Amber: Journeys Beyond
Review by Jen
I am pretty jaded when it comes to adventure games, having played
so many of them, and so it is a rare thing for one to surprise
me. But this game literally took my breath away. In retrospect,
I can't believe I hadn't played it yetI have had it for
at least a year and kept passing it by because it looked like
some metaphysical exploration/know yourself kind of junk. But
no, it turned out to be a horror game extraordinaire.
The game opens with an email message asking you to check up on
a coworker of yours, who is in a haunted house testing some new
equipment that is supposed to aid in tracking ghost activity.
Of course you agree, and you set off. When you get near the house,
an apparition appears in the roadway and you swerve into a lake.
You drag yourself onto the shore and set off up a hill to the
house. When you check the garage, you find Roxy, the coworker,
unconscious or dead in the loft. You enter the house and find
pieces of her ghost-busting equipment all over the place. Your
first task is to make it all work again, and then you must make
yourself into each of the ghosts, using a special headgear called
Amber, in order to free them by making them know they're dead,
and ultimately revive Roxy. Each of the subplots deals with a
form of man's inhumanity to man and thus is far more horrifying
by its reality than if it were purely based on the supernatural.
The tension in my computer room was palpable as I played this
game. I kept having to take breaks because the walls were closing
in on me, I was feeling little breezes blow through my hair (turned
out to be the heater), and I kept hearing noises. This story is
thick with atmosphere and manages to be sweet, sad, horrific,
terrifying, and believable all at once ... it's a real ride on
an emotional roller coaster.
Gameplay is extremely intuitive. The interface is pure point-and-click,
and the cursor changes shape to tell you what you can do when
you move it over a hotspot. However, there were a couple of hotspots
that were really small and hard to locate, so there is a bit of
pixel-hunting (but not for objects, just for hotspots). There
are a few inventory puzzles, but mostly you progress based on
close observation of your surroundings. You can't die or make
a wrong move, which is a plus for me, and I ran across no bugs
or system hangups. However, while I enjoyed Amber all to
pieces, I would be remiss if I didn't mention there was a maze
(albeit an easy one) and a slider puzzleI believe I discuss
in just about every review I write how much I hate these two tired
The beautiful graphics are largely photorealistic images in the
slide-show style of Myst and Riven, but animated
sequences are interspersed strategically throughout. It's obvious
that the artist(s) had a great deal of design experience and a
good eye for layoutthere was no clutter, although there
was plenty to see and do, and each of the styles for each of the
ghost segments was perfectly executed. Even though the graphics
are not technological marvels, they were artistically almost awe-inspiring.
The level of detail was a marvel, toofor instance, Roxy
got her diploma from Miskatonic University in a subtle tip of
the hat to H.P. Lovecraft.
The music is movie-quality although not in the least bit bombastic.
In fact, it is downright lovely much of the time, a la Mike Oldfield,
and it absolutely heightens the tensionand there is a lot
of tension in Amber. Sound effects are fantastic and used
in all the right places. When I heard a sound effect, I knew exactly
what it was supposed to be. The voice acting, while there was
not a lot of it, was not at all cheesy in the usual second-rate
video game style.
In conclusion, if you want a horror game without gore (there
is the teeniest amount of blood but it's on people already dead
and not at all disgusting) that truly will cause chills to run
up and down your spine, I recommend Amber over any other
that I've played in the horror genre. It was good enough that
I would go so far as to rank it in my lifetime top ten.
As a final note, I would like to mention that Amber is
a husband-and-wife effort by Frank and Susan Wimmer, with a very
small development team. This is one of the all-time best adventure
games ever produced, I believe, and I would like to see more support
for these small-scale gems in order that more might be made. If
you haven't played it yet, get yourself a copy tomorrowmaybe
the Wimmers will be encouraged to make another game.
Developer: Hue Forest Entertainment, LLC
Publisher: Hue Forest Entertainment, LLC
Release Date: 1996
Four Fat Chicks Links
8 MB RAM
High-color (16-bit) video card
45 MB of free hard disk space
4X CD-ROM drive
68040 or PowerPC
System 7.0 or higher
5 MB free RAM (8 MB preferred)
13" 16-bit color display
25 MB free hard disk space
2X CD-ROM (4x or higher preferred)
Where to Find It
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