Atlantis III (Beyond Atlantis 2) Review

A lovely female adventurer -- an ancient time portal leading to who knows where -- a power hungry villain -- a mysterious crystal skull with a secret. While all of these elements could make for a great adventure game, Atlantis III combines them into a mediocre result. (DreamCatcher distributes the same game as Beyond Atlantis 2 in North America.) Players who expect this game to equal or surpass its predecessor, Atlantis 2 (Beyond Atlantis), will be sorely disappointed. And, again, the plot has nothing to do with the Lost City of Atlantis.

The story begins as a young archeologist explores an area of the desert that she believes is the location of ancient ruins. Even though armed guards prevent her from entering the main encampment, it doesn't take her long to find an unprotected cave in the rocky hillside. Solving a puzzle unlocks a portal, which she eagerly enters, to find herself transported to an ancient Egyptian crypt, complete with hieroglyphics and a sarcophagus.

In first-person perspective, you play the female archeologist, without a name. Also unnamed is the "man with the gun" who commands that you find the secret inside a crystal skull that will supposedly give him extreme power of some kind. Having no choice, you look deep into the eye sockets of the skull. The liquid realm you find there holds the secret for "one who is ready," and of course that will be you. In addition to Egypt, you will visit a palace with an Arabian Nights theme as well as a prehistoric era in the snow-covered Siberian mountains.

First impressions are so important, and at the get-go, the one I got of this game was not good. I have come to expect installation and running problems while attempting to play games developed by Cryo Interactive, and this one was no different. The issues were resolved by disabling auto-run, lowering my acceleration properties, and selecting the proper resolution in the options. Because my system has its own quirks and an aging video card, other players may not experience similar problems. Once I fine-tuned everything, the game played without a hitch with no crashes or other problems.

Using a very simplistic point-and-click interface, there is virtually no learning curve, so even a novice adventure gamer can get started quickly. Up to five people can have games going at the same time, a feature seen infrequently these days. Saving and loading games is simple too, but you can't name your saved games, nor can you see the thumbnail picture of your current location until you reload. Inventory items are stored in a window below the main game screen, accessed with a right click, and each object is given a brief name.

The three-dimensional graphical view allows you to look at every part of each location by swinging your mouse around. When you click the direction cursor, your position is snapped into place, thereby eliminating the motion sickness I experienced in Atlantis 2. The scenery is beautifully drawn and realistic, and the video cut-scenes are very well done. While the music is well-orchestrated and provides background atmosphere, it is merely average.

Even though the plot itself sounds interesting enough, the game moved along so slowly in the beginning that I was simply bored. Conversations with other characters are blunt and short with very little personality. Given the fact that there is little dialog, the voice acting was only fair, at least in the English version. The designers attempted to compensate for the lack of conversation by introducing a comic character whose voice and attitude were more irritating than entertaining. The characterization of the people is fairly good, but their teeth and eyes had a strange look to them. Even the main character sometimes looked cross-eyed. Not a good thing.

As you delve deeper in the game, it does get a little better, at least as far as the puzzles go. Some important items are hidden so well in the scenery that you may get stuck very early on. In my opinion, most of the puzzles are easy with a scattering of some medium difficulty ones. Most of them involve using objects, although a few involve manipulating shapes and opening locks. A few of the puzzles are completely random, so the solutions are different in every game. There are also some arcade-like situations in which you must throw an object precisely to hit a target.

There was nothing about this game that held my interest, but that's not to say that it's a bad game, just not overly good. Its only saving grace is the way in which the puzzles are presented, even though the puzzles themselves are not hard. It is graphically and musically pleasing, but the video and sound do not compensate enough for the slow-moving story and lack of interesting dialog. In my opinion, this sequel took quite a few steps backwards.

-- Jeanne Muse