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SummarySo bad that even beautiful graphics can't save it
The GoodThere are very few adventure game fans today who are not familiar with the name Benoit Sokal. His most well known contributions to the genre, AmerZone and the Syberia games, were so critically acclaimed that it is assumed anything authored by him will be the same. With every pre-release screenshot and preview, gamers were led to believe Paradise would be just as good as Sokal's earlier works, touting "a captivating story, lush graphics, engaging characters" and so on. So much for our assumptions and all the hype - for here we have a sub-par, inadequate and, ultimately, disappointing game.
Let's get down to the "nitty" and the "gritty" about Paradise to see what went right and what went wrong. Since this top section should be about the good parts, we'll start with those. And, yes, it does have some qualities to like - including the graphics and story (to a point) and puzzles.
All of the critics agree that the graphics are the best part about Paradise. I also thought they were very good - well drawn and realistic. Each of the locations was believable and interesting to visit: the prince's palace, the jungles, deserts, mining camp and treetop village. The animated cut-scenes were great, in my opinion.
The plot of the story is what grabbed many of us - a young woman in exotic Africa with no memory of her identity and a beautiful black leopard as a companion. As the box tells us, she is actually the daughter of a ruthless King (a real princess). She wonders why she feels a strong connection to the leopard who seems to treat her differently than anyone else. While Ann (the name she assumed) is just trying to find her way back to Geneva (her perceived home), revolutionary factions are beating a rapid path to the King's fortress to rid the country of his tyranny. Sounds good, doesn't it? Well it was, as far as it went. In the end it felt as if big chunks of the back story were omitted. People, places and things were never explained enough to give the story the depth it needed. Many questions were left unanswered.
Now we come to one of the middle-of-the-road categories - the puzzles. It's difficult to give you the "good" parts about them without mentioning the "bad". For one thing, there are no mazes and no sliders, no jumping or action segments of any kind, and they're all inventory based. Also good was their seamless integration into the story. Plus, most of them had logical solutions (even though for a few you really had to "think outside the box"). So, what's the "bad" you ask? Absolutely no clues - none. Not even a comment from Ann to provide a hint of what you're looking at. Combine that with a tempermental cursor, the game's overly strict linearity, and pathfinding weirdness and you have frustration to the nth power!
The dialogues for some of the characters were well written and informative, while others were just plain stupid. There were many unconnected phrases and sentences and some of the dialog strings didn't make sense. Voice acting, too, varied with some greatness versus very poor (in the euro English version).
The BadFirst impressions mean a lot, and here my first impression was right-on. The whole game has a bad, malfunctioning interface. From the funny drop-down, slide-over save/load screen, the handling of the inventory window, and all the way down to the most important aspect - the cursor. The designers chose an interactive "ball" as the cursor. As you move the ball over a hot spot, it sprouts legs, or spikes or a horn to signify what can be done to that hot spot. More often than not the cursor does not respond the way it is supposed to (especially within the inventory window).
Controlling the black leopard is one of the top selling points of the game. Well, those segments are idiotic and irritating to try to work. Pointless, really, since nothing about them helps the progress of the game or story. (Do you remember playing the wolf in one of the Gabriel Knight games? This is much worse than that.)
Navigation in one of the treetop village was awful. The graphics were actually too intricate and positioning Ann to walk down a specific path was agonizing. Getting lost here was the norm for me and frustrating to say the least.
The ending left you wondering what all the effort was for.
The Bottom LineLet's face it - it takes more than beautiful graphics to make a game entertaining and a worthy play. So much about Paradise could have been tweaked to goodness. As it stands, the game feels unfinished - like a beta version rushed to production without adequate proofreading and testing. 'Tis an absolute shame and not what Sokal is capable of producing.
Most gamers will need a walkthrough to complete it due to the lack of in-game clues and the linear nature of the storyline. Some may get angered enough by the intermittent interface problems to pitch it before completion. (I almost did several times.) Without a doubt, I cannot recommend this game to any of you. Don't bother.