A love triangle is complicated even further by amnesia, and the search for a lost civilization.
It’s a common theme: boy meets girl; boy loves girl; girl loves someone else. This kind of dysfunctional love story is the keystone of Fierce Tales: Marcus’ Memory, an adventure that puts you in the role of a young man who’s lost his identity. The game looks good and its gameplay is rock solid; when its narrative keystone shifts, however, its foundation starts to crumble.
The game starts in a quaint seaside town in an indeterminately historical time frame. Things look somewhat Victorian, which is fitting considering the storyline’s blatant melodrama. Initially, the narrative revolves around three friends: Vasco, Dolores, and Marcus, friends whose simple lives become terribly complicated when Dolores sets both men’s hearts aflame. Dolores prefers Marcus, but her old buddy Vasco isn’t willing to concede a gentlemanly defeat; instead he kidnaps Dolores and goes to great lengths to get rid of Marcus.
In this scenario, the less-ruthless Marcus is at a definite disadvantage. It’s Vasco who’s to blame for Marcus’ memory loss, and it takes all the resourcefulness Marcus can muster in order to get it back and rescue Dolores. Vasco is your classic villain – all he needs is a mustache to twirl. He appears and reappears just long enough to taunt Marcus – or toss him into the drink again – and has a super-criminal’s collection of gadgets and gizmos. Vasco’s evil ingenuity provides plenty of opportunity to activate mysterious machinery and explore exotic settings, and truth be told, he’s far more interesting than Marcus.
Still, Marcus has some skills, including the ability to call dolphins using a magic whistle. The game moves around several aquatic locations, including some that are underwater, so having a trained dolphin at your beck-and-call comes in pretty handy. The aquatic theme extends well past mere settings and is woven throughout the game not only visually, but interactively as well. For instance, you’re asked to collect both hidden turtles and hidden shells, and every puzzle and hidden object scene goes above and beyond to convey the marine motif.
Aside from furthering a theme, the hidden object scenes succeed in offering entertaining, if not especially innovative, gameplay. They involve locating items outright and manipulating some items to reveal other items; further, a couple of them are triggered in amusing ways and staged in interesting places. They’re beaten out though by the game’s puzzles, which are stronger, and in addition to being beautiful, offer some nice gameplay surprises (my favorites are a color switch puzzle involving fish and a kind of Rubik’s cube puzzle).
While the gameplay in Marcus’ Memory is good, the graphics are mostly amazing; I say “mostly” because the game’s approach to characters is, well, odd. Characters start as 3D models with flat, bland textures. Part way through the game they briefly become 2D paintings, and later still they alternate between the original bland 3D models and a new set of 3D models with beautiful, illustrative textures. It’s fairly jarring watching them jump among these varying representations and hard to imagine why Blam! made them this way. Fortunately, environments are handled more consistently and are reliably gorgeous, especially in the latter half of the game when events take place underwater. The game’s sound isn’t quite as good and teeters on the edge of quality and mediocrity because of the nice vocal performances and nondescript musical themes.
Although the beginning and middle of Marcus’ Memory works well, its ending is basically a fail. For some reason, the development team decided resolving a love triangle wasn’t enough to motivate players, and so they tossed in an unnecessary “save the world” sub-theme. Two-thirds of the way through the game, the main story gets derailed by a lot of stuff about an underwater civilization and a plot to rule the world, and it’s all a bit much. To make matters worse, this compound theme is wrapped up very lamely by a nonsensical, pace-killing anti-climax (it makes zero sense to confront a villain and then say, “Hold that thought – I need a minute to go hunt through a pile of junk”) and a too-pat ending that cries out for an epilogue.
The game’s bonus chapter fares better than most, tying in nicely with the main game and letting you see things from Dolores’ point of view. It involves an underwater civilization being menaced by a kraken, and but for some missing voice-over, poorly translated dialog text, and another super-fast ending, could have been really good. Along with the bonus chapter, there’s a boatload of extras including a strategy guide, music tracks, mini-games, videos, wallpapers, concept art, and an achievements gallery. It also has several extra extras, including an informative book describing various sea creatures, a customizable aquarium (that you can decorate by buying items with the shells you collected in game), and a dolphin pool mini-game that lets you frolic with your very own dolphin.
Fierce Tales: Marcus’ Memory is a strong, but flawed hidden object adventure. Burdened by strange character renditions and story add-ons, it still demonstrates a canny approach to puzzle design, a strong graphic intent, and the ability to provide several hours of captivating entertainment. The Queen Mary of adventure games it’s not, but it’s definitely seaworthy.