Imagine the following as soft elevator music plays in the background: You peer down to see that you dress like a lumberjack. Then examining the surroundings, you suddenly realize you have been transported to an office. Here, you are greeted by two transparent human beings who work at their desks. Not surprisingly, the door standing before you is locked. Knowing you must move on, you wrack your brain, staring at the only item sitting in your hand: a box. It must open the door, you think to yourself. Miraculously, when you press the box against the doorframe, it sticks to the door handle. You wiggle your head in utter confusion and watch as the box unexpectedly smacks down into a crack in the door, swinging it wide open. You take careful steps through the doorway, and then everything freezes. You are stuck for eternity, staring at a black wall, eating chocolate.
No, this is not a temporary adventure game nightmare that can be ended by waking up and drinking warm milk. This is a frightening scene that could haunt you forever if you dare to load it onto your computer. I did. I ventured into the mysterious realm of Forever Worlds, and my experiences there, to say the least, will never be forgotten…no matter how much I desire to erase them from my memory.
Hexagon Entertainment presents Forever Worlds, where the player becomes the hero, Jack Lanser. Dressed in lumberjack gear, you head out to a magical tree in search of Doc Maitland, a missing paleontologist. Early on in the game, the story takes an outlandish turn as Jack becomes someone else, and that someone else becomes Jack during a confusing game of twister. When you realize that you have traded places (if you ever do), you will notice that the world around Jack is not quite normal, featuring magic stones, oddly colored bananas, chocolate, transparent beings, chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate. This new world functions on a different kind of logic, if you can even call it logic, and this illogical world sets the stage for a variety of complicated puzzles and pathways.
Since it is minimal, let me begin with what truly delighted me about Forever Worlds. The opening cutscene effectively sets the stage for the story, presenting players with gorgeous, animated visuals, intriguing music, and an overacted, but fun voiceover. The voiceover pulls players into the story and hints at a tinge of offbeat humor that runs throughout the remainder of the game. I must say, it succeeded in grabbing me immediately.
Another redeemable highlight of the game comes when Jack meets IX, a talking Lizard with an attitude. This Lizard is the saving grace of this game for the minute amount of time he actually engages with Jack. This character instantly reminded me of the lantern wizard from Zork: Grand Inquisitor, a loud-mouthed and truly fun character who helps guide Jack along his journey. In fact, the game seems to have been inspired by the Zork series, its witty and magical stories. In the end, and in the beginning, however, the game never succeeds. Two paragraphs dedicated to good news are already too much.
Now let’s spiral into the Forever nightmare. Please note: I may scatter a few kind comments here and there as I run through the bad news, but that’s only because I found moments of great promise. These kind words should only help to emphasize my criticisms of the game, proving that the developer’s potential--of which there is plenty--is never fully, partially, or even somewhat tapped into.
While the opening cutscene and many other scattered cutscenes look gorgeous, the graphics lack depth and polish overall. Jumping from the first cutscene, which surprisingly impressed me, to the first shot of a static, gritty boat in water is equivalent to taking a nice warm shower and then jumping out into the freezing snow; the shock is incredibly painful. While the basic backgrounds are colorful, the game has a patchwork appearance to it. For example, one of the many stones the hero must pick up sits on the screen as if someone has placed a sticker of a digital rock on the monitor. While this sometimes makes it easy to identify items Jack must place in his inventory, this graphical flaw is certainly not as useful as it is laughable.
Near the opening boat, a jungle surrounds the river. It is a complete mess of repeated 3D leaves and trees, featuring a variety of green and blue shades. The jungle seems to be a favorite environment for the developers to create since there is so much of it that Jack must weed through. I am not sure if the designers intend for the jungle to be a maze, but it is--by far--the most confusing maze-like pathway I have ever experienced in any game. This may have been unintentional since the graphical nodes are simply buried in the identical patches of jungle, making it difficult for players to maneuver. The remainder of the game is much the same. A room or scene will feature a wonderful graphical idea, concept or creature, like a butterfly, and then it will repeat the graphic over and over, changing only the colors and position. Like a surreal nightmare, I was haunted by the same images throughout Forever Worlds.Continued on the next page...