Eye of the Kraken

Review by Jen
January 2003

A kraken is a legendary sea monster said to live in Norwegian waters. Why, then, does the game Eye of the Kraken take place on the Mediterranean Sea and revolve around squid? This and the answers to many other baffling questions about the game probably will never be answered ...

In this third-person, point-and-click game, you play as Abdullah, consultant to the Sultan. You are aboard a ship bound for the island of Hyale, and your friend Aboubakar enters your cabin and shows you a squid sculpture (a "kraken" souvenir). A mysterious magical artifact has been stolen, and your fellow passengers are all suspects. You must endeavor to find this Eye of the Kraken before the ship makes landfall at Hyale, so you set about detecting stuff.

Eye of the Kraken is a closed-room mystery a la Agatha Christies's Murder on the Orient Express but instead of that majestic luxury train you are aboard the not-so-impressive Glutomax ... and there is no murder, just a theft. The game plays out over the course of five days, with (usually) three time periods in each day, morning, afternoon, and evening.

This is a classic detective story, and Abdullah is the Poirot of the piece. Your fellow passengers include no butlers but four "twin" servants, as well as Rasputin, the fifteenth century French poet François Villon, good ol' Vlad the Impaler, Ophelia (running from a "nasty family situation" back in Denmark after having faked her own death), and none other than the mighty Odysseus, among others. You must make your way around and around the ship, questioning suspects, using inventory items, and generally having a fine time.

Eye of the Kraken is a linear game; you must complete all tasks in a given time period to advance the clock. There are no timed sequences, no mazes, no sliding tile puzzles ... but plenty of nonsense. Actually, all of the puzzles are completely fair once you wrap your mind around the game's internal logic—but they're still silly as all get-out.

The game's humor is its selling point. It is a winning combination of highbrow and low. Characters throw off casual one-liners about various historical and mythological figures' anatomical characteristics; inventory items from time to time include pigeon poop and a lucky cannonball ... This game had me giggling out loud—a lot! My older son was laughing too at some of the more scatological humor. Many of the jokes, though, would only be funny to a fairly literate adult.

Eye of the Kraken was created using the Adventure Game Authoring System (AGAST) and released by Absurdus, a small team of French-Canadians headquartered in Montreal. The graphics are presented in an isometric perspective, like that used in Sanitarium, and for an indie game the animation and scenery are surprisingly polished—in fact they are better than those in some second-rate professional efforts.

There is no voice acting, which is probably a good choice given the usual level of same in most low-budget productions. Rather, all dialogue is presented as onscreen text. The game was originally written in French and translated to English, and both versions come on the game disk. The translation is well-done, although some of the English dialogue is rather stilted. These problems are quite minor on the whole and can even add to the amusement sometimes.

The cursor will change to red when you pass it over an item that you can click on; after you click you are presented with a small submenu of choices of things to do with the item. Saving is accomplished by clicking an icon at the top left of the screen and naming your save; saves are limited to nine or ten slots, which proved to be more than sufficient given the game's stability and lack of dead ends.

Music is made up of about 20 or so randomly rotating long snippets of existing pieces sounding like they're from the Roaring Twenties, which, as best as I can tell, is when the events of the game transpire, and it comes complete with the gramophone graininess. While enjoyable at first, it wore on my nerves after a while and I turned the volume way down low. Sound effects are few and far between but appropriate where used.

Eye of the Kraken does not last very long; I played in one sitting of about six hours with no reference to a walkthrough but a couple of pretty severe stucknesses. It only costs $15, though, and at that price it is more than worth the money.

The ending practically begs for a sequel, and I will be first in line to get my hands on it when and if it becomes available. Eye of the Kraken is the most fun I've ever had playing an independent game, and because of that I bestow upon it the FFC Gold Star. If you liked Stupid Invaders or The Gene Machine, you'll probably like Eye of the Kraken too.

(I think the game was called Eye of the Kraken just because it sounds so nice with Glutomax.) The End

The Verdict

The Lowdown

Developer: Absurdus
Publisher: Absurdus
Release Date: July 2002

Available for: Windows

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System Requirements

Pentium II 350 MHz
64 MB RAM
200 MB free hard disk space
Windows 95/98/2000/XP
DirectX 8 and later

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