Agon: Episode 3, Pirates of Madagascar

Developer/Publisher:  Private Moon Studios
Year Released:  2004

Review by Rosemary Young (October, 2004)
It's good to see Professor Samuel Hunt back again in this 3rd chapter of the Agon saga. The telling of his tale began about a year ago now when Agon: London Scene was released. Set in the British Museum in the year 1903 the first chapter relates how the receipt of a mysterious manuscript fired up the Professor's imagination and inspired him to embark on this quest. Shortly after he was on the trail of a secret which led him into the colder climes of Lapland in Agon: Adventures in Lapland. Now, on this latest journey, The Pirates of Madagascar, he sheds his heavy coat and woolly gloves and heads south to tropical Madagascar.

This time it's been a little longer between trips so Professor Hunt obviously needed longer to prepare. And this isn't surprising as this leg of the journey is the most intricate thus far and the good professor has some even more challenging enigmas to puzzle over, and there a couple more of them too.

Someone has already walked this way ...
Agon, from Private Moon Studios, is a story told in chapters that you can download and purchase online after which you receive a key code to unlock the game. It is anticipated that there will be 14 chapters in all and each one (bar the first) culminates in a board game that you are challenged to play against the relevant computer character. You can then play the game as many times as you like and hone your skills.

This chapter begins with a short telling of the tale thus far to remind you what the Professor was up to in the first two chapters. Perhaps you could start the journey right here with this short introduction but I recommend playing each part in order so that you get to know Samuel Hunt and understand the intricacies of his quest.

Someone knows the secret ...
The Pirates of Madagascar is a longer trip than the previous games because of the extra challenge. As I recall the first two games took me 4 or so hours to complete (plus extra time for the board game in Lapland), this one took measurably longer ... around 8 hours or thereabouts. The Board Game is more challenging too, and that takes extra time.

The puzzles are similar but with an extra edge. You need to find objects in the game world to use, study books to extract clues, and drawing diagrams is a great help too. I had squiggles filling a page whilst translating some glyphs although this particular puzzle did have a hiccup. It involved ordering objects stamped with the glyphs and once you get it right they stayed fixed. The problem arises because some glyphs are illegible once in their proper place so if you haven't 'read' them you end up in trouble. I solved the problem by restoring and completing the translation letter by letter before attending to the ordering.

I was also less than enamoured with the aural navigation puzzle in the jungle. It involved listening for a sound to follow a path. To be honest I couldn't discern in exactly which direction I was supposed to be headed so this trip took longer than expected. A visual clue would have been a great help.

But these problems weren't too drastic, they didn't spoil my enjoyment. They simply left room for improvement. Other puzzles had no such problems and one, involving the use of a telescope, kept me busy for a good while. All in all Agon fans should be happy with this episode although the jungle trek means that deaf players will certainly miss out. I experimented with the sound off and my patience ran out before I got anywhere.

Someone started a game ...
The graphic are improved with more background movement in Pirates of Madagascar. Fishing nets sway in the breeze and ripples fan out on the shoreline. And there is a more varied gameworld to explore as well. A tranquil, sandy beach in daylight transforms into a brilliant purple, blue and orange wonderland by night, a dense, green jungle thwarts your movement, and there is a tree house to explore plus a dark, winding cave system.

In this epode there are three characters to meet and question and professor Hunt himself is just as sweet as ever, for the want of a better word. He's a curious character, slightly out of place adventuring, but surely right at home in the British Museum. His 'proper' manners, he writes wonderful letters back home to his wife, and his innocence really make me smile. He's quintessentially English, but he's not because the dialogue isn't quite right. But I'm looking forward to following him as long as he's brave enough to keep on with his quest.

Agon has a simple point and click interface and you move from node to node as your explore. At each stopping place you can pan around 360 degrees and there is some vertical leeway as well. There are eight save game slots which is ample and although the dialogue is in English there are subtitles available in Hungarian, French and German as well as English.

I can only reiterate from my previous reviews. Why not join Samuel Hunt on his quest? This chapter is a good one and I'm still tinkering with the Board Game even now. Agon 1, 2 and 3 can be downloaded and purchased online from Private Moon Studios. Here you can also download a demo from the first episode to get a taste of the game and there are other goodies too including including screensavers, music clips and screenshots.

Copyright © Rosemary Young 2004. All rights reserved.

System Requirements:
Windows 98/Me/2000/XP, 400 Mhz Pentium II or equivalent processor, 64 MB RAM, 16 MB DirectX 8.0 Compatible 3D Video Card (TNT2 or equal) DirectX Compatible Sound Card.

Optimal: Windows 98/Me/2000/XP, 800 Mhz Pentium III or equivalent processor, 128 MB RAM, 32 MB DirectX 8.0 Compatible 3D Video Card (GeForce2 or equal) DirectX Compatible Sound Card.