The Forgotten: It Begins...

Developer:  Ransom Interactive
Publisher:  Dreamcatcher Interactive
Year Released:  1999

Review by Gordon Aplin (November, 1999)
forgot.jpgThe Forgotten: It Begins... is intended as an introduction to a series of games that will, hopefully, expand upon the magic/supernatural theme and story that is briefly outlined in this first episode. It begins, well your part in it at least, in New Orleans, nominally in the present, but you will soon travel back in time to the 1930s.

A prologue provides the sketchiest of backgrounds, yet just enough to whet your appetite, about a powerful race of beings now exiled in what might be termed the 'netherworld' and manifesting themselves as spirits, angels, demons and shadows. These beings are still able to control world events through the agency of artefacts of great power in the form of ancient cards which, though neutral themselves, can be used for good or evil. People using these cards can travel through time and space, but their use transfers power to the ancient beings and if the cards are used too much then the possessor may well become the possessed.

It begins in a single room. You don't know who you are, where you are or what you are doing there (though later, if you read diligently, you may learn that your character is male). A quick search of the room reveals that it may belong to someone called Richard Haliburton (I'm speculating here) who seems to be missing. Richard has gone in search of Amelia whose photograph appears on the mantelpiece. He seems to know you, though, as he has left you a letter and some things that may aid you in your quest for answers to questions that you can't yet even begin to formulate.

In this first-person perspective game the beginning elements to the story will be revealed piece by tantalising piece as you explore your surroundings, read letters and journal extracts and find and use items including the powerful cards. You will learn that other people are also using the cards, some are even making their own, and that historical personages such as Aleister Crowley, Tsar Nicholas II, Anastasia and maybe even Rasputin are somehow involved.

After you leave the room you will be able to explore a New Orleans street and a mysterious apothecary shop, but most of the game takes place in the hotel, Le Monde De Oublies, in two different time periods. The game is quite atmospheric, I loved the ghostly whisperings that haunted the decrepit, abandoned hotel of the present day and even when you travel back in time it is strangely devoid of life, as if everyone had suddenly disappeared in the midst of whatever they were doing.

Watch your step
Most of the obstacles to progress involve finding and using inventory items and it is really not that difficult to solve if you keep your wits about you. I should point out there is a trap for the unwary. Without giving too much away, in one of the rooms is a crucial item without which you cannot complete the game. If you leave the room without picking it up you cannot return later as the key to the room disappears from your inventory once it is used. If this happens you must restore a previously saved game. So, as always, it is advisable to save often and don't keep saving over the same file.

It is also quite a short game (though not the shortest I have played, Full Throttle still holds that dubious distinction) so I am hoping that the next episode is considerably expanded as the concept certainly has promise. The developers concede that this first instalment is aimed at novice adventurers to ease them into the series, a laudable approach, but it may leave the more experienced player feeling a trifle dissatisfied. The many unanswered questions may also leave the novice feeling a little bemused by the experience.

Graphics and movement
Although sometimes a bit grainy, the graphics are generally quite evocative and they combine with the music and sound effects to create a suitably eerie atmosphere. You can pan around 360 degrees by holding down the left mouse button and moving the cursor to the edge of the screen. You can also zoom in on some nice stills or animations. Navigation is fairly straightforward, but there are a few minor inconsistencies in some of the close-up scenes as sometimes to back out your cursor is an arrow and sometimes a pointing finger. At other times you can only exit by clicking on the navigator globe that sits beneath the 'action' window.

To the left of the globe you will find your card collection and to the right is your normal inventory for the other items you will pick up. If you open your inventory to full screen you can swap items around and also double click on them to get a brief description or maybe even a clue. Pressing the space bar reveals the game controls at the bottom of the screen where you can save, load and quit, change preferences, open your inventory or read the comprehensive in-game instructions.

Unfolding story
The Forgotten is a game of solitary exploration so there are no conversations, though you will briefly meet up with Richard at the rather abrupt ending to the game. Despite its brevity I found it to be most intriguing and it certainly captured my imagination, but then I do enjoy a good mystery and I liked the way the snippets of information I discovered slowly revealed elements of the plot.

This really is a game where you need to engage with the story, to speculate on what is happening and what has happened. It is important that you read everything and think about how it all fits together. You won't find all the answers here, but if you can set aside the urge for instant gratification some may be revealed in the next instalment. I hope we don't have to wait too long.

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Copyright © Gordon Aplin 1999. All rights reserved.

System requirements:
Windows 98/95, P 133Mhz, 16MB RAM, 8xCD ROM.
Macintosh PowerPC 133Mhz, 32MB RAM (64MB preferred) 24x CD ROM, 130 MB free disk space.