Genre:   Adventure

Developer:     White Birds Production

Publisher:    UbiSoft

Released:  May 2006

PC Requirements:   Windows® 2000/XP (only), Pentium® IV or AMD Athlon" 1.5 GHz equivalent or higher, 512 MB RAM, 64 MB DirectX® 9.0c-compliant video card supporting 32-bit color *Supported Video Cards at Time of Release ATI® Radeon® 8500/9000/X series NVIDIA® GeForce" 3/4/FX/6/7800GT series (GeForce 4 MX NOT supported), DirectX 9.0c-compliant sound card, 4x or faster CD or DVD-ROM drive, 2.5 GB free hard drive

Walkthrough   Walkthrough

Additional Screenshots





by Becky


Are there themes so controversial that they can’t be part of the storyline of a game?  Until playing Paradise, I would have said: no way.  Now I’m not so sure.

As suggested by the title, this game takes place in a world rich in natural beauty.  But the game is also partly about the urge to create a social utopia, even if that leads to war.  The game takes a look at several groups of people affected by a war in paradise.

You assume the role of Ann Smith, a college student from Geneva, Switzerland.  Ann loses her memory after her plane is shot down in the fictional African country of Maurania.  The game is a journey into self-discovery for Ann.  It is also an illuminating exercise for the gamer, who will find herself awed, discouraged, and outraged at different points in the journey.  Paradise dramatizes the will to power, the consequences of obsessive love, the clash between the West and non-western cultures, and the importance of blood (embracing it, denying it, spilling it).

Can a deeply disturbing cultural commentary like Paradise also function as a game?

Journey into Night

This is a third person point-and-click adventure, though it jettisons point-and-click for three (optional) real time 3D sequences.  For the 3D sequences, when Ann is asleep or unconscious, you play as a leopard that Ann is attempting to return to the wild.  Does Ann have a mystical connection with the leopard during these eerie night ramblings?

Paradise takes you into unfamiliar worlds and exposes their peculiarities.  You’ll explore a primitive society where an odd phobia affects everyone’s daily lives.  You’ll try escaping from a palace in which the female inhabitants never question their imprisonment.  And you’ll wander through an underground labyrinth where workers refuse to harvest the riches underfoot.  The game shows how the culture in each environment obstructs or aids Ann.  In addition, in certain locations Ann is a catalyst for change – often unintentionally.  Intriguingly, the game then leaves you to draw your own conclusions about the events you’ve just witnessed.

It becomes apparent that Ann carries an extraordinary ethical and personal burden.  The information she has gathered about herself and about Maurania will figure into the decision she must make during the game’s culminating crisis.

Paradise -- NOT Syberia in Africa

When I first read that Benoît Sokal was designing a new adventure with a strong female protagonist -- and set in an exotic part of the globe -- I naturally concluded that the game would be much like Sokal’s previous games, Syberia and Syberia II.  Though Paradise does have some surface similarities to the Syberia games, it is in fact substantially different and more ambitious.

Paradise is concerned with societies and the relationships within them – its focus goes beyond the plight of the mere individual.  It compares poverty and wealth, technology and magic, familial tenderness and ruthless revenge.  Interactions in Paradise are more complex then in Syberia, both with the environment and with the characters.  The game contains less humor than Syberia, and the puzzles are more challenging.      

South of Eden

The graphics in Paradise bring a palpable sense of reality.  The palette varies from warm earth tones in the outdoors locations to cooler, muted hues indoors.  The graphics are soft-edged and often show the world from unusual angles.  Exterior locations are full of sinuous natural forms and lively detail including water effects, raindrops, smoke, and fluttering butterflies.  The uses of natural light are masterly.  While I understand the desire to vary the game locations (some of which are underground), the garden and forest environments are so breathtaking that I left them only grudgingly.

The figures in this game are slightly stylized.  Occasionally the characters are comical, but for the most part this is a serious game.  It creates a feeling of intimacy – by the time I had left each location, I felt as though I knew the place well and understood the people and their motivations.

Cutscenes amaze -- they are fluidly animated, with striking colors, lighting, and camera angles.  

A fascinating aspect of Paradise is the Mauranian fauna.  A book in the inventory describes these whimsical creatures.  I recommend that you read it before encountering each one.  Again, I wish I could have spent more time with the gazelines, the palmettes and the sand dabs.

Purring like a Kitten

The sound in Paradise is another of its strengths.  Overall, the voice acting is excellent.  The dialog sequences are well written, with the exception of those in the Molgrave village, where the locals speak a hideous hissing language in which the “s” sound has hundreds of meanings.   There are subtitles for the dialog and most dialogs can be clicked through.

The volume of the music can be separately adjusted, which is a wonderful feature.  I found that I had to adjust the music whenever there was a radio report.  These reports contain important plot exposition, but are not accompanied by subtitles.

Ambient sounds are suggestive rather than overwhelming.  The music adds to the game’s ambiance, though it can become repetitive.  The only place I thought the music intruded was an underground sequence where the stirring, adrenaline pumping score only served to exacerbate a tedious pixel hunt.

Which brings me to one of the game’s significant weaknesses.

Hotspot Lost?

I found that unusual patience is required to locate many of the in-game hotspots in Paradise.  Some hotspots are well hidden – either they blend in with the background, or they must be sought without much clueing within a large, detailed environment.

That said, much of my initial difficulty in locating hotspots was due to Paradise’s animated cursor.  When placed near a hotspot, the animated cursor will grow pincers (for picking up objects), spikes (for using inventory items), a trumpet (for speaking to other characters) or a magnifying glass (to examine things).  This can be problematic if you are the type of gamer who searches the screen rapidly – you may move the cursor partway across the screen before the cursor animation can end.  I found that the cursor would flicker to signal a hotspot, but then there would be nothing to interact with in that particular spot.  Unless I searched each screen in careful increments, the animated cursor gave only a rough indication of where the hotspots were located.  The first time I played through the game, I found that hour after hour of this patient searching became frustrating in the extreme.

Fortunately, Ubisoft has recently released a patch for Paradise that addresses this problem.  After applying the patch, there is a feature in the Options menu that allows you to disable the animated cursor.  I recommend doing this, as it eliminates a goodly portion (though not all) of the pixel hunting frustration in the game.

I thought that the gameplay in Paradise became more fun in the final location where many of the puzzles are mechanical.  This eliminated much of the pixel hunting -- plus the mechanical puzzles reward the gamer with beautiful cutscenes. 

Challenges in Paradise also involve rather long dialog trees that may trigger access to hotspots.  Many of the challenges, in fact, do rely on a trigger to advance the game -- so it’s important to keep returning to locations you’ve already visited, and to keep trying hotspots that don’t seem to function at first.  Paradise contains inventory application and combination puzzles, some of which require multiple steps.  The game also contains a handful of timed puzzles, most of which are enjoyable and fairly easy.  The timed puzzles sometimes involve the movements of the exotic, imaginative creatures that populate Maurania, and they add a lot to the fun factor.

Fleeing from Point A to Point A

An (unintended) challenge in Paradise is the movement.  Some of the locations (or rooms, as the manual calls them) are panoramic and involve three or more screens, with directional arrows only at the edges of the end screens.  This means that there are no directional arrows to be found in the middle screens, so there are stretches within certain locations where you have to click and guess.  Two additional annoyances -- at times clicking on a directional arrow fails to move Ann in the direction that the arrow seems to be pointing.  And in a few instances Ann faces the wrong way when entering a new screen, so you have to turn her around in order to go forward.  There aren’t any mazes in this game, but there is an elaborate tree house environment with two different levels and several bridges that seems maze-like. 

Movement in the 3D sequences with the leopard is also cumbersome, with the controls moving the leopard only approximately where I wished him to go.  The leopard sometimes became stuck within objects in the environment, forcing me to move him back before I could move him forward.  Despite this, I very much enjoyed my time as a feline creature of the wild, inhabiting an alien world of different colors and textures and tempting distractions.  (The leopard sequences are optional and can be bypassed by hitting the Escape key.)

Spit and Polish

The main menu is smashingly stylish, reminiscent of an old-fashioned steamer trunk as it snaps open.  There’s an additional surprise if you linger.  The main menu allows you to replay cutscenes, which I did over and over for their sheer beauty.  Other pluses – the game installed smoothly and it provides unlimited saves.

In contrast to the spiffy main menu and ease of installation, I encountered many glitches in the game itself, though the bulk of these were eliminated by the patch I mentioned above.  The first time I played Paradise, the game  hung five times – each time I had to exit to the desktop and restart from a previously saved game.  At one point, I gave an inventory item to the wrong person, and the item then disappeared.  This forced me to go back to a previous save and replay.  A couple of times inventory items were numbered rather than labeled, and one document could not be read.  All of these problems were eliminated by the patch. 

There was one glitch that the patch did not address.  I saved the game during a close-up of a bench, and when I returned to that saved game, Ann had permanently disappeared and I couldn’t continue.    

Unpatched, there is an oddity with the inventory that gamers should be aware of.  Each item collected in inventory can be picked up by left-clicking with the “pickup” cursor.  A few of the items can be observed in detail – for this you must click on the magnifying glass at the top of the inventory screen and then click on the item.  However, if you’re using “magnifying glass mode,” you can no longer pick items up, and you must click again on the magnifying glass to return to the “pickup” cursor.  Once the patch is applied, though, the cursor automatically returns to its “pickup” mode after you’ve used the “magnifying glass” cursor.

The End is Where We Start From

Just as the game’s plot and character development are thought-provoking without being directive or “preachy,” Paradise’s end is emphatically ambiguous.  I enjoyed the uncertainties in Ann’s final sequence, though I did wish to find out more about the fate of the leopard.  Then again, the leopard’s story is so entwined with Ann’s own destiny that consistency probably demands that his final moments should also be left open to interpretation.

I’ll ask the question again – can a story that addresses knotty social and ethical controversies also function as a game?  The answer before I applied the Paradise patch was a reluctant “no,” because the game’s original execution created a frustrating gameplay experience that detracted from the complex themes it was attempting to explore.  Playing Paradise with the patch – I’ll admit to a tentative “yes.”

The game deftly portrays the unintended consequences of seemingly logical actions.  It forces the gamer to look closely at culture, conflict, and the human tendency to deny reality when it suits the situation.  If you would like to sit down to a game that is striving to break loose from the usual gaming plots and themes, Paradise is a must-play.       

Quick List for Paradise

Wonderful locations and graphics – unique flora and fauna.  Fantastic cutscenes.  A realistic, thoughtful portrayal of various cultures within a fictional African country, about which the gamer must draw his own conclusions.  The ending is ambiguous.  There is no explicit sexual or violent content, but both are implicit -- together with the game’s mature  themes they make this a game that should not be played by children.

Third person perspective, point-and-click interface for most of the game.  You will play three brief sequences as the leopard, during which the interface completely changes.  These sequences can be skipped if you choose – if you play them, reading the manual again will help with the new controls. 

Plenty of dialog, excellent voice acting.  You cannot die.  Frustrating pixel hunts, some cumbersome movement because of inadequate directional arrows.  Inventory and mechanical puzzles.  A few easy timed puzzles.  No mazes, though one location can be maze-like.  No sliding tile puzzles, no sound matching puzzles.  One puzzle seems to require color discrimination, but can be solved without it.  Overall difficulty level: with the animated cursor – high; after disabling the animated cursor -- moderate.

No problems with installation.  Unlimited save slots.

Without the patch, the game hung five times, requiring a return to the desktop.  The patch eliminated these problems.  It did not eliminate one glitch that necessitated starting again from a previously saved game.  It resolved inventory system oddities, added cutscenes, added the ability to disable the animated cursor, and eliminated some consistency problems.  You can apply the patch even if you are already partway through the game – it will not erase previously saved games.  Overall, the patch improved my gameplay experience considerably – you can download it here.

Paradise is aimed at gamers who enjoy character driven games involving a quest for self-knowledge, controversial issues, and varied, spectacular scenery.

This is a difficult game to grade.  The gameplay experience after applying the patch was radically different than that in the original playthrough.  It is unfortunate that the improvements and enhancements contained in the patch were not available at the time that the game was released.  

Final Grade: 

Before the patch: C+

After the patch:  B+

My Computer Specs:

Windows XP Professional
Pentium 2.80 GHz
2046 MB RAM
Direct X 9.0c
512 MB NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GTX
SB X-Fi Audio



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