Some readers might lose interest in this review once they learn that Adventures in Odyssey and the Treasure of the Incas is primarily a children's adventure game. Others might resent this game for the religious conviction its developer, Digital Praise, stands for. Playing the game, however, I learned that this is neither a children-only experience, nor a Christian propaganda machine, so don't be quick to write it off for either reason.
Adventures in Odyssey began as a radio show that was first aired in 1987. At present, hundreds of episodes have been produced and the show is broadcast all over the world. In addition to the radio programs, books, video episodes and albums are now available, and in recent years, Adventures in Odyssey has branched into computer games. The series' goal is to present children, as well as their families, with fun and educational amusement containing moral principles that the creators find lacking in other popular kids' shows.
Odyssey is a small rural town where John "Whit" Whitaker lives. Whit is the typical grandfatherly character and fulfils a paternal role in the show. He is kind, wise, and in an unassuming way, the humble paragon of morality and virtue.
Whit runs a peculiar ice cream store called "Whit's End" (pun surely intended) that actually has a lot more to offer kids than just tasty treats. The large Victorian house serves as a recreation centre which is a kid's dream come true in terms of discovery, imagination and adventure. The many rooms such as the invention corner, the library and the theatre allow children to play and learn simultaneously. Whit's End serves not only as the ultimate hang-out for children; it is also the central setting of the radio program. Here the children meet each other, and it is from this place that the many Adventures in Odyssey commence.
The series features a regular cast of children, adolescents and grown-ups. While Whit is present in just about every episode, most characters appear only in certain shows, in which case the story revolves around them. This theme is carried on in the three Odyssey computer games. Like Whit, present in each game is Eugene Meltsner, a science nerd who discusses the theory of relativity with Albert Einstein in his dreams. He's an overly well-mannered adolescent with a vocabulary no one his age should possess. His manner of speaking is clever and dorky at the same time, a peculiarity that might have you laugh out loud a couple of times while listening to him talk.
Treasure of the Incas opens with a rock crashing through Eugene's window, after which a car can be heard racing away. Attached to the rock is a note with a threatening message: Eugene's parents apparently stole something that belongs to the mysterious author, and he or she wants Eugene to put a map in a gym locker. Mom and dad Meltsner went missing on an archaeological expedition in Africa years ago, and Eugene has no idea what map the letter is talking about.
The next morning Eugene visits Whit's End, where he meets up with Whit and Connie, a bright young girl who is another regular in the radio plays. They assess the situation and the adventure begins. The game's formula is simple: in segments you complete tasks as Eugene, Connie and Whit, after which the team meets back at Whit's end. There they discuss what everyone has learned, the story advances and new goals are presented to each.
The order in which you play as the three main characters is non-linear, as you get to choose freely whose goals to pursue first, and you can switch between the protagonists while you are in the middle of their respective quests. This non-linearity, however, is not very significant; what each character does and discovers only become important after everyone's tasks have been finished. The characters cannot influence or meet each other for the duration of the segment since they are restricted to their own area.
These segments are relatively short but are all unique and interesting in their own way. In the first segment, Whit decides to analyse the note, while Connie looks up information about the Meltsners on the internet. Eugene decides to look for clues among his parent's possessions. Some objectives are of the standard adventure gaming type, such as creating a device in the invention corner that lets a camera take pictures and transmit these back to Whit's End. Other tasks are more of the straightforward puzzling kind, such as deciphering an encoded message or using prisms to redirect beams of light. Some goals solely involve a character having a conversation with someone in a cutscene.
The graphics in Treasure of the Incas are an extension of the game's charming and pleasant character. Playing this game fills your screen with bright and vibrant cartoon-style graphics. When the protagonists are each working on their individual quests, the game takes on a first-person perspective with little need for animation. Dialogue is animated in a lively fashion – we get to see a lot of facial expression and all characters gesture with their hands. The voice acting is splendid; the show's usual voice actors are also featured in the game, and it is evident that they've got plenty of experience. TOTI's music is nice but nothing special, and sometimes becomes annoying during the objectives you spend more time on than others.
Treasure of the Incas is certainly designed for children and has a difficulty level to match. It is not possible to die or get stuck in a dead end. I can imagine a few puzzles being quite hard to complete for younger players, but no tasks are overly complicated. Playing the game as an adult didn't provide me with any trouble, yet I was never bored through the six or so hours it took me to finish. Completing each segment may be easy and not time consuming at all, but the challenges presented are appealing and overcoming them is satisfying. I had fun looking for clues in Eugene's note, and decoding one message required a certain degree of intelligence and reminded me of those Sudoku puzzles that are popular these days. The combination of this game being challenging for kids yet also enjoyable for adults makes Treasure of the Incas and ideal game for families to play and have fun with together.Continued on the next page...