Reviewed: September 10, 2006
Released: August 1, 2006
When I was younger, I used to own Tetris for the Nintendo GameBoy. It was the very first game I can remember my parents playing. They played Tetris nearly as much as my sister and I did. I remember taking a considerable amount of pride in this--my parents were actually playing a video game. They may have still yelled at us for playing Super Mario Bros. too much and shook their heads in disgust whenever we executed a Fatality in Mortal Kombat, but hey, they were still parents.
Most people, including casual gamers and people like my parents who don't play video games at all, seem to still take a certain liking to puzzle games. Perhaps it's the same reason why so many people keep the page in the newspaper with the crossword long after they have discarded the rest of it, or why trivia games like Jeopardy are still watched religiously in many households. We tend to like to fill in blanks, piece things together, and see the bigger picture. It's practically an ingrained human behavior.
Atlantis Quest is a new puzzle game for the PC that allows players to play a strategic line 'em up game in order to piece together mystical artifacts from ancient civilizations in the never-ending search for the lost continent of Atlantis. While it is nothing terribly innovative, Atlantis Quest still does what puzzle games do best: make us feel compelled to fritter away our precious time just to complete the puzzle and get to the next level. At least, for a little while.
Atlantis Quest is a matching puzzle game that takes place in Greece, Egypt, Babylon and other surrounding ancient civilizations. The goal is to find the mythical lost continent of Atlantis through a series of clues found by piecing together ancient artifacts. The pieces of these artifacts are stuck in a grid filled with various icons and symbols that must be lined up into matching rows of at least three. When the icons are matched up, those particular icons disappear, and drop down the next row.
The goal is to drop the artifact pieces down through the bottom of the grid within a time limit. There are also some helpful tools that you can break out of the puzzle that can help you out of tight spots, such as hammers that will break any block out of the puzzle that is in the way, or a genie lamp, which will completely rearrange the blocks surrounding a certain artifact piece.
As the game advances, players move along the map of the country they are in, until all of the pieces of the artifact in that region have been pieced together. You then advance on to the next country and stage, each one advancing in difficulty from the one before it.
When things get more difficult at later stages, Atlantis Quest throws in some more tricks to up the difficulty, such as pieces that must be unlocked, some of them twice before they can be used in the puzzle. The shape of the grid changes from level to level as well, making it easy to wedge an artifact piece into a corner. There are also blocked exits where artifact pieces cannot not pass through.
The most frustrating curve ball Atlantis Quest will throw your way, however, is the "bad piece." What is really frustrating about the bad piece, is that as soon as you drop the piece out of the puzzle, (and it is placed ever so conveniently at the bottom of the grid, making it difficult to avoid doing just that) it destroys every piece of the artifact you have so far found regardless of how far along you have come. That means, you have to start over from the beginning of that stage--not that level, the whole stage. Needless to say, I fell victim to the dreaded bad piece.
I was, well, frustrated. I thought that perhaps when the game first throws this mechanism at you, they could have at least made it a bit more difficult to release the bad piece from the puzzle, but they made it all too easy. Having to go back to square one because of one easy to make mistake is a little extreme at the level in which it can first happen. Still, the learning curve is pretty fair, and usually the game does a good job of upping the challenge just a bit more each turn.
You start out in Atlantis Quest with three lives, but can earn more by gaining more points. Points are earned each time you clear a group of icons in the puzzle, regardless of whether or not it helped you release an artifact or not. Each combo you make, which is clearing more than one line at once or when the clearing of one line leads to another's clearing, also earns you points. And of course there is a time bonus, where the faster you clear a puzzle, the more points you get. Still, it is difficult to procure these extra lives.
When the game is over, you are given a final score, and may start your game over at the beginning of the last stage you were working on. While it's nice that you don't have to start from the very beginning of the game, it seems that the bad pieces make you do exactly what a game over does. Nobody wants double game over conditions, so what's the point of adding such a piece? It would have been more interesting if the game added a piece that did punish you in some sort of way, perhaps by speeding up the timer, or rearranging the blocks or placement of the artifact pieces. That would have made more sense, and not have been so annoying.
Overall, Atlantis Quest is decently fun to play, at least for a little while. For the most part, the puzzles don't change a whole lot except by becoming more difficult. It does tend to get tedious after a while though. You probably won't have a blast with this puzzle game, but at least you won't find yourself helplessly addicted to it as well. God knows there are enough puzzle games like that out there.
With puzzle games such as Atlantis Quest, graphics aren't terribly important. After all, most of the graphics are made up of little icons on a grid. That in and of itself does not entail anything graphically mind blowing, but still, a sloppy looking game is a sloppy looking game, so it's nice to see some effort put into the appearance of these puzzle games. Atlantis Quest doesn't look bad for what it is.
Colors are clear and relatively bright, and things look like what they are supposed to. When you advance a level, a map of the country you are in appears and leads you to where you need to go next. It isn't a terribly detailed or beautiful map, not that it needs to be, but it's ok. There are also some "cut-scenes" that show various artifacts, statues and buildings of the different countries you travel to, but those too are pretty much just there.
Overall, the graphics in Atlantic Quest aren't anything special or very memorable, but hey, they get the job done. I suppose it would have been cool to see some more detailed pictures and maps, but since you'll be staring at a grid with icons 99% of the time, it really doesn't matter all that much.
I actually enjoyed the music in Atlantis Quest. It's the usual fare of "brain music" that plays in puzzle games; it's slow, calm, but somewhat intense as well. It also gave off a Middle Eastern, Arabic vibe, which of course fits the theme of the game nicely. There isn't a terrible lot of variety, perhaps three songs or so. Thankfully, the soundtrack doesn't get old, although a little bit more of a variety would have been kind of nice.
Since puzzle games offer one and only one thing, the puzzles to play had better be fun, challenging, at least somewhat varied, and possess a realistic learning curve. Also, it should be somewhat to very addictive. While I did have fun with Atlantis Quest for some time, I must confess that it did get old after the first few stages. The game tries to mix things up once in a while by adding locked pieces, blocked exits for the game pieces, and the incredibly frustrating bad piece that destroys all of your precious hard work, but there is just not a whole lot of variety. Atlantis Quest does up the challenge decently each level, but if you've already lost interest last stage, it doesn't matter.
Still, that's not to say that you won't enjoy playing around with Atlantis Quest from time to time. It is pretty decent for picking up once in a while when you have nothing else to do and just want to relax but exercise your brain as well. Take it to the office with you and pass the slow times with it. It certainly beats FreeCell or computer Solitaire.
While Atlantis Quest is not the most innovative or fun puzzle game out there, it does a decent job as a game designed to pass the time and keep you occupied for a little while. I could see myself playing it on a rainy day, or when I'm staying home sick. I could also see someone who is not much of a gamer enjoying Atlantis Quest, or perhaps it serving as a stepping stone for people who are just now getting into puzzle games. All in all Atlantis Quest is nothing special, but it's not bad either.