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Flight of the Amazon Queen (DOS)

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Written by  :  micnictic (385)
Written on  :  Jan 27, 2008
Platform  :  DOS
Rating  :  3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars

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Summary

Walks on the fine line between Monkey Island and Indiana Jones without falling.

The Good

"Flight of the Amazon Queen" is a decent comic adventure released in 1995 and developed by the Australian based team of Interactive Binary Illusions, who were also responsible for the very entertaining 2D-shooter "Alien Carnage" (also known as "Halloween Harry") prior to this.

The story takes place in 1949 and as the player you adopt the role of a pilot, who – in a quite desperate attempt to come up with a pun – was given the name Joe King. His little private business is getting dangerous, when he's assigned to escort the famous movie star Faye Russel to a photo shoot and his plane, the "Amazon Queen", crashes. The good: the whole crew (more precisely just Joe and his best buddy Sparky) and the passenger (Faye) all survive the accident. The bad: they are now trapped amidst the many dangers of the Amazon Jungle. Not to mention the unpleasant climate (quoting the hero: "Boy, is that hot...").

The relation between the two main-characters reminded me of the second Indiana Jones movie. Similar to the female lead in "Temple of Doom" (played by Kate Capshaw), Faye Russel is a sexy blonde and a bullheaded diva, used to a life in hygienic luxury and now stranded in the wilderness. Of course, she's very angry with the male adventurer who brought her in this messy situation and is giving him hard times in the beginnings. But in the course of the story – no big surprise – both come to like each other.

Soon after the initial events the main-antagonist is introduced. You will have to deal with a mad German scientist in best Josef Mengele fashion, who is hiding out in the jungle and planning to conquer the world. Along with this villain comes his army of brutal dumbheads, which appear to be former Nazi thugs (although this is never indicated clearly). Needless to say, that your primary goal changes from escaping the jungle to stopping the evil plans of these evil people.

True: the characters may be stereotypical and the story-line predictable. But this can be forgiven, as "Flight of the Amazon Queen" is a rather humorous affair, often close to a parody. The game world is filled with funny characters, among them whole tribes of tall pygmies and sex-hungry amazon women, as well as pairs of Christian missionaries and comic-book-collecting discoverers. The games tongue-in-cheek humor often resembles "Monkey Island", but stays a bit less absurd and over the top. One could say (as I did in the top-line), that "Flight of the Amazon Queen" combines the feeling of Indiana Jones adventures with the satiric approach of Guybrush Threepwoods. Even as it throws endless jokes at you (some more, others less funny), it still manages to keep its serious elements reasonably intact. And in doing so, the game succeeds in telling a light-hearted adventure-story and making you laugh at the same time. That surely is a nice thing to achieve, isn't it?

The similarities to LucasArts adventures don't stop here: interface and puzzles show the influence as well. Joe King is controlled via eight buttons, that allow actions like "use", "take", "give" and "talk". They are placed at the bottom of the screen alongside the inventory. Puzzles are of the traditional object-based kind, mostly logical and tending to be easier than in LucasArts adventures. Holding to the best traditions established on Skywalker Ranch, you can neither bite the dust nor maneuver yourself into any dead ends. Overall, the actual gameplay is nothing out of the ordinary, but very solid to say the least.

Graphically, the game comes in VGA and offers nicely drawn backgrounds and some fine animations. The MIDI-Soundtrack is quite inconspicuous, a little repetitive, but overall not bad. What really took me by surprise is the quality of the voice acting. From games from the mid-nineties I normally don't expect much in that sector. As many readers will remember, especially the not-so-big developers often had quite unprofessional (voice) acting during that time. But "Flight of the Amazon Queen" is one of the rare exceptions from that rule. From the accentuated mellow coolness of Joe to the furious outbursts of Faye everything in that department is very well done.

The Bad

As already mentioned, puzzles are mostly logical, but not always. There were cases, where I couldn't figure out any logical approach to certain problems. Also, I sometimes thought the game should have allowed multiple paths to solve some puzzles. For example, there is a situation, where you're captured inside a prison cell in a secret, paramilitary underground base. To get rescued, you have to attract the attention of Faye, who is searching the building for you. A logical solution would be to blow the huge horn you're carrying around. But doing so has no effect at all, although you produce a big noise. But if you get the idea to strike with a coffee cup against the bars of your prison, the case is solved. Strange puzzles like that are seldom, but in my opinion they shouldn't exist at all.

What I explained above, is a situation that occurred in the second half of the game. This is more or less symptomatic, as the second half suffers from a significant loss in overall quality compared to the first. It begins with your heroic infiltration of an ancient temple, peppered with deadly traps and the like. The game gets much darker in tone here, which at first is quite welcome after the comical excesses of the first half. But unfortunately this part is far too long and has some serious drawbacks. Firstly, the game becomes more linear, now quite strictly prescribing the order, in which you have to solve the puzzles. Secondly, there are long walks involved, as there is no map, which allows direct jumping to certain points in the temple (which is provided in the jungle). But the third and most important disappointment is the lack of interaction with other characters, which was one of the more interesting parts in the first half of the game. Even in the temple, you can talk to some creatures and persons, but they are far less than before.

Having completed the temple sequence, I was hoping that the game would return to its strengths one more time. But I became disappointed. The story quickly moves to the final act, which feels quite rushed and unsatisfying. In retrospect, the later parts of the game seem a bit hastily put together. It doesn't feel, like there went the same amount of thinking and care into it, than before.

The Bottom Line

When you strive for playing the judge over this nice little work, you have to keep in mind that the standards, it sets in its beginnings (and by which the later parts are naturally measured), are not exactly low. The second half is certainly a letdown, but nevertheless "Flight of the Amazon Queen" stays an enjoyable experience. Even the fact, that the game isn't to be called strikingly original, renders no weighty criticism in my eyes. Most point and click adventures of the time were heavily inspired by the works of LucasArts. "Flight of the Amazon Queen" is no exception, but at least it features an original setting. Furthermore, it performs very well in terms of always holding the difficult balance between comedy and serious adventure-story. The inhuman cruelty, with which the villain is depicted, not only delivers a fine motivation for kicking his butt, it also brings some darker undertones into the whole affair, where other comic-adventures are merely a collection of jokes. See it this way and there is nothing wrong in giving this game a chance.