Beyond Atlantis

Review by Orb

Beyond Atlantis is based on a successful adventure game formula. Give the player a tidbit of a story, airlift him into breathtaking locales he'd never see hanging around his local mini-market, and give him some devious puzzles to solve. It's a first-person game, with beautifully animated cutscenes and very stylishly rendered locales to wander around in.

The story is that in a long-ago past in Atlantis, good and evil existed together as two halves of a larger whole. The people at this time divided this into two parts, the Power of Light and the Power of Darkness. You play as a young man named Ten, the descendant of Seth, who has taken on the task of traveling to assorted countries in varying times to solve this ages-old dilemma and reunite the two halves. Most of this is just backstory, however, as you travel to Tibet, Yucatan, China, Ireland, Shambala, and finally briefly to Atlantis, interacting with the locals and, of course, solving puzzles.

The game itself is very beautifully drawn, with some really creative work put into the intricately executed cutscenes. The graphics are beautiful imagery, the kind that always bring adventure game players back for more. Do I care if some of the leaves and rocks are day-glo colors? Of course not! This is a feverish, surreal interpretation of environments that would be otherwise dreary or dark in real life, and the design gives them a fairy tale enchantment that draws the player in and keeps her coming back for more. Beyond Atlantis features Cryo's Omni 3D engine, which allows the player a 360-degree examination of all environments, so movement is fluid, and the player is allowed the luxury of being able to explore environments freely and poke into the corners of places to her heart's content. There are several spots in the game where the graphics are blocky and not well-defined, and it seems there was some shortcutting going on during the rendering process.

The music in the game is melodic and soothing. It has an ethereal temperature to it that fits the nature of the dreamlike environments that you are exploring. I suspect the soundtrack attempts to mimic a bit of the style of music of the different countries the player is exploring; however, this does not quite get pulled off, and the themes are pretty interchangeable but nevertheless solidly done. The only drawback I found to the music is that it was a bit too simplistic, playing a safe sort of Yanni style to accompany the graphics, and it did not really grab my attention on its own creative merits. Rather, it had the feeling of adventure game Muzak, urging me solemnly ever on.

Voice acting in Beyond Atlantis is well-done, and the characters are all very different and adroitly drawn, each with its own personality and style. The characters do, however, have a rather wooden appearance when talking, which gives them the look of actors in a dubbed-language film. But this is more than made up for in the delightful look of them in their costume and bearing.

Puzzles in Beyond Atlantis are for the most part inventory-based, and they are extremely difficult. One of my biggest points of contention regarding the game is that some of the game actions that need to be done are not clear from one step to the next. This is a recurring problem throughout the game.

Locating inventory pieces in some instances was really like finding a needle in a haystack. There are skull pieces in Ireland, for example, that are placed in such a way that they look exactly the same texture and color as the spot they've been laid down into, and this dissolves gameplay into a pixel hunt, scanning each screen to see if the cursor will change (and thank God for a well-designed smart cursor that does this, because it is certainly needed).

The game also has some puzzles that are so convoluted as to act as dead ends. For example, in China, there is a door that can be opened either one of two ways. The incorrect one will cause the player to hit a dead end later in the game. There is no indication that it has been opened incorrectly. Later, a character makes an inexplicable statement that is a quasi-hint that this was done wrong, and if you don't get the hint, why, just hand up your dancin' shoes, because for you, my friend, the jig is up, and the game is over. You can work on the next puzzle until kingdom come, but you're not going to get anyplace, and the unforgiving design will not tell you that you are stuck either.

There are a couple of puzzles that are either timed or action-oriented. These are not impossible to complete for the average adventure game player, and they are actually a lot of fun.

I experienced a couple of problems: First, there was some sound distortion in the Yucatan portion of the game that nearly split my eardrums, a little white noise. Also, in a couple portions of the game, the speech was out of synch with the game. But these were minor and confined to specific spots in the game, and they were not excessive.

There is a fair amount of disk swapping, but this is, for the most part, kept down by having each of the various worlds on one disk each. This is quite a feat, given the fact that the game comes on four CDs (oh DVD, where art thou?) and it is a fairly long game. The game can also be started from whatever CD the player is currently on, a real time-saver.

Beyond Atlantis is an enchanting diversion for those players who delight in exploring strange lands, wallowing in glorious scenery, and diving into fiendish puzzles. For the experienced gamer, this will fix any Timelapse/Crystal Key/Qin jones you may have. The End

The Verdict

The Lowdown

Developer: Cryo Interactive
Publisher: Dreamcatcher
Release Date: August 2001 (Mac); December 1999 (PC)

(Released in Europe by Cryo as Atlantis II)

Available for: Macintosh Windows

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System Requirements

Mac OS 8.6-9.1
G3 233 MHz
Minimum 80 MB free hard drive space
8X CD ROM drive
Quicktime 4.0

Pentium 200 MHz processor
8X CD-ROM drive
2 MB video card
65,000 colors
Soundblaster-compatible sound card
70 MB available on hard drive
DirectX 6.0 compatibility (supplied with game)

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