Good games based on movies are few and far between. There are plenty of tie-in games every year – where there's money to be made, this is going to happen – but, with a few notable exceptions, most of them manage to be mediocre at best. On the face of it, Gold and Glory: The Road to El Dorado, appeared to be among the few with real potential. Created back in 2000 to coincide with Dreamworks' animated movie The Road to El Dorado, development duties were handled by a certain Revolution Software, who are no slouches when it comes to adventure game design (they are, after all, the creators of Broken Sword and Beneath a Steel Sky). The film itself, meanwhile, featured the kind of plot that could lend itself well to an adventure game, with a healthy dose of exploration and problem-based situations, and plenty of comic potential. So, could Gold and Glory be one of the better game adaptations?
Things certainly start promisingly enough. After a video montage of clips from the film, the game begins with the two main characters, Tulio and Miguel, reminiscing about their adventure, which is then played out in flashback. After a brief opening dialogue, you're then dumped near some docks (where the film also opens), and need to get out without being caught. Not that the plot remains this straightforward, of course, as a dice game leaves them in possession of a map to the treasure-laden lost city of El Dorado, which they can only reach after evading the clutches of the evil Spaniard Hernán Cortés.
Visually, Gold and Glory does well. Oddly enough for a game based on a 2D cartoon animation, the game is actually in 2.5D, with distinctly 3D models on rendered 2D backgrounds. Despite the extra (half) dimension, though, the game does a good job of capturing the cartoonish look of the film, and the 3D models, though quite simple by modern standards, handle the characters well. At various points during the game, clips from the film itself are used, and it's a testament to the game's artistic direction that the stylistic change isn't nearly as jarring as one might expect. These animated clips are actually used rather cleverly in the game, being used at times to advance the plot in ways that are subtly different from the film.
Audio, too, is pretty good. The film featured some songs by Elton John and Tim Rice, along with a score by Hans Zimmer. For better or worse, the game doesn't, and most of it is accompanied by ambient sound effects rather than music. What is here, though, is well written, has character, and is appropriate for the context of the game, whether making use of percussion-heavy Caribbean stylings or more common orchestral flourishes in the more dramatic moments. Voice acting is traditionally a weak link in film tie-ins: with a lack of involvement from the stars of the film, sound-alikes tend to be used, with occasionally dreadful results. But while Gold and Glory has to put up with actors that only sound a bit like Kevin Kline and Kenneth Branagh, the stand-ins do a reasonable job. They're not perfect – there's a little too much overacting going on – but I never felt the need to turn the speech volume down to zero either.
Control of the two player characters in the PC version (the version reviewed here, though the game was also released for Sony's PlayStation) is a relatively straightforward process, and players will switch between them at various times throughout the game, though never wandering far from the other. Anyone who has played another Revolution Software game called In Cold Blood will feel immediately at home, since the two games share an engine and interface, while for newcomers it comes down to a choice of actor- or camera-relative keyboard or gamepad controls to manoeuvre a character around the screen. This all works well enough, though the decision to make the run control a 'run forward' option rather than a simple speed toggle can be a frustration. The running speed is also a bit too fast; it can be a tad awkward directing the character around when running, though running isn't usually necessary either. There's also a button that causes the character to crouch, which comes in handy for the occasional sneaking section. Inventory management, which is particularly streamlined in Gold and Glory (you can't, for instance, examine items or use one item on another) is straightforward. Jumping over gaps in the floor, though, is much less straightforward. This happens at several points in the game, but a lack of marked hotspots makes it difficult at times to judge precisely where you're supposed to stand. Most of the time it's fairly obvious that you need the character to jump and you're not up against any tight time limits, but the locations where a character can jump could have been shown more clearly, as there's simply no response at all if you're not standing in the right place. All in all, though, the interface is acceptable, though a lack of any form of mouse support will almost certainly irritate some.
So far so reasonable, but Gold and Glory reveals its weaknesses in the two areas that many players are likely to care about most: story and puzzles.Continued on the next page...