Ancient Secrets | The Quest For The Golden Key | Free Adventure Game Review

Ancient Secrets is a point and click adventure game from Alawar Games. Let me preface this whole review by saying that I like Alawar Games. They do good work, and they do it in a cartoonish kind of style that makes you feel that all really is right with the world. Now I've said that, let's dish up a plate of steaming dirt on this game.

Ancient Secrets starts off like any typical adventure game. There's the good old ancient civilization, a key which has been smashed into a myriad (okay, three or four, I wasn't really paying attention when I read that part – wait, I went back and checked and actually it's the far more ambiguous 'a number') of pieces to stop Barbarians from unlocking the gates or door or portal to the treasures of the Tekka, the aforementioned ancient civilization who, when threatened by the inevitable invasion of jealous war like tribes, hid all their treasures and, with great ancient wisdom, one assumes, ran away.

You are Kate, the daughter of a chap who has spent the bulk of his life plundering ancient treasures and no longer has the physical strength to do so himself anymore, so you are sent off to discover the ancient treasure of the Tekka, thus ensuring that Dad is able to go into the old people's home where they don't force the inmates to make car license plates.

Game Play

Game play is an interesting experience in perspective befuddlement. You might, as I did, become confused on the start screen, which has a semi bird's eye view of a plane docked at a dock. It's a flying plane, so that's okay. As the plane's propellers wind down, a little piece of paper floats in from the left hand side of the screen and lands on the dock. If you're challenged like me, you'll try to use the W,A,S,D keys before remembering that this is a point and click game. You may be put off by the fact that you can't see, well, you can't see 'you' here. Where is your avatar? Don't worry about that right now, just click on the note to see that you're supposed to click to the left of the screen to go to the next part of the map.

You'll now have two causes for confusion. One will be the fact that your character is invisible, ie you, the player, are presumably supposed to be the character and the game is supposedly played through your eyes. The second will be that your eyes appear to be located about twenty feet straight up in the air.

The problem only gets worse when you come to the next screen and see Dr Kipling, the fellow who evidently likes to communicate by tossing notes into the wind and hoping they arrive at their intended destination. Click on the speech bubble on his head and he looks up and begins talking to you, and when I say looks up, I mean 'cranes his head skyward', which once more begs the question, how damn tall are you? Apparently you're tall enough to dwarf the good doctor, and his whole house. Maybe you're not that tall after all, maybe you possess the power of flight?

Setting aside the camera issues for the time being, let's look at the actual story. Put yourself in Kate's shoes. You just came off a long hover plane flight and you're itching to get started on your mission to unlock the secret treasures of the Tekka. Unfortunately, Dr Kipling has other ideas:

That's right, no cup of tea, no offer of a nice bed, no help on your important task, just a request to help him put together a bouquet of flowers, and not just any bouquet of flowers, but a bouquet made out of very specific flowers. Dr Kipling is a jerk.

Every time you are given a new task, it is added to your task 'journal' at the bottom of the screen, which is an excellent tool if you happen to be playing in a state of continuous short term memory loss. Or if you happen to be a child, which would make more sense.

His next request, to fill a vase full of water at the nearby well will throw you into the first of the game's mini games, and as much as I would love to be snarky about this too, it's actually quite good. One could even say that it is the mini games that actually make this game.

The story progresses onward in much of a ' Annoying NPC: “Oh yes, you can have some sausages, but first I need you to get some gristle from Fatty McBoar.”

Fatty McBoar: "Oh, sure, I'll give you some gristle, but first I need you to harvest some grain in Farmer Mc Doodle's field."

Farmer McDoodle : "Oh sure, you can harvest some grain, but first you must bear my children."

Sort of way.

Many of the 'challenges' can be solved simply by clicking all over the screen, and some of the challenges really should be solved in this fashion.

Graphics

The graphics are typical Alawar graphics, fun, light and visually appealing; but Van Gough would have thrown up on a field of daffodils had he been subjected to them. Then again, Van Gough also cut off his own ear, so who is he to pass judgement?

The Verdict

In spite of its petty failings, Ancient Secrets is an excellent game for adults looking for light entertainment and children looking for a fun, challenging game. (Young children, that is, perhaps between 7 and 10 years of age, though I made that number up arbitrarily, you know, the ages where they're smart enough to read things and follow instructions, but not so smart that they have an existential crisis at the pointlessness of it all.)

You can download a free 60 minute trial version of the game HERE

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