Amber's Blood: A Carol Reed Mystery



Genre:   Adventure

Developer & Publisher:     MDNA Games

Released:  February 2012

System Requirements:

  • OS : Windows XP / Vista / 7 (32 or 64-bit)

  • CPU: Pentium Core 2 Duo 2.0 GHz or equivalent

  • RAM: 1 GB

  • Video Card: GeForce 7800 or equivalent

  • HDD: 700 MB



by Becky


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 Adventure

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 processor


1024MB NVIDIA GeForce GT 220

Soundblaster X-Fi

Amber's Blood: A Carol Reed Adventure is an Independent production of MDNA Games and can be purchased from the game's website.


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