Review by Jen
Every once in a while, out of this vast morass we call Earth,
there arises a lone visionary, one who is willing to take a chance
and invest a great deal of time and effort in designing and producing
his own adventure game. And the author of Xiama is such
a person ...
Xiama is billed as an adventure game, but it's really
more akin to puzzle games like Jewels of the Oracle. You
find yourself in the Australian wilderness and come upon a note
directing you to the top of the falls. You follow the onscreen
arrows and eventually make your way to the falls, but meanwhile
you encounter various puzzles strewn about the environment. Although
you can complete the puzzles in any order, you must solve 23 of
the 24 puzzles in order to gain access to the 24th, and then you
get a smidgeon of a story.
The puzzles are superimposed on actual photos of the Alligator
Creek Falls area, which is located in an Australian national park
near the author's home. Navigation is simplearrows appear
on the bottom right of the screen indicating which directions
you can travel. Remembering where to find certain puzzles takes
a little effort, thoughI'm guessing there are at least 100
photos/screens in Xiama in which to find the 24 puzzles.
Mind you, it's not a bad thing to get sidetracked since the photos
and the location are lovely.
Natural sounds are overlaid on many of the scenesbird calls
(in fact, one of the more challenging puzzles involves bird calls
in a big way), dingos howling, a crackling campfire, water running,
and some beast noises that are completely foreign to me. Some
of the puzzles have a little musical accompaniment, and there
are two puzzles involving the Australian folk song Waltzing
Let's talk about the puzzles. Of the 24 puzzles, three involve
what is called "turtles"not the animals but rather
geometric designs. In each of the three, you must duplicate six
intricate patterns using the buttons that are available to you
on a console. One of the screenshots to the right shows the first
of these "turtle" puzzles. These were my favorites,
and I am glad there were three included in the game. I would happily
play a whole game made of nothing but "turtle" puzzles.
I must say, though, that the final set was incredibly difficult.
Probably half of the many hours I spent on Xiama were occupied
in trying to solve it.
The remaining 21 puzzles range from sound puzzles to visual puzzles
to card games. Some are familiar, others are completely unique,
and still others are familiar puzzles with a twist. Usually, when
I play a puzzle game, I like some of the puzzles and not others;
in this game, all of the puzzles were quite enjoyable. Even the
one stinkin' music puzzle wasn't too bad, but I did get the song
stuck in my head for the rest of the day. Never one to be stingy,
of course I sang it out loud and shared the wealth with the rest
of my family. (That's why they love me.)
Your progress is kept in a journal. Often, when you complete
a puzzle and look at the journal, the author includes a little
sticky notesomething about what the puzzle meant to him,
words of encouragementthis made me feel as if the game was
written just for me. I enjoyed the personal touch a lot.
Xiama is not without flaws. I came up with three alternate
solutions for two of the puzzles, which the game did not recognize.
The author has made hints available on the Xiama
to cover such contingencies.
Other than that, though, the game installed and ran beautifully
on my computer. It requires DirectX 6.1a, which is supplied on
the Xiama CD as a separate installation. This is
always appreciatedas we all know, there is nothing worse
than a game that overwrites your up-to-date DirectX with DirectX
1.4 without your permission.
All in all, Xiama provided me with many hours of enjoyment,
and I can wholeheartedly recommend it for anyone who enjoys puzzles,
photography, and/or nature.
Release Date: August 2000
Four Fat Chicks Links
"Any Windows PC that supports DirectX 6.1a or later"
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