Al Emmo and the Lost Dutchman’s Mine



Genre:   Adventure

Developer & Publisher:    Himalaya Studios

Released:  September 2006

PC Requirements:   Win95, OSR2, 98, ME, 2000 or XP; 1 MB video RAM, 800 Mhz processor, 128 MB RAM, Direct X compatible video card, DirectX 9.0c, 350 MB free disk space, DirectX compatible digital sound card






by Becky


How do you create an original game while recreating the kinds of memorable characters, enjoyable challenges and humor found in the classic adventures?  Himalaya Studios -- developers of the King’s Quest 1 and 2 remakes – has taken on this ambitious task in Al Emmo and the Lost Dutchman’s Mine.

Al Emmo is a comical point-and-click adventure viewed in third person perspective.    The game opens with a flashback showing an encounter between treasure hunting miners.  How this fits into the plot will become apparent later.

We watch as Al Emmo arrives in the town of Anozira by train.  He is on a quest – he hopes to prove to his parents (and to himself) that he is man enough to make a woman happy.  In Anozira, he has a rendezvous with a mail order bride.  He plans to marry this person immediately, after which he’ll escort her home and display her to his delighted and astonished parents.  Of course things don’t work out exactly as planned….

Remember the Alamo

The environments in Al Emmo are one of its strengths.  The game takes place in the American southwest, with its wide-open rocky landscapes and expansive skies.  The graphical style recalls that of the classic Sierra and LucasArts games.  The resolution is not terribly sharp, but on the plus side the 2D cartoon-like locations look like they have been drawn, tinted and textured by hand.  The result is an unusually warm and picturesque gameworld – an effect that is absent in games that use photorealistic or 3D graphics. 

Once you join Al on his quest you’ll find lots of places to explore and truckloads of stuff to find.  The cursor doesn’t change to identify hotspots, so you have to click on absolutely everything.

For the most part I enjoyed the environments in Al Emmo, and didn’t mind returning frequently to each one through the course of the story. 

One Among Them Claims to be Royalty

The people you meet in this game will make you laugh, groan, choke and (possibly) hide your eyes.  There’s Al himself -- the ultimate antihero.  He has long arms, huge hands and a potbelly.  He wears thick glasses and clompy black shoes. 

Al is assisted (or hindered) by a cast of unusual characters.   My favorite was Koko, the winsome, spaced-out storekeeper who hates to complete a sale.  Al’s rival in love (Antonio) is slimy and intimidating in a most satisfactory way, especially when he lisps.  For some unknown reason, Antonio’s name changes partway through the game (maybe he has an evil twin?).

During dialog sequences you’ll see a framed close-up of the character who is speaking.  Since the in-game character models lack detail and are pixelated, these close-ups help the gamer see each person more clearly.  Lip synch when the characters speak is surprisingly good.  You can click through the dialogs if you don’t want to hear every word.

Voice acting is a mixed bag.  When I first heard Al’s voice I thought:  “I like it!  But will it get old by game’s end?”  It didn’t get old.  On the other hand, although I chuckled madly at the Narrator’s first comments, by the middle of the game I turned on the “Text Only” option to clear the air of that supercilious sneer.  It’s hard to imagine smacking a disembodied voice, but that is what I wanted to do. 

An Aussie, a Virgin and a Cross-Dresser Walk into a Bar…

Of all the classic Sierra and LucasArts adventures to choose from, this game is closest thematically to Leisure Suit Larry.  It isn’t as ribald as LSL, but there are times when it feeds from the same trough.  Do you remember the Steve Martin skits on Saturday Night Live where Steve was a dweeb pretending to be a great romancer?  There is a good deal of humor in Al Emmo along that vein – including raunchy asides, bad puns and sight gags in a local brothel.  Sometimes the humor zings and sometimes it bombs.

We all have a different idea of what is funny.  For me, the humor fell flat often enough that by the middle of the game it had become frustrating and tiresome. 

Al Emmo merits a rating of “M” for “Mature.”  It is not a game for children, mostly because of its sexual content, but partly because the jokes would be incomprehensible to a child.  The alert gamer will discover riffs on films, popular music and pop culture.  Since so much of Al Emmo has a wacky feel to it, I thought these fit in well.

Eat Your Heart Out, Indiana Jones

The game’s pace accelerates in its last stage when the theme switches from Al as a romancer to Al as the solver of an archaeological mystery.  You can die in the last chapter, but the game brings you right back to let you try again.  You will meet a few timed challenges, two of which are tricky enough to qualify as mildly difficult. 

Otherwise, challenges in the game are mostly inventory based.  There are two code/pattern puzzles, a sliding tile puzzle and a quiz (I especially liked the quiz).  There are no color based challenges or mazes, though you will probably need to draw a map to help identify all the locations.

Overall I wouldn’t characterize this as a difficult game.  However, there are potential showstoppers.  It all depends on how thoroughly you’ve been searching the place.  For instance, I was held up for a long time while looking for something with which to bait a hook.  The number of locations where one could expect to find this item was discouraging, to say the least.  When I finally consulted a walkthrough, I had that “no way I ever would have thought to look here” experience.

There aren’t a lot of cutscenes in the game (aside from the generously long opening and ending sequences).  There are some freeze-framed comic book sequences that occur at the end of the early acts.  These are dramatic, with the tongue solidly in the cheek.  I liked them and was disappointed when they abruptly stopped about halfway through the game. 

The music in Al Emmo is varied, with a different theme for each environment.  The themes feature various Western sounds, and are sometimes lively, sometimes melancholy.  The heroine -- Rita Peralto -- sings plaintively on stage at Kevin’s Saloon.  Sometimes Al also sings.  And there’s a short but amusing duet that you’ll want to listen for.

I Came, I Saw, I Used, I Tasted

Ready to exercise your mouse finger?  Al Emmo is a real click-fest.  If you like to click and hear commentary on every prickly pear, condiment bottle, and wombat pellet dispenser, you will not be disappointed.  Left-clicking with the mouse performs any pre-selected action.  Right-clicking with the mouse allows the gamer to scroll through several functions -- “look,” “use,” “talk/eat,” “inventory” (with the most recently selected item available) and “walk.”  This means that whenever you feel like picking something up, you have to click through all the other actions to get to the “use” cursor.  It also means that whenever you feel like walking, you have to click through all the other actions in order to move.

It is possible to bypass right-clicking by moving the cursor to the top of the screen and trying to find the pixel that activates a dropdown “actions” menu.  It’s easier to find the actions menu if you move the cursor slightly to the left, then over to the right to find the menu, rather than moving the cursor straight up.  Even if you use the actions menu, you’ll still have to cycle through the actions by right-clicking in order to get to the “walk” cursor.

The inventory screen can be accessed different ways – I tried clicking on the mouse scroll button for part of the game, but found that to be awkward.  I then tried moving the cursor to the top right of the screen, which worked a little better.  Inventory items can be brought up individually by right-clicking until the cursor turns into an inventory item, and then scrolling through all the items with the mouse scroll button. 

If you really want to examine, touch and talk to everybody/thing, plus use inventory items on the multitudes of hotspots in each screen, you end up clicking a lot.  I clicked more with Al than I have in any other game. 

Double-clicking causes Al to run (a handy feature).  You can also make Al disappear and reappear exactly where you want him by clicking on a part of the screen and pushing the Escape key.  Less handy is the access to the exit points from each screen.  The location of the exits is inconsistent, sometimes requiring the gamer to pass the cursor over unexpected areas of the screen in order to find how to get out of there.

Al Emmo contains a few more small annoyances.  Soon after starting the game you retrieve a map that can be used to reach other locations (once you’ve initially explored them).  This can’t be activated while Al is indoors, so you have to find the exit before accessing the map.  At the saloon you can’t talk to Kevin the bartender (your main informant) until you sit on the barstool and wait for him to finish wiping down the bar or polishing the glassware.  Grrrrrrr.

Saves are unlimited, and you can usually save whenever you want.  There are a few places, however – mostly during timed sequences -- where you can’t save until the sequence has ended.

Al Emmo installed without a glitch and was stable right through to the ending credits.

Stop With the Double Entendres Already

I respect the ambition that led to the creation of Al Emmo and the Lost Dutchman’s Mine.  It’s a game that takes risks, with an unusual hero who has chosen an unusual mission.  The humor goes way out on a limb.  This means that at some point, for some gamers, it will fail.  For me the humor became repetitive and some of the sexual content (particularly the bizarre sequence in the bordello) was off-putting.  Still, despite this, I confess that I can’t help but admire the game’s cheek.

Bottom Line for Al Emmo and the Lost Dutchman’s Mine

If you leave Al to his own devices, he scratches his head, cracks his knuckles, plays with a yo-yo and picks his nose.  If you think it would be funny to watch this over and over again, you will probably love this game.

Final Grade: B-

Al Emmo and the Lost Dutchman’s Mine is an Independent production of Himalaya Studios and can be purchased at the developer’s website here.


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