Golden Gate

Developer:  Panasonic Interactive Media
Publisher:  ix entertainment
Year Released:  1997

Review by Steve Ramsey (December, 2002)
"It is modern day San Francisco. Lost in the fog, you stumble upon a stranger and find yourself thrown headlong into a search for an ancient treasure that has been hidden somewhere in this haunting City by the Bay for the last 200 years"

So says the manual, and so starts the game. The red door of 2800 Broadway, Pacific Heights beckons, and with the city at your feet it's up to you.

The San Francisco of this game is a smudgy-watercolour looking place. At first it seemed odd. A game set in a real place should be sharp and clear, not mottled and slightly blurry. But I soon settled into the look of the place, and ended up quite liking the view. It was an impressionistic, rather pretty kind of panorama.

This, and the music soundtrack, were probably the high points of the game. It is rather short, and provided you wade through a fair bit of written material, including a printed diary that comes with the game, the limited number of puzzles shouldn't defy you for too long.

These include a musical jack-in-the-box puzzle which, I read somewhere, if you try to solve randomly will require you to work through a possible 823,543 combinations. You could try and solve it musically, but good luck to you. Far better to find the combination, which does exist within the game world.

Finally, most of the puzzles stick out like sore thumbs, and none are terribly interesting. Don't play this game for the puzzles.

Lighting your way
The relative ease of the puzzles is helped by the cursor. It is not the most elegant of smart cursors, but I did get used to it. It is like a compass, and will light up at its four points if you can move in a particular direction and provided you have moved it to the appropriate part of the screen. If there is something to be seen or investigated further in your view, an exclamation mark will appear in the middle of the circle. It is difficult therefore to miss anything, provided you look in every direction. If you can examine or take something, the circle turns into a targeting-like image.

The ancient treasure involves a box, and lots of hinted at mystery and dark forces. Mention is made of witches and black magic, and ancient kingdoms and treachery. A Beast is prominent. You will learn more about the history and the events that you are tracking when you find a particular item. This item will trigger short videos at various locations enabling you to glimpse the past, and provide clues to the present. Until you find it, you are pretty much on a sight-seeing stroll, although you may still find needed items.

Apart from the occasional video of Jake Matthews, a rival treasure hunter, San Francisco is deserted. Disembodied voices are heard from time to time, but that's all. Perhaps the A's and the Raiders were both playing at home, and everyone was over there.

The videos of past events were reasonable quality, as they should be given the small size of the screen in which they play. Some are also quite good - the autopsy was a treat to be sure - and the acting wasn't too bad. The videos of Jake were full screen but were quite blocky and pixilated, but few in number. However the actor playing Jake leaves a fair bit to be desired.

You will collect some items and numerous pages and diaries. The inventory items are all used in the endgame, the written material will provide further background detail and clues.

To Beast or not to beast
You won't die at all during the game, but you might meet the aforementioned Beast if you fail to open the Box correctly upon finding it. This will bounce you back to the start of the game, but with all your items intact. However the gameworld will turn a most vibrant yellow, whether to indicate your possession by the Beast, or the loss of your soul, or simply a result of a glitch I couldn't tell. The Beast was hard to understand but clearly it was the wrong path. I, in fact, only met him after the event, curious to see what would happen if I tried to open the box incorrectly. So having found out, I restored the correct result and moved on.

The conclusion is rather disappointing, but probably in keeping with the 300-year-old mystery of the Box. The story as a whole was not terribly engaging. There was far too much written material, and it was far too disjointed to make a whole lot of coherent sense. I just let it wash over me, getting the vibes of the thing without paying much attention to detail.

Hailing from the part of the world that I do, I must mention an old newspaper article you will find. According to the lead story, it was immediately apparent that a certain person was a thief and a scoundrel by virtue of his being a "rough country miner and an Australian". I promise you this in no way coloured my final impressions.

There aren't any subtitles in Golden Gate but it is only Jake that really says anything, and nothing of that is of much importance. Ambient sounds are few but well used. Saving is unlimited, and the menu will appear by moving the cursor to the top of the screen. From that same menu you can adjust the transition speed, and turn the music and ambient sounds on or off. You can also access all of the music tracks through a visual jukebox. Finally, your journey through San Francisco will likely be punctuated by a little CD image, presumably as the game loads the next part.

Not a great game, but a reasonably pretty stroll through San Francisco. rating:  

Copyright © Steve Ramsey 2002. All rights reserved.

System Requirements:
Windows 95 (I played on 98), 486 DX-2 Mhz or higher (Pentium recommended), 16 MB RAM, 2x CD ROM (4x recommended), High colour, Windows compatible, sound card, Quicktime 2.1 (included)
Macintosh OS System 7.1, 68040 50 MHz or higher (PowerPC recommended), 2x CD ROM (4x recommended), 8 bit or 16 bit colour, 8 bit sound card, Quicktime 2.1 (included).