AGON 2: Lapland

 
 
 

Genre:   Adventure

Developer & Publisher:   Private Moon

Released:   2nd episode - 2003

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 (Geforce 2 or equal), DirectX compatible sound card, DirectX 8.0 (or better)

Walkthrough

 

Additional Screenshots

 

 

 

by Jenny100

AGON 2: Lapland

AGON 2 is the second of a projected 14 part series of downloadable adventure game chapters. It continues the adventures of Professor Samuel Hunt, who was introduced in the first AGON game. The first game took place in October of the year 1903 in London, where Professor Hunt is employed as a historian by the British museum. At the end of the first episode, Hunt leaves by train to continue his quest in Lapland. AGON 2 begins with his arrival at a remote train stop in Lapland. He has little information to go on other than a name and the geographic coordinates for what appears to be his next destination.

Besides the adventure part of the game, the AGON series will be introducing a collection of board games. The first game, Tablut, makes its appearance at the end of the Lapland episode. Tablut is a real game, possibly dating back to the Viking Age (ca. the 8th to 10th centuries). Future episodes of AGON will include other board games, each having their origins in whatever exotic location Professor Hunt happens to be visiting.

What is the interface like?

AGON 2 is a first person point-and-click adventure game that can be played completely with the mouse. You can pan around by holding down the mouse button and dragging the screen left or right, up or down. The closer your cursor is to the center of the screen when you "grab" it, the faster the panning. So if you tend to get motion sickness with panning games, just be sure to grab the screen near the edges.

During the game there are three keys that are always visible in the upper right of the screen. They look like the keys of an old-fashioned typewriter and are labeled M for main menu, F for files, and I for inventory. If you click F, you'll get an "about the interface" link with a description of the cursors and the keys. It's a very intuitive, well-designed interface. A readme is included in the game install, but you can probably figure out the interface without consulting the readme.

While playing the board game, you'll have a different set of typewriter keys taking the place of the M, F, and I keys. Click E to exit the game, R to see the rules, and M to access the main menu.

Are there any volume controls?

Yes. There are separate controls for voices, background sounds, and music.

Are there any other game options?

Subtitles are enabled by default, and are available in English, French, German, and Hungarian. There is also an option for antialiasing with choices of 2x, 4x, and none. Antialiasing is disabled by default. There are color depth options of 16-bit and 32-bit, 32-bit being the default. There are controls for fast, slow, or normal panning speed, though you can also control panning speed yourself during the game by where you "grab" the screen with your cursor. There are difficulty settings for the board game, though my brother and I couldn't tell the difference in difficulty between the Easy and Normal settings. What the Easy setting did seem to do was decrease the response time before the computer made a move.

Are there conversations during the game?

Yes, but not many. In this particular chapter of the game there are no conversation puzzles. You do speak with two other characters (not counting the guy who just grunts at you), but your character's responses are automatic during conversations. And most of the time you are alone, looking for clues in the environment.

How are the puzzles?

The game designers took care to make the puzzles integrate well with the game environment. Professor Hunt can't depend on other characters to help him get where he is going. When he needs their help he must find a way to get them to help him. If there is no one to help, he must explore the area around him to the best of his ability, searching for possible inventory items and information that might help him. There are mechanical puzzles as well as inventory puzzles, but nothing very difficult.

Is there a lot of reading to do?

Some of the reading is optional. You should read any private correspondence you find. But you don't have to read every book on the shelf. Some books may have information you'll need, but you can put off the book reading until you know it will be useful.

Are there any action or timed sequences?

No. AGON 2 is blissfully free of such annoyances.

Are there any mazes?

There's one area where you are floundering around in the snow. It isn't really that complex, but with the panning interface it is easy to go around in circles unless you start paying attention to key features at the individual nodes. It's not really a maze though, and despite your character's complaints that he's freezing, it's not timed.

Any other annoying puzzles?

I really didn't need to see another Morse Code puzzle. They're just a matter of substituting letters for the dots and dashes. Not difficult, but tedious and time-consuming. The Morse Code puzzle was also rather stubborn. It didn't always "take" when I typed it in correctly. I had to delete part of what I'd typed in, enter something that was wrong, delete that, type in the correct answer, click the Enter key, and repeat until it "took." If the puzzle doesn't work for you, it is possible to ignore it and complete the game without doing it. But it really should work if you type in the correct answer and enter it properly.

I found winning at the board game to be rather difficult. I haven't given up on it yet, but decided to get my brother to do it for me so I could see the end of the game and finish this review.

I don't have a brother. Is the game really that hard?

I'm just not much good at games where you have to think ahead. I tend to miss seeing possible moves by the opponent. But even if you can't get past the game, there isn't much to see after you win. The professor gets an inventory object and leaves by train, I assume to go back to the museum in London. And the episodes seem to be separate and have separate saves. So you don't need to complete AGON 2 before playing the upcoming AGON 3. And Private Moon was nice enough to put the hardest part at the end of the episode, so you won't get stuck before you've seen much of the game.

How are the graphics?

Graphics are fairly sharp, similar in quality to other recent adventure games that use panning. Interactive parts of the game have full screen graphics. Cut scenes are "letterbox style" with the black bars at the top and bottom of the screen. The game environment is well done. The cabin at the train station had a lot of interesting things to look at, though you couldn't interact with all of them. There are some background animations, like candles flickering and smoke issuing from chimneys. People and animals shift their positions. Since AGON 2 takes place in Lapland there is a lot of snow on the ground. There is one area where it's actually snowing and it looks very pretty. One area has an aurora borealis rippling in the sky.

The human characters are on the blocky side compared to those in some other games that have more of a budget. Their animation is improved since the first AGON game. In the first game, they were sometimes a bit too animated and flopped around or fidgeted when they were talking a bit more than was natural. They're more restrained in this second game, though movement of the hands could be more precise.

How is the sound?

The AGON series uses native English speakers and the voice acting is better than average. Background sounds and sound effects are also very good. The music was good. I had the impression from the AGON website that some of it was supposed to be inspired by native folk tunes, but I can't say for sure if that's the case or not. The music in the first AGON episode used an orchestra but most of the music in the second episode used synthesizers.

I heard it was short. How short is it?

It's pretty short, though I think AGON 2 may be a little longer than the first episode. You do visit more locations in AGON 2, and it includes a board game at the end, which the first game didn't have. After you finish it you can play the Tablut game online with other gamers if you want.

I don't want. Can I keep playing it against the computer?

Yep. There is a Replay Board Game option at the Main Menu,  which appears after you finish the game. There is also an online version of the board game by itself, which allows you to play Tablut with other gamers instead of against the computer. It costs $4.90 for gamers who are only interested in buying the board game, but is a free download for gamers who've purchased AGON 2. Check the AGON website at http://www.agongame.com for details about Netboard.

What are the required system specs?

Windows 98/ME/2000/XP

800 MHz Pentium III or equivalent processor

128 MB RAM

32 MB DirectX 8.0 compatible 3D video card (Geforce 2 or equal)

DirectX compatible sound card

DirectX 8.0 (or better)

Here are the specs of the three computers I tested it on:

Windows 98SE

1200 MHz Athlon processor

512 MB RAM

128 MB ATI Radeon 8500 video card

Hercules Fortissimo II sound card

DirectX 8.1b

Windows 2000 SP2

1533 MHz Athlon 1800+ processor

512  MB RAM

32 MB Matrox G550 video card

SBLive 4.1 Value sound card

DirectX 8.1b

Note that a Matrox G550 is not equal to a Geforce 2 video card, but the game played without a problem. It is OK to use a slower card than a Geforce 2 if you have a processor that is fast enough. There's no T&L requirement here. However it may be important to have at least 32 MB of video RAM.

Windows 98SE

PIII 750 MHz

512 MB RAM

64 MB Geforce 2 TI video card

Hercules Fortissimo II sound card

DirectX 8.1b

If you use a processor that is slower than the recommended 800 MHz, like the 750 MHz processor in this second computer, you can expect the cut scenes to have hiccups in the video. I didn't have any problems with the sound in the cut scenes. There may also be a possibility of getting dropped to the desktop. I had two drops to the desktop while playing and replaying AGON 2 on the 750 MHz computer, though it may have been due to the version of the Geforce drivers I was using. I didn't have any crashes with either of the other computers. But the response time of the computer during the Tablut game on the Windows 2000 computer was very slow at the "Normal" difficulty setting, even though it was the fastest computer of the three.

Any problems?

There is a discrepancy between the game rules for Tablut as described in the game and what happens when you actually play. The rules say "You can also take an enemy counter by trapping him between your own counter and one of the shaded squares." This is not the case in the actual game, and the shaded squares are just like any other squares when it comes to capturing enemy pieces.

It is possible to miss picking up a certain inventory item and then be cut off from going back to pick it up. Without it, you'll be unable to pick up another inventory item - one which I assume would be necessary for Professor Hunt to have in the future. You can finish the game without having the item, so this is not a dead end. But you miss out on part of the game. And there would be a continuity gap in future episodes, i.e.  - "When did he get the xxxxxx in Lapland?" The game is short enough that it isn't a big deal to go back and play from the beginning, even if you've forgotten to save. But it isn't clear where you should have picked up the item or even what might be missing. So a gamer might realize they'd missed something somewhere, especially if tipped off by one of Professor Hunt's comments, but even the most assiduous and thorough search of the available playing area would come up dry.

Professor Hunt talks to himself a lot during the game. Some of his remarks clue you in on what you should do next. But many of them are just observations. Sometimes his comments struck me as rather odd. For example, why say "Alas" when you see an aurora borealis in the sky? I wondered if Professor Hunt thought it was a bad omen. But he doesn't seem to be a superstitious person, so his comment confused me.

Some of the comments made by the person you play Tablut with during the game are also a bit odd. For example, at one point he says, "Goody-goody." Another bafflement.

The aurora borealis seen in the game was a nice touch, but an aurora would never be visible in front of trees, as it was in the game. Unlike a rainbow, an aurora is always generated in the upper atmosphere. This doesn't affect gameplay one bit, but it is an unintentional source of amusement for those who have actually seen auroras or know a little about them.

Any other comments?

Private Moon originally intended to release a new AGON episode every two months, but things didn't work out as planned. It has been several months since AGON 2 was released and as of the time of this review, AGON 3 is still not ready. The developers say they are making AGON 3 a longer and more complex episode than the previous two, in answer to gamers' complaints that the previous episodes were too short.

The descriptions of the two AGON episodes (London and Lapland) at www.agongame.com have what some gamers would consider plot spoilers. There aren't any spoilers for the puzzles, but the descriptions give you a synopsis of everything that happens in those episodes. They may be interesting to look at after playing the games, but if you wish to avoid plot spoilers, you may wish to avoid these descriptions.

I don't think it would be accurate to rate this game without seeing all the episodes. You're only seeing a little piece of the entire plot. I do think $9.80 may be a bit much if all you're interested in is the adventure part of the game. But if you're also interested in Tablut, you can think of the adventure part as $4.90 and Tablut as the other $4.90. Even though it was on the short and easy side (except for the Tablut game), I enjoyed AGON 2 and look forward to AGON 3.

design copyright 2004 GameBoomers Group

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