In her eighth
detective adventure, Carol Reed -- an English expatriate living in
Sweden -- has finally conceded that the languorous days of summer are
not meant to be restful. Very wise, as she soon confronts a knotty
investigation. In Amber's Blood: A Carol Reed Mystery, Carol's
friend Stina has stumbled across a family enigma -- her grandfather died
twice. Did Dr. Alfons Larson somehow survive for years after Stina
thought he was dead and buried? Carol is on the case!
Looking for Adventure
Carol's inquiry starts with a clue in Stina's
attic, and proceeds from there, eventually taking her to the Linnea
shore and the surreal Loredum standing stones. She discovers Stina's
family history -- one steeped in tragedy. Carol tracks Dr. Larson's
movements when he was performing a series of medical experiments. She
also seeks an elusive witness to the experiments. The doctor left a
trail of puzzle clues and Carol is in a race with a mysterious adversary
who also hopes to discover the truth and who doesn't mind taking
shortcuts to eliminate the competition.
I've played all the Carol Reed mystery adventures
-- the story in this one is a standout. It's chock full of clues that
tantalize and locations that entice. Gameplay is compelling, as clues
to the mystery rapidly surface, opening new locations. Just a click on
the map, and I would be hot on the trail, uncovering disquieting
details, speculating about implications -- and wondering how Carol would
explain these revelations to the unsuspecting Stina.
Tilting at Windmills
Environments in Amber's Blood are composed
of high resolution photographs. They portray colorful buildings and
streetscapes in the Swedish town of Norrköping . Many outdoor
environments are exquisite, with skillfully composed vistas and close-up
views. Better still, you can wander through these landscapes, exploring
them from multiple angles, observing the play of light and shadow on
leaf, water, and stone. Many other recent adventure games have rather
restrictive environments; Amber's Blood's large environments are
liberating and refreshing.
Beyond the well tended homes and cultural sites of
Norrköping are the ruins on the town's outskirts. Here the theme is
disorder and decay. You will climb and wander through abandoned
windmills and boarded-up sanatoriums, with their peeling paint and
floors covered in jumbled brick, tile, and metal. Remnants of old
machinery are strewn about, traces of former occupants lie hidden, and
trees and vines grow among the shattered walls.
Varied background music enhances the atmosphere in
Amber's Blood. Sometimes it's threatening, full of echoes and
dissonance. Other times, choral sounds create a reclusive, otherworldly
effect. Stringed instruments produce a perfect accompaniment to
strolling the countryside.
I Shall Be as Secret as the Grave
Carol encounters several local characters on her
travels. Dialogs are brief, always informative, and occasionally
amusing. The dialog voiceovers feature local accents. (Carol's
matter-of-fact British tones are heard during her observations and
musings.) The locals appear as still images and their attitudes and
expressions change as the conversation progresses.
Carol's handsome beau Jonas makes a cameo,
apparently reconciled to the notion that Carol is happiest while haring
off on impossible investigations that she alone can solve.
There is no on-screen violence or spicy language in
this game. Its darker themes resonate without dominating. The game
touches on quixotic quests, insanity and betrayal, and how society (as
well as individuals) deal with the remnants.
The Unrightable Wrong?
Amber's Blood uses a first person
perspective and a point-and-click interface. Much of the gameplay
involves exploring the environments while hunting for oddities and
clues. (One hidden location even features the GameBoomers logo.) You
encounter many inventory item challenges, including inventory item
combinations. Some items are standard adventure fare (a crowbar, for
instance), but others are refreshingly whimsical. (I carried a roof tile
for ages, finally using it in unexpected ways.)
In addition, you will analyze patterns and codes
and then figure out how and where to use the information. A couple of
the puzzles involve distraction and are mildly timed, though once you
know what to do, they aren't difficult. The game contains no mazes, but
keeping track of your orientation within the multi-screened environment
is a challenge. You will also meet the occasional invisible trigger --
where something encountered can only be used after an action or plot
event elsewhere activates it. The game contains an excellent optional
hint system, though, that puts you on the right track if the invisible
triggers shoot you down err...leave you stuck.
Quick List for Amber's Blood: A Carol Reed
A well constructed detective mystery featuring a
British detective living in Sweden. Colorful, detailed environments in
slideshow format using landscape photography. The eighth game in the
Carol Reed series. Playing previous games is not required in order to
enjoy this one.
Gameplay focuses on exploration, inventory
challenges, interpreting codes and analyzing patterns. Two mildly timed
challenges. No mazes, sliders, or sound-based puzzles. Distinguishing
colors is important in three of the puzzles. The game's two hardest
challenges -- figuring out which clue applies to the retractable pen and
the cardboard with holes.
Limited character interaction. Competent
voiceovers. Varied, atmospheric background music. The game contains no
on-screen violence but does explore mature themes.
First person perspective, point-and-click
interface. No problems with installation, no glitches. Unlimited save
slots plus an autosave. A handy hint system. You can't die. About ten
hours of gameplay.
Amber's Blood: A Carol Reed Adventure is
aimed at adventure gamers who enjoy a fast-paced mystery combined with
the leisurely exploration of beguiling locations.
Final Grade: A-
What I played it on:
Dell Studio XPS 8000
Windows 7 Home Premium
Intel Core i5-750
6GB DDR3 SDRAM
1024MB NVIDIA GeForce GT
Amber's Blood: A
Carol Reed Adventure is an Independent production of MDNA Games and
can be purchased from the
GameBoomers Review Guidelines
design copyrightŠ 2012