AMBER: Journeys Beyond

1996 Hue Forest Entertainment
Designed by Frank Wimmer, Susan Wimmer
Reviewed 1997 February 12

Rating +0 Linearity narrow, branching
Reasonability deductive Connectivity moderate
Difficulty pedestrian Relevance weak
Interface 1st paned simple Real-time none

You are sent to a colleague's house to help her (Roxy) with her paranormal research, and to keep her out of trouble. The house is haunted, which is why she chose it. You arrive too late, finding Roxy in a coma. You must activate the AMBER unit -- a device that lets you see through a ghost's eyes -- to exorcise the ghosts and bring Roxy back.

AMBER uses the common first person view slideshow of rendered images with a one-click-does all mouse (i.e., a Myst clone). While it's not technically innovative, it is very well done artistically. The world is convincingly drawn and then embellished with effective, subdued use of sound and music. The one good gimmick is a change in the view borders as you inhabit the three ghosts. It all adds up to an excellent feeling of immersion.

The story is really a composition of four smaller stories: each of the ghosts has their own story, and a framing story of Roxy and her researches. The Roxy story is simple but richly detailed. Roxy is an engaging character, a scientist with an extreme enthusiasm that gives her an absent-minded quality. The stories of each of the ghosts are (intentionally) incomplete vignettes, showing you the ghost's reality through the ghost's mind. Again, the stories are fairly simple, but the detail and presentation allow them to have a big impact.

When it comes to gameplay, AMBER falls short -- literally and figuratively. It is a very short game: you are likely to complete it in well under ten hours. While there's a fair bit of detail to explore, there are few challenges to overcome. These are mostly puzzles, and many are irrelevant to the story: there is both a slider puzzle and a maze! Furthermore, the few challenges presented are also rather simple.

AMBER is fine presentation of a good story. If all you want is to experience a spooky world, then AMBER is a fine choice. It succeeds where Phantasmagoria fell flat. As a game, however, it is weak.

Beware! Here are some spoiler-ridden notes on the game. They're only recommended for people who have played the game and want to see some of my rationale for my evaluations.
David Tanguay's Game Reviews
Here's a description of all the gobbledygook in these reviews. It's also a bit of an essay on the nature of adventure games.