Reviewed: November 12, 2002
Released: October 1, 1999
AmerZone is an adventure role playing game in the tradition of Myst. The game is played through the eyes of a nameless and unseen journalist who for reasons that are never explained, has been chosen by the dying world explorer Valembois, to complete his unfinished quest.
Fifty years ago, Valembois returned from the lands of AmerZone carrying the sacred egg of the great white bird. The native people who disclosed the location of the white bird to Valembois, believed the eggs of the white birds to be the secret to eternal life and prosperity. Valembois betrayed the natives by stealing the egg and returning to England with it. He was expecting to be showered with acclaim for his “discovery” and rewarded with riches for his thievery. Alas, poor Valembois; all he received was ridicule from his colleagues. Unable to profit from the egg, Valembois decided to return it, and on his deathbed recruits you to carry the egg back to the natives of AmerZone, who coincidentally have been suffering under a merciless curse for the last fifty years.
Well, that’s the story. I’ll admit the original telling doesn’t use the words “stealing” or “thievery”, but the original telling is much kinder to Valembois than mine. If the original motivation to take the egg was less than noble, then your quest to return the egg is nothing but noble.
This game is a pure first person walker, single player only. No shooting going on here. This is an object hunting and puzzle solving game. Your mission is to poke around the landscape looking for objects and clues that might be useful later on. Not everything will be useful, and you might not find everything the first time.
The interface is as easy as can be, move the mouse to look around and watch the changing icon at the center of your vision. The icon changes shape to indicate what options you have. For example an arrow indicates you can move forward, and a hand indicates you and grasp or use an item. When you are able to move forward, a click of the left mouse button will move you as far in that direction as the game allows. The right mouse button displays your inventory, and clicking on any item in your inventory selects it for use. A delightfully easy interface, you can almost play the entire game without touching the keyboard.
Multiple game saves are just as easy, and each one includes the date and time, and the location with a screen snapshot.
The game spans four compact discs and often stops to load data as the player moves from one scene to another. The loading delays are usually short enough to not be intrusive, but the lack of a loading hourglass left me wondering what the game was doing a few times.
This is a beautiful game to play. Both the two and three dimension artwork is just wonderful to behold. The game has an artist’s sketching pad look about it, with blended edges and graceful flowing script for all the text. So flowing that I often had to read passages several times over for full understanding.
Along the way you will encounter strange and fascinating creatures such as the Alligator Toucan and the fish luring giant Pechosaur lizard. Many of these creatures and the adventures that surround them are depicted with three-dimensional animations that are so well executed that uncovering the next one quickly becomes your reason to keep playing. One of your transports on this journey will be the fantastic “hydrafloat” which flies like a plane, hovers like a helicopter, and yes, floats like a boat.
The audio track in AmerZone is always working hard provide background sounds to augment the visual tale unfolding on the screen. Sounds are rich and clear, and leave little room for misidentification. Voice acting is also first class, the actors use well-placed inflections and realistic accents. Clearly this is the work of professionals.
The game option screen includes a volume adjustment, but not individual control over voice or sound effects levels. There is no music sound track in the game.
Of course AmerZone is not a game to be played for speed. Sure, some puzzles have time limits, but overall this game should be played with thoughtful moves and savored over time. Like all games worth playing, it’s the journey we enjoy, not the destination. Experienced adventure can probably complete the adventure in under 20 hours while everyone else can expect around 30 hours of challenging adventure and puzzle solving.
This game has been around since late 1999, yet despite its advanced years the graphics and gameplay can still hold its own among current competitors in the adventure game genre. You should easily be able to find this game for $19 which is an incredible bargain considering the quality of this adventure title.
There you go, truly impressive artwork and adequate sound effects strung together with an easy to use one-handed interface. The only quest in the game is to search for objects and solve easy to moderate puzzles along the narrow path to returning the egg of the white bird. Your reward is unlocking the art and animations along the journey. AmerZone is available courtesy of Canadian game publisher DreamCatcher, under their recently launched specialty division, “The Adventure Company”. The game retails direct for twenty-dollars, which makes AmerZone a bargain for fans of this genre.