I enjoy myself a good adventure game. I don’t just mean a game where we get to go on an adventure. I mean the style of game that dominated decades ago where puzzles were your enemy and you had to figure out where to go and what to do to complete the game, rather than just outright blasting a fool with an AK (though I very much enjoy those action-adventure games, too). Telltale has kind of started a mainstream resurgence of this genre with their Walking Dead series, and I’m glad they did, even if my favorite series from them is Wallace & Gromit (come at me, bro). Therefore, I naturally became interested in Adam’s Venture: Origins when I saw it was being released. This game’s been out for a couple weeks already, but, unfortunately for me, life got in my way. Oh, well. On with it!!
For those not in the know, and I can’t say I didn’t completely fall into this camp initially, Origins is a remake of the previous Adam’s Venture episodic games. They took that series and combined it into 1 package, snipping and adding where they saw fit, updating the graphics, etc., etc., etc. A true remake. I knew of the originals, but never played them. They were previously only available on PC or in a collection on PS3 called Adam’s Venture: Chronicles. Not really enjoying PC gaming (or using the PS3), I let my knowledge of its existence be where it ended. I have since upgraded to better consoles and a better computer, but forgot about this series altogether. When I recently saw this game’s reveal, I was happy I could finally play this series; all at once even!! A remake? This would be the best shape it could be in… Right? Well…
The story of Adam’s Venture: Origins is one of grand adventure and discovery. You play as the titular Adam and are on the hunt for something your father is looking for. I don’t really want to give too much away, because I think finding out what that is could be a nice little moment (even if it is early on and simple to deduce if you’re paying attention), but I’ll use a phrase from the marketing as it having “historical overtones” throughout. The game is set in the 1920’s and has a definite Indiana Jones feel to it. Which, is pretty likely intentional. While out on your adventure you’re aided by Adam’s father’s new assistant, Evelyn. She’s not with you at all times, but the game does try to focus on their relationship whenever it can.
Right off the bat, the game’s music hit me and stuck with me. I really enjoyed it. It’s sufficiently satisfying and tonally relevant to the time period and what we see on-screen. I can’t say for sure if the music has been updated, though I’d venture a guess that it has (totally not a pun), and for that, I’m glad, because what we get is a nice mix of danger, intrigue, and exploration put into melodic tones. You’ll also notice the game features 12 language options, so there should be something for a wider audience. There are also 21 episodes to complete, with activities ranging from puzzle solving, grappling and swinging like you’d expect an adventurer would, mine cart driving areas, and stealth sections to help you avoid danger. Make no mistake, though, this game is focused on the puzzles, and rightly so.
Now, let’s get into the meat and potatoes of what we need to talk about with this game. It’s a friggin’ mess. Graphically, the game has some ups, but plenty of downs. Too many. The character models do look better than their previous incarnations in some regards, but, their facial animations are almost nonexistent, unlike their previous looks. There’s a section of game play where Adam wears a disguise, and transitions to a new location, maybe 20 feet away, and suddenly, he’s wearing his normal get-up. I understand the new section starts a new area, but story-wise, there is literally no way he could change back. Yet, here he is, back in his original outfit. I understand this is a nitpick, but it’s not a small one. Things like that are tough to overlook when the rest of the game is not a home run. To give you better context, I watched video of the original games just to do some research for this review, and in that scene, he dos not change back his clothing. What was the point here?
Other graphical issues are much more sinister in their betrayal. Screen tearing is present way more than it could (and should) get a pass for, and I’d say about 80% of the game, you’ll notice major artifacting. From water, to walls, to Evelyn’s hair, it’s a pain in the ass to ignore. You clip through a lot of the environment and your movements can stutter, which, so can the frame rate. Not horribly, and not always, but enough for those without a trained eye to see. If my girlfriend can notice it, it’s a problem. The animations are oftentimes janky and awkward, especially in cut scenes. Characters do odd things during these sometimes. Like, if I was in danger and in a situation with an enemy speaking to me, I wouldn’t act as if I were bored to tears listening to him, with my hands on my hips or waving my hand around like I’m poo-pooing what he’s saying. You’re in mortal danger. Act like it. If you’re looking for a game to showcase good shadows, don’t use Adam’s shadow as an example. When using a torch, which you need to do most of the time, Adam’s silent 2D pal morphs and angles itself so oddly. Sometimes parts of him don’t seem to exist if you’re basing his body off the shadow. Again, I know this seems like nitpicking, and to an extent, it is, it’s what I do, but when something like this is in your face for most of the game, it’s really difficult to give it a pass.
If you want some good things the graphics do well, I will hand it to them, the fire looks pretty good. I have no complaints about it. And the environments are for the most part, pretty great. Some I’d even go so far as to use “stunning” as an adjective. Sadly, within those environments, you may get stuck on something you really shouldn’t get stuck on (or in, as in can’t move and need to reload), and you don’t really get to do much with them. They’re all set dressings. There’s really no need for exploration (trust me, I did enough for everyone), you won’t find anything to interact with or do that the game doesn’t need you to do. It’s quite linear. Point A to Point B to Point C (sometimes), rinse, new chapter, repeat. While traveling these straight lines, you’ll often fight with the camera, especially while swinging. You can adjust the sensitivity of the movement, but I didn’t find one very helpful, even at the lowest setting. You have no twitch danger here, so it doesn’t matter how low or high you put it. Find the setting for you and play. That swinging mechanic? Also not great, and also lends its hand to the getting stuck bits, too. I’m not sure if this was included in the previous releases, though I assume not since a selling point is “using the new grappling hook”, though I’d be wary of really hyping it up. You use it a lot, but you don’t find much happiness or innovation in doing it. Oh, and don’t go jumping before the game “needs” you to, because if you do, you’ll hit an invisible barrier and will likely have to try that jump a couple more times.
Let’s move on to the story aspects. Initially, I though the plot was interesting and was really curious where it was going and what you’d find. There were even some genuinely cool moments sprinkled in there. However, about halfway through the game, the story falls off a cliff. Add to that the plot just feels so disjointed. One moment you’re somewhere doing one thing, the next you’re somewhere completely different doing something else and there’s little setup for what’s going on. The story can sometimes bounce around. You just have to go with it. This is probably due to them “streamlining” the game from 3 episodes prior, but, in my estimation, it doesn’t quite work. When it comes to the dialogue and voice acting, well, this isn’t a hit, either. Half the time the actors sound bored or like they don’t want to be there, or they’re overacting like this was a Robin Williams comedy. They aren’t bailed out by the script, either (or would that be the other way around?). Their lines just sound so awkward a lot of the time from every angle you think of. This makes the story even more lackluster, in what could have been a really cool one. And when it comes to Adam’s relationship to his partner in crime? Well, it feels very forced and what we see is shallow. There’s nothing there to care about, but the game certainly wants (and expects) you to.
Just a few more picks I need to nit here. And we’ll start off with more of the core game play stuff. The puzzles, which are a major point for this game, are, well, mostly incredibly easy. I mean, there’s almost no challenge to most of them, and the ones you can’t figure out, well, just brute force your way through them and you’ll be fine in a couple of minutes. You often don’t need any understanding of the kind of puzzle in front of you. Just keep pressing buttons and/or in different order and you’ll eventually get to the answer. Another interesting, and slightly disappointing thing having to do with the puzzles is that they removed some. Now, I don’t know how many exactly, but in one area, there’s a multi-part puzzle you needed to complete to get a grate to open so you could climb down a ladder. Well, there was, in the original, but in this one, you run into the room, pull a lever, and the gate opens. No puzzle. Unless you count pulling the lever you can’t miss a puzzle, which, I’m sure someone, somewhere does. Those stealth sections I mentioned earlier? Well, there’s really no reason to be “proper” stealthy. You don’t need to walk, or crouch, or anything other than just don’t walk into the light. Hell, half the time I walked inches behind guards, wondering if there was a take down move I could do that I wasn’t seeing. If you mess up a stealth section, it’s likely because you were farting around. Which I did. Often. For laughs. Until I realized I was getting no more fun from the wait to get back to the action. And the mine carts? Laughably easy diversions, that’s all I’ll say.
If you want to hear a positive after all that negative, well, here’s one: the Achievements? They’re all super easy to get. Pretty much just play through the game to the end and boom, easy 1000 points. There’s only 15 of ’em, so, you don’t have many to earn to get that boost, though, when a game is so straighforward with these, the number of doesn’t really matter. But, if you also like short games to go with your easy Achievements, well, you’ve that going for you, too!! This game isn’t very long, and, as I mentioned early, is fairly easy to complete. The biggest effort I had to put forth was willing myself to the end. Honestly, it was tough most of the time.
I truly wanted to like this game. I was really excited to play it. I very much enjoy these kinds of games. However, what we get here, as you saw, is just a mess. About a third of the way through I had to start forcing myself to the end. For every good thing, there were 10 bad ones. An exaggeration, of course, though you understand what I mean. This review probably looks like I had fun bashing the game. That’s way far from the case. As I said, I wanted to like this game, so writing this wasn’t fun, and I could’ve kept going. I don’t even know what the previous entries received as far as critical reviews. I’m not sure I want to know, for any reason. I don’t pretend to know how well this game will perform at retail. I can’t imagine too greatly, especially at the debut price point. That said, I really do hope we get a sequel, whether episodic as it started, or in a full package like this for PC and consoles. A sequel, bear in mind, that takes all the criticism I gave (and what I have to imagine most others have given) to heart and use it to make a much better edition next. Even if it isn’t a sequel. There are lessons to be learned here, and I hope the devs do learn some. This is definitely an adventure game. But… If you’re looking for an adventure with Adam? I think you should look elsewhere.
Adam’s Venture: Origins is out now on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 for $49.99 and on Steam for $39.99 (regular) or $44.99 (special edition). A code was provided by SOEDESCO for the purpose of this review. If you’d like to see a video review for this game, please, let me know. You should know how. =o)