The Road to India

2001 Microïds
Designed by Stéphane Brochu
Reviewed 2002 February 23

Rating -2 Linearity narrow, segmented
Reasonability reasonable Connectivity moderate
Difficulty easy Relevance strong
Interface 1st 360 simple Real-time none

You are Fred, a young American man. You kiss your girlfriend, Anusha, goodbye at the airport as she goes to visit her family in India. A little while later, you receive a "Dear John" letter from Anusha telling you to not try to find her. Obviously, you set off to find her. You soon discover that she is caught up in some secret society, possibly the revival of the Thugs.

The game is divided into two separate, interleaving adventures: the main story outlined above, and a dream sequence taking place in Thug-era India where you rescue the captured princess Anusha. The events in the dreamworld foreshadow the events in the real world. The device works well enough, but the story in each is too slight for there to be any great impact.

In the real-world segments, there are surprisingly few people about, given that it takes place in New Delhi. The only characters of any substance, besides Fred, are a street boy and an actress, and even those are minor rôles. The challenges in the real-world are entirely contextual and reasonable. There is one wooden puzzle-box, but it is a real puzzle-box that you could probably buy at a novelty store.

The dreamworld sequences are more fanciful, but still very fair. Dream sequences are often used as an excuse to drop rationality, but not here: the dream logic really is logical, incorporating just enough fantasy to make it fun.

The story is mostly a simple trek to find Anusha, in both worlds. There's no depth, and only one slight plot twist at the end. This slight story means that the substance of the game rests upon the challenges. Unfortunately, they are so easy that they do little to pace the game. It's over just as you're getting warmed up to it. This lack of difficulty is largely due to the game being broken up into too many small segments, each very linear, so that the scope of each challenge is very narrow: only a few objects in your inventory, and only an object or two to use them on. The challenges are relevant to the story, and reasonable to solve. There's one ominous maze, but there are clues so that you don't have to map it.

The overall structure of the challenges is interesting, though. The game is divided into several segments, and each plays out linearly. However, objects from one segment can carry over to future segments, and some may be used for different purposes. There is a potential for dead-ends, but the game skillfully intercepts those, placing the necessary objects in each segment if you fail to pick them up in their original segment. There's also a red herring challenge, fairly involved in nature, that makes one segment seem more complicated than it really is.

The presentation of the game is good, with nice graphics and ambient sound, and passable voice acting. It uses a centre-cursor interface -- the cursor is always in the centre of the screen, the world spinning sickeningly about as you look around. The only flaw was that there was no text/voice indication of what some of the objects are. E.g., in the opening dream sequence, I picked up an object and had no idea what it was, and no way to find out -- turns out it was a flute.

The Road to India is an attractive game, but the story is too simple and the play too quick and easy for it to be considered a good adventure. The biggest failing, however, is the lost opportunity to explore the mystique of India. The real-world segments are in generic locales, and even the dream sequences are mostly confined to inside a dungeon or generic stone temple. Ultimately, it is a pleasant but dull game.

David Tanguay's Game Reviews
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