Curse of Atlantis: Thorgal's Quest

Developer/Publisher:  The Adventure Company
Year Released:  2003

Review by Steve Ramsey (June, 2003)

This was a somewhat messy game. And I am not just referring to some graphics problems, which I will talk about later.

It didn't really have much at all to do with Atlantis (although I have no doubt Thorgal was voiced by the same person that visited Atlantis in all those other games), but there was certainly a quest. Not an odyssey, although aspects of the game did bring that title to mind (thankfully these were not the annoying third person camera with a mind of its own or the keyboard operation), but given the lengths to which Thorgal has to go - and the worlds between which he has to travel - just to get back home, it probably felt every bit as epic to him as the tasks of Ulysses.

Some roaming round the net on my part elicited the information that Thorgal Aegirsson is a character from a popular European comic book series, and a nice in game touch is that a comic book journal keeps track of the unfolding events. Through a magic mirror Thorgal learns of a tragedy about to befall his son. He must return home to try and prevent fate, but he soon finds himself enmeshed in a saga of gods and other worlds.

Whilst the general plot line was ok I thought the detail got a bit silly. I haven't read the comic series so perhaps this is an everyday event for Thorgal, but at one point he finds himself on a spaceship. Whilst the presence of gods suggests anything might be possible this I thought was too much.

What's in a name?
Speaking of gods, this game was originally titled Thorgal: Odin's Curse, which in the context of the plot makes more sense than the reference to Atlantis. A marketing decision I presume.

Thorgal gets about in the third person, each screen having a single camera perspective. The mouse is used exclusively, and a small but sufficient range of cursors indicate exit points, active spots, and items which can be examined. All the characters you meet can be spoken to, but dialogue trees are not used. Simply click, and click again until the conversation is exhausted. Dialogue can be subtitled if you wish.

There are some mighty small hotspots, and the rich detail in some of the scenes will add to the need to be meticulous in finding them. Some I confess were beyond me. The scenes between worlds were, I thought, disappointing, the colour and detail much inferior to the scenes in the "real" world. The better scenes though are excellent, light and shadow and ambient sound all adding significantly to the overall result. And the occasional 3D cutscenes are as good as any going around.

The game is very linear, tasks having to be completed as presented in order to move on, and you never really backtrack, the game and gameworlds ensuring Thorgal generally moves forward.

The puzzles and challenges are mixed in nature. There are quite a few involving find and combine and use the correct inventory item. Here the elusive hotspots more than anything else will likely add to the challenge. Other puzzles are more cerebral. There is a 3-D interlocking puzzle to manipulate, 3 games of runes to win against a mute angel, a randomizing door combination to solve in a limited number of attempts, and a laser bridge to be negotiated by (essentially) pattern recognition.

Lincoln green
There are also a number of little action sequences, including an escape from a locked room filling with poisonous gas, and the evasion of a large brutish guard. Several involve your ability with a bow and arrow. Many are limited by time or by Thorgal's health, and you can die, but autosaves will restore your position.

The bow and arrow sequences start gently, but I confess terminal frustration nearly intervened later on. Getting skewered by a randomly appearing set of floor spikes whilst trying to shoot 4 rising and lowering ropes nearly derailed my efforts with Thorgal before he even reached the between worlds. I was determined, though, not to be beaten, and eventually prevailed. Undoubtedly others will find this one a doddle.

Given what came before, the end game was a bit disappointing. I was expecting more of a challenge but it was all over before it really started. Which wasn't too bad plot wise, but was less than I expected.

As mentioned, the game saves for you at critical stages, and you can save as well. A right click brings up the inventory, and gives access to the comic journal and the main menu. You can adjust sound, graphics and subtitles, and tweak other settings. The game enables 5 persons to independently save their own settings and progress.

The graphics issue I referred to was one whereby the characters and some moving objects broke up and merged with the surrounding background. At its worst, there were occasions when all I had of Thorgal was his shadow. Reinstalling, disabling everything else, and updating and then fiddling with all graphics related software did not fix the issue. It didn't prevent playing the game, but it was slightly annoying.

I did send an e-mail about the issue to the makers technical support area, and to date have received two e-mails seeking further information, but no answers as yet. However a friend installed the same copy of the game in XP (and got the same problem) but then installed in 98 and it was fine ... as I write the mystery continues.

Curse of Atlantis: Thorgal's Quest took about 10 hours and was not unenjoyable, but nor did it reach any great heights. rating:  

Copyright © Steve Ramsey 2003. All rights reserved.

System Requirements:
Windows 98/ME/2000/XP, Pentium II 450 Mhz, 64 MB RAM, 12x CD ROM. 8 MB DirectX video card, DirectX sound card.