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The Secrets of Atlantis: The Sacred Legacy

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Adventure
Publisher: Nobilis


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PC Review - 'The Secrets of Atlantis: The Sacred Legacy'

by Chris Lawton on July 7, 2007 @ 4:05 a.m. PDT

Atlantis V is a new point and click adventure situated in the 1930s. You are Howard Brooks, a young aeronautic engineer who lives on the Hidenburg zeppelin, investigating a strange vessel, suring which you will interact with over 30 NPCs, and solving nearly a dozen puzzles.

Genre: Adventure
Publisher: The Adventure Company
Developer: Atlantis Interactive Entertainment
Release Date: May 29, 2007

The Secrets of Atlantis: The Sacred Legacy is, in more than one way, a glimpse into the past. For starters, it takes place in the 1930s, so it has the period-piece thing going for it. On another level, it is an entry into a genre that has been slowly dying since the mid-'90s: the adventure game.

Secrets puts you in the shoes of Howard Brooks, a typical '30s-living, fedora-wearing kind of guy. He's an engineer who helped develop the Hindenburg, the largest airship in the world. As the game opens, Howard is riding on the Hindenburg from London to New York, when he's conked on the head by a couple of guys, who proceed to sabotage the airship, leaving it dead in the air.

Fortunately, Howard is an engineer who helped design the ship, and he knows just what to do to get the Hindenburg up and running again. However, that still won't solve the mystery of the identity of the two men who knocked him out … or the man with the broken leg who tells Howard he must meet with the mysterious Mr. Foster, who works at the Empire State Building. In order to learn the answers to those questions, you must first solve a lot of puzzles. From that point on, Howard is taken from one corner of the globe to another as he searches for clues to the lost location of Atlantis, the fabled continent that sank into the ocean centuries ago.

Secrets is a mouse-driven, point-and-click adventure, and you have full control over the 360-degree camera. You can look up, down, and side to side, and you interact with "hot spots" in the environment. If you see a little cog, that means you can pick up the item, interact with it or change it. If you see a little question mark, Howard has some thought he wants to share, and if you see little feet, it lets you move forward to the next location, where you can look around and interact with the objects in the immediate vicinity.

There's nothing innovative about this gameplay decision, but it lets you know where to look for essential items — and you will need all the help you can get. The items are small, blend into the background incredibly well, and you have to position your crosshairs perfectly in order to interact with them. Move your cursor too much, and you'll miss it. If you aren't paying attention, you may very well miss the most important item of the moment and spend hours trying to figure out how the items you do have can possibly help you overcome the obstacle that you're facing.

(I'll give you a hint: They can't. After a while, you'll eventually go back and slowly canvass every inch of the area, hoping to pick up the one item you missed. If you're lucky, you'll get it this time.)

The predictability of the story is the first disappointment of the game. The entire thing just seems like it was thrown together by a couple of interns, and the only real "twist" can be seen from a mile away. Any sort of character interaction is thrown to the wayside in favor of random occurrences and deus ex machina. For example, one of the people with whom you meet up just happens to have studied Atlantis for years and has all the pieces of the puzzle, except one. Fortunately, the puzzle you just solved gives her that one piece and — bam! — it's off to another locale … to solve more puzzles. And solve them you shall. As previously mentioned, you have to solve a ton of puzzles, which should be no surprise to adventure game fans, as it's kind of the bread and butter of the genre. Yes, you go on "adventures," but in order to get there, you must solve puzzles.

While the puzzles presented in Secrets are certainly varied, a lot of them seem forced and out of place. There is a huge difference between the puzzles that are germane to the game and appear to belong, and the ones that seem to be tacked on at the last minute. For example, why should I have to solve a sliding puzzle to get into a guy's office, so I can talk to him? If I had to solve a sliding puzzle to get into my office everyday, I would seriously reconsider my place of employment. It's certainly nice to have a longer game, but these out-of-place puzzles pull you out of the moment and really interrupt immersion.

The puzzles that appear to belong are, unfortunately, a mixed bag. They are all well thought-out and fun, but they almost require too much of the player. The brainteasers are incredibly obscure, and the items you find to help you solve them have next to no description. There are no clues to help you, so you're basically thrown in headfirst and asked to randomly put objects together, hoping that they interact with whatever lever you have to pull or button you have to press. Sometimes, you'll spend hours trying to figure out the smallest thing and after you do, you still won't know what you did correctly. You just assume that the gaming gods have taken mercy on your wretched soul.

When you are given a clue, it's in the form of an incredibly obscure riddle that I honestly don't think anyone can figure out. I solved almost all of those puzzles by trial and error and then went and looked it up online, only to find out that the solution was embedded in a riddle that didn't make much sense to me. Apparently, a bull's head was supposed to represent someone's gaze, and the torches were the precious jewel. I'm not sure how that was supposed to work.

Enough with the puzzles —what about the rest of the game? The backgrounds are gorgeous; they're colorful and robust, and each location looks different. The settings really draw you into the world and make you feel like someone, somewhere cared about Secrets. The character models, however, make you feel just the opposite; they look unrealistic, mediocre and stiff, and the hair for all of the characters looks like a plastic helmet. The FMVs look like stop-motion animation, which is fine if you're making stop-motion, but not so much when the idea is full motion. Now, I get that adventure titles probably don't draw a huge budget, but even games like Keepsake looked awesome, especially in the FMV department, which was the high point of the game. Unfortunately, Secrets really drops the ball on this one.

The sound aspect is the crown jewel of Secrets. There's not a lot of background music, but it's not really needed; when it does come on, it tends to distract you from the obscure puzzle at hand. However, the sound effects and the voice acting are beautiful. The SFX are realistic and draw you in, and you can tell exactly what is happening by listening to the sounds around you. It is simply perfect.

The voice acting is even better. One of the problems with recent adventure games is the lack of good voice acting (Keepsake's painful voice acting comes to mind), but Secrets just nails it. The voices are believably real, and they draw you into the game. It is the highlight of an otherwise-flawed pearl.

I can't recommend this game to anyone but the most die-hard fans of adventure titles. It clocks in at just over eight hours, and there is no replay value to be found. I went through the game a second time, and since I knew the solution to all of the puzzles, it took me about an hour to get through the first half. There's just not enough here to keep you entertained longer than one playthrough.

The Secrets of Atlantis: The Sacred Legacy is a wonderful glimpse at what could have been. You have a great premise and a great setting, but ultimately, the game falls flat with an uninspired story and frustrating, sometimes nonsensical, puzzles. If you're a devoted adventure fan, you'll probably find some gems in here, but everyone else will be disappointed.

Score: 5.0/10

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