The Eyes of Ara
Mention that a game is Myst-like
and some people run away, while others swarm like ants to a honey pot. I
am part of the swarm, usually up the front, and it is a swarm with
expectations. First and foremost the honey better be good; you canít
tempt and then not deliver.
Having said that, it isnít a
mention the maker (one Ben Droste) made, although on his website he does
refer to lights dancing in the mist, and things being shrouded in
mystery. But once you know itís a first person puzzle fest, and you read
a bit about it, the description will inevitably arise.
Which it did, and has, and if I
was a game maker and someone referred to my game in that way, I would be
chuffed. Especially if it was as good as this.
Letís not take things too far
though. There are things that arenít like Myst, or any number of
sequels/clones/inspirations. But if you like the type of game that Myst
is, you will like this.
Before getting to the game
itself, I found this on Mr Drosteís website:
consider peopleís time to be precious, and if you are going to do me the
honour of spending that time playing my game, then I owe it to you to
make damn sure itís a great experienceĒ.
start in a boat, on our way to an abandoned castle off the Scottish
coast, having been sent to shut down a radio signal that has suddenly
begun broadcasting, and which is disrupting communications in the
surrounding area. If the sudden transmission from a place supposedly
uninhabited is not odd enough, the scraps of paper hinting at ghosts
just adds a layer of strange. Once inside the castle, the darting blue
lights just seal the deal.
inside, the lavishness of the thing will be apparent. Eyes of Ara looks
fantastic, detailed to the nth degree. So much so that I
wished I could have walked all over and poked my nose into every nook
and cranny. Instead, I had to be satisfied with node to node progression
and 360 degree panning from each node.
generally can't interact with things for the sake of it (there is not a
lot of opening and closing cupboards, drawers etc. just because you can)
there is plenty to do and search to find the bits and pieces that you
need. Take notes, because you will need to (you donít carry
notes/scraps/books/posters etc. with you), and while many of the clues
to particular puzzles are close at hand, that doesnít apply to
everything. My obsessive compulsive tendencies generally result in me
writing/drawing everything, but I suggest you do the same.
are the thing. There are all manner of them, from simple, to not so
simple, but never diabolic. I thought some were particularly clever, and
me too for solving them. I got help occasionally, and pretty much had a
Homer Simpson moment on each occasion for failing to put the pieces
abound, and an astronomical theme ties many of them together, as well as
providing some cohesion to the things going on. There is subtle
subterfuge and misdirection in some puzzles, but I didnít think them
unfair. On the whole, that is a comment I would make about them all. On
one occasion I completely missed the answer which was staring me in the
face, because I had been drawn into interpreting numerous posters and
books on the tables, and was convinced the answer lay within. Sometimes
the obvious is the way forward.
make sure you look up.
of puzzles are part of a treasure hunt within the game. There are
objects you can find (coins and photos and other things) that are just
there to be found. Solving these puzzles is not necessary to get to the
end, but when you do, the game remains open to you, and you can go back
and try and find them if you wish. A room at the end will chronicle your
success to that point Ė I didnít do too bad on some things, but failed
miserably on others.
of these items exist in each part of the game (and how many you have
found so far), along with some items which do need to be found to finish
the game, can be viewed through your inventory. This sits bottom of
screen, and can be hidden from view by a click of the mouse. Inventory
items are displayed (and discarded when no longer needed), and tabs each
side will bring up the additional items and the game menu. At any one
time you wonít have very many inventory items, and I tended to keep it
out of view until I wanted it. You can combine items in the inventory,
and very importantly you can examine and manipulate items. Make sure you
do that, including with respect to their orientation in the game world.
progressively move through the castle, unlocking areas as you go. All
manner of things are there to be unlocked, and there are hidden rooms,
nooks and crannies waiting to be found. Given the missing treasure
items, I clearly havenít been everywhere or found every secret.
puzzles are not the type you can solve with clues. There are three
paintings where you have to manipulate the pieces to produce the final
picture, and like a slider, you just have to fiddle until solved. The
end puzzle is similar. While a strategic approach will improve your
chances, I confess I ultimately found a couple of them frustrating
rather than challenging. But they are few in the grand scheme of things
and any puzzle can be frustrating if you can't solve it.
still on puzzles, just about every one of them gives feedback that you
have been successful but two I can recall did not. While the cause and
effect were not far apart, they werenít in the same room, and given what
had gone before I didnít go and look, instead assuming what I was doing
was wrong. They were both part of a three part solution, so once I
realised I had in fact solved the first, I made sure to check the second
each time I thought I might have solved it. But they were conspicuous
for behaving the way the did.
play with a hotspot cursor on or not, but I donít know why you wouldnít
have it on. While it might indicate a single spot, it might also
indicate a space which can be more closely examined and then searched
(like a table top). Once you are examining however, you are largely on
your own. The locked box is a bit of a give-away, but all manner of
books, scrolls and boxes might be clicked on, and as far as I can recall
there were no hotspots. So search carefully. A little annoyingly, a
click on a non-responsive item may well throw you back out of the area
you are examining, meaning a fair bit of clicking back in to thoroughly
search a location.
closets for some reason donít get a hotspot, even when they can be
opened. I donít recall other things, but there might have been some. I
made a point of trying every big cupboard.
effects are as they should be in such a lush environment (and I did like
the little ďclunkĒ and puff of dust that can accompany an unresponsive
search), and the musical accompaniment was unobtrusive and never got
annoying. I generally turn it a fair way down anyway when I have that
option, which you do have here, so you can factor that into my comments.
Ara is completely mouse driven, and saves when you exit. It will simply
pick up where you left off when you return. You can tweak settings, but
not select subtitles, which matters little as there is no one to talk
to, so no spoken word.
You do read things though, and using the mouse wheel will zoom in and
can make the task a little easier.
involves the mysterious blue lights and the previous inhabitants. It
unfolds through the journals and notes you find. It again helped to pull
things together, but to me it was secondary to the castle itself and the
smorgasbord of solitary puzzling that was within. You are by yourself,
you donít talk to anyone else, and there is no one else there to disturb
you or to fiddle with things. What could be better? I spent about 13
hours exploring the castle and unravelling its interior, and I suspect I
will indeed spend quite a few more.
I played on:
OS: Windows 10
Processor: Intel i7-3820 4GHz
RAM: 16GB DDR3
Video card: AMD Radeon
HD 7800 2048MB
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