Review by Jen
The Arrival is yet another somewhat obscure title reviewed
by me, this time based on a movie of the same name. I vaguely remember
hearing of the movie The Arrival, but I never saw it. No
matter, the game stands alone quite nicely.
The Arrival, the game, begins with the nameless hero standing
in a field observing some kind of strange activity, and then he
is abducted by aliens. Then some aliens are about to perform some
invasive medical procedure on him when suddenly the ship shakes
and the power flickers; the aliens all drop what they are doing
and run off. The hero comes to in a prison cell. This is where the
game begins. The cell has no bars, just an impenetrable green force
field. The hero (the player) looks around a bit and finds a disk
left behind by the previous inhabitant of the cell, another human.
The prisoner on the disk, Jenkins, talks about a plot the aliens
have for terraforming the Earth to suit their needs, meanwhile destroying
all current life forms. Jenkins talks about a couple of things he
managed to discover, thereby setting your first tasks. You are to
escape from the prison and destroy the alien space station, meanwhile
making sure you are able to escape so you can return to Earth and
tell about your experiences.
A sidebar: Early in the game, you must assume the form of an alien
so that you are not instantly killed when you encounter the real
aliens or their robots. When I try to imagine what aliens would
look like, I can't. I always conclude that their appearance would
be so far outside the realm of human experience that we might not
even recognize them as life forms were we to encounter them. And
so I always get a laugh out of aliens in movies or gamesthey
seem to almost always have a head with two eyes, one nose, one mouth,
a torso, two arms, two legsin fact they look positively humanoid.
The aliens in this game are no exception. The quirky thing about
these ones is that their knee joints bend in the back, like a grasshopper's.
Too bad they weren't green and didn't have feelers and compound
eyesthey would have been ever so much more icky! Plus they
could've leaped about 1,000 times their body length in a single
Perspective is first-person, with third-person cutscenes and the
occasional overhead view of yourself a la Sanitarium. A couple
of times I was confused by this lastit took me (more than)
a second to realize that was me standing there, not some other alien.
The interface is standard point-and-click using the left mouse button;
right-clicking brings up your inventory, a "look" feature,
and the options interface.
Throughout the game you must solve puzzles to gain access to new
areas or get inventory items. (This is one of those games where
you have a bottomless inventory in the form of a backpack that you
are never shown actually wearing. Very improbable, what? But a device
that's employed in many a game besides this one.) The door- or cabinet-opening
puzzles are not uniquethey are basically just standard brain-teasers
overlaid with a thin visual veneer to make them appear to be alien
technology. One great thing about this game is that when you are
doing one of these types of puzzles, you can get three "instructions"
and then you are offered the chance to skip the whole thing. For
the most part, I did not take advantage of this because I like puzzles,
but I did skip two puzzles, once on a switch-the-colors-to-the-other-side
peg (quivering plasma blob, I mean) jumping puzzle and once on a
puzzle (using an alien fetus in a jar), both types of puzzles that
which I just hate.
The inventory puzzles, on the other hand, are unique and fun. For
the most part, even though you pick up some mysterious stuff along
the way, you know where to use it when you see it. This is a very
nonlinear gameexcept for the very beginning and the very end,
you don't really have to do anything in any particular order. The
only times I got confused were when I had an inventory item that
I didn't know what to do with, but every time it turned out that
I hadn't gotten to that point yet. There are no tricky puzzles like
those in Monkey Islandthey're all very straightforward,
and you get something good every time you do something right. There
are some red herring inventory items, a shiny turd, for instance,
that never get used.
There is occasional dying in The Arrival, and you don't
get any do-overs, so you'd best save often. Some of the death scenes
are spectacularly gruesome, usually involving some part of your
body splattering all over the place, followed by a laughing Death's-head.
This game is rated for mature audiences only because of these scenes
and because there are a couple of rotting corpses or body parts
of one species or another that you must retrieve items from. I let
my eight-year-old son watch it but only after I gave him the speech
about "it's only pretend, they can put whatever they want in
a [insert here: video game, TV show, movie] blah blah blah."
(He always says "I knooow, Mom, I'm not a baby!")
The graphics are simply fantastic. The whole game environment is
photorealistic, and the cut scenes are almost movie-quality. Stands
to reason since this game is based on a movie. The space station
and other places you visit are very richly imagined and lushly detailed.
The flying-through-space scenes are breathtaking. There was one
thing that I and my junior scientist son were wondering about, thoughsometimes
when your spaceship takes off, the jets (or thrusters or whatever
they're called) spurt flames. Our question was, would this actually
happen in space? How can there be flames in a vacuum? Well, whatever
the case, it looked nicewe just suspended our disbelief and
enjoyed the game.
The music is nonexistent. I don't know if there is any music or
not'tis rumored that this game will not play under Windows
98 and that you must have some certain version of Windows 95. Well,
I was able to play it with no trouble whatsoever under Windows 98
by disabling the CD Audio in the game options, but if there had
been any music, I suspect that would be what was meant by "CD
Audio." There are plenty of sound effects, all very well-done.
There is a little bit of voice acting, and it's finenot good,
not badjust there.
The Arrival is a fun, compelling game experience ... wait,
I forgot to tell you about ... the dreaded maze! Yes, I'm afraid
so. About two-thirds of the way through the game, in the form of
a mine. This is a great big one, too, but at least it's logically
laid out and easy to map. What a pisser, though. In my opinion,
there is no surer way to leech the fun out of any adventure game.
Well, maybe arcade sequences ... no, I'm not going to get into a
discussion of my pet peeves here. Back to the topic at hand: this
whole huge maze added about ten stinking hours to the game just
to map the maze and find the measly three things in there. However,
since I am such a big-hearted person, I will let you look at my
map for free. Armed with the map ahead of time, the maze part should
only take about half an hour or so, and the game will be much more
fun for those of you (you know who you are) who also hate mazes.
So, as I was saying, The Arrival is a fun, compelling game
experience. It's a big, juicy game you can really sink your teeth
into. The story is exciting, there is a real you-are-here feel to
it, it's challenging but not so hard that you need a walkthrough
(one of the few games I can say that about), and the puzzle-skip
feature is a real bonus for those of us, all of us, I'd guess, who
have certain puzzles we just can't bear, because this game has about
every type of puzzle (except sliding tileshooray!) ever invented.
Publisher: Live Interactive
Release Date: 1997
Four Fat Chicks Links
4X CD-ROM drive
8 MB RAM
Video card with DirectX support
Windows 95-compatible sound card
16 MB RAM
4X CD-ROM drive
hard drive with 4 MB free
System 7 or higher
Where to Find It
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