Genre:   Adventure

Developer:   Wicked Studios

Publisher:    The Adventure Company, Lighthouse Interactive

Released:  April 2006

PC Requirements:   Windows® ME/2000/XP, 1 GHz Intel® Pentium®, 3 processor or AMD® Athlon™ processor, 256 MB RAM (512 MB on Windows® XP), 32 MB 3D accelerated video card (NVIDIA GeForce™ or ATI), 4x (or PC DVD-ROM drive), 100% DirectX® Compliant (EAX Recommended), DirectX® 9.0, 1.4 GB Hard Disk Space, Mouse, Keyboard and Speakers



Additional screenshots



by nickie


A winsome medieval tune surrounds Lydia as she makes her way over the shady path through the verdant forest. As she crests the hill, the Academy of Magic appears before her in all its castle-like fortification, with purple domed turrets and stone parapets reaching into the sky. Lydia is eager to make her way to the school.  Not only is it the first day of her new studies, but she is also looking forward to a reunion with her best friend Celeste. It’s been eight long years of tedious labor to raise the money to travel to this academy run by Nathaniel, Celeste’s father.

Surprisingly, Celeste isn’t at their designated meeting place, and there is no one else around to greet her either. In fact the door to the academy is locked. Lydia has worked too hard and long to let a little thing like that stop her progress, and soon operates the door mechanism.  How strange and beautiful this place is!

The school is enormous, with sumptuous tapestries adorning the walls; heraldry and intricately carved wood accents abound. Everywhere the eye can see there are figures of dragons atop pilasters, cabinets, and stairwells, and one huge dragon that covers much of the entryway.  The decoration suits the academy’s location, which is in Dragonvale. Chandeliers and fireplaces glow with sparkling magical light. However, this masterpiece of winding staircases and breathtaking views is devoid of people. Lydia soon frees a partner locked in a cabinet -- a talking wolf who claims to be a dragon shape-shifted by magic. Together they will search the school in an attempt to find the students and teachers who have so mysteriously vanished. Ominously, Lydia finds a doll that she gave to Celeste when they swore an oath to be friends forever.  She knows her friend would never willingly have parted with this keepsake.

Lydia, Keepsake’s protagonist, has a strong sense of purpose and character. She has worked for everything she has, and she bears an ingrained moral compass that will never let her forget her friends or a good deed done on her behalf. Zak the wolf, however, is basically everything that Lydia is not. He is devious, afraid of ghosts and heights, and most definitely has his own agenda. He has been hurt by others in the past, ridiculed for being different, and doesn’t feel he is worthy of friendship. As they search for Celeste, they come to know one another.  Their conversations are illuminating and sometimes humorous. For much of the game their interaction is the focus of the story, as puzzles are solved and the academy unlocks its secrets. But strange visions of Celeste also assail Lydia, and she begins to learn of her friend’s heartbreaking past. Lydia knows it is imperative that she reach Celeste.

This is a bittersweet tale of the magic of friendship. We see the enduring friendship between the two girls, which parallels the friendship between the creators of Dragonvale Academy. In both relationships, one friend was rich in earthly goods.  The other was not, but worked to overcome stumbling blocks to achieve a greater good. Through the visions, Lydia learns that Celeste, although having the outside trappings of wealth, is poor when it comes to what she most wants -- a relationship with her father. And there is also the promise of new friendship between Lydia and Zak.  Zak too yearns for someone to care for him, to see beyond his physical appearance to the worthy soul beneath. The development of these facets of the storyline is handled so intriguingly that the end result is not just a three hankie moment (although there is that, I assure you) but also an uplifting promise of new beginnings.

Aside from these undercurrents there is a magnificent world to explore, all contained in one building and a small amount of the world outside. While in some games this might seem claustrophobic, it does not in this game.  There are many, many winding staircases and hidden passages and rooms, and in each scene there is much to absorb. The puzzles are well integrated into the storyline; they are clever, and each is a work of art.

Keepsake excels in its graphics, with exquisite 2D rendering of 3D models. From the elaborate carving on the wood to the darting yellow, blue and red fish in the pond, everywhere there is something to delight. In the library I played with the puzzles for an inordinate amount of time to relish the realistic wooden doors as they were raised and lowered. I was captivated by the first puzzle of the game, which contains Minotaur statues that are particularly well crafted. The leaves on the trees are painstakingly rendered, and other effects (like the liberal use of shadows) are very well done.  Unfortunately, the graphics fall down when it comes to the game’s main characters, which are not as detailed as their surroundings. Another disappointment -- items in the academy that I would have liked to touch or to see described, but that are not interactive.

Ambient sounds abound, from creaking doors to singing birds. The background score is magical and medieval, and there is an up-tempo when you complete a task which is reminiscent of the old Sierra games. It is lovely, this folksy melody.  The only change I could wish for would be a vocalist to accompany the main theme, and perhaps a few additional tunes. The voices are well done for the most part, especially that of Zak, whose emotions are brilliantly displayed through inflection.

Game play itself is simple third person point and click, although sometimes the navigation is a bit tedious as one searches for a point to click on in order to move the characters. Occasionally the camera view was awkward and made one go round in circles unnecessarily. There were two locations that I had difficulty in locating, as they required a precise click without making it evident that there were areas beyond the obvious. A map was a welcome addition for the North American release.  But frankly it would have been better yet to be able to automatically access areas that had been discovered, as the academy is very large and contains a labyrinth of passages. Fortunately Lydia and Zak run almost everywhere, or it would have been a very long stroll. Despite this, the scenes are so pretty that this was one game where I didn’t mind being lost very much.

There is a wonderfully innovative hint system onboard in this game -- a feature I would certainly like to see duplicated in other games. You can elect to be given a succession of hints for a puzzle, and even the solution.  You need never rack your brain attempting to find where you must next go in the game -- or what you haven’t discovered that is necessary in order to complete a puzzle -- for this system also will provide a visual hint for where the next or missed step can be found.

There is an interesting small inventory in which items yet to be found are grayed out. There are a few inventory puzzles, but mainly the puzzles are of the logic/mechanical sort. Although these are never a favorite of mine, in this game I didn’t mind them, for each puzzle has its own magic, with ambient sounds and clear visuals. There are no sliders and no timed puzzles and you are at your leisure to complete the puzzles or to solve them via the hint system. There are no mazes, unless you consider the academy one big maze.

As you progress through the game you also view Lydia’s visions, and you can access these poignant sepia moments-in-time again and again if you wish. This is a nice way to explore the steps that led to the present situation -- gossamer strands of time captured for your further understanding of the underlying plot.

The plot is linear, but there is much that you can do in a different order. The first time I played the game, I felt like I was toing and froing quite a bit.  A second playthrough made me realize that there is a logical path which reduces much of that, had I picked up certain verbal cues. Speaking of replays, the game has an in-game tutorial -- a good idea for novice players.  I thought the tutorial was fine the first playthrough, but for the second it was annoying because you cannot elect to skip the animations, although you can fast click through the dialogue.

There are subtitles in the game and sometimes these appear in different fonts and have spelling errors, an oversight that makes the game look less polished. Perhaps this occurred when changes were made in the North American version. There is one occasion where different fonts appear with basically the same question asked, but with different wording. I was glad for the subtitles, as occasionally the voices would fade out. In addition, I experienced two game freezes.

The save system is very strange.  You can save at any point, but if you elect to return to a previously saved game, your more recent save vanishes.  Thankfully the game does warn you of this.  However, two or more people can play this game, with each having a separate game and separate saves.  Confused?  I was.

Keepsake consists of three discs and a written manual. I enjoy having the manual, and I think it is regrettable that so many companies lately have been taking the shortcut of not including one. The game plays without the disc in the computer drive.

There are some 20-30 hours of game play in Keepsake, and it is a splendid romp. Even with the minor quibbles, the gorgeous fantasy world is enthralling. Like all good fairy tales, there are morals underlying the story that are important life lessons. The six member staff of Wicked Studios has made an absolute gem of a game, one not to be missed.


“Time passes so fast when you’re in good company; am I not right?” – Keepsake

CD- ROM (3 discs)

Point and click

Third person



In-game hint system

No sliders, mazes, or timed sequences

Puzzles are mostly logical/mechanical, some inventory

Grade: A


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