Anachronox

Moby ID: 4499

Critic Reviews add missing review

Average score: 80% (based on 48 ratings)

Player Reviews

Average score: 4.1 out of 5 (based on 101 ratings with 14 reviews)

Amazing, often overlooked adventure RPG...

The Good
Anachronox is one of my favorite games of all time. Built upon the Quake 2 engine most people were turned off by its somewhat dated graphics. I suppose I am one of the few people that can look past polygon count and see the game for what its worth. Most gamers cannot however and the graphics are the only reason this game was overlooked by so many. Despite its low polygon count, this game still has some beautiful areas. This game has the best level design of any Quake engine based game ever. The game is mostly a detective story, but it soon expands to many different planets and sub plots. You will have companions on your trip (7 to be exact), which you will meet a long the way. Each companion plays a pivotal role in the game and isn’t just sitting somewhere waiting to join your group. Companions? You might be saying, yes this game is a Final Fantasy RPG at heart. The battles are FF style, you encounter creatures in a battle area and can choose what each of your characters does. There is a magic system that is a big part of the story so I wont give it away. If you find hidden objects you can make some very powerful spells. There is one big difference from FF style battles though, you can actually see your opponents before fighting them. So instead of a surprise attack and the infamous swirl into a battle arena, you can see an enemy up ahead and possibly do any necessary healing. The battles only make up a small portion of the game unlike FF’s battles every few steps. This game just has a ton of content though, and there is lots to do.

The Bad
While most would say its dated graphics are the bad, I liked the graphics. I dont think most understood that the look of the game was supposed to be comic book or cartoon styling, and just accounted it to bad graphics. If i had to pick anything bad about this extremely fun game, I guess I would have to pick the music which wasn't great. Overall this game has an amazing atmosphere that will draw you in for hours and hours.

The Bottom Line
A funny, witty, well thought out, tight, exceptional title that any adventure fan should play.

If you have the time, read Sam's lengthy review, it really touches on all the points of the game, and I agree with everything he has said.

Windows · by john johansen (2) · 2002

Anachronistic

The Good
Anachronox is a peculiar experiment made with a rather strange design philosophy in mind: eschewing "serious" Western genres, it takes nostalgic, 16-bit-era Japanese RPG mechanics, and builds a constantly flowing, cinematic and humorous experience around it. Basically, it is a collection of varied, yet lightly treated gameplay elements peppered by excellent writing and well-directed cutscenes.

I won't talk here about the designers' unexpected choice of the main genre. In a way, Anachronox manages to be attractive in spite of that choice, thanks to all the other creative stuff it throws on top of it.

Conversations and quests have much more weight in Anachronox than in "real" Japanese-style RPGs. This is where the game takes the right cues from its Western brethren, resulting in a more flexible and refreshing experience than mostly heavily combat-oriented Japanese games. The quests are for the most part interesting, varied and amusing; they often require you to to think and use your special skills to solve them. For example, at one point you need to gain the trust of the High Council on one of the planets, so you'll have find out how they will vote on the elections. What's really good is that besides the main, story-advancing quests there are also optional assignments, collecting and other things that increase the game's life span.

Your companions are a great bunch of unusual and comically appealing characters. Ever had a planet in your party?.. More importantly (and this is where Anachronox beats its Japanese progenitors again): the various NPCs you meet while playing the game are not just item- or quest suppliers; each one has something to tell you, and the amount of different, original lines written for each NPC is really impressive. They will tell you about their religious or political views, complain about some silly stuff, or say a joke or two about your appearance. Although most NPCs are not important for advancing the story, talking to them and listening to what they have to say enriches the experience.

This is also where Anachronox displays its strongest trump card: the writing. It's a delight to read (and listen to) the dialogues in this game. What makes the humor great aren't even the jokes and hilarious situations (the scene where Sly talks "science language" almost made me roll on the floor), but the way they are incorporated into the narrative, contributing to the ironic attitude towards the characters and creating an unusual form of a "semi-parody", though not at all in the same way Japanese writers would do.

No review of Anachronox would be complete without mentioning its fantastic cutscenes, all made with in-game engine, with great camera work that would do an honor to a movie. The game is naturally cinematic, elegantly using cutscenes to advance the plot in a fashion that is often more spectacular than its Japanese "teachers".

The Bad
Some parts of the game may seem unpolished, underdeveloped. I've heard rumors about cut content, and judging from my experience with the game they ought to be true. Often interesting peripheral locations and well-written secondary characters seem superficial because they were probably supposed to be more important to the game.

There is some discrepancy in tone, mainly caused by clashes between the cheesy, "epic" Japanese-like story and the humor - which, when applied to supposedly emotional events, becomes condescending and unpleasant. Two scenes come to mind: the destruction of the planet where you meet Rho, and the end of the comic-book chapter. In both cases, the scenes of mass destruction and death should have been made in such a way that we would feel the tragedy, but instead they are treated with the irritatingly inappropriate ubiquitous sneer.

The main flaw of Anachronox, however, is the choice of genre. Now, I don't know whether there is a "politically correct" rule to consider all video genre games equally good - speaking strictly for myself, I feel that Japanese-style RPGs are most certainly inferior to Western ones. However, the problem is that Anachronox is not even a good Japanese RPG; in fact, it is good at everything else except that. In other words, it's a game that excels in every way - except at being a good game. Clearly, the choice of base game mechanics followed the careful creation of jokes, cutscenes, and minigames.

What kind of core gameplay do we have here? Battles are sporadic, primitive, and much too easy; the character growth system, while interesting on paper, becomes a pure luxury: no matter what you do, you will win. You'll gain stats and learn spells, but they won't make any difference. Why would you hunt for special magical abilities if you can win any battle with bare-bones moves anyway?

Worse is the game's aggravating linearity. The game's locations look impressive, but what you see are mostly decorations - you can't go anywhere unless you are "supposed" to go there, as dictated by the ultra-linear plot, and each individual location is, in fact, small and cramped. There is little sense of discovery, as your hand is being constantly held, with everything given to you just in the doses that the game's restrictive mechanics allow. The bulk of the game is spent running from one NPC to another, completing simple quests, and then proceeding through a tiny area with pre-set, primitively handled battles.

The Bottom Line
No amount of cinematic direction and witty dialogue can alter the fact that Anachronox is a watered-down Japanese-style RPG that feels very much like a talented fan tribute than a serious gaming experience. If you are looking for some laughs, check it out; but if role-playing is your poison, you should look elsewhere.

Windows · by Unicorn Lynx (181780) · 2017

Remember When Games Were Fun?

The Good
This game is utterly amazing. IonStorm took the Quake II engine and modified so much that it looks nothing like its predecessor. The particle system, the plasma effects, the increased palette of colors. Its all so cool!

The designers took great care to design elaborate levels, with deft architecture and remarkable detail. The twisted levels on Anachronox alone were a tribute to Escher. I especially liked the interiors of several buildings such as the hotel on Sender One.

Sound and dialogue were well done and perfectly fit the loopy attitude of the game. The music was slightly repetitive but otherwise effectively contributed to the game play by setting the mood.

Game play took a little to get use to. Ananchronox isn't a FPS, its an adventure game with upgradable weapons. Main quests are either fairly easy to complete or have an alternate methods if one way is too difficult. The side quests aren't required, but completing them enhances your party by providing skills, supplies or upgrades. You can easily play this game a couple times and not complete all the quests.

Combat involves a little puzzle solving and strategy. Encounters are done in turns, with each character having a cycle of time between each action. You can set up a que of actions in your party so you can watch it unfold. The variety of moves add a measure of challenge. You can move, heal yourself or another party member, invoke a defensive tactic, chose a special attack, or stick with a standard attack.

One of the major aspects of the game is the weapons and attacks. Arms can be swapped, sold, upgraded or replaced. The attacks can be based on the Mystech thats collected. Each character has an affinity for certain Mystech and the effects of the attack generated by the rocks. During fight encounters, mystech plays a major part in fighting off adversaries as they engage in more powerful attacks in return.

The story is the heart of the game. There is a compelling mixture of loopiness and drama, adding the sense of moving forward in the game. You're not just wandering around another dungeon, fighting off generic monsters. You're accomplishing goals and unlocking chapters that make you want to play for just "10 more minutes." Interaction with NPCs is always interesting and quite funny. NPC interaction is also necessary for accomplishing most main quests and all sub quests.

The quality of the body models vary. The IonStorm team took great pains to include textures that bring 'character' the the models. Some models are overly repeated, but once in a while you'll catch an elaborate alien model that was carefully constructed.


The Bad
Even with the unofficial 1.02 patch, the game is slightly buggy. There are movement issues, especially when you gather a party. Stuttering game play, having to move your players around to position them to solve puzzles.

There are a couple arcade games built in to the game that can't be avoided, and are somewhat difficult.

Since the game wasn't totally completed by Ionstorm before they shut down, there are some broken aspects of the game. So saving often is required to complete it.

The Bottom Line
If you are a PC gamer only, this will prove to be a very new experience for you. Try it out and be converted.

Windows · by Scott Monster (986) · 2007

A really wonderful game

The Good
Anachronox is an excellent game. If you play it, you will realise just how much love and effort has been poured into it. It is very detailed, very full of variety and fun elements, full of cool things to see and do.

The graphics are absolutely beautiful. Now, I know, lots of people have been saying how bad the graphics are, because Anachronox is based on the Quake II engine...blah blah blah...
Well, I completely disagree with that. This is, in fact, one of the most attractive and visually stunning games I've ever played. The scale of the locations is awesome. The game runs in ultra hi-res (OK, I don't know the actual resolution, but it's high), and it runs fast, as well! So many areas in the game are huge open spaces. You look up and see buildings towering into the sky, upside-down people walking on anti-grav walkways, ships flying past...Then you look down and see further levels reaching down into the ground, also full of wandering people, hovering ships and the flickering neon of shops. All this without even a hint of fogging! The detail and complexity of the game's architecture and level design is the work of geniuses, and then there's the actual art - Wow! The game is so colourful and bright, at the same time as being dark and moody, white and pristine or whatever else the mood of your current locale is. There are snowswept ravines, rusty old industrial complexes, verdant forests and spookily beautiful junkyards to explore...
Add to this awesome 3D effects and a version of the Quake II engine that has been modified and enhanced almost beyond recognition. One of Anachronox's programmers put it best: "Quake3 is Quake2 plus some really cool stuff. Anachronox is Quake2 plus some really cool stuff."

One of the coolest 'fun' features in the game is the camera you can use. What I mean is, early in the game you find a camera, pick it up, and then at any time, you can use it by pressing the 'F11' key. You can store, view and delete up to 12 photos, and it really feels like a real digital camera (but with a perfect viewscreen and no need to replace the batteries!). You need this for various parts of the game, where you will be asked to photograph evidence, people or places, but it's just immensely fun to use it whenever you feel like it. The camera's powerful zoom really shows off those far-away details, thus underlining even more how fantastic Anachronox's graphics are. It's nice for that feeling of being a detective, too!

OK...But graphics alone don't make a good game, right? Well, luckily, there is a wealth of great gameplay in here to complement the visual splendor. As with, say, Baldur's Gate, there is a main storyline to follow, but a whole plethora of optional side-quests and subplots. To get the most out of the game, you will naturally want to find and complete all of these that you can (and there are a lot!). Most side-quests will gain you money or equipment, and some powerful items can only be gained through side-quests. There are several different storylines, with different sets of characters, running through the game, alongside the main one. One of these is the series of quests your old buddy Detective Rukh will give to you, if you seek him out every so often. It all helps to flesh out this universe and give a sense of time passing and people getting on with their own lives. To further this point, although you will find yourself returning to the same places many times during the game, you will usually find that things have changed - There are new people around to talk to, and the people who were there last time usually have something different to say. There is absolutely loads of dialogue in this game (which is a good thing). One nice thing about the various quests in the game is that the main plot details are always logged in your digital assistant's notes, so you always know what the next goal is that you should be going for, but no details are logged for the side-quests. This leaves it up to you to set your priorities (get on with the main story, or go seek out that rare object Jim-Bob asked you to find for him) and means that you have to remember what was going on in the side-quests. This is actually a good thing, as I found it leads to more of a sense of accomplishment when you complete a side-quest and means you have to think more for yourself (as opposed to other games, where too many 'notebook' entries can make it feel like you're being led by the hand too much). Also, it's never a huge mental effort to keep all the details in your head - Unlike Baldur's Gate, where you tended to have about a million things to do at any one time, Anachronox keeps it going nicely, with the main plot to concentrate on, plus a couple of side-quests you might be thinking about, plus the ongoing 'collection' quests.
Ahh yes, collecting things! This is a great idea, and one that I'm surprised hasn't been done more often. As well as a few short-term collection quests (Catch a certain number of critters who are loose in the area, or find and photograph all the members of a certain alien race who are in the area), there are also long-term quests for collectable items, which you will then be looking out for throughout the game. One of these is a quest to collect 20 TACOs (Totally Arbitrary Collectable Object :) - strange spinning-topped things that you will find around the place. Take 'em to the guy who wants 'em, and, depending on how many you've found so far, he'll give you something in return. Some very nice items can be gained through this. Another quest is to photograph eight rare red Bipidri - cute little creatures who can sometimes be heard singing a Gizmo(Gremlins)-esque tune. If you hear this tune faintly, it means one of them is somewhere nearby. Then you just have to find and photograph the little guy - which is often easier said than done, as some of them are very well hidden. It's a fun quest.

The main part of the game is the adventure part, as you run around, talking to people, doing things, etc. Rather than your traditional 'get key, unlock door, get fuse, use fuse in fuse box' type adventurey-stuff, Anachronox has a lot more variety, and feels much less contrived. It all flows nicely, and you're soon zipping around the cosmos, going from planet to planet, using your characters' various skills and abilities.

As you go through the game, you will meet more members of the eventually seven-strong team, each of whom has different special abilities - a 'world skill' (used to solve certain puzzles in the adventure part of the game) and different 'battle skills' (which are, uh, used in the combat section of the game). Stats go up through combat, and new skills can be learned through the use of various special items. Also, each character's 'world skill' can be boosted to 'master level', if they meet a master of that skill, who can teach them. Thus Sly Boots (who is the main character, and yes, I know, he has a terrible name) can become a pick-lock master, and then open the more complicated locks in the game.

This is another thing you will constantly be thinking of as you play - You will remember where you found things that you have to go back to - A locked door that looked really interesting, somewhere, but Boots needed the master skill level before you could pick the lock...or an object high up on a ledge that you need to go back and use the Tractor Beam ability on. There are lots of secrets and bonuses to be found, and your constant desire to discover everything that is hidden and get all of those rarer and more powerful objects is a big part of the addiction factor.

Talking of addiction, that's something Anachronox certainly has! I remember years ago, I used to stay up every night 'til 4 or 5am, playing games. It's been a while since any game has been addictive enough to do this to me, but Anachronox did! There is always something new to do, something new to see, some minor goal in the back of your mind that you just want to go and do, but you're waiting until you get the right skills. Anachronox does drag slightly in a couple of places, but not much - Really, it keeps the pace going throughout, keeps everything perpetually bubbling over, and this is an amazing achievement for such a huge game.

Huge? Yes! When I finished the game, the last save was logged at 56 hours, 36 minutes. And most of that was just damn good fun! Oh yeah, and the other thing is, even when you complete this game, despite your best efforts, you won't have seen it all - There will have been some secrets you missed, higher level items you didn't get, and more importantly, there will be two complete sections of the game you didn't see at all! This is because there is a point in the game where your party splits off and goes on solo adventures (usually, you'll have a team of three people together, consisting of Boots and two other characters of your choice). This is an absolutely great idea, and the way the action flicks between the three people on their solo quests is dramatic and unique (well, it hasn't featured in any game I've seen before). Anyway, each solo adventure is dependent on who you picked for the team, earlier, and so you don't get to see what would've happened if you'd picked someone else for your team. The solo quests are some of the most fun parts of the game, in my opinion, but to play them all, you would have to go through the game three times. That's a big replay draw, and I'm sure I'll be playing it again in the future.

I must now talk about the cutscenes.
They are the best cutscenes I've ever seen, in any game. They are in-engine, so don't jar with the rest of the game. Directed by Jake "Strider" Hughes (who clearly rocks!), the camerawork, editing and animation are absolutely top-notch. The script, as with the rest of the game is good, and the voice acting is remarkable. I know I've heard good voice acting in the past (LucasArts games come to mind), but I swear, Anachronox takes it to a whole other level. At no point was I left thinking of some low-paid voice actor guy sitting in a booth reading his lines. Totally great voice acting, with voices which suited each character perfectly. This was like watching a cartoon...or a movie - It all fitted together flawlessly, and for the first time, I was fully watching actors moving and speaking. I'm perhaps not explaining this properly - It really has to be seen to be understood - but wow - Like I said, the best, most professional and convincing cutscenes ever!

The Bad
Anachronox is not without its faults, although there is nothing really major.

First of all, then, the music: I'm surprised I feel so strongly about this, but I just didn't like Anachronox's music, which I found repetitive, annoying and generic. I really don't think it did the game justice. That said, though, there were a couple of good pieces during the game, usually played in cutscenes. The music playing during the game's intro, as we see planet Anachronox and Sender Station for the first time was beautiful, conveying well a feeling of spacey awe and wonder. Nice music on the 'Brain Train' (later in the game), too. But I really didn't like most of the music.

The sound effects could be annoying, too. While the atmospheric sound was actually great, with loads of stuff going on, and lots of different effects in different places, the little fanfares and bleeps that accompanied picking up items, launching attacks and clicking interface options did become sort of irritating. But not in a major way.

Combat.
This was apparently heavily influenced by the systems used in console RPGs like Chrono Trigger and the more recent Final Fantasy games. I've never played those games, so it was my first taste of this kind of real-time (yet, at the same time, turn-based) fighting. At first, I didn't like it, and this remained the same throughout most of the game. Towards the end, I was getting into it a bit more, but overall it didn't exactly rock my world. It does work well, but it wasn't completely to my taste. That said, it was very satisfying watching your 'bouge' (battle skill power) bar hit maximum, and then unleashing a devastating (and yes, visually stunning) radius assault on your enemies. It was also cool watching the points getting knocked off your foes as you hurt them. And it was fun getting new weapons and abilities and seeing what they did. Perhaps I should be writing about the combat in the 'good points' about this game, because the system really does work great. It is very slick. But still, I didn't relish the combat - It did get repetitive and was usually too easy (I think I only lost two fights in the whole game, playing on 'normal' difficulty) I much preferred the adventure side of the game.

One point of combat I didn't find too worthwhile was the whole Mystech Elementor system, whereby you create your own weapons. Sounds good, and, in fact, can be good, but most of the time, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't create weapons that were as good as the best standard (i.e. not user-created) Mystech. It was also practically the end of the game before you were able to find really good Elementor hosts. I ended up with only one team member (Rho) using a weapon I had created. Everyone else stuck to the highest-level standard Mystech.

Anachronox is also buggy. However, for such a huge game, the number of bugs is surprisingly low, and the patch seems to fix anything major or game-threatening. There is also another patch on the way (a kind solo project by one member of the old programming team, now that Ion Storm is no more). Any bugs I found did not detract from the experience and had obvious work-arounds (well, except in the final battle - That crashed a few times).

The manual is not great. It's not very clear and glosses over most stuff, leaving out lots of details entirely. It was only towards the end of the game that I discovered a few useful things about the interface and wished I'd known about them sooner.

The controls, at first, seemed awful, and I spent a ridiculously long time trying to fine-tune mouse sensitivity and various other options, until I was happy with it. Even then, I wasn't that happy, but I got used to the way it worked. I was soon clickin' like a pro, but even so, there are some clunky moments and various times when you're trying to click on something and your mouse pointer seems rather too clumsy. Overall, though, this was just part of the learning curve.

Subgames and mini-games.
There are various 3D subgames sprinkled through Anachronox. They're not that good. In one, you have to fly your ship along while rocks tumble around. In another, you have to pilot your boat through a dangerous tunnel, avoiding mines and picking up health. In one that took me ages to do, you zoom down alien-tunnels in a style reminiscent of one of those early CD-ROM 'on rails' shooters. These games are not terrible, but they're not great, either. Mostly, they're a minor annoyance that you'll beat after a few goes. I don't think they add much to the game.
Next up is the mini-games. These are a mixed bag. Each team member has a mini-game that you have play when you use their special skill. Boots' is the best - a higher/lower type game, as you try to figure out each digit of a combination lock, against a time limit. It's a good little game, that rewards intuition and a bit of strategy, although it becomes pointless at 'master' level, when he gains the ability to reset the timer whenever he wants. Stiletto's 'throwing rings' type game is OK - very annoying, and seemingly impossible at times, but satisfying when you finally do it. Pal-18's 'Pipe Dream'-ish data path game is the easiest, and most pointless - There really is no skill involved. It's just needlessly fiddly and requires you to squint into the monitor. Overall, these games are a good idea, and work pretty well.
There are also four arcade games, which you can play in bars and arcades in the game. They are alright - clones of old classics -, except for the one original game ('OX') which is one of the crappiest and most stupid games I've ever played. Later in the game, you can find cartridges to play games on your own entertainment console - a great idea! Sadly, though, they are just those four arcade games again...

The story in the game is well told, with a few interesting twists (the best part is the backstory about Boots' past, told as a series of flashbacks - amazing stuff), and the characters are likeable, but...While some of it is quite original, a lot is startlingly unoriginal. The main thing is: The characters are incredibly cliched - Boots' trenchcoated, down-on-his-luck private detective, Stiletto as his sexy ex-partner, Grumpos the grumpy old dwarf guy, PAL-18 the comedic little robot (Just looking at Boots and PAL, they are incredibly reminiscent of Foster and Joey from Beneath A Steel Sky, even more so because both PAL and Joey are out of action at the start of their respective games, and you have to find a way to get them up and running again). The best character could have been El Puno, the disillusioned superhero, and indeed, his solo section in the game was perhaps the part I enjoyed most of all, but he is woefully underwritten. Rho could've been better too - She's a brilliant scientist, but too often just offers the odd one liner in an 'I'm black, female and tough' way. That said, though, there's a hilarious relationship she develops with a minor character involving 'art appreciation', which I loved. And as I said before, the voices for these characters are perfect. I did like them, there is quite a lot of comedic banter between them, but...they're just not very original. Oh yeah, and the plot later on in the game turns strikingly Babylon 5-ish.

The Bottom Line
Anachronox is a huge, varied and above all, fun console-style adventure/RPG, with awesome visuals and the best cutscenes I've ever seen. It had me staying up until 5am for weeks, because it's just darned addictive! If you like adventures...if you like RPGs...and if you like games that don't take themselves too seriously...then I don't know why you wouldn't enjoy Anachronox. In some ways, this is the most advanced game I've ever played (from a design point of view), because it packs so much in, and has so much variety.

Sadly, though, not many people bought this game, perhaps because of all the negativity due to its use of the Quake II engine, perhaps because of its loooong development time (4 years...and it shows...This is a labour of love), perhaps because of its release after Daikatana and just before Ion Storm folded, and perhaps because of Eidos' almost non-existent advertising for it. It is a true shame, because this is a game that deserves a place in any good software collection.

Anachronox is wonderful.

Windows · by xroox (3895) · 2002

If you celebrate Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams: here's a surprise for you...

The Good
This won't be a review about what kind of genre that game belongs to or why those people at Ion Storm decided to make a third person RPG with the Quake II engine or why the game was so hardly recognized by any serious and daring gamers out there...

I just want to celebrate the fact, that this game dares to be different from the way of storytelling, its humor, its game- and graphical design and so on.

There are two points I want to underline here. First: there are the graphics. Ok, let me say that I've played many games recently. The year is 2006 and I can only hardly remember the days when I was playing Quake II the first time with my old 3dfx-Accelerator. Back then it was a jawdropper experience to see a game in such a high resolution and a complete texture memory of 2 MB. A few weeks ago I played the first installment of the Unreal Tournament series again on my PC again and it was quite a shock for me to realize how fast and perfect graphics have evolved in the last few year (and how unbelievably bad those games from the past look nowadays). So then: I've installed Anachronox and I kept in mind that it was just built on a modified version of the Quake II engine. No extravaganza at all - just good old graphics from the old days. I also kept on telling to myself: no matter what you will see on the screen for the next few days - always remember how old that game is and that the main reason for playing is just one thing: the story. In the end it turned out that I was completely wrong. Believe it or not: the graphics in that game combined with very, very fine texture artwork make a really great and modern looking game. Of course you can't compare it to Doom 3 standards or any newer Unreal game but for a science fiction, comic-like game there are dozens of eye-opener-scenes in it. The camera angles, the cut-scenes, the low-polygon facial expressions. It's just great to see what Ion Storm made out of the old Quake II engine. It is and was really a surprise for me to see e.g. the intro to the game. I still can't remember any other game (even today) that had such a huge and creative opening and such creative in-game cut-scenes.

And the second point, the reason for me to write that review: Anachronox's humor and the way of Ion Storm's storytelling... I think you can imagine the game's humor best, when you put Monty Python, Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov and Bruce Willis into one room and let them write a nice and entertaining story for a computer game.

Just two examples of that absolutely crazy game-design: Both unorthodox and over-sympathetic party members that are not like the usual computer generated, untouchable, zombie-like members found in many standard RPGs. They all have their very, very, very own personalities, life and intentions that are drawn in the game very, very detailed. As the game goes on you'll see how great the mixture is, how deep the relationship between the members grows, how crazy some party members come into the game's story and what kind of surprises they've got for your opponents (ever had an old man with a beard as long as to his toes in your party whose special ability is to yammer at people to finally get what he wants? or a robot that finally realizes that he has a mind of his own - don't imagine how the puberty of such a robot could look like :));

Finally I also want to underline the plot of the game - the by far most important part of Anachronox. Unfortunately the story needs some time to get moving but then...it's also unbelievably creative and unique and leaves you back in a completely fascinated mood: no standard alien-human story, no simple "good-guy-bad-guy" story - it's really not possible to predict how the story continues. Just to add it: of course there are many, many plot twists and surprises there that will make you wonder even more why nobody has made a film out of that game yet. Did I already mention that I like games that surprise me in all matters? This one did.

So, enough said about my enthusiasm about that game...now the cons...

The Bad
There are still heavy and nasty bugs in the game that will once again force you to save your game often and wisely.

I've already stated that the game is truly an epic and just great, but what made it a bit difficult for me was the fact, that the story hasn't got a constant tempo. The beginning is very, very slow and doesn't really capture your curiosity, then suddenly the pieces come together, the humor and main story unfolds, the party-members are becoming more and more sympathetic to you and then - BANG! - you're forced to again to just wander from point A to point B, bring item C to person D that waits for you at point E and the whole story comes to quite a stop.

It lets me think that at such points the designers obviously wanted to lengthen the game by all means without realizing that it sometimes can become very, very boring (even more when the rest of the game is THAT great and entertaining!). Unfortunately the quest logbook is also very uncomfortable because only the main quests are stored. Even if this lets you overlook your tasks more easily it is kinda even more frustrating, when you have to write the remaining side quests down all by yourself. It's always extra disappointing when a generally seen great game has such unneeded, unnecessary flaws.

The Bottom Line
Want something fresh, absolutely new and quite unknown? Something that makes you really laugh and something that is really an epic, that raises your attention, interest and curiosity for many hours?

Try it out - it will surely surprise you in a absolutely positive and humorous way...

Windows · by silent_driver (12) · 2006

Great, great game, but call the Orkin man before playing

The Good
My original title for this one was going to be 'Not much of an RPG, but a great adventure game'. I guess I've grown up on the Black Isle RPGs and was a little put off by any game where leveling up didn't include adjusting your strength, wisdom and what-not. Luckily, Anachronox has taught me different.

I have not had such a good time playing a game in years. Everything about Anachronox has so much humor and style. The game has so many unique little incidents that aren't part of the main story, but manage to build on the atmosphere.

The writing is smart and funny. Humor is always an iffy thing in PC games. For the most part designers don't spend much time on the scripts for these things and the 'jokes' are usually groan-inducing or downright painful. Not so here. If you enjoy humorous sci-fi like Red Dwarf or The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, you owe it to yourself to try Anachronox.

The story turns out to be pretty serious but for the first third of the game or so you're really just running on the good vibes the writers are able to supply through character interaction. Even though I've heard the beginning of the game is slow, I was having such a good time playing that I never considered dropping the game for something else.

All of the characters are unique and will elicit different responses from the NPCs you talk to. (Make sure to have Rho talk to the artistic door man! It's a hoot!) Even the in-game cursor/quest log is a character with it's own personality.

The graphics are fairly blocky since they used the Quake II engine, but the art design is great. Every area has such a unique look. Once you've played, if you look at a screen shot you can tell not only what planet they are on, but what subsection of what planet. Any game that can make corridors look unique has accomplished something.

Combat and spell effects are impressive. Whenever you upgrade your weapon or find a new 'spell' you can't wait to find a bad guy to try it out on.

I was a little worried about the turn-based combat as I prefer real-time. The game describes combat as 'turn-based real-time' which really sounded like some sort of middle ground that wouldn't please anybody. Anachronox manages to walk a middle line between turn-based and real-time and for the most part succeeds. I haven't enjoyed a turn-based game this much since Fallout.

Voice acting is never bad and is usually very good. Weapon sounds and spaceships blasting off are all cool to listen to. Even the incidental music when you pick up an item is neat. The background music is always appropriate to the setting and very nice to listen to. It was nice to play a game where there wasn't one cheesy heavy metal track.

Level design is also great. For the most part, you will know where to go next and can run straight through if you like. But there are so many little nooks and crannies to explore and you will usually wind up with a new item or sub-quest for your troubles.

The story manages to be interesting all the way through and none of your characters will ever become useless as you add new ones to your party.

The Bad
Bugs! Bugs, bugs, bugs! Before you play, make sure to download the second 'unofficial' patch put together by the development team working with a bunch of fans.

Even afterwards, not everything will be smooth. Random freezes still occur every so often. There are a few sub-quests that involve taking pictures of, say, Red Biparti that are scattered across the planets you visit. Unfortunately, Boots' camera would periodically wipe out all the pics stored in memory. After a while, this caused me to just give up on that quest.

Speaking of sub-quests, while Fatima is great at storing your main quests, remembering sub-quests like which monk to speak to or who needs the miner's bracelet are up to you. This seems like such a basic thing to forget. In practice it leads to a lot more running around or you forgetting that quest all together even though you have everything you need to complete it.

Also, even after patching (and patching and patching) the load times still take a while. Since many quests require you to cross several load zones, each taking twenty seconds or so to load, what would be a little annoying became frustrating enough for me to quit playing for the day.

Lastly, towards the end of the game you go from one boss fight to a cinematic showing the characters resting and then straight into the final boss fight. This may not sound that bad, but it gives you no chance to reconfigure your items. When I was playing this part I actually had to go back to an old save game, equip my party then and fight the first boss all over again. How did such an obvious goof slip through quality control?

The Bottom Line
Overall, Anachronox is one of the best games I ever played. The bugs got on my nerves, but never enough for me to chuck the game.

It manages to make the ho-hum task of saving the universe fun again and it does it all with real panache.

That this game isn't already a collector's item is a crime. I would advise any PC gamer to pick this one up. You'll be glad you did.

Windows · by Atomic Punch! (186) · 2006

Anachronox rocks my socks.

The Good
This is a very funny, very interesting, and very fun console style RPG. It opens at a slow start on the planet Anachronox, but eventually rises in action very very much. The characters are loveable and funny all the way. A large part of the game plays like an old Lucasarts point-and-click adventure game, which is a VERY good thing. The battles are well done, with some rampantly awesome camera work (also seen in the well-worked-out in-game cutscenes), which is reminicent of such games as the recent Final Fantasy games and Chrono-Trigger.

The Bad
The first half's battles are very, very easy. There are some bugs, some very bad bugs, but nothing that can't be fixed by a small patch that is already released. The game looks a bit dated with the almost 4 year old Quake 2 engine. (But they did an incredibly good job with it, making it look very good.)

The Bottom Line
This is the real deal. A great console flavored RPG with lovely adventure elements and loads of clever humor for the PC. It is destined to be an under appreciated classic of our time. Give a good game a home, will ya?

Windows · by Yeah No (23) · 2001

A plot better than most Sci-Fi movies

The Good
Anachronox not only contained some of the best levels of any 3D RPG ever (in very stark contrast to the other big-name Ion game Daikatana and in very start contrast to the Final Fantasy games) but also by far the best plot. Where RPG games are usually focused on character skill development as in the D&D games like Icewind Dale or on console-style real-time battles - ala Final Fantasy - Anachronox managed to do what few others have: to feature a robust, well-written story along with well-developed and rounded characters all immersed in a detailed world while still maintaining logical and fun gameplay. Tom Hall's humor and influence is evident throughout as situations, characters, and dialogs are continually entertaining in a game which, overall, is generally quite fun without being overly violent.

Many people criticize the graphics from the dated Quake 2 engine, but I fail to see what the problem in that respect as the graphics don't make an RPG great (that is, unless the game is FF>6 and the graphics provide the only substance) as is well illustrated by earlier games in the genre such as the Ultima games.

The Bad
To put it bluntly: Daikatana. Had it not been for "that other Ion game" Anachronox would have sold immensely better as a result of better promotion and extra development time. But, as a result of massive pressure from Eidos, Anachronox was shipped with an excessive number of bugs (though none made the game unplayable or even undefeatable).

The Bottom Line
One of the best RPGs of all time with an excellent and funny story that will result in hours of fun gameplay.

Windows · by Plix (197) · 2002

Absolutely ridiculous Sci-Fi JRPG

The Good
Going in blind, I was immediately taken in by the plot and characters. It is absolutely ridiculous. There's a planet for a teammate, an assassin, a Jedi-ish master, a sassy no-bs scientist and a hulking comic book like superhero! The story is so great that they made a movie just from the cutscenes.

The Bad
It's an old game and getting it up and running takes time. Also, the random encounters in the second half of the game can kill the mood.

The Bottom Line
Why this game didn't get the recognition it deserved is beyond me. It is such a good game, even by today's standards (graphics excluded).

Windows · by Lal Fam (68) · 2024

Final Fantasy fans will love this game...great RPG

The Good
Final Fantasy fans will be right at home when playing Anachronox. The game has an interesting, involving storyline, great character development and is overall a lot of fun to play. You team up with seven quirky characters each with their own past (A couple of them are old friends of the main character Sly Boots, and you'll learn his past as you play the game as well), you get to know the characters well and there's great character development despite the shortness of the game. The game's humor is great and pretty refreshing to see in an RPG. You'll find yourself feeding a puss stained sock to a guy in exchange for information, teaming up with a retired superhero, getting bossed around by your mouse pointer (Who is actually a character in the game) and doing many other strange but amusing things.
There are only a few worlds to explore but they jam-packed with mini-games and sub-quests which keep the game interesting. I've read many complaints about the graphics and I must admit they were a tad dated, but the cartoonyness and vibrant colors really added to the atmosphere and humor of the game. I really liked them.

The Bad
The music in this game was a little too cheesy for me. On some worlds it was too techno-ish and and others it was slow and boring. The battle music was the worst, slow and just plain annoying. The game world was originally supposed to be much bigger, but was slashed down to rush the game out into stores after an already long production delay. That's too bad. The game is quite good, but with a few more worlds thrown in and a longer playing time, it could have been even better. In fact the short length of the game was a bit of a letdown. Anachronox isn't supposed to be one of those long open ended RPGs that has over 100 hours of gameplay but I would have liked to see at least 40 or 50. If you plan on playing the game, expect to experience a few bugs along the way. This was a major problem when Anachronox was released, there's a patch out now, but there is still some minor problems. The game wasn't designed to run on any OS newer than windows 98, so XP users may experience even more problems.

The Bottom Line
As you can see from other reviews, Anachronox has quite a fan following. For good reason to, it's a lot of fun. While I wouldn't recommend it for everyone, it's a great game for any RPG fan who's looking for something a little different but that's still a lot of fun.

Windows · by devils102 (18) · 2004

An absolutely remarkable game

The Good
Anachronox is a brilliant game from ION Storm (Dallas), designed by none other than Tom Hall, the creator of Commander Keen. Unfortunately, lack of funding was a problem, so ION Storm has sadly gone defunct. It all starts above Rowdy's bar, the dingiest bar on the dingiest street on the dingiest section of Anachronox, an abandoned city planet floating inside Sender One (a large sphere with spikes, allowing intergalactic travel and commerce), the largest Sender known to exist. Our hero, Sylvester "Sly" Boots, is in his office.. getting the crap beaten out of him by a mob thug. After his face is pounded, he gets thrown out the window into the bar below. Boots is broke, he owns money to the mob, and his robot PAL 18 (stands for Personal Assistant Lackey) is out of batteries. It's up to you to get him off his feet. You'll travel through the barren world of Anachronox looking for a job, and soon you'll find one with the retired curator of the MysTech museum, Grumpos Matavastros. You're on your way to save the universe.

The first thing you'll notice about Anachronox is the music-- very well done, and definitely surpasses the milestone set by Deus Ex (the opening theme is incredibly well done, it really sets an idea in your brain of how vast Anachronox really is). The game is running on a very heavily modified version of the Quake II engine, but you won't notice-- there's so much amazing architecture around you that the Quake II engine is hardly imaginable to power a vast game like this.

But what exactly makes up the gameplay? If you've played a Final Fantasy game before, you'll know. Transitions from battles are seamless (no flashy entrances), as well as cutscenes (which, by the way, are brilliant. The game's cinematics were compiled into a movie and won Best in Show at the Machinima Awards in 2002.).

Basically, each one of three characters has a circular bar that elapses as time passes. When the bar is full, you can issue an order, such as attack, move, MysTech and Battle Skills. One of my favourite orders is the move action; you can move practically where ever you want in the battle field, adding another strategic aspect to battles. Also, if available, you can use items nearby (for example, in a certain boss battle, you can use a special crystal nearby to replenish your NRG [MysTech power]). ION Storm has managed to cram so many different aspects of gaming into this little round disc that it will make your head spin! You'll receive battle training at Whackmaster Jack's Temple of Beating. You'll vote on various issues to help get yourself off a planet. You'll frantically attempt to open security doors as certain doom awaits. All this and more.

Minigames are also a fun aspect of Anachronox. Each character has a world skill, that will come in handy when you need to pick locks (Boots), hack into computers (PAL), hit an unreachable switch with a loonie (Stiletto), analyze objects (Rho), and bust through walls (Paco). Grumpos' certainly is the funniest, as his is Yammer-- if somebody whose item you need, for example, Grumpos will ramble on about various issues until the person gives in. As well as world skills, other minigames are available. Ox is a simple table-top strategy game found in Rowdy's Bar. Zong, Pooper and Bugaboo are all arcade games you can play on Hephaestus.



The Bad
Patch it. Anachronox is quite buggy once you get it from the store. (But thanks to Joey Liaw, one of the original programmers on Anachronox, you can play using an updated patch with all new features-- Joey programmed it all by himself!)

The Bottom Line
This is my favourite game of all time, simply said. No other game has been such a joy to play and leave you up all night thinking "I wonder what's going to happen next". Get this game now.

Windows · by xofdre (78) · 2007

U as in Anachronox, duh.

The Good
'Tis one of the finest role-playing games I've ever had pleasure to encounter. It doesn't require utterly-silly long period of time for upgrades, and you can follow the story without having to do some extra tasks if you will. The setting of this game is quite imaginative and gives you fine character backgrounds to explore and their stories to unfold. The entire Anachronox place is very likable and gives a constant thought "How cool would be to be there with Sly as he solves the cases, side by side." and all the levels are incredibly interesting and intriguing to explore. Dialogues are smartly written and overly humorous on occasion which boost up your spirit and don't let you get bored even for a second. Game runs very fast and has one of the finest mouse+keyboard combination for gameplay. The background music is relaxing and could loop infinitely without bothering you, yet creating a unique experience and compensates for all those vast dialogues you may take on for whatever side-quests you may be interested in.

The Bad
Nothing much unless you go to extreme technicalities and start comparing its graphic to nowadays levels. You may have a slight loss on graphic quality, but rest assured speed is heavily gained.

The Bottom Line
A detective game with sci-fi and mystery elements made into helluva combination of light adventure and role-playing without troubling the player with some complicated learning curve.

The game features:

  • the ultra-cool main protagonist that always pulls the shortest straw in the fight... or love, being extremely funny especially when he's not aware of it
  • very unique and cool set of party members, each having interesting background story, and very easy to grow on you
  • lightning-fast controls (no, I didn't have my current configuration back then) and very easy navigable gameplay
  • intriguing storyline that will keep some turnover in the least expecting moment
  • very rich and detailed places to explore, people to talk to, and troubles to get into
  • one of the coolest striptease dance you'll ever see (though it doesn't beat how Sly wins the audience with his secret moves)
  • relaxing soundtrack working marvelously as a BGM
  • jokes and humorous hexes you'll remember for a lifetime
  • very interesting, yet not impossible SquareSoft-alike, final boss battle
  • Windows · by MAT (240793) · 2012

    Anachronox, Anachrorocks!

    The Good
    I first heard of Anachronox when saw the ad, on the Deus Ex box. When the game eventually came out I downloaded the demo, and seeing as if was quite a fun and funny game, I resolved to purchase the full game. Having failed to secure a copy, time went on and the game went to the back of my mind. Some time later I was at my local software store, and they had a few copies of the game. I purchased it for about $15 US.

    In Anachronox, you assume the role of Sylvester Buceli, aka, Sly Boots. Sly is down on his luck. He has not worked in months, and to make matters worse he owes the mobster Detta, some serious cash. After his latest working over, Sly resolves to get a job any job. He falls into a body guard gig, for a geezer named Grumpos. Before long Boots will travel the galaxy recruit new members to the party, some he already knows.

    PC’s range from Boots’ little bot PAL, Dr. Ryo and scientist trying to unlock the secrets of Mystech, to a disenfranchised, super hero, Paco. And many other colorful characters. This is one of the games many strengths, each and every character is useful and unique, no duds here. Not only does each PC have there +/- side in battle but outside battle as well. Boots for instance can pick locks. Each special skill can be upgraded by finding the “master” of a particular skill.

    The meat of gameplay is not combat, it is actually exploration and talking to NPCS. You assemble a party of three, and explore the planet that you are currently on, getting clues from the locals, using your skills etc. Not that are not RPG staples like shopping, and combat.

    In Anachronox, the combat is turn based, and very similar to combat found in many Asian RPGS, with many Western ideas thrown in as well. In battle you must wait for a gauge to fill, at which time you can attack, defend, use a battle skill, which are found during the game not learned by level, you can also move PCS out of the way, unlike in many JRPGS, use items, and later in the game you can use Mystech, which is the equivalent of magic. In battle you have a health gauge, one for skills and one for Mystech, each corresponding to you abilities.

    Battles are actually not all that common. Like in PCRPG Return To Krondor. Anachronox is like Septerra Core a pretty good mix of Eastern/Western RPGS. So saying it is like Final Fantasy as some here on Moby insist in doing is misleading. It is perfect for those that like both different styles of RPGS.

    The Mystech system, is quite interesting. There are various effects of Mystech. And power levels. Later in the game you can even make your own Mystech. This is a very deep system, and takes some time to master, but well worth the effort, or you could simply just use the most powerful ones that the game offers.

    There are save points in Anachronox, that can be turned off and the game can be saved any where, like in most PC games. The quest is not to long, but is satisfying, with lots of secrets and side quests to find, and complete. The game clocks in about 25-30 hours. The Graphics are very good, it is hard to believe but the whole game is powered by the Quake II engine. And it never looked better, this also shows how long the game was in development. Nice use of Polygons, the people and aliens that inhabit the worlds of Anachronox look great, as do the worlds themselves. Nice lighting effects abound as well.

    The music in the game is very good, very memorable, and since it is all in MP3 format you can open the game files and listen to it. The voice overs are excellent, and fit the game very well. Sound Effects also are up to par.

    The Bad
    This game is riddled with bugs, and you will likely need a patch to run it properly, I needed two such patches.

    It is unfortunate how few played this great game. And know that Ion Storm has folded there is slim to no chance of a sequel.

    The Bottom Line
    A very fun and funny game. One the most hilarious moments has to be when Boots becomes a male stripper, during a mini-game, that offers great prizes as well. Furthermore this is truly an excellent mix of the best parts of Console/PC RPGS. And deserves a bigger audience.

    Windows · by MasterMegid (723) · 2006

    Pixel Hunt-tastic disappointment

    The Good
    All the good things about Anachronox are related to the creative content in the game: the storyline, characters, scripting and general production values are all top rated features in this title.

    The storyline is a clever and interesting piece of sci-fi that while dealing with most of the "epic" cliches of the rpg genre manages to inject it's own brand of creativity by mostly dealing with the mysteries of the game's universe (a far future where humanity has spread through the stars thanks to the leftover technology of a mysterious ancient civilization) and the noir-styled adventures of a down-on-his-luck private investigator that suddenly gets involved on a galaxy-saving quest which involves that ancient civilization's secrets surfacing. Old love interests, ancient prophecies, gangsta confrontations, betrayals and lots of great twists and bends make the game's story an enjoyable aspect from start to finish even if it was chopped mid-way and narratively speaking the game ends at the start of the 3rd act.

    This futuristic P.I. isn't alone in his quest however, and he eventually recruits the aid of a host of characters that include a former superhero, a grumpy old man and an exotic dancer/assassin who shares a shadowy past with our hero. As with most console styled games (which is the main genre Anachronox tries to emulate) each character is much more than simple fighting muscle, and they provide a lot of ambiance and color with their interactions, quips,comments and their own solo moments which flesh out their backstories and conflicts, with everyone from El Puño to Stiletto and her love triangle with Sly and Fatima fleshed out with great care and attention to detail.

    The other big element to take into consideration when you look at Anachronox's story and characters is the excellent use of humor that has become a staple of Tom Hall's work ever since Commander Keen, and Anachronox allows Hall to strut his stuff in ways that even surpass his earlier comedic hit, the classic Duke Nukem 3D (THE title to check out if you find Anachronox's humor a blast). Everyone who played Anachronox would be lying if they said they didn't double over in laughter in the game's many comedic situations, with each one having his or her favorite gag/sketch (mine being PAL's sensitive reaction to the female issues of Rho and co. with a well placed "...Bitch" :)))

    Moving on you have the production values, which stand out as simply exceptional (remember that at the time Eidos was dumping every last penny on Ion Storm's Hype machine and neglecting much more worthy developers like Looking Glass) so you get professional voice acting and incredible music which helps construct the many different locations of Anachronox's world. Said world is brought to life thanks to the good ol' Quake 2 engine, which while dated technology by 2001 surely came with the added benefit of years of testing and an extensive list of features which while already tested on the infamous "Quake movies" really get to strut their stuff here. Field-of-view distortions, forced perspective, pans and dollys all come together to form the most elaborate collection of game-engine cutscenes ever to be placed in one of these games. Seriously, "Someone went to film school" will be the first thought in your mind when you see such moments as Sly picking Grumpo's door or the destruction of Rho's planet, it's no wonder they get so much praise and they are well deserved.

    The Bad
    Well wadda ya know? The game sold less copies than Def Leppard's comeback album, and why's that? Anachronox's small but loyal fanbase would have you believe (as you'll see if you read pretty much every fan review) that it's because the gaming community is filled with dumbass gamers who shy away from anything that proves to have some sort of brain under the hood. And while that may be partially true it's also true that Anachronox fully deserved it's meager sales and constitutes it's own worst enemy seeing as how it's a blatant example of gaming design and gameplay taking a backseat to a specific author's own fetish interests, which in this case include sci-fi, humor and console rpgs.

    (Actually, there's no way of knowing whether Tom Hall really is gaga over SNES-era rpgs and if we are really cynical and paranoid (as I am when thinking of Anachronox) we could write it down as simply the whoring down of his original game concept to what was the hot cookie at the time: Final Fantasy 7...)

    That's right, in case you forgot it Tom decided to base his first (and only) Ion Storm game using Square's template for success. Unfortunately he got it all wrong and instead seemed to port everything that's wrong with the genre, namely the totally linear nature of gameplay, lack of challenge, mediocre arcadey "diversions" kiddie fodder, etc. while adding lackluster elements of his own invention.

    So let's see: for starters the roleplaying aspect is dumbed down to Square levels, you know... the bigger gun is better, and there are some things called stats that apparently improve when you level up, but you will never care about any of that "crap". Specially when they don't really make any difference at all. I'll be damned if there's some advantage to using this or that character in combat aside from the fact that some prefer short range weapons over long range ones. So Rho has better fire magic compatibility? Well look at that... nope, still don't care. Oh!You can customize your own magic items via the "Elementor" system... but guess what? They ain't worth jack.

    Combat is a kick in the balls. Blatantly ripped off from FF7's turn based system, the game whisks you away from the main gameworld and takes you to a small generic arena in which your team (of up to 3 characters because more would be like.... uh... wrong, and besides Square never does more than 3!!) face off with their opponents in turns were every action they make triggers a lavish (yet boring by the umptenth time you see it) animation a-la FF (and yes, there are limit breaks...yipeee). Incredibly simple and straightforward, the battles are merely filler material that happens to be jammed between the "meaty" parts of the game. However, it's not all plagiarism, there are some new options that try to cover the fact that you've seen it all 3252345 times before are the addition of a move command that allows you to walk around the arenas and the option to use some switches or buttons. Unfortunately these options never rise above the level of "gimmick" and come into play only ocassionally when you face off against certain bosses. Nowhere else are switches to operate or big enough arenas to make it worth for you to move at all, and aside from the optional boss (another nice detail lifted right off the FF games) 99% of the battles pose as much challenge as scratching your head.

    Of course, the bulk of the game isn't all combat, so we needn't come to tears just yet. There's still a shitty adventure/arcade hybrid that is the interactive equivalent of connecting dots with a pencil. Yes, they are carefully developed dots with interesting characters and situations, but that's still all you do in the game: go from point A to B, with some lame excuse for a puzzle inbetween that always involves getting to person X who has the item that person Y needs in order to give you information Z or Item Q. This would be lame-ass by itself but when you add the mechanics of a console-styled rpg game things become even more cumbersome, after all consider how your average adventure game handles NPC interaction and then insert into that mold the generic console "signpost" npcs which upon clicking spout important plot points in a completely incoherent and out of context way: "Hey there, try our tasty fruit but don't go near the junkyard because it's overrun with thieves ruled by a mysterious character that knows everything about everyone and who'll surely give you the information you are looking for..." ??? WTF??

    Shhhyeeaah... And then there's the mini games!! Ahh... that staple of Interactive movies made to cover the fact that there's no clear gameplay concept that somehow survived in the console rpg genre as a way to stir players out of their boredom and remind them that they are, you know, playing a game or something... that is if they are somewhat interesting diversions that don't boggle the player with a new set of complicated mechanics and are minimally entertaining. NOT if they are absolutely forced, unimaginative and dumb exercises like PAL's "hacking" pipe-dream boredom and the rail-shooting portions ripped right off from Rebel Assault. Say what you will, the truth is the many mini games sprawled over Anachronox are nothing but a tiresome annoyance that must be endured over and over again whenever you try to use some of the character's special skills or reach one of the scripted "action" sequences in the game, and quite frankly with some exceptions like Sly's lockpicking game they are the most tired example of lazy "filler" material, in which you can tell the programmers were desperately trying to jam something, ANYTHING to artificially lift things up.

    As for the many sidequests that populate the gameworld they are a testament to how easily some "gamers" are able to forgive mediocre gameplay for the sake of a good story. Seeing as how many people praise what's essentially the worst collection ever assembled of pixel hunts in a game. They all revolve around the excuse of a digital camera that allows you to take photos anywhere in the game and thus send you on merry chases in order to take a snap of the 8 furry little red dipshit aliens all over the galaxy, or the stupid red biker that is speeding in the highway or whatever shit the designers tought would be a "clever" variation of a pixel hunt. No, really, if you are a novice gamer and want to know what the term "pixel hunts" means then just take a look at Anachronox. It's the perfect example for it. Yes, there are also a lot of Fed-Ex quest (Yeah! I'll tell you what you want, just get me a chewy item!!) but the real stars of the show are the pixel hunts.

    The reality of it is that the more you get into Anachronox the more you hate it as a game, and by the end the great story with clever twists and characters, and the interesting gameworld don't mean shit when faced with the reality of a mediocre game that would have been barely passable garbage if released as an interactive movie back in the mid 90's. In fact, after a few hours with Anachronox the gloss comes off completely and you see how the much vaunted "living, breathing world" which is supposed to be the hub of the galaxy and a place of constant buzz and activity is not unlike the haunted mansion in Clive Barker's Undying: a lot of doors leading to lots of places, but all locked except the one that you are supposed to take next. That's how Anachronox is, no matter how many gravity-defying sidewalks you see, or how many colorful aliens you see fooling around. And guess what awaits you behind those doors? Pixel hunts, PIXEL HUNTS and more PIXEL HUNTS, oh and after you are done some dull combat, a little Fed-Ex-ing, an annoying, irrelevant mini-game and then more Pixel Hunts! yipeeee... Oh! and if you ever get tired of all that (wonder why??) then you've got even more pixel hunts in the way of collectable items that reward the gamer that decides to spend hours searching for each one of them with as much joy as when finding a nickel in your couch.

    Last but not least there are a host of technical issues to be taken into consideration here. The game has some bugs, but the most important problem seems to be the graphics. Anachronox's true detractors (believe me, I'm extremely generous towards the game regardless of all my bitching) love to take potshots at the graphic quality of the game and while somewhat justified they do have reason to object them. Yes, the blocky models and choppy animations are intentional designs aimed at giving the game a comic-book feel, ditto the buildings and locations. Yet there's no denying that the Quake2 technology was dated at the time and clearly not up to standards. No matter how much you jack the resolution up the textures are still blurry as hell, which causes plenty of problems when the camera decides to do a close up of a character (and that happens a lot) and uh... curved surfaces?? Not here no siree...

    The Bottom Line
    Re-reading this thing I get the feeling you might understand me as irremediably biased and resentful towards a silly little game which when it comes down to it was ignored by the critics and gamers alike and whose only sin is to have a small following that seems to think that just because it has a quick wit and a clever story we should forget the fact that it's a mediocre game.

    So basically there you have it, a lame, boring and utterly mediocre game which thinks that submitting a lot of quality creative content into a bastardized version of a faulty design concept to begin with, is the way to go.

    To be fair, I might make it sound as if it's the worst game ever, but that's not the case. Anachronox has good storytelling, a nice story, interesting characters and lots of great creative choices. If you are the sort of "backseat gamer" that is content solely with that and who thinks gameplay is always secondary to story and writing, then Anachronox is probably gonna have the same effect on you as it did on it's fanbase: you are going to go gaga over it and think that the rest of the world must be mad to have ignored a game like this... The truth however, is that Anachronox can be everything BUT a good game. It is dull, it is NOT innovative, it's boringly easy, and generally plays like a shadow of the games it tries to copy.

    I still have to this day the many PC Gamer sneak previews and reports, chronicling 4 years in which the game pretty much went from the "One to watch for 2000" to "The game that could save Ion Storm" and finally to the "4 years for THAT??" that the industry said when it was finally released. And you know what? It deserves every word. Hall and co. really blew this one, I'm absolutely serious when I praise the camera work and scripting, and would actually encourage the ones behind these aspects to extend their horizons and seek out other venues in TV, cinema or novelizations, as there's clearly plenty of talent over there. As for gaming design? Leave that to someone else...

    Windows · by Zovni (10504) · 2004

    Contributors to this Entry

    Critic reviews added by Peter Taucher, Wizo, Riamus, Gonchi, Jeanne, Big John WV, Alsy, Tim Janssen, Scaryfun, Cantillon, vedder, ti00rki, Patrick Bregger, Xoleras, Yearman, beetle120, Flapco, CalaisianMindthief, Parf, Cavalary, lights out party.