Amerzone: The Explorer's Legacy Review

There have been uncountable "Myst-clones" released over the past few years, all attempting to hang on to the bandwagon. The Amerzone box states defiantly that it is "better than both Riven and Myst combined." Needless to say, I was skeptical, but since I thoroughly enjoyed both of those games, I figured I should at least see what Amerzone was like.

The story is imaginative and intriguing. An old scientist and explorer implores you to travel to the Amerzone and return an item he took from there in the 1930s -- the egg of an unknown species of birds. After a brief monologue, he dies before he can tell you what to do. Luckily he kept a detailed journal of his first trip to that place, from which you learn about the land, its inhabitants and wildlife.

The overall interface is uncluttered and easy to use. A simple arrow directs travel and other cursors appear when you can pick up or use something on the screen. Selecting and using items stored in inventory was not as intuitive as it could have been. Left-clicking the mouse button opens up the inventory window. Then you must click on the left side of the screen to return to the playing screen with the item in hand. I much prefer being able to view the playing screen with an inventory window visible at the same time.

The graphics are pleasing to the eye and nicely rendered in the 3D environment. There is no background music to interfere with the feeling of "being there," but you will hear realistic background sound effects (whistling wind and crashing waves, for instance) and sounds for your actions (footsteps, for instance). Cut-scenes do include music, which enhances the feeling of accomplishment.

One big difference between Myst and Amerzone is obvious during the first few minutes of gameplay -- there are people here! Unfortunately your conversations are one sided -- they talk and you listen. In some instances, solving a puzzle or performing another action will give you the opportunity to listen more.

A good sprinkling of object-oriented puzzles are contained in the game. All of them are well integrated into the story, and I never felt they were unnecessary. None of the puzzles can be considered difficult if you have paid attention and studied the strategically positioned written materials.

The game is contained on 4 CD-ROMs, and I was pleased that there was no unnecessary disk swapping. While playing Amerzone, I had a few technical problems. In several instances, I may have tried to move too quickly through a scene because I was exited to my desktop unexpectedly. In one instance, the graphics loaded too slowly and, I think, overloaded my system's resources. But in all cases I was able to reload and continue with my last saved game without further problems. I learned to save more often in anticipation of these few glitches.

While enjoyable, this game does not live up to the box advertisement. It will appeal to fans of Myst and Riven, but it does not provide as many hours of gameplay as the former games. With easy-to-medium difficulty puzzles, lovely graphics and music, decent sound effects and an interesting plot, it is still a nicely designed game.

-- Jeanne Muse