Forget Hannah Montana, now we’ve got Alabama Smith, in his latest adventure: Aabama Smith in the Quest of Fate. OK, despite this time-traveling hero’s cheesy name (what were the developers thinking?), this sequel — which successfully fuses hidden-object game ("HOG") mechanics with point-and-click adventure gameplay elements — does manage to deliver a memorable ride.
In case you haven’t clicked through the original Alabama Smith game (Alabama Smith in Escape from Pompeii) — ok, so I’m still giggling at this guy’s name– the young archaeologist has access to a magical talisman called the Amulet of Time, which lets him visit places in the past to help solve a mystery in contemporary times. After visiting Pompeii – then and now – Alabama heads to Peru’s Macchu Picchu with his girlfriend, the attractive Anastasia, to stop a mysterious nemesis from finding powerful relics that can grant him power over the world.
Right from the get-go, as Alabama scours the university he works at for items he’ll need on this epic journey, players will understand how this game plays out. Depending on the tasks at hand, all of which are listed in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen (18 objectives in the first chapter), players will either: hunt for well-hidden objects on the screen; use items placed in your inventory on something in the environment; or solve head-scratching conundrums of some sort (such as rotating gears, aligning bricks in a certain order, selecting the correct color pattern, and so on).
But unlike some HOGs with adventure game-like puzzles, Quest of Fate focuses on the inventory mechanic heavily — especially plucking items from the screen to use them somehow, such as a key on a lock, a knife on a hanging carpet, a fire on some dry grass or pushing pieces of stone into a crevice. This emphasis on object combining separates it from other HOGs in this space. Adding another layer of strategy is swapping between two different time periods at the click of a mouse: modern-day Macchu Picchu and an ancient Incan civilization. Not unlike the ’90s adventure game Day of the Tentacle (a classic from Tim Schafer), you’ll often have to use objects from the past to solve puzzles in the present. The player will also take control over other characters throughout the course of this story — and depending on your success in the game, you’ll see one of two unique endings.
The game doesn’t penalize you for incorrect clicks, nor is there a limit on the number of hints you can ask for (though you have to wait a few seconds for it to become available again); tougher puzzles, such as pressing in cave stones in the correct order (which stumped me), can be skipped altogether if deemed too tough.
Visually speaking, the game impresses, including loads of animation during the game-play and cut-scene sequences. Too bad the soundtrack repeats itself a little too much.
Speaking of the game’s faults, Alabama Smith in the Quest of Fate isn’t a perfect casual game. It’s a bit annoying some of the objects you’re searching for aren’t relevant to the scene at all — such as finding a bowling ball or clothes pin in Incan ruins (!) — but most of the items are tied to the scene or puzzle at hand, which is important for such as story-driven adventure. Another issue is some objects you’re supposed to find were confusing because it didn’t really look like the object (e.g. a basket) or there were more than one object that matched the description (e.g. masks) or an inventory item should’ve been helpful for the task but wasn’t (why can’t your knife cut down a hanging, dead animal in order to cook it in the pot?).
Overall, however, HOG fans and adventure game seekers alike should find something they’ll enjoy in Alabama Smith in the Quest of Fate. Again, it’s not a HOG game with some adventuring thrown in, which is the trend these days, but the latter is what will dominate much of the gameplay.