1999 Casterman / Microïds
Designed by Benoît Sokal, Emmanuel Dexet, Eric Brouillat
Reviewed 2000 May 22

Rating -5 Linearity straight, segmented
Reasonability reasonable Connectivity minimal
Difficulty easy Relevance strong
Interface 1st 360 simple Real-time none

Back in the 1930's, Professor Valembois went to the Amerzone, a ficticious land, to study its unique ecology. He fell in love with a native woman, but when the egg of a mythical bird was brought into town, Valembois took it back to France. The scientific community dismissed it as a hoax, and Valembois has been working ever since to go back and return the egg, which is still viable. You play a journalist that he has recruited for the task. The game consists of you retracing his old trek up the Amerzone river and ensuring that the egg hatches okay.

You also meet some of Valembois' old friends on your trip. They're all simple characters, and they're only there to give you a monologue and an object, like Valembois himself. One of his old friends is a priest, and the other, Alvarez, became the dictator of the land. Alvarez has tried to modernise his country, but the dream of the white birds (from the egg) has kept mythology alive. Why the birds are special isn't explained, other than that they need human help to hatch. It's also not explained how everything has remained unchanged for all these years -- even Valembois' old papers are left on the table in an open hut, untouched by people,animals, or wind.

There's almost no game here. The first chapter starts off with a few promising problems as you prepare to leave to l'Amerzone, but all challenge is dropped after that. It becomes an exercise in using the only object in your inventory on the only other receptacle object in the area, such as a key in a lock. At least the obstacles are all relevant -- there are no magic puzzle door locks.

The game uses a 360 degree view, with up and down, from each location node. Surprisingly for four discs and an otherwise lavish production, you jump from node to node with no transition animation. The individual scenes are lushly drawn. The characters, for what little you see of them, are 3D marionettes, also lavishly done.

The cursor is fixed in the centre of the screen. This means that as you scan the scene for objects, the cursor stays put and the world bounces about. The 360/up/down effect is (seemingly) done by warping a fixed location image. The warping is excessive and unnatural, and combined with the fixed cursor makes for nauseating play.

Amerzone looks like yet another game created by graphical designers with little thought to a disciplined story and no thought at all to game design. The premise is there for a good story, but nothing is done with it. With no game to compensate, we're left with nothing but an expensive collection of pretty pictures.

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.

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