Flight of the Amazon Queen
Flight of the Amazon Queen from Australian developers Interactive Binary Illusions is described as "an irreverent pastiche of the adventure serials that were popular during the 1940's". It is certainly that, and more. It pays homage not only to adventure serials, but also to adventure games. In particular, the influence of LucasArts' Monkey Island and Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis is very noticeable. The humour, whilst not side-splitting is very much tongue-in-cheek and pokes gentle fun, with the net result that you play through much of the game with a smile on your face.
The main character is Joe King, pilot for hire, and at the beginning of the game Joe is to fly film star, Faye Russell, to the Amazon Jungle for a photo session, but his arch rival, Hans Anderson (the Flying Dutchman) has other plans. Your first task as Joe is to escape from the hotel where you have been locked in a room by Hans, then it's on to the airport to keep your appointment with Faye.
Having done that you discover that it is not all smooth sailing ... er, flying. Lightning causes your plane to crash in the jungle and you must set out to find help. Almost immediately you learn that Princess Azura, leader of a race of Amazons, has been kidnapped and that the sinister organisation known as Floda is behind it. Cut sequences give you an insight into the evil machinations of Floda and the mad genius Dr Frank Ironstein. As Joe, of course, you must learn what is going on by talking to the other characters and solving puzzles.
As an adventure game player of many years I was delighted to find lots of things to do and, whilst many of the individual puzzles in themselves weren't overly difficult to work out, I was thoroughly absorbed and entertained by the task of putting it all together. There was a good balance, I thought, to the puzzles that could be solved by finding or acquiring the correct item to use, and those that could be solved through conversation. I particularly enjoyed the sense of fun when what I thought was the 'obvious' solution proved, in fact, to be a near miss. If anything, it was this sense of fun throughout that made Flight of the Amazon Queen so enjoyable.
Many features contributed to the overall playability. The comic book backgrounds and characters were bright, colourful and friendly, inviting participation. The diction of the voice actors was very clear overall. This was one of the few games where I didn't need to use the on-screen text option to follow what was being said, but I was nevertheless pleased to note that it was still available if required. Of the voice actors, Bill Hootkins (Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, etc.) was suitably manic as Dr Ironstein and Penelope Keith (To the Manor Born, The Good Life, etc.) was unmistakable as the haughty Temple Guardian. It's a pity that she didn't have a larger role, not to mention a tougher riddle to ask of us. For me though, Enn Reitel (Spitting Image) took the prize for his, I thought, rather understated characterisation of Hans Anderson. Perhaps it was because, to my untrained ear, he sounded exactly like two Dutchmen of my acquaintance. (He's not Dutch by any chance, is he?)
I must admit, too, I quite liked Joe as a character and would-be hero. He is a wonderfully naive, all-round good guy for whom sex is merely a term used to distinguish one gender from the other. It is surely only his innocence that enables him to survive numerous falls from heights that would have reduced an ill-fated lemming to a green splotch.
More importantly, however, the major feature of the game that I welcomed was the easy to use interface that went some way towards allowing me the freedom to decide what I wanted to do. This aspect is crucial to my level of involvement in any game. If I click on an object and the program takes over and carries out an operation I didn't foresee, let alone intended, then I feel cheated. It's as though I couldn't be trusted to figure it out for myself. Happily, I can report that Amazon Queen has retained the sort of interface that allows you to build up a command to carry out your chosen course of action. A row of icons in the bottom quarter of the screen, along with your inventory, enable you to perform the actions, open, close, move, give, look at, pick up, talk to and use. Whilst simply clicking the left mouse button in the play area will move Joe around the screen. A greater range of actions under your control, I find, allows for a greater variety of puzzles and increases your sense of participation within the game. Oh, and I loved the pinnacle as a panoramic map feature. It saved a lot of trudging through dense jungle.
The comic book style cutaway sequences were very well done and most effective, generally because they were short and to the point. Only at the very end did I notice a couple of sequences in rapid succession start to intrude on my enjoyment of the game, but more likely it was the rather limited choice of final actions to perform that contributed to my sense of slight disappointment with the ending. I would have loved more things to do here.
If I had any other particular gripe about this game it was the choice of using Amazons as the objects of Dr Frank's experiments. Yes, I know, Amazon Jungle, Amazon Tribe it makes perfect sense (despite being wrong), but it did rather telegraph some of the humour that was to follow. Even before I ran in the game I knew I was certain to meet that 'poor unfortunate' fellow who'd been previously incarcerated by the dreaded warrior women and mercilessly 'used', and who was now desperately seeking to be captured again. I did, I met several of them. Somehow, I think that this 'joke' is as worn out as the willing captives you will meet in the game, though I suppose that the excuse is that this is, after all, a parody of 1940's adventure serials.
Fortunately, Joe's naivety keeps him aloof from all this and he didn't protest when Faye freed him from the Amazons' prison. Still, I did hope that in these more liberated times the fierce Amazon Warriors could have been portrayed a little more positively, or at least exhibited a better taste in men!
Having said that, there is much to smile about. The comic book in your inventory, when you get it, provides a witty send up of the superhero genre and I particularly liked Joe's confident and erudite descriptions of ancient or alien technology qualified with a "probably". As I mentioned earlier, a sense of fun permeates the entire game and if, like me, you enjoy adventure games with gentle, off-beat humour, then I am sure you will enjoy Flight of the Amazon Queen.
See the metzomagic.com Flight of the Amazon Queen walkthrough.
Copyright © Gordon Aplin 1995.
All rights reserved.
386/33 or higher, 4MB RAM, CD-ROM, VGA, DOS 5.0, mouse