The quality of adventure games are not always dependent on price. I recently played Ripley's Believe It or Not! "The Riddle of Master Lu" by Sanctuary Woods. This is an older game (1995) which I purchased for about $7.00. This is an excellent bargain.
The game is based on the adventures of Robert Ripley who drew a daily cartoon describing "oddities" collected from around the world. The motivation for your character is also to procure exhibits for the "Odditorium" Museum. In this game your goal is to follow the travels of the mythical Master Lu to gain insight into getting into the tomb of the First Emperor of China. Along the way evil henchmen dog your every step. The plot and the historical background information that is given create a unique gaming experience.
The main character of Ripley is an amusing, fleshed out person. His discomfiture when Dr. Samantha Twelvetrees kisses him is winning. His real love interest, Mei Li is portrayed as a smart strong female (a characterization that is a favorite of mine). I was impressed that the writers took care to give nuances and personalities to the inhabitants of this game.
The best adventure games have puzzles which use cunning and intellect to solve a dilemma which is seamlessly integrated into the plot (i.e., Tex Murphy). Master Lu achieves this admirably but not perfectly. Most puzzles are solvable but some gamers will need a boost. A walkthrough of an early scene is included to help you get started if necessary. Some puzzles are extremely pixel dependent (billiard room). The is one large maze which I mapped out very diligently and seemed a lot of work for the two things retrieved. Apparently there is a cheat for this if it is too frustrating. Getting the Romanov Emerald could be a classic for an adventure game puzzle.
Besides finding the tomb another facet of the game is to keep Ripley solvent by sending unusual items back to his museum in New York. Until you have sent back enough things, the "Odditorium" is in peril of being shut down. This becomes known because you receive a plaintive telegram EVERY TIME you enter a "Posh Express" office. This becomes very annoying after a while because there seemed no way to bypass it.
This is a DOS based game and must be installed as such. Sanctuary Woods has thoughtfully provided good installation instructions. The graphics are nicely detailed but you are reminded that this game predated lush 360 degree movement and a 3-D environment. The icons that allow you to deal with objects are look at an object; use, manipulate; take. This set-up was awkward at times because multiple clicking between icons was necessary to use an item.
Overall I really liked this game. The characters were excellent and the puzzles were doable but very challenging. It is obvious the care the writers took in researching Robert Ripley and creating wonderful locales for him to explore. I will take this opportunity to plead to the creators of this game to please come up with a sequel-I would buy it in an instant.