| |

Keepsake Review

Developer: Wicked Studios Publisher: The Adventure Company
Release Date: March 30, 2006 Also On: None

Ever since the release of Tomb Raider, the game industry seems to almost always be wrong when it comes to lead female characters. Such female characters are usually proportionally amazing, lack depth (being honest, guys would rather look than listen), and are usually scantily clad. While yes, it might be a college guy’s dream girl, it just isn’t realistic. I mean, I’m quite sure that many if not most gamers can get a girlfriend. Whenever I play one of these games, I feel as if these game companies must think I’m desperate. I’d like to remind the readers: I’m not. But Dreamcatcher Games is now releasing Keepsake in America. The one thing that the developers made clear was the fact that the main character, named Lydia, isn’t another Lara Croft. Keepsake was on my radar for games to play. Sadly, somewhere along the line, this adventure game loses it.

Disclosure: We may earn a commission from links on this page

The story is rather simplistic. You play as Lydia. It’s your first day of school at Dragonvale Academy, an academy for mages. You come there hoping to meet your best friend, Celeste, only to find that absolutely no one is there. Well, almost no one, except for Zak, a dragon who was transformed into a wolf. Throughout the game you have weird visions of what happened. It’s up to you and Zak to find out what happened to Celeste and the others and hopefully save the academy.

Throughout the adventure, you get to see dragons, talking trees and weird-accented merchants. There is no real sex appeal, no cursing, and no fighting (as it is a point and click adventure game). The problem is that the story is very childish. We see many blatantly clichéd statements such as “Face your fears!â€? and “I’ll never give up!â€? The game feels more like a Disney movie than something for adults. The developers could’ve explored more into the history of Dragonvale Academy as there are a few interesting tidbits of background information, and more use of magic. Playing the game, you feel as if Dragonvale Academy is just a normal school and doesn’t have anything to do with magic. I would’ve been more interested seeing goblins, flying monkeys, and all that Harry Potter stuff; that said, the atmosphere lacks uniqueness.

The gameplay might be its strong suit. The intense adventure gamer can easily beat this in 8 hours, but the newbie might take up to 20 hours. The real focus was on the actual puzzles, which is a good thing. The puzzles aren’t too hard and the interface is really easy too use. The best part has to be the hint system. You can get 3 hints. The first one is just a brief suggestion of where to look to see how the puzzle works. The next one is how the puzzle works. The third one is what exactly to do. Finally, even if that doesn’t help you out, or you are just lazy, you can ask for the solution. This is godsend for a tired adventure gamer who just doesn’t want to finish a long puzzle. Looking to the dialogue, another brilliant innovation, you can pause and fast forward. While you might think this is nothing; but say if your roommate tells you to watch the three legged child on the television and you’re in the middle of a dialogue, then the pause button comes in handy. It’s easy to conclude that the actual gameplay and interface of Keepsake is great.

The graphics are top-notch. The water effects show the sun’s reflection. The grass is beautifully animated. The character models are great. The viewpoints are never cumbersome. The lighting effects are cool. And here’s the best part: It doesn’t take a great computer to run such graphics. Take that [insert pretty much every new PC game today]! The audio is just as good. I’ve heard complaints of the European version’s voice actors, and reliable sources have told me accounts that are worse than most complaints. If anything, avoid the European version. But when we look at the American version, like our fast food, it clearly is number one. The voice actors are pretty good. The soundtrack also shows a great deal of depth to it as well. It might not be as moving as say the Lord of the Rings soundtrack, but it gets the job done. Nothing is terribly out of place, but again, it seems slightly bland.

Expect 8 hours if you are an intense gamer, expect 15-25 hours if you are new; that is, assuming you don’t use the automatic solutions for absolutely every puzzle. Out of the time issue, if you are a veteran adventure gamer, I’d suggest for you not to buy it. There isn’t much replay value, as most adventure games lack this quality. While great gameplay, graphics, and audio, it suffers when it comes to the storyline. Unlike other genres where good gameplay can substitute a poor storyline (just look at the vast majority of shooters today), the adventure genre is different. The lack of a good storyline makes the game feel like a chore. Not only that, the entire atmosphere feels rather bland. It’d be a great gift for a young newcomer, but not so much for everybody else. In retrospect, the game feels like all sauce and no meat. I wanted to say “Eat that Lara Croft!â€? at the end of the game, but sadly, there isn’t too much to eat.

Graphics: 9
Sound: 8.5
Gameplay: 9
Creativity: 5
Replay Value/Game Length: 8
Final: 7.9
Written by Simon Review Guide