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 simple—arrows appear on the bottom right of the screen indicating which directions you can travel. Remembering where to find certain puzzles takes a little effort, though—I'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 scenes—bird 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 Matilda.

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 note—something about what the puzzle meant to him, words of encouragement—this 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 web site 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 appreciated—as 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. The End

The Verdict

The Lowdown

Developer: Independently Produced
Publisher: Independently Produced
Release Date: August 2000

Available for: Windows

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System Requirements

"Any Windows PC that supports DirectX 6.1a or later"

Where to Find It

Xiama Website

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