Harvest

Review by Toger
February 2003

Ever notice how dogs can find the most interesting things during their nightly walks? Moldy pizza, half-eaten burgers or a large gaping hole in the ground … What kind of animal made this? Quick as a wink, your dog disappears down the rabbit hole and you've no choice but to go after it!

Thus begins Harvest, a new indie adventure game written, developed, produced and birthed by Michael B. Clark. The rabbit hole reference was the first thing I thought of as I skittered down the opening after my dog because as soon as I got down the ladder things got "curiouser and curiouser."

Harvest's story revolves around an estranged father and son. The son has invented a machine that literally squeezes water from rocks. Think of the lives he'll save! Or will he? You happen upon their underground bunker while searching for your dog. And being the avid adventurer that you are, you'll snoop, pry and intrude into their lives to find out what's really going on.

Gameplay is presented in traditional point-and-click, inventory-based, first-person slide-show view with limited character interaction. As you wander about the house, you'll find a variety of realistic objects scattered throughout the rooms with which to interact. You'll discover a usable answering machine, drawers to open and close and cabinets where you can riffle the contents. And who doesn't like snooping in the neighbor's cabinets? Although the game is somewhat linear, you can solve the puzzles in any order. If you're lacking the necessary inventory object, you can always come back to complete the puzzle at a later time.

Harvest's screens were hand-drawn using Photoshop. For me, they tended to be somewhat flat-looking, lacking the texture you see in today's games. I'm an admitted eye candy junkie. On the other hand, the rooms and the objects contained in the rooms were real enough that I kept trying to move away from the microwave as I used it in part of a puzzle. (I don't stand in front of operating microwave ovens. It's a quirk. I know.)

If there's a puzzle-lover's heaven, Harvest is part of it. The majority of the puzzles are logic-based, running the gamut from the simplistic hastily scrawled-message-corresponds-to-that-over-there to the mind-boggling and eye-popping recalibrate-the-fuel-cell puzzle. (You didn't honestly think I'd give a hint on that one, did you?) You'll want to pay close attention in order to make that leap of logic that lets you realize that the innocuous object in one room is the key to solving the puzzle at hand.

I have to take issue with one of the puzzles—the painting found on the bookshelf. The painting itself is beautiful; however, it's so intricately detailed and delicately colored that it's difficult to tell whether or not sections are color or black and white. Since being able to see that difference and the minute detail directly affects another puzzle I found it difficult to accomplish the task without resorting to a walkthrough.

Also included: a slider and two—count 'em—two mazes. Oops, I think I hear people stampeding from the room. Sliders are fun! (I hear you muttering.) The mazes on the other hand ... The cornfield maze is short and sweet. (Get it? Maze. Corn. Sweet ... never mind.) The maze of corridors had me pulling my hair out and using language that would have made a sailor blush. I managed to bulldog my way through to the end of the maze and promptly congratulated myself on my sheer brilliance. Imagine my horror during the end game when one of the characters tells me that I must make my way back to the main house, as fast as I can, to retrieve a vital clue! I kept looking for the option to ask him if he could wait a couple of days while I navigated my way—in reverse—through the corridors!

You cannot die in Harvest, although when I was stuck in that corridor maze I desperately wanted to be put out of my misery. Inventory is stored in a collapsible section at the top of the screen. All items dropped into your inventory are easily accessible at any time—no cycling through volumes of items to get to the one you need. The game also features a save anywhere option and unlimited save game slots. Be aware that if you're in the middle of a puzzle when you save and shut down, the game may not save at exactly that point—it saves at a "node" just prior to the puzzle—so you could possibly find yourself repeating the beginning of some puzzles.

Harvest turned out to be a nice diversion from some of the more dialogue- or action-intensive games that I play. The story was well-written, to the point that I desperately needed to find out what made Vance tick and do the things that he did. Neither the fact that I'm logic-challenged nor the niggly issues I had with a couple of puzzles detracted from my overall enjoyment of the game. If you're a first-person puzzle lover, then Harvest will definitely rock your world. (Get it? Rock your world? Getting water from a rock? I know you're out there, I can hear you breathing!)

So the next time you take your dog for his nightly walk, keep a tight hold on the leash. You just never know what you'll find in the park ... in the dark ... down the rabbit hole. The End

The Verdict

The Lowdown

Developer: Michael B. Clark
Publisher: Michael B. Clark
Release Date: December 2002

Available for: Windows

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System Requirements

Windows 95/98/2000/ME/XP
75 MHz or faster
400 MB free hard drive space

Where to Find It

Playing Games 11.95
Michael B. Clark 14.95



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