STAFF REVIEW of Adam's Venture: Origins (Xbox One)

Monday, April 25, 2016.
by Adam Dileva

Adam's Venture: Origins Box art It was my sworn duty that I had to review Adam’s Venture: Origins given that I share the same name as the protagonist. Originally released on PC in episodic form starting back in 2009, all three episodes were eventually compiled in a collection titled Adam’s Venture: Chronicles back in 2015. Now a year later, it’s been reimagined and 'HD-ified' for current gen systems. It also boasts new title too; Adam’s Venture: Origins (simply referred to as Origins from here on).

Origins is a puzzle game at heart, but it also employs a sense of adventure by drawing from such inspirations as Indiana Jones and Tomb Raider. That being said, you use your brains over brawn, as there’s actually no combat employed within Origins at all, so you’ll need to make sure you bring your thinking cap with you, as some of the puzzles can be a challenge.

Set in the 1920’s, you play as the adventurer Adam, discovering ancient ruins and in the search of ancient relics while also figuring out what the evil Clairvaux Corporation is up to. Accompanied by your sidekick Evelyn, you must use your wits to find solutions to puzzles blocking your path at every turn, which is ironic given how dense he comes across with his terrible dialogue and cringe worthy one-liners.

For a puzzle based game there is a story included within that’s a little heftier than what I was expecting, but it’s not written very well, and since you’re constantly being whisked from area to area, it’s a little difficult to follow aside from the ‘stop the evil guy from taking over the world’ trope. The story takes a backseat to the puzzle solving, and even though it tries to engage you with interesting locales and adventuring gameplay, it all feels too familiar if you’re an Indiana Jones fan.

Given that Origins is a puzzle game at its core, expect to be constantly impeded from progressing with puzzles, one after another. Sometimes they are placed quite cleverly and are intricate, while other times you’re simply looking for gas cans to fill a car blocking your path. Puzzle solving is continuous, aside from the odd stretch of platforming or mine cart riding. Even the very first obstacle you face as you begin Adam’s journey has you finding a specific book in a library, but of course nothing comes easy for you. You’ll have to rearrange portraits, solve a ladder puzzle, and complete a few more obtuse steps to reach your goal. It’s puzzles like this that simply feel like they are there as additional padding for game length rather than clever and intricate design.

Add to this that your adventure is painfully linear, there’s no branching paths to explore and you can’t progress to the next section without solving the current puzzle that’s in your way. Even though there’s a few small nooks and crannies that look like they should be explored, there’s absolutely no need to, as there’s no extra collectibles or anything to search for during your play time; something that would have been welcomed to add replayability.

Even though the game is completely linear, the lack of direction can be quite frustrating at times. You always have an objective listed at the top of your screen but more times than not it’s painfully vague and doesn’t give you any hints of what to do exactly, or even how to do it. Some puzzles are clever and make sense, while others are obtuse and have you scratching your head looking for not just the solution, but how to even figure out the result.

While puzzle solving is the center point of Origins, the other aspect of gameplay is some Indy-style platforming action with your grappling hook that allows you to swing easily from area to area or pull down pillars and objects in your way. You need not worry about enemies though as there’s absolutely no combat during your adventure. There are a few sections where you need to avoid patrolling guards, and these are some of the worst parts of the game, as there’s no stealth mechanics in place or easy way to see a guards path, so it’s trial and error for the most part.

If you’ve previously played Adam’s Venture you'll notice a few changes. First and foremost, it utilizes a whole new graphics engine, which is noticeable when you see the old visuals compared to new ones. Even with the new engine and coat of fresh paint it still looks quite dated. Some areas of the game look great, but many of the models, and especially the animations, are quite mediocre at best. Coupled with terrible pop-in issues and screen tearing, it’s hard to appreciate the hard work that was done to make things look better when other issues take you out of the immersive experience. You'll also notice that the three separate episodes now flow together in one somewhat cohesive storyline. Finally, the grappling hook allows for some new platforming challenges including some inadvertent ones like the loose and sloppy controls when needing precision.

I quite enjoyed the challenge of most of the puzzles I faced, as they weren’t terribly difficult save for a few in the latter half of the game that simply require brute strength guessing, but solving these ones gives you a sense of accomplishment. Most puzzles have logical solutions as soon as you figure out the required pattern or exactly how to do so.

On the down side, Adam’s journey only lasts a few short hours, fluctuating based on how clever you are at puzzle solving. You’ll finish it in a sitting or two if you try, and because there’s no collectibles or anything to do once you’ve completed the story, there’s absolutely no real reason to go back and play through again aside from cleaning up one or two optional secret achievements. If the journey had more freedom of exploration and side objectives to do it would feel like more of a complete experience, especially given the current price tag.

The worst offender affecting the game though is no doubt the terrible dialogue and even worse voice acting. The script simply isn’t well written and instead of Adam’s character being a lovable protagonist that I wanted to see save the day, I didn’t feel all that bad for him when he fell to his death for the tenth time, due to the loose controls, because of his terrible dialogue and one-liners that are poorly written and acted even worse.

At times it feels like Adam's Venture: Origins is simply trying to do too many things without focusing on making one of them truly great. It's as if it’s trying too hard to be an Indiana Jones or Tomb Raider adventure game whle also being a puzzle classic like Broken Sword, but it excels at neither. It does have a certain charm to it combined with a bit of nostalgia, and I’m glad I played through it until the credits, but I wish there was simply some more focus to the puzzles, as that’s why fans will ultimately purchase the game. Even though it may not fully be worth the price of entry at this moment of writing, any puzzle game fan is sure to find some entertainment within, as long as you can handle a terrible sense of humor and bland action gameplay that is included.

Overall: 5.0 / 10
Gameplay: 5.5 / 10
Visuals: 5.0 / 10
Sound: 3.0 / 10


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