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Beyond Atlantis (Windows)

100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  אולג 小奥 (168701)
Written on  :  Jan 15, 2004
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  3.6 Stars3.6 Stars3.6 Stars3.6 Stars3.6 Stars

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A memorable journey with obscure puzzles and story

The Good

...I walked towards the ship and climbed down the wooden stairs. I stood in front of a strange man, who was floating in the air, without touching the ground. I've never seen something like this in my entire life. I was too polite to ask him whether he possessed secret powers of levitation or it was just a graphic error made by Cryo's programmers. The subtle sound of the bells soothed my soul. Outside, the Tibetan mountains, covered with snow, lied under a dark blue sky. I had the feeling I was in the center in the world. I knew I had found what I was looking for. The words of the Tibetan wise man were clear: I was the carrier of the light. And I knew I was about to play a really strange game...

The first thing that comes to mind when mentioning games developed by Cryo is their atmosphere. "Atlantis II" delivers plenty of it, some locations are simply miraculous, and the wonderful FMV cut scenes are able to enchant you completely. The graphics are beautiful. Especially in Xibalba, under a heavy violet sky, among the exotic plants and trees, looking at the gorgeous, sensual colors, I felt absolutely hypnotized. I could almost smell the odor of the jungle... The videos are even more incredible. Whether travelling from Tibet to other parts of the earth, or riding on a white horse to the Birdman island, or following the bat to the land of the dead - the combination of colors and the smooth animation are stunning.

The meditative music matches the graphics, and is one of the "atmosphere-creators" in the game. The tunes are authentic (the Chinese music sounds more or less Chinese. I don't know about the Irish melodies, but they are simply beautiful. The Mexican part offers the biggest variety of tunes). The music plays throughout the entire game, starting with the magic bells of Tibet and ending in Atlantis. It is repetitive in a good sense, because it keeps you inside. The soundtrack of "Atlantis II" is one of those you can listen to and enjoy without playing the game itself.

The gameplay is the problematic part of the game: it offers very little action and a lot of thinking. However, you can actually enjoy the very complicated puzzles of the game, solving the mysteries step by step, because in most of the cases, your reward is another magnificent animated sequence.

The educational value of "Atlantis II" is pretty high. Did you know the Mayan realm of the dead is called Xibalba? Have you ever heard of a Celtic goddess Aine? Or of Shambhala, the mysterious Buddhist land? "Atlantis II" is an educational game in the best sense of the word. The creators of the game guide you through different epochs and cultures, and the idea behind this journey is - as I understand it - to represent the unity of them, to show that despite the cultural differences, human always remains human. That doesn't mean the characters in Ireland, Mexico and China look, speak and think alike - from the clothes to the psychology of different nations, everything is very realistic and original.

I don't know whether there's such a thing as ethical value in a computer game, but if there is, "Atlantis II" certainly possesses it. In this game, your main occupation is to help other people. You save them from humiliation, pain and even death. Completing a section of this game may give you a bigger feeling of satisfaction than successfully clearing out a dungeon in Diablo. The game encourages altruism and compassion, and it is as non-violent as a computer game can be. Some of the scenes are simply touching. One of the most wonderful of them is the image of a little Mayan princess, whom you saved from a horrible death, jumping happily around the pyramide... now that was a reward for solving all those puzzles!

I actually enjoyed a few of the game's puzzles. The Chinese part was clearly the best, especially the part where you had to find a way to make the hell officials sign a document. Otherwise, the puzzles were... well, let's head into the "Bad" section.

The Bad

Well, with all its magic, "Atlantis II" suffers from lack of a really good story that ties everything together. Sure, the local stories are pretty clear and even interesting (once you find out more about them), but after I completed all three of them, the game quickly went downhill. The last part is pretty hard to understand, and I really expected to learn more about the identity of the actual hero (the Tibetan boy). Once you complete the game, you have a feeling you didn't really accomplish much.

The dialogues aren't very lively and the emphasis of the game is clearly on puzzles, some of which are extremely tough (especially in the Mexican section). The clues are often too subtle and your next action is, in most of the cases, isn't evident. You'll have to wander around a lot, searching for clues, and you'll probably spend a great deal of time thinking. But the problem is, even thinking doesn't bring you further. Many, many puzzles are utterly illogical, but not in a funny, hilarious way - they simply make you shrug your shoulders in disbelief. Especially terrible is the series of crystal puzzles near the last part of the game - they have no foundation whatsoever. They are simply there to make a hard game even harder. There is no other way to find a solution for those so-called "puzzles" other than madly clicking on every clickable place with the only item you have left in your inventory, hoping something will happen.

Although beautiful, the graphics in "Atlantis II" often seem like huge painted landscapes and objects: you'll see great animation in video sequences, but the landscapes themselves are rather poorly animated : just think of the Irish sea without waves. Same applies to the characters, which are very well-done, but have a certain deadliness and their expressions palette is rather limited. The lips synchronisation is sometimes absolutely out of place.

The interface is intuitive, but rather simplistic. There is basically no interaction with any objects except those you are supposed to interact with. Overall, the game was influenced by "Myst" and virtually all its flaws are due to this dubious legacy. You are forced to solve puzzles and only then understand what the hell is going on. I strongly oppose to that kind of treatment. I like to know first, at least to be given some clues, and to act once I am aware of the problem I must solve. This is a design that fits only people who like solving puzzles and don't require them to be connected to the actual story. I'm not one of them.

The Bottom Line

"Atlantis II" might be called a Buddhist game - but unfortunately, it doesn't have the clarity of simple logic that penetrates this teaching. It is based on meditation, careful exploring and absolute lack of any violence - but also of any action. "Atlantis II" is not a game for everybody. Many people who don't have enough patience for it might find it boring and annoying. But if you possess inner tranquillity, have enough concentration, and don't mind unnecessary challenge, "Atlantis II" might appeal to you. I'm at odds with this game: I enjoyed playing it, and it was fun to visit all those great locations, but I must admit the game fails where it really matters: in presenting a convincing story and natural gameplay. Still, for the sake of its fantastic atmosphere, I'd recommend it to hardcore adventure fans.