Ancient Adventures: Gift of Zeus
The violent, scheming antics of the ancient Greek pantheon makes it one of the most interesting collections of mythological figures in the history of humanity. It’s really too bad that the same can’t be said about Ancient Adventures: Gift of Zeus. It’s a reasonably competent hidden object game with with a smattering of simple puzzles and some serious scene repetition that offers absolutely nothing that most of us haven’t played many times before.
The game opens with the Nereid Thetis frantic over the theft of her pearl necklace, which she had been ordered to wear by Zeus and which also happens to be the key to Hell itself. The necklace was stolen by a sorcerer seeking to overthrow the Olympian gods, so to protect them – and even more importantly, to keep Zeus from finding out she lost it – she enlists the aid of Maia and Hermes to help her track it down.
It’s a razor-thin setup but it’s adequate for the purposes of the game and to be honest, by the halfway point I’d stopped paying attention to what the characters were saying anyway. For one thing, it doesn’t matter, but even worse, it’s just not very interesting. Thetis is stressed out, Maia is upbeat and Hermes is precocious, I guess, and so it goes for the balance of the game. Maia’s outbursts of optimism at the end of each hidden object scene get noticeably repetitive in a hurry, but that’s okay because so do the levels themselves, as most of them are used at least a few times.
The hidden object scenes are very straightforward, hand-drawn in a cartoon style, as are the characters and backdrops in the between-level cut scenes. The objects are clear enough to pick out without unfair difficulty and are described either with words or silhouettes, switching back and forth between the two throughout of the game. Each scene also features a couple of hidden pink gems that can be collected for gameplay bonuses that shorten hint recharge times or make hotspots “sparkle” more frequently.
The hotspots in each hidden object scene must be interacted with using an appropriate inventory item, such as a broom to sweep up dust to reveal another object underneath. Most levels have at least a couple of these spots and while they’ll sometimes be obvious based on what’s in your inventory, once in awhile they’ll be quite tricky to pick out. They sparkle intermittently to provide clues as to where they are, but I occasionally found myself stuck in annoying pixel-hunts anyway.
There are several puzzles you’ll need to solve, and they probably won’t be the most fun you’ll ever have playing a videogame. The closest thing to an “original” idea is a miniature Mahjong Solitaire game that shows up a few times, while the rest are the same tired, old things we’ve all seen way too many times before: Spot the differences, rotate the squares, reassemble the pieces and so forth. Each puzzle can be skipped after a timer counts down and I’m not ashamed to say that after awhile, I clicked it just about every time I saw it.
The trouble with Ancient Adventures: Gift of Zeus isn’t that there’s anything specifically wrong it, but that it brings absolutely nothing new or interesting to the party. It is the very definition of dull mediocrity. It’s visually unimpressive, the music and sound effects can quickly become overbearing, the plot is insipid, the levels aren’t particularly interesting and the game’s habit of reusing them makes them even less so. The hidden object genre is extremely crowded, yet this game does nothing whatsoever to even try to stand out.
The best thing about Gift of Zeus is actually the bonus “encyclopedia” on ancient Greek mythology that unlocks bit by bit over the course of the game. It doesn’t delve into any real detail but it does contain a surprising breadth of information on everything from major gods like Zeus and Apollo to less well-known topics like Erinyes, Tartarus, Delphi and Harmonia’s Necklace. It’s far from exhaustive but it’s more entertaining than the rest of the game and might inspire players to dig deeper into the Greek mythos.
But it’s certainly not enough to elevate Ancient Adventures: Gift of Zeus to anything even approaching noteworthy. Aside from an odd technical glitch that saw me kicked out to the main menu after completing a puzzle on three separate occasions, fortunately with my game state intact, it ran perfectly well, and at around three hours in length it does offer a fairly hefty dose of hidden object searching. But that’s all it offers and that’s just not enough anymore. I found it interesting to note that the image of Maia in the bottom-left corner of the screen smiles and blinks, and also yawns – a lot. When even the game’s main character is having trouble staying awake, there’s not much more that needs to be said.