Ecoquest 1: The Search for Cetus
“If the art doesn’t ‘speak’ to Adam already, it never will!” -narrator
“No sense in trying that” -narrator
That seems to be the most typical response in an Adventure game.
Ecoquest 1: The Search for Cetus was the first Adventure Game that I played and finished. It is a game primarily aimed towards kids, and I was a young kid when I played it many years ago. This game is over 20 years old, and it holds up very well to this day because of its intuitive interface, reasonable puzzles, no dead ends, encourages experimentation and exploration, and the main character Adam can’t die because of a mistake that the player made. This game a perfect introduction to games to new gamers, and as well as to those new to adventure games.
The game begins with 9-year-old Adam Greene, and his Dad. His Dad is an Ecologist who works to clean up the environment. Adam’s Dad shows him a bird that is covered with oil, and this shows the consequences of oil spills, and this ties into the main story into saving and preserving the environment. His Dad tells him that he can play with the dolphin that they rescued, and this is what kicks the story into overdrive. Adam befriends the dolphin and the bond between the two characters is very touching without being sentimental. The dolphin speaks, and Adam is astonished and shocked. The dolphin named Delphineus needs to be released to save his Kingdom, he didn’t realize that he was gone for so long. Delphineus comes back after a few days, and Adam agrees to help him, and he goes with Delphineus to save the Kingdom, and find Cetus.
Adam’s overall main objective is to find Cetus. He is the whale that Adam is searching for to save the underwater Kingdom of Eluria. Adam will meet the most amazing sea creatures in the Kingdom of Eluria. This game holds and stands the test of time having very relevant themes about the environment, recycling, and pollution that are still relevant to the present day.
The great thing about Adventure Games is that the focus of the game is on the story and the puzzles. While not all Adventure Games have great puzzles, one of my favorite things about this game and missing from other Adventure games is that Adam helps the various sea creatures in the Kingdom of Eluria, it usually highlights an environment problem that humans caused indirectly and/or directly toward the creatures, and Adam has to set it right. This game combines a bit of education and entertainment into one, while I know that it is the kiss of death. The marriage between the two highlighted my own environmental awareness; one of the things that I got from this game is that I recycle all the cans and bottles of soda that I drink.
This game also has clear goals and objectives to complete unlike some of the later Adventure Games in the mid to late 90’s. The interface is very accessible and easy for a new gamer, and a non-adventure gamer to get into. This beginning has a very good tutorial to teaches newbies to Adventure Games, and Games in general in how the interface works without being hand-holded. There are aspects that are clunky such as it’s hard to move Adam to a new scene as there are no direction pointers, and there is a little bit of pixel hunting.
In most of Sierra’s Adventure games, it was very common for the player to accidentally have the main character fall off a cliff, and die. This game is the exception; Adam will not die, so there is no need to worry and always having saving the game before I undertook anything risky. I can make as many mistakes as possible and I never found myself stuck in an unwinnable state requiring me to load up a previous save game before the dead end.
The player controls Adam from third person point of view. The interface consists of the classic Sierra mouse interface introduce from King’s Quest 5 from 1990 and on, and consists of a walk icon, look icon, touch/pick up icon, the inventory icon, features the recycle icon, and a question mark, and control panel to save, and load the game.
This interface is a great because there is interactivity without there being so many options and choices that I was never overwhelmed. Using the wrong icons, and getting a funny response back from the narrator. Sadly, the narrator was dropped from the later Sierra Adventure games. It’s fun to make a mistake when the narrator or main character will give you a funny reply. The narrator will say “No sense in trying that.” I got a laugh, but at least the game gave a response that it will not work rather than nothing at all. This was the error of later Adventure Games where all the charm of making mistakes is dropped. It’s awful not to get a response even if one made a mistake. The narrator also gave clues to the puzzles as well. I think this game is a bit like a picture books, or the narrator is a remnant from text adventure games that was dropped when Adventure Games went from being influenced from books to movies. The narrator does get annoying at times when I make Adam perform an action, it describes the action, I can see it happening, and thus the narration is redundant, excessive to some point and not needed.
Puzzles is a whole another ball of wax in Adventure Games, this game is no exception. This sets the Adventure game genre apart from other genres like Action games where winning and killing is the emphasis, and here it is about solving puzzles, so that the story will move on. The puzzles are typical inventory based puzzles. Adam picks up objects and puts them in his inventory. I wonder how Adam carries all these objects, but this is besides the point. He uses objects in his inventory on another object, character, and somewhere in the scene/environment. Once a puzzle is solved, the story moves on. The problem with this game as with many Adventure Games is that it is easy to get stuck and bogged down on a puzzle causing the story to halt. Adventure Game puzzles are not known for being logical. Defining what is logical is a matter of debate, logical in my world or logical in the game’s world. It can be a stretch to figure some of the solutions to the problems partly because of the limitations of the interface. It took many hours to figure out some of the puzzles of this game, but that was when I was 9 years old. I was more patient back then when it comes to this type of game genre. Fortunately, this game is extremely easy for a hardcore battle harden Adventure game player, but for a new Adventure Gamer, this game is the perfect introduction to the Adventure Game genre. I highly recommend it as it showcases the basics of the genre without the frustrations, but be prepared to be patient, it’s not a fast game.
In retrospect; I enjoyed playing this game and replaying it years later. The graphics and music are adequate for the task, but that is not the point of this game, but experiencing another world under the sea and meeting and helping the most amazing sea animals all while learning about the oceans and the environment, and how I can make a difference. I can certainly say that one thing that I gained from this game, is about the importance of recycling.
Helping Others, Learning about the Environment, Intuitive Interface
Why NOT Play:
Some Pixel Hunting, some puzzles will leave you scratching your head
Ecoquest 2: Lost Secret of the Rainforest
Pepper’s Adventure in Time
Copyright © 2014 Robert Perrett