What is it?
Al Emmo & the Lost Dutchman's Mine
is a point and click adventure game originally released in 2006 but now
updated with new voice actors in a number of key roles, and re-worked
cut-scenes. It was built using the Adventure Game Studio engine by
Himalaya Studios (the same team that remade Kings Quest 1 & 2,
though not the same name).
The game is set in the fictional town of Anozira, but
when you see the place, you'll soon spot the resemblance with
archetypical Western towns of myth... but not quite.
Is there a plot?
The eponymous Al is a balding, middle-aged, trust-funded,
love-lorn bachelor in search of a mail order bride, who has agreed to
meet him in Anozira. After his rejection Al Emmo is left stranded at the
railway station with a ticket home, but no train in sight for days. So
what does Woody Allen, I mean, Al Emmo get up to in a small town?
As it turns out, what he gets up to is chasing another
girl, overcoming the competition, making deals with the local Indian
tribe, and exploring the Lost Dutchman's Mine. In between, we have love,
loss, fraud, donkeys, a surfeit of cacti, small-town politics,
cryptography, a hanging, chemistry, a jail-break, cross-dressing,
honky-tonk piano, sun-burn, termites, and a wombat. And finally, Aztec
treasure and a narrator that just never stops.
How do you play?
As already mentioned, Al Emmo & the Lost Dutchman's
Mine is a point and click adventure. Everything is accessible with
the mouse, though some functions have keyboard shortcuts. Since the game
is built on the AGS (Adventure Game Studio), the menus are simple;
limited to large text buttons, in common with other games I've seen
built on AGS. Once you get into the game proper, though, things become a
little more refined.
The main scene fills most of the screen, in a
Cinemascope-kind of way. The menus peel down out of the top-left and
top-right corners when you mouse over those corners. The menus give
access to the Help, About, Options, Save and Restore (load) options in
the top left, and the four cursor modes in the top right. The cursor
modes are also accessible by repeated right clicks. You have the move,
hand, speak, and inventory modes. Every mode will do something in
response to any hotspot on the screen, even if it's just the narrator
insulting you for your obviously ignorant choice to try to speak to a
Movement is simple: click and go. You can double-click to
make Al run, and hitting the Escape key will skip any intermediate
movement between the start and the end point of a move. This is
particularly useful if you're navigating several screens of desert to
get somewhere - click on the Exit, hit Escape to jump to the exit, then
click on the next Exit and hit Escape again, to skip having Al
pointlessly run across the screen yet again. There's a lot of too-ing
and fro-ing in Al Emmo, so get used to it.
The inventory comes up in a horizontally scrollable band
across the bottom of the game window, and can also be accessed using the
Tab key. Each item can be picked up, described or combined with other
items. When an item is in your hand, there's always a white dot which
indicates the equivalent of the tip of the normal cursor arrow, so you
can see where to click on other people, things and places with a
inventory object in hand.
The most notable features of Al Emmo & the Lost
Dutchman's Mine are not positive. The principal character, Al Emmo
himself, would be played by Woody Allen at his most self-obsessive and
immature if this were a movie; I was sick of him by the end of the
second scene. The narrator is a pompous fool, constantly and redundantly
pointing out the flaws in Al's character and actions.
On the other hand, the voice acting of those two roles is
actually quite passable, if deeply unlikeable. These two actors had a
substantial amount of recording work to do for this game. One or other
of them will comment on almost anything in the game, sometimes with more
than one unique response. Some of the other voices sounded truly
out-of-place. I'm thinking of the bar-tender in particular, who sounded
like someone from somewhere between Manchester and Liverpool, not
During the bulk of the game (the first eight chapters),
you cannot die, though you can get lost in the desert for a while.
However, during the last chapter of the game (the part directly
associated with the Mine) you can die, although you're always
brought back to a point immediately before the fateful decision, so the
deaths are not dead-ends. There are also some timed bits in the Mine, so
watch your step. And there's even a simple sliding blocks puzzle; a
trigger-word with some, I know.
Ok, to summarize, Al Emmo & the Lost Dutchman's Mine
is an exercise in puerile humour, with a Woody Allen-esque leading
man-child that makes my spine itch. It's full of clichéd characters and
done-to-death tropes, including predictable jokes and stale real-world
references. What's not to hate. On the plus side, the game was
technically solid (hence the 'C' grade), if determinedly retro in style.
Frankly, I couldn't bear more than an hour at a time, though I did get
to the end ... eventually.
What do you need to play it?
Windows XP, Vista, 7, or 8
32-bit SVGA Video card
2 MB Video RAM
800 Mhz CPU or above
128 MB RAM
DirectX 5 or higher
Up to 350 MB free space
Digital sound card
(I used a home-built 64-bit Windows 7 Home Premium (SP1)
PC running on an AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual 5200+ processor, with 6 GB RAM,
and a Sapphire Radeon HD4670 512MB video card, with on-mother-board,
built-in sound card)