Final Destination: The Secret of Larson's Folly



Genre:   Adventure

Developer & Publisher:    Mug Software

Released:  2005

PC Requirements:   Windows 98/ME/2000/XP, Pentium III, 600 MHz, 8X CD-ROM, Graphics card w/32-bit color, Mouse / Keyboard / Speakers, DirectX 8.1




by Becky


Hundreds of years into the future, the people of Earth have conquered space by slowly puddle-hopping from one star system to the next.  A galaxy-wide civil war breaks out.  Robots, terminators and weapons are mercilessly transported to vulnerable planets, where they destroy all life forms.  By war’s end, there are only a few islands of humanity left, spread across vast reaches of space.

In Final Destination: The Secret of Larson’s Folly, you are a survivor of this war.  You hail from a planet whose scientists have at last learned how to move manned spaceships faster than the speed of light.  There is only one source of energy that can fuel such a spacecraft -- zero-point energy, created before the war on a planet called Larson’s Folly.  You use the last remnants of zero-point energy to travel to this distant planet.  You hope to acquire additional energy for use in a fleet of new starships, allowing your people to search the galaxy for survivors.  

But when you reach Larson’s Folly, you find only an asteroid field.  Something has destroyed the planet entirely.  On a large asteroid, you find the remnants of a research station, and the beginning of hope.

Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Final Destination is a game whose goal is to make you think.  Not just to think about how to make your way through the various obstacles at the Larson’s Folly research station, but also to think about life’s purpose and about facing death, the “ultimate test of character.”  It’s a story about discord and division -- the background conflict of the civil war, plus the conflicts that surfaced among the inhabitants of Larson’s Folly when they discovered that their planet was doomed.

Final Destination tells a gripping, complex story.  As you explore the abandoned research station, make your way through locked and hidden doors, and read technical and personal logs, you build up images of the characters in your mind.  Gradually you discover more and more about the scientists who lived and worked and schemed at the station before disaster struck.  You find that religious strife rippled through the station, interwoven with a feud about the efforts made to escape the deadly peril.

Well, At Least the Interface is Easy…

Final Destination is a first person, science fiction, point-and-click Myst-style game.  Hotspots – and these consist almost entirely of wallmounted data devices and computer matrix interface panels – are easy to find.  The cursor changes into a magnifying glass whenever you pass it over an item with which you can interact.

The puzzles in Final Destination are logical but very, very difficult.  All of them involve manipulating the panels that control the computer matrix and/or system devices.  Information about the panels is available in technical entries found in the wallmounted data devices.  These can be frustrating to read, as only two paragraphs are visible at a time and random symbols from corrupted data are sometimes intermixed with the text.  The gamer really must understand every word in these technical entries -- and not just understand the entries, but comprehend and anticipate their implications in order to get the control panels to work. 

The game has three difficulty levels.  “Hard” difficulty gives you the minimum of clues from the data devices.  I solved only one puzzle in the game on the toughest difficulty level.  “Medium” difficulty adds one, or possibly two more hints for each puzzle, and these are the type of hints that give a glimmer of direction, while still requiring you to think deeply.  I found medium difficulty not much different than hard difficulty. 

The “Easy” difficulty level gives you many more clues to solve puzzles.  Sometimes at this level, the game comes close to giving you outright solutions; other times it merely makes the puzzle logic more explicit.  Again, the difference in the difficulty levels was the added information that became available in the data devices.

Unfortunately, you can’t switch from one difficulty level to another during the game – you have to choose one at the beginning.  At times I went back and forth between different games at each difficulty level so I that could compare them, starting with the hardest difficulty game and working my way down.  I found that some of the clues provided at the easy level early in the game not only gave hints for the puzzle I was trying to solve, but also clues for later puzzles.  Oops.

Thus, if you play on easy level at any point in the game, you effectively spoil the hardest difficulty setting -- so be warned.  (The game menu does mention this, but I confess I didn’t quite believe it.  Don’t repeat my mistake!)  If you want to play the game on the hard level of difficulty with only occasional help, you will actually avoid spoilers more readily by consulting the in-game walkthrough when necessary, rather than attempting to run a parallel game at the easy level.

I ended up solving many of the puzzles using knowledge I had gained at the easy level, a level which the game menu describes as: “for people who either have a lot of difficulty solving puzzles or who don’t care for puzzles and just want to stroll through the game.”  I found the easy level to be more of a vigorous hike than a mere “stroll”.  (My puzzle solving abilities have clearly been impugned.) 

The puzzles in Final Destination fit its science fiction story nicely; a scientific/technical mindset aids in their solution.  If you are an engineer or a systems analyst, you may find that the game’s logic is second nature to you.   Mr. Spock would breeze through the game.  On the other hand, if you tend to think intuitively rather than technically – well, there’s still plenty of fun to be had on the so-called “Easy” level.

March 28, 2815 -- A Good Day to Die 

If you are living your last days (or if you are an unexpected visitor) in a research station, the one on Larson’s Folly is a beautiful place to be.  The environments are colorful and full of polished, reflective, sometimes iridescent surfaces.  The machinery in the station features classic, geometrical forms, with an art deco-like aesthetic.  I wish there had been more rooms to explore, because the environments are tasty.  Cut scenes are grainy, but they are also fun to watch and are useful additions to the look and pace of the game. 

The music suits the environments well – it’s eerie, echoing and contemplative.  Sound effects are minimalist.  There is no voice acting in the game.

The writing in Final Destination, on the whole, is good.  I was instantly drawn to the story and the plight of the various characters.  Although the plot focuses on the intense drama going on at the Larson Folly Research Station as disaster approached, there are no flashbacks or images of the inhabitants.  The entire plot is contained in the data devices, so the game requires the gamer to draw heavily on his/her imagination in envisioning the story as it unfolded.

The only instances in which the writing seems clumsy are the personal log entries that dwell on the pros and cons of Christian belief.  These entries were made by individuals (one a believer, the other an atheist) who embraced a black and white world view.  If they had both expressed normal uncertainty and wrestled with some of the ambiguities in their beliefs, I feel that as characters they would have been more engaging.  Still, these logs do reveal much about the mindsets of the game’s two most controversial antagonists.  You understand why factions formed around the antagonists, and you see how the ugliness escalated as the planet’s destruction drew near.

Minor Glitches

The game was very stable.  It installed easily and, after installation, it ran fully from the hard drive – no need to ever put the CD in the drive again.  The only glitch I encountered involved the Artilect Research Center data device, which from a distance transmogrified itself into the Zero-Point Energy Plant data device.  Once I figured this out, I made sure that I was standing directly in front of the Artilect data device before attempting to access it.  There’s also an inaccurate date in the opening sequence, though that doesn’t merit full “glitch” status.  I understand that a patch is being created to fix these problems.  

Quick List for Final Destination: The Secret of Larson’s Folly

Elegant, pristine environments.  A thought-provoking story with religious themes.  Three difficulty levels – hardest difficulty involves patience, making connections, and thinking with technical precision.  No sound puzzles, no sliders, no mazes – one easy timed puzzle.  For those who have difficulty distinguishing colors, it is possible, though more difficult, to solve all the puzzles without correctly identifying colors.  Lots of reading required.  First person point-and-click interface.  Unlimited save slots.  Surprising in a game about facing death -- you cannot die.  The game was stable.

Aimed at gamers who enjoy Myst-style exploration with a science fiction story and mind-bending puzzles. 

Final Destination: The Secret of Larson’s Folly is an Independent publication of Cyragon LLC.  The game can be purchased through the Final Destination website

Final Grade:  B-


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