation.  No need to keep the disk in the drive once the game is installed.  Two crashes to the desk top.

AGON: The Mysterious Codex is aimed at gamers who enjoy traveling to distant parts of the globe to meet varied characters and to solve an ancient mystery.

Final Grade:  B


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