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PC Review - 'Agon: The Mysterious Codex'

by Rusty Bailey on April 25, 2006 @ 1:26 a.m. PDT

Agon is an adventure game that consists of 14 episodes. The new episodes arrive approximately every two months, you can travel to exotic locations around the world, you can get to know village people, urban societies, their cultures, ways of life and their board games from the previous century.

Genre: Adventure
Publisher: Viva Media
Developer: Private Moon Studios
Release Date: March 16, 2006

Before I say anything, I must first stress to you that if you don't like games in the vein of Myst, do not play this game. With that out of the way, adventure fans may enjoy AGON: The Mysterious Codex. It's a typical point-and-click, but with a strange story. As funny as it sounds, the whole point of this game is to find more games.

In AGON: The Mysterious Codex, you set out on a quest to find the "ancient games of nations." You start out in London and are given abundant clues which lead you to locations such as Lapland and Madagascar. The creators tried to make this game like a novel by releasing the game for download in chapters. Not only does it serve as a chapter-like function, but it also builds up suspense with the game's story, much like a comic book series. This disc contains the first three episodes of this 12-part game.

When you start out the first chapter of AGON, you are given little to no information about the main character, Professor Samuel Hunt. We know he is looking for something, but even he doesn't quite know what he's initially looking for. It seems that some background information should have been given so that the players can actually care about the character.

Throughout the game, you'll find board games which you can unlock to go back and play over again. Don't expect anything along the lines of Monopoly, though. Each game has its own rules and can be very difficult to win. Regrettably, once you unlock them, you'll care less about the actual story and just want to play the board games. While the hidden games can be complex and interesting, the actual game is far from it.

In both the board games and the story, the controls in AGON are unsurprisingly simple. Being that it's a point-and-click adventure title, all you really need to do is… point and click. Point in the direction you need to go, and click to walk; point at a door, and click it to open; and point at a wheel, and click to turn.

While some adventure games' puzzles make sense, it seems like some puzzles in AGON were just randomly thrown together with no driving purpose. One that stands out in my mind is a puzzle in the second episode that unlocks a door. For some reason, a train conductor has the most intricate lock system known to man just to lock away a steam-powered organ. Although some puzzles are logical as to why they exist in the game – such as finding all of the information needed to fill out a form in the first chapter – other puzzles seem to be crammed in just so AGON can be considered an adventure title.

Additionally, the game is flawed with its items. In one area in the second chapter, if you forget to retrieve a single item, but go on with the cut scene, you cannot continue the game because you need that particular object. In addition, if you saved, you can't go back and get the item because you've already watched the cut scene and are therefore stuck where you saved. This is an immense flaw, and it shouldn't have even been possible to continue if you did not have the necessary items.

While it may be burdened with many faults, AGON achieves its goal of playing out like a novel. If it were a written story, it would definitely be considered an epistolary novel. While you search around finding clues on your own, most of the story you get is from letters and journals you read. Obviously, this game is very text-heavy. In fact, between each episode, you have a pile of letters you need to read to catch up on the story. Of course, this makes it very easy to fill in the gaps without the player actually having to play through every single event.

On the other hand, with having so much to read, there is a lot of room for mistakes, and unfortunately, AGON has its fair share of grammar mistakes. It's simply not professional to clearly hear the characters say "from," when the screen reads, "form." It's a simple mistake, but when you step back and realize there's a typo in your game, it really breaks you away from that fantasy world they try and create.

Aside from all its faults, AGON does have one redeeming feature about it, and that's its lavish backgrounds and music. Mind you, their character models are nothing to shake a stick at – I wouldn't even shake a twig at them, for that matter – but the settings are beautiful, with great attention to detail and realism. The beginning sequence where the horse and carriage is drawn in blue pen and then transformed into full computer animation is just amazing. Unfortunately, this is just one of many examples that go to show that graphics are not the only factor in making a great game.

The cut scenes sport appealing visuals, and the music isn't too bad, either. AGON presents us with fantastic wind-ensemble pieces that accompany the scenes quite well and give the game an overall cinematic feel. Then the in-game music is more mysterious, constantly reminding us that we are looking for something. It's just too bad AGON doesn't have much more to offer aside from board games, music, and visuals.

I'm sad to say that overall, AGON was a huge disappointment. The board games provided are enjoyable, but the journey to each one is ultimately not even worth it. Hopefully, the upcoming chapters will see the developers fixing the major flaws which were present in the first three episodes.

Score: 5.0/10

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