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Atlantis Quest

Review by Toger
October 2006

Atlantis is missing, again. I was fairly sure that I'd uncovered its location several times before, but apparently that was all just a dream and it's still lost. The mysterious they have convinced me that I'm the only person capable of finding the "lost" continent and the giant solid-gold Chimera statue that sits outside the Temple of Poseidon. So, armed with nothing but my wits and the occasional snack, I'm off to scour the ancient world looking for clues that will lead me to my final destination ... this is my Atlantis Quest.

We all know how the game works, don't we? (If you've played Bejeweled, you've got the basics.) Drag-drop or click to match three or more of the same icons either vertically or horizontally for points—the more matches you make at one time, the more points you rack up—and as the matched sets disappear off the grid, new pieces will drop down from above. Atlantis Quest is a variation on that theme: not only are you matching symbols, you're also freeing artifact shards, tools or bags of money that are embedded into the grid.

These artifact pieces are what the game is really about; free all of the shards for a specific level and they'll assemble themselves into an ancient relic such as the Pendant of Elissa (sister to King Pygmalion) or the Amphora of Dionysius. Once completed, each reconstructed relic will reveal a map to lead you to the next location such as Greece, Babylon or Atlantis itself. These sites are really just a cover for more grids containing more relic shards. As you progress to each new map, you'll need to complete, on average, seven different grids masquerading as cities, to reach the next location.

When you run out of legal moves in Bejeweled, it's game over. Since the object of Atlantis Quest isn't just to accumulate points but to free up the artifact pieces, running out of available moves isn't an issue—the game will delete tiles as many times as necessary to create potential moves when you hit the proverbial wall. I liked that, a lot. Also, unlike some of its predecessors, each grid in Atlantis Quest is timed—you'll have anywhere from five to seven minutes to release all of the goodies embedded into the grid.

Sounds like a pretty simple game, doesn't it? It is ... in the beginning.

The first several stages are pretty straightforward and fairly easy; however, once you get to the third level, Egypt, the game introduces locked tiles. Until matched, locked pieces cannot be moved to make matches; they only drop to the bottom of the grid as other matched tiles fall off. The single locks require two matches to get them to fall off the grid; double-locked items require a total of three matches. Then there's the grid itself: at the start of the game, the grid is a standard 10×10 grid. Eventually, the appearance of the grids will change, and you'll have to contend with oddly shaped grids that might have sections missing or contain walls that won't allow the tiles to fall off the grid. (Having an artifact stuck behind a locked tile or wall when the clock is winding down can make you crazy.)

To help you deal with these hindrances, some of the grids also have tools that can help you release the artifact pieces. You collect the tools in the same manner as the shards. Tools include a hammer, which smashes specific tiles (including locked pieces); a shovel, which removes all tiles sitting directly under any artifact piece; an hourglass, which adds a tiny bit of extra time to the timer; and an oil lamp, which rearranges all of the tiles around the artifact pieces. You'll definitely want to hoard these tools—they don't appear in all of the grids, and you'll find that you need them in later levels.

Atlantis Quest is a pretty colorful game. Each grid is covered with various treasure pieces such as gold coins, Roman helmets, ankhs, Goddess Bast statues and medallions; as light passes over the grid, these treasures dance with light. Occasionally, the grid will pulse with flashes of light as if struck by lightning—pretty, but it's very distracting when you're attempting to move a missed artifact piece stuck at the top of the grid and you're running out of time.

The soundtrack, which changes appropriately as you move from one country to the next, is fairly subtle and unobtrusive. I did notice that the music used for the Egyptian levels is repeated in one of the later levels. Ambient sounds are limited to the clicks of locks unlocking, shoveling, hammering and shards swooping to find their place in the uncompleted relic.

Judging by what I've written so far, I'm sure you're wondering why I decided to go with such a low rating. After all, Atlantis Quest does its intended job—it's easy on the eyes and ears, serves up some mindless entertainment and eats time like a ravenous vulture. I actually enjoy playing this type of game while I let my brain work on something at the subconscious level. What's not to love?

Have I mentioned yet, how much I dislike games that punish the player?

I restarted Atlantis Quest no less than five times. Why? I couldn't get past the third level. Not nearly enough time for some of the tougher grids, and I was chewing up all of the tools I'd accumulated far faster than the game actually gives tools. By the time I reached the fifth grid of level 3, I was down to zero extra lives and no tools at all. Game over. When that happens, the game graciously shoots you back to the beginning of the current level ... with only your current life.

Question: If I've chewed up all my extra lives and tools getting to the midpoint of the level, how am I supposed to complete the level, from the beginning, with no tools or extra lives?

Answer: Scour the internet looking for help of some sort.

A cheat is your friend—actually, I found two but I only used one ... at first. The first trick involves altering the space/time continuum: changing the allotted time in each map. There are 76 individual maps (contained in eight levels) that must be altered. Time-consuming, but it works ... to a point. Some of the maps didn't like my tinkering with the inner workings and bounced me to the desktop. With those maps, I replaced the altered map with the original and just dealt with the time issue. (If you decide to go this route, make sure you save the original maps somewhere. Finicky maps refuse any alterations at all, even when returning them to their pristine state.) By doing this, I was able to progress all the way to the midpoint of level 5 (Rome) before I hit the "no tools, no extra lives" issue. Restart, yet again.

I know what you're thinking: Why not just reload a previous save instead of restarting? Atlantis Quest has only one save slot, and you can only save when exiting the game. <Cue loud screaming and throwing of objects.>

Time to invoke the second cheat, which involves changing yet another game file: I tweaked how often I got rewarded with extra lives. The original file rewards extra lives at every 35,000 points. My altered file coughed them up at every 1,000 points. By the time I got to level 5—again—I'd accumulated well over 300 lives. After that, it didn't matter as much if I ran out of time as I had an almost inexhaustible supply of lives. Sadly, by then playing the game was akin to having a ball-peen hammer smashed into my forehead. I decided that the better part of valor was to concede to the game. The game wins; I'm taking my ball and going home.

Atlantis Quest is a puzzle game geared to the casual gamer or those with only a few minutes to spare between the important things in life ... like paying your bills. It does its job well ... possibly too well. What starts out as a 20-minute time-waster can easily escalate into a lost two hours as the game wraps its addictive fingers around your soul. While I really like this sort of game, I do not like the fact that the game's difficulty is so unbalanced as to make playing the latter stages a study in frustration. If I want aggravation, I can attempt to cancel an online service.

If you're willing to overlook these annoyances, then by all means seek out Atlantis Quest and lose yourself in the hunt for treasure; however, if you're like me and play games for fun, then look elsewhere. The End

The Verdict

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The Lowdown

Developer: Terminal Studio
Publisher: Got Game
Release Date: August 1, 2006

Available for: Windows

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System Requirements

Windows 95/98/Me/2000/XP
800 MHz processor
32 MB video memory
DirectX 8 or later

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