Genre:   Puzzle Solving

Developer & Publisher:    Peter Hewitt & Mulawa

Released:  2000

PC Requirements:   486; Windows 95 / 98 / 2000; DirectX 7.0a; DirectX 7.oa Compatible Video and Sound Card; CD ROM Drive




by Rick36

Like many adventure game enthusiasts I have at one time or another thought it would be nice to create and/or develop my own adventure game and I have spent many idle, but pleasant, hours thinking of possible story lines and creating fiendish puzzles. However, for most of us, myself included, this will probably remain a dream, an unfulfilled ambition. This is not the case with Peter Hewitt. Peter’s name will be familiar to many Boomers as the creative force behind the independent developer Mulawa and ultimately the adventure games Xiama and Magnetic. I have recently finished Xiama and wished very much to review it in this forum, so here is my humble offering – a review of Mulawa’s adventure game “Xiama”.

As a prelude to the review proper I feel it is appropriate to lay the foundation as to how Xiama came about, and I hope Peter will not mind if I describe a little background information here. Peter Hewitt is a computer programmer and like so many of us his avid interest in and enthusiasm for adventure games blossomed after having played the genre-making epic, “Myst”. He like many of us had the notion to create his own adventure game, unlike many of us however, he actually did it. Peter is a small independent who creates his games using a simple computer from his home in Australia.

With this in mind many of you who may be unfamiliar with Peter’s work might already be thinking, “Oh no, ‘Amateurville’ here we come” and effectively you could not be more fundamentally mistaken. Put very bluntly, Xiama is one of the most enchanting, enjoyable, challenging and rewarding gaming experiences I have had for quite some time. It is true to say that the production of the game lacks the sophistication and polish of games produced by the big, commercially recognised developers, but in many ways I found this added to the charm and overall ambience of the game.

The game is set in the Australian rain forest, to be more precise a national park neighbouring Peter’s home. The game is effectively a photographic trip through the Alligator Creek Falls. The backdrops are Peter’s own photos of the absolutely beautiful and breathtaking rain forest and creek, movement is achieved through clicking on directional arrows at the bottom of the screen whereupon you are transported to the next location. There is no panning and the most obvious analogy here is Myst where movement is between static 2D rendered scenes.

Xiama is not a particularly story driven game and is moulded very much in the style of Pandora’s Box and the Jewels’ games. This is not to say that there is no story. You start the adventure at the beginning of a jungle trail. On the ground in front of you is a note, upon reading the note you discover that you are to meet someone at the head of the creek, though your ‘friend’ informs you that he has made your trip more interesting by providing a number of challenges for you to overcome on the way. And thus your adventure starts. From the opening scene you can then navigate through the creek to your rendezvous, while on the way tackling the myriad of puzzles thrown at you. In actuality you will have to solve all the puzzles to reach your final destination.

There are no plot threads nor hints nor in-game nudges, neither is there any equipment or machinery to fix or construct, there is no pixel hunting, no inventory, no dialogue, no human characters. It is just you, the rainforest and those puzzles.

And so, what about those puzzles…..

During your journey of discovery through Alligator Creek Falls you will happen upon little shining stars, this is the indication that a puzzle is lurking within the location. All you need to do is click on the twinkling star and hey presto! there is the puzzle for you to solve. In a few instances the star is absent, but the presence of a puzzle is obvious, for example, while clambering over a series of rocks you stumble upon a card table, which you are hardly going to pass by without a little further investigation.

The puzzles themselves are one of the main strengths of the game, they are varied, original, well thought out, interesting and challenging. They range in difficulty from reasonably easy and straightforward to really rather difficult and certainly challenging for the old grey matter. There is also no paucity of them either so you will not be disappointed on this front. Like many games once a particular puzzle has been solved you are then allowed access to more puzzles. In addition, some of the puzzles are games that you can return to and play long after you have finished the game.

In other reviews posted by the author I have said that I was not particularly keen on games where you were presented with a puzzle for which there were no clues, hints, nudges or plot threads and where puzzles appeared rather illogical and out of place. With Xiama I have completely reversed this opinion. Peter unashamedly informs you that there are no clues or hints and that, for him, working out the logic of the puzzle in order to crack it is part of the enjoyment of the whole experience. After playing Xiama, I have to agree with him, certainly in this instance and for games of this ken.

My only criticism of the game was that it was too short and I would dearly have loved to extend my experience in Alligator Creek Falls. I already have Peter’s second offering, Magnetic, and am eagerly looking forward to loading it up. In conclusion I would like to say how much I enjoyed this game and, without putting undue pressure on Mulawa and Peter, I look forward with great anticipation to any further projects.

design copyright © 2005 GameBoomers Group

 GB Reviews Index