L.K. Avalon is perhaps best known for Schizm and Reah but long before those two games they produced this odd little number. Set in the not-so-distant future it tells the tale of a war between the sexes that erupts tragically in 1998 (which was in the not-so-distant future when this game was made).
It so happens that society was dominated by men, and women were oppressed. (Has anything really changed?) A radical women's group manages to hijack seventeen nuclear missiles from the masculinist forces and threaten to use them unless a power sharing arrangement is agreed upon. The men have been caught with their pants down and their weapons of mass destruction exposed so they send an anti-terrorist force to attack the women. During the battle the deadly missiles are launched precipitating a nuclear winter on Earth. The only survivors are a group of about a thousand women who were at a conference and they establish an all female society underground. Now, forty-six years later, during a mining operation they discover a lone male still preserved in a hibernation capsule. He is awakened and held captive while the women decide what to do with him.
After the introduction outlining the plot above you gain control of the game as that male captive in this first person perspective point and click game. Your first task is to try to escape confinement then to try to make sense of this nightmarish totalitarian world of Big Sister that you have somehow awakened to find yourself in.
A.D. 2044 is curiously entertaining game that clearly doesn't take itself too seriously. As a solitary exploration game you never get to meet any real women but there is some minimal interaction with female androids (isn't that a contradiction, perhaps they were really gynoids?) who were clearly designed by males. No female would create a robot of Barbie proportions and dress her in high heels and an ultra-minimalist costume.
Another quirky feature is that as well as your character talking to himself (or to you) there is also another male voice that acts as disembodied narrator or hint provider. This can be quite confusing at first as I initially thought my character was voiced by two different actors. There is no text for these voices so players with hearing loss will not get the hints. Though I thought some of the hints were unnecessary, especially as they are sometimes outright spoilers and I could find no way to turn them off. Fortunately the hints aren't constant so there is still plenty to work out for yourself.
The puzzles consist mainly of using inventory items in the appropriate places (or sometimes wildly inappropriate places, but I did mention that the game was tongue in cheek) or finding ways to open locked doors and drawers, or to get machinery to work. You may also need to find ways to 'destabilise' androids, some of which seem to have a rather sensitive dispositions. (Once again the male design shows through).
This is one game where you will need to explore your surroundings very carefully as the designers have delighted in hiding small objects in out of the way places. For instance, you can't see behind that box but this doesn't mean there's just an empty space. Fortunately the magnifying glass cursor is your friend and it always appears whenever such a hotspot requires closer scrutiny. When I started the game I was convinced I had explored the first location thoroughly and I was stuck. There didn't seem to be anything else to do, I couldn't go upstairs because I hadn't eaten my soup and I couldn't find a spoon with which to eat it. So I searched everywhere again and found three items I had missed. This quickly taught me not to expect items to be obvious and I learned to scan the periphery of screens very carefully. After that I made good progress through the game.
Navigation and exploration is also quirky at times but you soon get used to it. The walk cursor is a pair of shoes but they can be facing you or facing away from you. If the latter you walk forward but if the former you literally walk backwards. It was quite strange to back out of an elevator and through a lobby to be deposited facing the wrong way in a corridor, though I must admit this only happened in certain areas. If you move your cursor to the edge of a screen it may become an eye and if you click there the screen will usually pan around to give you another view or sometimes move you to a new node within a particular room. This is useful for checking out all the nooks and crannies in a location because the magnifying glass for close ups may only appear from certain angles. The hand cursor lets you know when you can pick something up or put it down. Most items can be examined in great detail and rotated in a special viewing mode that fills the game window. If you have an item in this mode you can try to use another item on it as some things will combine.
Despite its navigation quirks, and despite the need to carefully search everywhere and watch out for the elusive hotspot, AD 2044 isn't too difficult. As I said earlier you will get used to looking for objects in the right places and there are plenty of items to collect. There are also a few red herrings, I remember working on "a peculiar door with no handle" for ages, but to no avail.
The game comes on two CDs and you will need to swap disks towards the end as some things you need to solve problems might only be found in locations on the first disk. I say 'might' because this can be kept to a minimum if you are diligent in your searching. Considering its age the graphics are still quite good though AD 2044 stems from that era when many games played in a smallish window surrounded by a sizeable interface frame. A.D. 2044 is one of the more generous in this regard with a game window approaching two thirds of full screen. Less generous is the provision for only eight save game slots but I found this sufficient as my character didn't meet any sudden demises despite tinkering with dangerous machinery.
Copyright © Gordon Aplin 2003.
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