The Secrets of Atlantis: The Sacred Legacy

Review by Old Rooster
January 2007

"What If Atlantis Was Never Really a Myth?" —Howard Brooks

The Atlantis series of games has been with us since 1997, initially courtesy of Cryo Interactive. Members of the original development team have now formed a new company, proudly bringing us The Secrets of Atlantis: The Sacred Legacy, sometimes referred to as Atlantis V.

This fine adventure game offers an engrossing, Indiana Jones kind of story set in the year of my birth—1937. It's not perfect, Gold Star level, for reasons we'll discuss. But Atlantis V does pull you along from one compelling and colorful sequence to the next with largely inventory-based puzzles that are reasonably integrated into the storyline. It's clearly the best new adventure title of 2007 (so far!).

"You Have an Important Rendevous, Mr. Brooks" —Garetti

You play, in first-person style, as Howard Brooks, a consulting aeronautical engineer for the Zeppelin Company, creators of the famed Hindenburg. After a visit to Germany, you're on your leisurely way back to New York City in this luxurious zeppelin flagship. Unfortunately, not far from the coast, you're inexplicably knocked out by two villains who escape the craft on an attached emergency biplane (one of many enjoyable cutscenes). Soon, you find yourself using your engineering skills to repair portions of the Hindenburg, also meeting up with an enigmatic character named Garetti who is quite anxious to get you to New York to rendezvous with a Mr. Foster.

Of course, some of you may remember that the actual Hindenburg fatally crashed in Lakehurst, New Jersey on May 6, 1937. I'll leave it to your imaginings and game-playing as to the timing of Howard's trip.

And so, in graphic 1930s comic style, your thrilling journey of discovery and mystery begins. You'll travel from New York to exotic locales in Macao, India and Mesopotamia. Along the way, you'll meet up with 30 well-depicted characters and enjoy (mostly) dozens of puzzles.

Along with Howard Brooks, central casting and star credits belong to:

  • Kate Sullivan—a beautiful and eminent archeologist, one with a particular interest in the "myth" of Atlantis. Can she really be trusted?
  • James Elliot—an embittered treasure hunter and member of an occult sect. Should we be wary of this fellow?
  • Nathaniel Blackwood—educated, pragmatic and well-traveled, does Blackwood have an altogether different agenda regarding Atlantis?
  • Randolph Foster—a talented entrepreneur, prominent in the business world and passionate about art and history. A presumed friend of Howard's father. But are his motives as pure as they sound?

"Nice Work, Mr. Repairman" —Garetti

As indicated, your expertise is needed within the first five minutes of starting the game, or you may not even make it to New York City!

The point-and-click interface couldn't be more clear and efficient. View of a scene is a full 360 degrees, with first-person movement via footstep indicators. Scenes change smoothly, with not every area being explorable. The mouse cursor shows not only footsteps, but also "hot spots." These may allow you to examine and/or pick up an object, as well as open conversational trees. These, in turn, offer a number of apparent choices but are mainly there to present background and narrative information. Further, you may think you're done with a particular character, like Garetti, finding later you need to return for followup. Very clear icons are shown and highlighted to depict persons or topics you'll need to discuss. Once done, the icon fades into the background. If followup is needed, an icon will be added or a previous one will again be highlighted. It works very well.

Right-clicking brings up the inventory, with some items marked in red to indicate a need for examination. Items are readily combined, only working together if the combination is needed. Ten save slots are available, which can be overwritten. Since the story is quite linear, not allowing progression until certain tasks are completed, these work well. There are a few puzzles where it is helpful to save before attempting. In other words, you'll fail and need to start over at least several times. You can "die," but resurrection is imminent, and this isn't a problem.

"Don't Be Put Off by One Defeat, Mr. Brooks" —Foster

About a quarter of the way into the game, the puzzles start to become serious and more or less "fun," depending on your puzzle-liking inclination. Mr. Foster challenges you to an interesting little game, and you later find yourself playing variations of poker and Sudoku. These are all well and good, but I must say, about a third of the way in, while visiting a gambling site in Macao, there is a timed slider puzzle that almost led me to heave the game. Apparently there is a trick to it, which I didn't discover until the third day of frustration. This challenge was the worst of the game, at least for me, but there are others almost as difficult. At least they are relevant to the place at hand and not obscure, as with so many titles.

Pixel-hunting and hot spot–searching can also be a source of consternation, even early on. Monitor brightness level (not adjustable in-game) will need to be turned up to find some of the needed items. I had a terrible time finding a spot for a ladder, finally stumbling on it by accident. There are several of these hard-to-find locations, which present minor drawbacks to the excitement and flow of the story.

"Your Medallion Is The Key to Forgotten Knowledge" —Foster

The Secrets of Atlantis is presented, both visually and with script, in an almost noir style. The 1930s way of dress and speaking is nicely done, with very adequate graphics and cutscenes. Voice acting, particularly of the principals, is excellent. It made me think about Saturday afternoon serials at the Orpheum! Character depictions are typically over the top, but not too much so, and this works well with this story. Mannerisms and facial movements are appropriate. Howard uses his charm in flirting with secretaries in a way that wouldn't get him to first base today but worked 70 years ago. One of the receptionists refers to him as a "Ladykiller," an appellation I had to suffer with much of my adult life (cough, cough).

Care is taken in presenting the Hindenburg, Empire State Building, and other sites. For example, we find that windows are open in the Empire State Building, which is quite new at that point, with no air conditioning. The storm outside is loud and very evident. We also hear other ambient noises adding to realism, from hisses of machinery to movement of gears, and many others.

Perhaps one area of disappointment is the obvious lack of nonplayable characters in many of the settings. Rationales are typically given for this. The Hindenburg power emergency has confined all passengers to their rooms. The Empire State's elevators are down, leading all occupants to stay in their offices. Generally, these excuses are reasonable, although it often seems strange to have such barren settings in what should be busy or crowded places.

Finally, we once again find a game that finishes much like that old Saturday afternoon serial—open-endedly. This came as a surprise and, although a sequel will be welcomed and readily purchased by this player, I was quite a bit let down by the ending phrase: "The adventure has only just begun." All we get for all our efforts is a bloomin' "road to Atlantis," for crying out loud!

"This Is the First Time I've Ever Gone Off in Search of a Myth" —Brooks

The Secrets of Atlantis is a highly entertaining, lively, absorbing tale. In the style of Indiana Jones, this adventure presents colorful characters, varied and exciting settings, sensible puzzles. Some of the challenges are difficult with occasional glitches in pixel hunting. Yet, except for the anticlimactic nonending, the entire 20-plus hour experience is fun, novel, and rewarding.

What I Liked Most About The Secrets of Atlantis

  • An interesting story, well told;
  • Colorful and well-done graphics;
  • Marvelous script and voice-acting;
  • Mostly well-integrated, sensible puzzles;
  • Smooth and efficient interface.

What I Didn't Care For

  • Some puzzles, especially the initial timed slider, are frustratingly difficult;
  • Pixel hunting can be tedious;
  • More backtracking than I would like;
  • A surprise nonending setting up a sequel. The End

The Verdict

The Lowdown

Developer: Atlantis Interactive Entertainment
Publisher: Nobilis
Release Date: November 3, 2006

Available for: Windows

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System Requirements

Windows 98SE/2000/XP
2 GB free hard disk space
256 MB RAM
32 MB video card
DirectX 9.0c

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