Secret is the second game in the Adam's
Venture series. The storyline immediately follows that of the first
episode -- The Search for the Lost Garden. This second outing
improves upon the first game in many ways -- snappier dialogs, larger and
more varied environments, and more puzzles with increased complexity. The
Vertigo Digital Entertainment team has clearly taken adventure gamers'
voiced preferences to heart, and produced a more polished, lengthier,
brainier sequel. Any downsides? Read on.
"Danger trembles when it hears my name." Adam
As the game opens, it's 1928, and Adam Venture and
Evelyn Appleby are in an airplane, flying from the ancient site of the
Garden of Eden. They have had a less-than-paradisiacal experience there,
and have left one team member behind (probably in perpetuity). They return
to the headquarters of the Clairvaux Corporation, which funds their
research into and exploration of Holy Land sites.
The first part of the game springs a surprise. Later
parts involve an archaeological dig on the Temple Mount area in Jerusalem,
plus relic hunting opponents whose ultimate motivations are hidden.
"You might have actually stumbled upon something
here." Evelyn Appleby
Solomon's Secret has much to offer the gamer
who likes to explore new environments and admire spectacular vistas. This
game employs the Unreal 3 engine, also used to develop action games like
the Gears of War series and Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six series.
The Adam's Venture developers have harnessed it to create a
detailed, expansive world, and to give the puzzles a volumetric, "physics"
feel. If you've been curious to play a game with up-to-date,
photorealistic 3D graphics (and don't want to shoot anything while
enjoying the view), this game is a good way to satisfy your curiosity.
What will you see in Solomon's Secret? In one
outdoor sequence, the rooftops of Jerusalem shimmer in the heat. Sand
blows through the air. The occasional cactus or palm tree adds a bit of
green. Tufts of scorched grass and weeds are strewn amongst the dirt and
the crumbling stonework.
The ruins beneath the Temple Mount provide a darker,
creepier experience -- viewed by torchlight, with sunlight occasionally
breaking through. Parts of the ruins were once a palace, and huge chunks
of broken marble are interspersed with detailed molding and murals. The
underground portions reminded me of exploring the underground city in
Myst Uru: Complete Chronicles.
"Woohoo! Isn't it fun when your life hangs by a
Adam is an adventurer at heart; Evelyn has a
scholarly bent. Adam's eyes are bloodshot and he's unshaven and generally
rough around the edges. Evelyn looks tidy and composed (well, most of the
time). She plays "straight man" to Adam's outrageous remarks. Unlike
The Search for the Lost Garden, Evelyn accompanies Adam for the bulk
of this adventure, which dramatizes their relationship as it unfolds.
Although the Adam's Venture series contains
references to events and characters in biblical history, it isn't at all
"preachy." In fact, its most obvious inspiration is the original
Indiana Jones film, Raiders of the Lost Ark. There are distinct
differences, however. With the exception of dynamite, Adam deals with
women and weapons less competently than Indiana. (He knows next to nothing
about either.) Adam also has a sillier sense of humor and a scintilla more
humility than Indiana -- both of which work well in Solomon's Secret's
"Can't we just blow them all up?" Adam
You play the game from a third person perspective.
Most of the story elements unfold in the cut scenes, which contain brief
dialogs and frequent close-ups of the characters' faces as they react to
events. The voiceovers -- particularly those of the two main characters --
are suitable and professional. Animation in the cut scenes is
significantly improved since The Search for the Lost Garden.
The background music has an exotic Eastern sound. It
ranges from mystical and contemplative to sharp, almost militaristic, to
heart-pumpingly dramatic. At times, it reminded me of snake charmer music
(perhaps that's what's really going on in the background somewhere).
Ambient sounds include running footsteps, grunts, the rumble and whir of
mechanical devices, and random comments from passing locals.
The story in Solomon's Secret reaches a
satisfying conclusion; however, it is interrupted by a twist in the
proceedings and a cliffhanger final scene pointing towards the
"All of my guesses are educated." Evelyn
The puzzles start on the easy side. You carry only
one inventory item at a time, and usually it is useful near the area where
you picked it up. Occasionally, important hotspots contain sparkles that
alert you to their location. In addition to using inventory items,
challenges include mechanical puzzles like rotating disks and throwing
switches. Crates must be moved, temperature gauges reset, locks picked,
and symbols interpreted. There are some repeated puzzle screens among the
gauges and locks, though they require differing solutions.
Adam has to find his way over and through various
obstacles, sometimes by crouching or climbing or leaping. The actions
themselves aren't difficult -- the difficulty lies in discovering where
the required action is accessible. There are also a few places where, if
you fail a challenge sequence, the game puts you right back at the start.
A handful of challenges are mildly timed.
By mid-game, the puzzles become fairly dastardly. The
timing on the final disk puzzle, for instance, is quite tricky. The most
difficult challenges in the game, however, are actually rather traditional
as far as adventure game fare goes. Two of the pattern/symbol
interpretation puzzles had me trying every possible combination except (as
it turns out) the correct ones. After more than an hour spent with the
first of these, and more than two hours spent with the second, I was still
clueless as to which symbols should be included and which should be left
Since Evelyn accompanies Adam for most of the game, I
expected her to contribute something to the puzzle challenges. She does
comment sometimes on the purpose of machinery, or the historical context,
and she looks extremely decorative. But she doesn't actually do much
puzzle-wise. She gets huffy if Adam makes the mistake of acknowledging
Never speak the truth to a blonde! Heads will roll
"I'll let Newton take the fall." Adam
Now the downside for those who don't enjoy
keyboard-only controls. The mouse has no function in this game. You can't
even use the mouse in the game menus. The arrow keys are used to navigate
the menus and the "Enter" key to make your selections. For those used to
action games, this may not disappoint. But for those who favor
point-and-click interfaces, this game will require practice and
Once you've figured out how to signal the game that
you want to start, you begin moving Adam around the gameworld with the
arrow keys. (Note: you can also use the WASD keys or a game controller.)
Moving Adam is fairly simple at first as you wander around each new
environment, hoping to trigger a hotspot. Camera angles, for the most
part, help rather than hinder. Early on, the game is structured so that
any new moves (climbing, crouching) are explained via arrows and
Getting through the gameworld in this fashion
inevitably requires trial and error. Some walls can be climbed or jumped
to and others can't. The only way to find out is to swarm all over the
walls while hitting the space bar. Some structures can be crawled under
and some can't. The only way to find out is to squat down and swarm all
over any areas with openings.
Most of the locations in the game are edged by an
invisible barrier that makes it impossible for Adam to fall. Twice this
isn't the case. I discovered these two "game over" moments when Adam
suddenly plunged to his death. When this happened, I reloaded at the most
recent checkpoint, and didn't lose much progress. Avoiding the death drops
was easy once I knew their locations.
Solomon's Secret has an autosave system --you
can't save your game whenever you'd like. Checkpoint saves are signified
visually and through a characteristic sound, and these are (thankfully)
quite frequent. One downside, though, is that sometimes when you hit a
checkpoint, the game will no longer let you go back and explore the
environment you were admiring before the checkpoint. The good: you aren't
wandering aimlessly, looking for the item or hotspot you need to progress.
The bad: you need to view everything in a new area before solving any
puzzles, just in case you can't get back to see it again. The ugly: you
can always replay the game to see areas you caught brief glimpses of the
first time through. But that's certainly more work than reloading a saved
game would have been.
Quick List for Adam's Venture 2: Solomon's
Episode 2 in the Adam's Venture series, with a
story set mostly in Jerusalem. Two explorers take on a band of
international thugs and puzzle their way into ancient ruins built by the
biblical King Solomon. Featuring Adam Venture, who never met an ancient
ruin he couldn't get under, over or through. Also Evelyn Appleby, a
snooty, scholarly beauty. Gorgeous, photorealistic, 3D visuals. (The game
uses the celebrated Unreal 3 engine.) Effective cut scenes. Dialogs are
memorable and brief.
Third person perspective. For navigation, you use the
keyboard arrow keys or the WASD keys or a game controller. (The mouse is
never used in the game.) The autosave system contains frequent
This episode's story resolves events, and then a
dramatic, cliffhanger cut scene follows, leaving you eager for the sequel
(the as-yet-to-be-released Episode 3). No problems with installation; one
crash to the desktop. You can die in a couple of places -- afterwards you
reload at the checkpoint. Appropriate for all ages. About eight hours of
Inventory challenges, pattern and sequencing,
climbing and (easy) leaping. A few mildly timed puzzles; one tricky timed
puzzle. No mazes, no sliders, no sound based challenges. Two puzzles that
will be tougher for those who can't distinguish colors. The most difficult
challenges involve using symbols in the correct sequence/orientation to
interpret a written text.
Aimed at those who like to explore exotic locations
with a dramatic storyline and with a bit of biblical history tossed into
Final Grade: B+
What I played it on:
Dell Studio XPS 8000
Windows 7 Home Premium
Intel Core i5-750 processor
6GB DDR3 SDRAM
1024MB NVIDIA GeForce GT 220
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