A modern-day adventurer descended from a famous magus works to stop the sinister machinations of an evil wizard.

The Golden Age of adventure games is long past, but those of us who love them keep searching for games made in that old-school style. Ironcode Gaming’s Pahelika: Revelations is one such game, which in an era dominated by social, casual and “lite adventure,” is both good and bad. On one hand, it offers a deeper story and more challenging puzzles than those other genres; on the other, its high skill expectation takes it beyond the reach of many of today’s new gamers.

Pahelika: Revelations continues the story begun in Pahelika: Secret Legends, a story revolving around a “mighty puzzle book” called Pahelika. The sequel begins with Sudesh having nightmares about the book and once again, digging around in his famous ancestor’s dusty junk. While most grandparents’ storage rooms hold old papers and mothball-eaten sweaters, Sudesh finds a secret room and a magical stash. (Then again, most grandparents aren’t “Gogra The Invisible.”)

 Revelations

This discovery sends Sudesh on a quest to stop the evil wizard Krur Jalaal before he gains control of the world’s magic and…does bad things. The game’s intricately written story is definitely enough to pique anyone’s interest and its 2D comic-book intro cinematic and voice acting are fairly well done. The game’s 3D graphics are done in a simple, somber, realistic style reminiscent of the adventure games of the ’90s, which gives the game a more serious tone than most casual adventure games. More significantly, the game’s mechanics hearken back to an earlier time when games were less inclined to give players a helping hand. Quite simply, Pahelika: Revelations is much more challenging than most casual gamers are ready for.

Ironcode makes the controversial decision not to include any form of hint or puzzle-bypass system in the game and asks players to go online in order to access the strategy guide. This flies in the face of current trends in adventure games (witness titles by Telltale Games, the current gold standard in old-school-style adventure gaming) which dictates that games provide players with an “out”– a way to proceed if they get stuck on something. Sure, in the old days, if you couldn’t solve a puzzle you admitted defeat and just stopped playing. In today’s gaming climate however, that’s just not acceptable. With so many games competing for the gamer’s dollar, where’s the wisdom in creating a title that excludes a good chunk of players?

 Revelations

Anyway, Pahelika: Revelations has some good things going for it but ultimately becomes a frustrating experience for various reasons. The game features a “Casual” mode that simplifies some of the puzzles but is still definitely not casual. And instead of offering solutions to the toughest puzzles, the online walkthrough tells you un-helpfully to “solve the puzzle”. In addition to this, Casual mode confuses the issue of what is and is not interactive by putting sparkles on “interesting” items. Not items that you can necessarily do anything with – just items of interest. This strange addition to the interface serves just as often to cause confusion as to help you and further, will have you revisiting areas repeatedly, where there’s nothing more to do.

Other problems with the game come from the monochromatic environments and dim lighting which often make it difficult to see the items you need to collect. There’s also far too much pixel-hunting in these gloomy environments as chests are hidden in darkened rafters and tools are almost buried in rubble. The result is, you’re likely to find yourself consulting the online walkthrough far more often than you’d like, or should really have to. Here and there too, tedium is downright built in (as when you’re forced to repeatedly go through the same dialog with seven statue heads every time you fail a riddle puzzle).

Pahelika: Revelations has the potential to be a strong adventure game and for the small percentage of players who can actually complete it, it might be. The problem is, its high difficulty, confusing interface and utter lack of bypass system undermines the good stuff by preventing all but the most determined players from finding out.