AGON: The Mysterious Codex
Review by Old
AGON: The Mysterious Codex, that is: "Ancient Games
of Nations," the first three episodes of 14 planned, was the
most pleasant and unanticipated surprise of the fall for this gamer.
What little I knew of the game had led me to believe it would be
saturated with obscure and obtuse puzzles loosely tacked around
and onto a flimsy story. I was in a puzzle mood this summer and
fall, so it seemed worth a shot. Little did I suspect AGON would
turn out to be one of the best adventure titles of the yearfrom
my humble perspective.
"Good Evening, Professor; What Precisely Are You Looking
For?" Night Watchman
AGON begins on a stormy night in London, at the British
Museum, early 1900s. Our hero, Dr. Hunt, is played intrepidly by
you. You've received a puzzling letter (how appropriate!) from a
friend, which perks your interest. You'll quickly find yourself
checking new arrivals at the museum, researching books, reading
notes, checking files, making calls and generally getting more deeply
involved and engrossed in a mystery, both as the Dr. Hunt character
and as the player (yourself).
Let's pause to say a few words about the mechanics of AGON.
The game comes on one CD, requires about 800 MB for installation,
and can be played without the CD in the drive. System specifications
allow for a wide range of PCs, being on the low to moderate side.
The game does play in 3D, running smoothly on my lower-end PC. Graphics
defaulted to 800×600 and looked very nice indeed at that level.
Sound was in stereo and extremely well-done, both as to acting and
background noises. The stereo factor is important given one or two
of the puzzles.
The player perspective is first-person, with full 360-degree movement,
completely mouse-controlled. Twelve different cursor symbols may
present themselves, ranging from movement to action, turning a page,
moving game pieces and others. An unobtrusive dial with three buttons
in the upper right corner of the screen is the only interface you'll
see all the time, unless something else is activated. Typically,
these buttons are labeled Menu, Files and Inventory. Sometimes you'll
also see a "Rules" button related to one of the games.
A "Text Input Device" (TID) also becomes one of your tools
of inquiry. You can save anywhere in AGON, with eight save
slots available (just enough for my purposes). AGON also
auto-saves when you leave. Not one crash or other glitch was experienced,
and the game seems really well-constructed and well-tested.
"Someone Has Already Walked this Way. Someone Knows the
Secret" Dr. Hunt
Now we have the technical factors disposed of, let's return to
the main theme of the game. Without giving much away, we find that
Dr. Hunt says early in the game: "My mission is to find all
those places where the last Masters of the last Boardgames live."
Ultimately, you have to get to the game, presumably Episode
13 or 14. These Masters have passed their secrets and games on to
their heirs, located in colorful and often obscure locations all
over the globe.
Generally, your direction is straightforward. Talk to the many
characters along the way, get clues, solve puzzles, remove logical
barriers and, most unique and interesting of all, play and win a
game against a Keeper at the end of each chapter (except London).
These are unusual board games, called Talbut in Chapter 2 and Fanorona
in Chapter 3. They're winnable (the Keeper's an expert, after all!),
but only after several trials, and sometimes on the easy setting.
Winning is necessary to move along to the next chapter. Further,
each of the games then becomes playable separately from the Menu
outside of the main adventure.
"Sleepless Night Again, Professor?" Night Watchman
AGON is replete with puzzles. Some are tough, and taking
notes is required. These brainteasers range from simply finding
a bottle of whiskey or matches (simple) to putting keys back correctly
on hooks (medium) to Headstone Glyphs or Gate Posts (hard). What
is pleasing is that even the most difficult of puzzles has a situational
context, that is, it relates to the game and its progress, rather
than somehow sitting outside as if you've strangely entered a puzzle
universe unrelated to what you thought you were about. In other
words, they fit and fit quite well. This makes them all more tolerable
and leads to less frustration, even resentment.
"Now, That's What I Call a Discovery!" Dr. Hunt
AGON: The Mysterious Codex is all about discovery. Dr. Hunt's
and your quest move logically and enticingly through these first
three chapters. Indeed, we've left some things unsaid about the
game in order not to spoil your joy of discovery. Even though the
graphics are a bit dated, they're also detailed and beautiful. All
three locations are memorabledank and dismal London at night,
the frozen wastes of Lapland, gorgeous Madagascar. Character depictions
are well-done. Voice acting is superb, clearly professional, helped
by a tight and interesting script. Sound effectsrain at the
museum, howling north winds, desert breezesall contribute
to creating an atmosphere and story in which you are anxious to
participate. It's often a hard game, but you won't want to smash
your screen. Instead, you'll feel a sense of satisfaction at solving
a logical and contextual puzzle and wonder: What's around the next
corner? What kind of game, once I get there, will the Keeper introduce
AGON is a lovely game, beautifully constructed, refreshingly
different from the usual adventure title. The makers have done everything
right. Interface and other technical features are flawless and couldn't
be better. Graphics are colorful and clear, if not outstanding.
Voice acting and ambient sounds are exemplary. Most importantly,
the essential idea of a journey of discovery rewarded episodically
by a fascinating new board game leads this reviewer to an enthusiastic
What I Liked Most About AGON
- The concept of progression in chapters is very well-written;
- AGON is very well-crafted;
- Voice acting is excellent, partly due to the script;
- Puzzles fit in the context;
- Settings are interesting, as are the NPCs;
- 360-degree movement is well-done;
- The two presented board games are intriguing.
What Disappointed Me a Bit
- Pixel hunting can be difficult at times;
- Backtracking can be annoying.
Release Date: March 2006
Four Fat Chicks Links
800 MHz Pentium 3
128 MB RAM
32 MB Direct X 3D video card (GeForce 2 or equal)
DirectX compatible sound card with stereo speakers
Where to Find It
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