Final Destination: The Secret of Larson's Folly
Beginning at the end, Final Destination: The Secret of Larson's Folly poses the biggest of questions, and whilst it answers some others, it leaves that one wide open. Along the way you will be privy to the thoughts of some of the residents of Larsen's Folly on exactly that question, and their actions can in part be attributed to their beliefs. But you have more pressing things to concern you, and if you can't get the power started, this long voyage may well be over before it has really begun.
Final Destination: The Secret of Larson's Folly is another independent offering, from a team which proclaims it is "dedicated to making good clean adventure games", and which previously created The Key, a game I haven't played and for which a friend castigates me regularly. Final Destination didn't quite hang together for me, but more of that later.
In 2818 a war destroyed civilisation, and 300 years later a planet is rebuilding. You are from that planet, and you have travelled to the planet of Larsen's Folly in the last remaining starship in an effort to rediscover the energy source needed to travel between stars. Larsen's Folly however, is nothing but rubble. Your only possible source of information as to what happened to the inhabitants, and whether they moved elsewhere or perished, is a research base on one of the pieces of the planet.
Whilst one doesn't expect mind blowing eye candy from independent games, the graphics in Final Destination were nevertheless a little disappointing. Simple and uncomplicated, but not engaging. This was particularly so once you get the emergency lights switched on, which makes everything a confronting orange/red colour that put me off. But there is more to a game than its looks.
The puzzles for instance. You can choose to play easy, medium or hard, and whilst the puzzles don't change, the amount of information available to provide clues as to what to do next does. Medium was no picnic.
The base on Larsen's Folly is significantly less than fully operational, and the puzzles essentially require you to find a way around the faulty systems and push deeper into the base. Each time you successfully move on, you will find another control panel, and working out what it does and how to use it is a big part of the next puzzle. Information you glean from data logs and system records will help you, although much of the information is corrupted (depending on the difficulty level on which you play). You will have to experiment with some panels to see what they do, and then think about how to use what you have learned to move on. If an electronic door fails to open, perhaps it can be short-circuited? Or can you route power from somewhere else?
Whilst it's one puzzle at a time, some of the information you need will be elsewhere in the base, and the way round some impediments is to backtrack and utilise an earlier control system. Although there is a sameness about some of the design, if you like a good brain teaser you should enjoy most of these. I did think however, that at times there was a little too much experimentation involved, and aspects of some of the puzzles (the last one in particular) could have been clearer.
Help is at hand if you need it, a walkthrough being accessible through the menu. You can only access the puzzle you are working on, preventing too much peaking ahead.
The story was a strength, in particular the various discourses on life, death and what (if anything) comes after. Nor was it simply a bunch of beliefs, with the actions and events being influenced, as I intimated earlier, by the belief systems of the protagonists. I in fact enjoyed this part the most, and would look through the various logs and messages keen to find a few more thoughts and to ponder what was put forward.
It's through these same logs that you will learn what happened on Larsen's Folly, and on occasion there are cryptic messages superimposed on some of the little animations that signal the successful completion of a puzzle.
There are a few sound effects, and a couple of looping pieces of music, one of which sets quite a good mood. On one or two occasions I only got one channel, but otherwise everything ran and played smoothly. As everything you need to know is read, subtitles aren't an issue, and save slots are seemingly as unlimited as your hard drive has space.
From the menu you can choose numerous options to suit your gaming preferences, including whether or not to have the logos and splash screen play each time you begin to play (how many big companies would let you do that!). You can also replay the animations in the game, and access the bonus material, a complete electronic copy of a novel from the Starman series of science fiction adventure stories. (I confess I had never heard of them, but they immediately brought to mind the old Lucky Starr science fiction adventure stories from my past).
I said up front that Final Destination: The Secret of Larson's Folly didn't really hang together for me. It felt like a number of different pieces; some puzzles, a story, and some graphics. The little things (the hint file, the difficulty levels, some of the extras) were well done but it ultimately lacked a little something to pull it all together. It did however, offer some thought provoking moments and more than a few challenging puzzles.
Copyright © Steve Ramsey 2005.
All rights reserved.
Windows 95 or later, 266 Mhz processor or above, CD ROM, Mouse, Soundcard.