Written by  :  Katakis | カタキス (39490)
Written on  :  Nov 10, 2005
Platform  :  DOS
Rating  :  3.83 Stars3.83 Stars3.83 Stars3.83 Stars3.83 Stars

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Al Lowe's cartoon adventure game, made in the dying days of Sierra

The Good

Torin's Passage was created by Al Lowe, an employee at Sierra On-Line who was also the brainchild of Leisure Suit Larry, Freddy Pharkas, and various children's title, most of which involved Disney characters. Al took inspiration from "Mrs. Doubtfire" as well as Disney animation films of the same era. The game takes place on Strata, a planet that consists of five worlds, one within the other. Torin, a farmhand from the Lands Above, is sent on an errand by his parents to get something for them. While walking down the path that leads into town, he looks back at his parent's house, just in time to see someone imprison them in green jello and then whisked away.

A mysterious cloaked figure tells Torin that a sorceress named Lycentia has imprisoned them somewhere in the Lands Below. This is the same person who killed his real parents by unleashing poisonous snakes onto them. And so, Torin needs to travel between worlds, hoping that everyone he meets will help him reach the Lands Below so that he can deal with Lycentia. Accompanying him is his pet Boogle. capable of transforming himself into objects that he comes across.

Torin spends most of his journey doing stuff and talking to strange characters that he meets along the way, mainly asking them where Lycentia is. Each of the five worlds Torin must navigate through is laced with puzzles that need to be solved if he wants to reach the next. Some of the puzzles include preparing dinner for the town guard, finding some way to get the nine tiles needed to reach Pergola, putting the correct weights into a catapult so that it throws you onto a piece of land that can't be reached by foot, and navigating a series of platforms correctly without falling in lava. The puzzles are not that hard to solve if you know what you are doing.

The game's interface is quite unique, with two sets of inventory; one for Torin and the other for Boogle. Both the items and shapes can be moved around, and can be placed on a scanning platform in the center to bring the item up on screen, where it rotates. Controls underneath allow you to stop the rotation or advance or go back a frame. You can get hints by clicking the question mark on the right hand side of the interface. But hints are timed, and you lose points every time you use them. Finally, the book on the left allows you to open up to previous dialogue.

Torin's Passage uses the same hand-drawn graphics that were present in King's Quest VII, and the character animations are quite smooth. When you see the screen naming each chapter (eg: this one), you will see the planet deteriorated to reflect what world Torin is on, and this is a nice touch. The music is composed by Michel Legrand who did the score for the 1968 film “The Thomas Crown Affair”. Torin's Passage was the only computer game he ever worked on, and out of all the pieces, the music for each scene involving the phenocryst is the best in the game.

Torin's Passage is a humorous adventure game, mimicking the same humor found in the LSL games. In my opinion, the best jokes are found in the last chapter. I like how the silkworms get a reaction whenever you point the mouse cursor at any one of them, reminding me of that pirates' rats in The Secret of Monkey Island. I also like the “Scooby-Doo” reference at the start of that world.

The Bad

In other games that were made by Al Lowe, those that still used the point-and-click interface, clicking any of the icons would generate a humorous response from the narrator, regardless of how stupid your action was. That luxury was removed in Torin's Passage and replaced with a simplistic interface that literally guides you through the game.

There is a feature that allows you to turn on automatic scrolling. If you head left or right through a location that takes up more than one screen, Torin will keep walking until the last screen and then continue on to the next location. I found this annoying because I was used to having my character stop at every screen he comes across, and Torin just walking on means that I have to stop him by clicking on something on the screen I need to interact with.

Torin's Passage has a nasty bug where the game kicks you out with an “Error 47” if you try to save a game, and the only way you can prevent this from happening is to copy some files in the same directory where the game is installed. This is an early example of companies releasing crippled versions of their games and then letting users apply patches to them that will get rid of these bugs. Maybe there is a reason why you can start at any chapter straight away.

The Bottom Line

Torin's Passage is a game designed for everyone, but especially for kids, and features a storyline that is quite like those in many children's movies, and has a secondary character that can help you in your quest. The game features nice graphics and sound, which is consistent to later Sierra games. It also features such a bizarre interface that contain gadgets that may or may not be of use to you. Since Al Lowe created Torin's Passage, you can also expect some humor added to the mix.

The game was going to be the first in the series, with subsequent games focusing on the relationship between Torin and Leena. Unfortunately, Sierra was on the verge of bankruptcy and the sequels had to be scrapped. If the sequels were made after all, I would assume that one of the games would include 3-D graphics, in the same vein as Gabriel Knight 3 and what will that same game be about? We'll probably never know...