Mr. Bill's Adventureland Review
Reviewed by Mr. Bill & Lela
Perhaps the most wonderful thing about adventure games and the internet is how quickly they have made us all realize just how similar people are worldwide, and always have been. Underneath we are basically all the same, despite our apparent differences in appearance, language, culture, location, or even time. And nowhere is this better illustrated than in this great little game from the Czech Republic.
As the title informs us, it is a fairy tale, an imaginary story that is based on part of the folklore of the Russian people, with their role models and bogeymen. Now fairy tales are usually written to illustrate some of the basic moral values that are held dear by a particular people, designed to be read or recited to their own children in order to educate as well as entertain them. So you may be surprised to discover that the values encouraged by this little tale, and the lessons learned from it, are the same ones that we try to instill in our own children. Only here they are portrayed in a way that we are not accustomed to... and it makes for a fascinating game.
However don't think for a minute that this is only a kids game. There is no question that they will certainly enjoy it, and it does begin with a grandmother reading the story to a couple of enthusiastic youngsters at bedtime. But we feel that adults may appreciate it even more. The story is absorbing with integrated puzzles, the graphics and music are magnificent, and the many unusual characters, with some of their oh-so-true observations about life, are an absolute delight.
Basically it is a love story, sort of a Russian version of Cinderella, but from a uniquely bohemian point of view. The setting is rural, and the time is back when marriages were still being arranged by the local matchmaker. And our heroine, Nastienka (or Nastya, for short), is a beautiful young girl of marriageable age.
But of course there are some problems that stand in the way. She has a mean stepmother, a lazy good-for-nothing stepsister (who's determined to get married herself), and a friend in trouble, just to name a few. And her own true love, Ivan, is such a conceited, selfish, know-it-all that he must learn a few lessons in humility first, before he is even worthy of her. When you add to all that the fact that this takes place in a land so steeped in mysticism that interactions with supernatural characters are an accepted part of everyday life, then you can begin to get some idea of just how complicated the plot gets.
It is a 3rd person, 2D, point and click game, with a smart cursor and a small, labeled inventory. The interface is simple and easy to use, with options for sound adjustments and unlimited saves. Just make sure that you click on 'Save Game' when you do save, instead of hitting 'Enter' as we often do in Windows games. Because we found that whenever we saved by hitting 'Enter', it somehow corrupted the save, and so the game would crash to the desktop soon thereafter. But we had no problems if we used the 'Save Game' feature.
The clean, fresh look of the cartoon-style graphics is very appealing. They are rendered in sharp detail and brilliant color, with some of the most gorgeous skies that we have seen anywhere. It creates an immediate appreciation for the beauty of that land and era. And the realistic movement of the animated characters, along with the seamless movie quality cutscenes, makes it all believable.
The wonderful, happy, Cossack-style original music adds to the spell, and you find yourself instantly transported to another place and time. And it is a wondrous place indeed... a place where the birds and animals talk, and where you're just as likely to have a conversation with a stump, a fishing worm, a house, a ghost, a plant, or the rising sun, as you are with a person. It's a land filled with magic and mystery, where everything is personified including the seasons of the year (Father Frost and Aunt Summer)... even emotional states. We especially liked their depiction, and explanation of 'Human Misery'.
You might even run into a couple of Laurel and Hardy lookalikes, or an artist that reminds you of the Inspector in the Pink Panther movies. And the voice acting is good. Subtitles are available, but unnecessary. However you may want to turn them on anyway, just so you don't miss any of the entertaining dialogue. Shrieky, the Vampire Bat, is hysterical!
You alternate between playing the lovely Nastienka and the young hero, Ivan. There are a lot of problems to solve as you meet and deal with everything from highway robbers to the evil hag Baba Yaga... she's sort of like our wicked witch who wanted to put children in the oven. None of the puzzles are very difficult however (although they may be more so for children), and lots of clues are given. And all of the puzzles are part of the story, often teaching a lesson about helping others as you solve them.
It's a very special little game, one that you will definitely enjoy playing, either by yourself or with your children or grandchildren. We only wish that it had been longer. We were enjoying it so much that we really hated to see it end! Recommended.
Developed (2000) by Bohemia Interactive Studio and published by Cenega.
Minimum System Requirements:
PC: Pentium 166 MHz Processor (Pentium II 300 MHz Recommended); Windows 98 / 2000 / ME; 32 MB RAM; 8X CD-ROM Drive (24X Recommended); 2 MB Graphics Card (4 MB Graphics Card Recommended); Sound Card; 210 MB of Free Hard Drive Space; Mouse
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