Road to India
Over the past ten years or so adventure games have taken us to all corners of the world and beyond. We've sorted out mysteries in China, in Egypt, in Turkey, in North and South America, as well as an assortment of locations in Europe. We've even been to Atlantis, to the Moon and to the Discworld J . As far as I can recall this is our first trip to India and although there are a few bumps in the road, and it doesn't travel on for quite long enough, the Road to India has nevertheless been a fairly agreeable journey.
The show opens with a bang. It's one year ago, a market in New Delhi when a slippery figure enters and deposits a suspicious looking case at his feet before departing empty-handed. A woman in a red sari approaches, a famous Indian film star. She stops to shop and the case explodes.
Then a couple more quick flashbacks to more recent times when you meet Fred Reynolds and learn that just a week ago Anusha, his fiancee, left on a trip to visit her family in India. Soon after he received her letter breaking off their relationship. This brings us up to date and Fred now wings his way to India in pursuit of his lost love. He dozes and you slip into his dream.
So whilst you take control of Fred this game unfolds in 9 stages alternating between a dream state where you get some forewarnings and premonitions, and a normal awake state where you face reality. Not giving any more of the story away than you will already know from game promotions, it involves Anusha's disappearance and, ultimately, entanglement with the Thugs, a murderous Hindu sect that worshipped the Goddess Kali and was outlawed by the British in the eighteen hundreds. (You can read more about them in the manual).
The music throughout Road to India is very good and ranges from gentle sitar music to ominous chanting, depending on the mood. The voice acting isn't quite the same standard but this is partly due to the fairly mundane dialogue. You can't make ordinary dialogue sound good. As for the graphics they are impressive with only one complaint from me, I wished there were more people hanging around in the various locations. Just a few more strolling the streets, for example, to heighten the atmosphere, although even in their emptiness the streets of New Delhi had feeling. They in particular were so evocative of exotic India, what a pity there weren't more of them and what a pity the smell of Indian cooking wasn't around. (Get out the Asian cookbook and experiment while you're playing this game, it might be fun).
Just move the mouse and you can swing the view around and look everywhere whilst the cursor stays put in centre screen. You can slow the mouse sensitivity right down if this control makes you nauseous, but then you have to keep shuffling the mouse to get the right view. With this type of control I always wish that I could stop the world spinning and independently move the cursor, but this game is not as bad as others I've played. The interface as a whole is very intuitive and the game is subtitled throughout. At one point there is an aural clue but careful searching will suffice and come to the rescue of deaf players.
A right mouse click brings up a game menu or window that defaults to your inventory. You must visually identify items when you pick them up, as there are no text descriptions. A couple of times I wasn't sure what I had which is a good reason for game developers to always provide inventory text descriptions to avoid confusion. The options menu also gives access to saving and loading and to Fred's diary so you can keep up to date with events. I didn't use it after my initial fiddle with the interface because the game is fairly easy and you are unlikely to get muddled or lost.
So Road to India isn't a terribly difficult game. Experienced adventurers will move through it fairly briskly although I still took some stumbles that slowed me down in a couple of locations. Of course newer players will get considerably more playing time than I did.
The puzzles and problems are varied and I thought the way they were spread across the dream and non-dream parts of the game was quite cleverly done. For instance the puzzles in the real life part are more realistic, or more in context - finding clues and objects to solve problems or talking to characters. In this non-dream part of the game there's also a Chinese Puzzle Box to open and you need to be wide-awake to work out this one. The dreamtime problems, on the other hand, are less contextual and less realistic, solving an abstract puzzle to gain entrance to the Taj Mahal, conversing with a monkey and negotiating a maze with a little extra help.
To be fair, a lot of modern games, and especially first person games aren't teaming with life wherever you go, but my big wish for this game was that there were more people to chat to. Although it's an interesting chase it could have been so much better with more things going on, more twists in the plot so that the player gets more of a sense of solving problems and progressing under their own steam. Locations like a police station, a library or a tea-house where you could dig up clues would have helped so that you could gather information incrementally. In a way the dream sequences moved the game forward too easily and didn't leave enough headway to be made by the player.
Despite my complaints, however, Road to India isn't a bad game at all - I quite enjoyed it. Though it's fairly simple it's no more simplistic than other recent releases such as Egypt II, in fact it's more difficult. Maybe it's just me, I'm wishing for a game with some complex problems to sort through, where I have to make decisions on how to progress so that things don't unfold so effortlessly. Road to India didn't provide this depth of challenge and I can only hope that the next title from Microids will be more meaty. In the meantime check out Road to India for an easier ride, because of this it's particularly good for new adventure game players. India is certainly a fascinating place to have an adventure.
Copyright © Rosemary Young 2001.
All rights reserved.
Windows 95/98/ME/2000, Pentium II 266 Mhz or equivalent, DirectX 8 /Direct3D compatible, 8 MB 3D accelerated Video Card, 64 MB RAM, 400 MB hard drive free space,16X CD-Rom drive, DirectX 8 compatible Sound Card, Keyboard, mouse
Note: The game will install DirectX 8 automatically without offering you a choice so you need to be aware of this if you wish to keep your older DirectX version.