Diamon Jones: Amulet of the World

 

 

Genre:   Adventure

Developer:   Litera

Publisher:    GFI, Big Fish

Released:  April 2009

PC Requirements:   Windows XP / Vista, 2.0 GHz Processor, 512MB RAM, 128 MB Video card, DirectX 9c

 

 

 

by flotsam

 

In our sneak peek of the preview version of this game, Looney4labs concluded: ďI had fun cavorting with Diamon Jones and I sincerely hope that I, as well as others, will have a chance to enjoy this game once all the Ďspit and polishí has been applied.Ē  Having played the release version, available for download from Big Fish Games, I am happy to say that the cavorting quotient remains high, and the fun factor not far behind.

Like his namesake Indiana, the lure of treasure and all things archaeological -- plus the occasional need to flee trouble -- seems to be Diamonís reason for being. A tale of the end of the world, with treasure to boot, is too good to resist. Once out of the humble drinking house, Diamon is on the trail.

Itís a jolly, jaunty animated affair from start to finish. Whilst there is a slightly ďold timeĒ look to the single game screens, they well suit the feel of the piece and lack for nothing in colour and detail. The soundtrack bobs along with it and ambient sound, whilst limited in scope, does what it needs to.

The voices are a mixed bag -- from quite good to rather ordinary. At no time though, except right at the start, did any of them irritate me. Some seem deliberately cheesy, again in keeping with the tone of the game.

Dialogue is spoken, but subtitles appear in a ribbon across the bottom of the screen, along with a little animated headshot of the relevant character. Diamonís ribbon would now and then flutter gently like a flag in the breeze for some reason. You can click ahead (usually) if you read faster than the character talks. I actually prefer not to have subtitles, as I canít ignore them and generally do read faster than the character can deliver the line. Unfortunately, you canít turn the subtitles off. A small thing, but most games do let you choose.

At times the subtitles werenít exactly the same as the dialogue, and some expressions were a little odd. However, if you consider that GFI is a Russian/Ukrainian company, they can probably be forgiven an English glitch or two. It certainly was the exception, and didnít bother me at all.

Diamon Jones is third person point and click, with a limited range of cursers to indicate actions at hotspots. Some hotspots are rather small, and some items I found difficult to pick out. But there are never too many in any single screen, and I was rarely stuck for very long because I couldnít find something. Diamon wonít let you leave until everything has been found, and so backtracking is limited.

The challenge in the game is provided by a mix of situational conundrums and mini-games or puzzles at certain locations. The situational puzzles are numerous and, in keeping with games of this type, nothing is ever straightforward. You need a guide to take you to the Tibetan monastery. Despite the presence of a likely chap, first you have to make sure his beloved agrees to marry him -- which of course requires obtaining all the items which it was foretold her future husband would present himself with. Although some puzzles are convoluted, none are what I would call hard. Which doesnít mean I wasnít stuck, just that persistence and a good eye will generally see you through.

Much of the challenge in the game may well come from the mini-games. Whilst these might be puzzles (e.g., assemble an ancient statue, reproduce a sound sequence) many are little action-type games which you cannot skip and which you must complete to move forward. I found many of them a lot of fun, and they are varied and at times unique. Smashing the door with my catapult was particularly satisfying, and combining drinking with marksmanship reminded me of my university days (not the marksmanship, just combining drinking with any type of challenge).

In terms of their difficulty, I thought the mini-games were generally mild, although trying to get the sliding bridge inserted into the gap in the other side of the precipice bordered on the frustrating. Whilst the end game didnít trouble me for too long, I am aware that some gamers have given up at this point, finding the combination of dodging fire balls whilst shooting vases all too much. Weaned as I was on Quake, it was not too difficult, although recognising the key to vanquishing the foe required me to pay attention rather than to just keep shooting, and reinforced the gameís adventure roots.

The mini-games are varied in their design, and there is no need to worry if you fail; the game restores you to the start of the particular challenge,

I suspect though that itís these mini-games that will keep some players away, and will cause other to leave. Which is a shame, because there really is a lot to like in Diamon Jones. Perhaps the makers could offer a ďskip gameĒ option for any future episodes.

I must make mention of the snake statue puzzle. I was really taken with that one, and kudos to the designers.

Save games are limited to ten (I think), which is nine more than I needed. You can in fact save during some of the mini-games (the shooting game is an example) which can assist in their completion, but not in all of them (the end game being such an example).

Have I mentioned the proportions of Mary Ocean yet? Lara Croft not withstanding, only in cartoon land would such proportions exist.

Game screens donít scroll and so each time Diamon leaves the confines of the screen there is a short load. Diamon can run, but he wonít jump to a new screen with a double click as in some games. There are a limited number of cutscenes, which played a little grainy, but which might be less so on a lower resolution. The game world and the cutscenes filled my rather large screen, which I liked a lot. Little game windows through which you peek is not my thing.

Diamon Jones is a very decent length, and when you factor in the price, it offers exceptional good value for your gaming dollar. Despite my preference for boxes and manuals (hopeless collector that I am), this is one game I would happily download in terms of value for money.

I got the odd glitch, once crashing whilst loading a new screen, and a few lock-ups that required control-alt-delete to get out of. Restarting is pretty quick, but itís always annoying, especially if you hadnít saved recently.

It isnít perfect, but what is? If you like this style of game, I canít help but think that you will be well pleased. Inventory quests arenít my first choice, but I had a lot of fun as Diamon Jones. The fact that the conundrums werenít overly hard meant the game moved along and things kept flowing. The mini-games offered a contrasting challenge, the story was sufficient to sustain the game play, and all in all it was good fun. Throw in the value for money, and itís a solid gaming investment.

B-

Diamon Jones: Amulet of the World can be purchased via download at Big Fish Games.  

May, 2009

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