Barely having kicked the sand off his feet from his last adventure, Amulet of the World, Diamon Jones has now taken himself off to the Far East in Eye of the Dragon. This land of new opportunities seems as reluctant to offer up its treasure as his previous locale, with Diamon once more starting out in archaeological failure. Sad to say, his bad luck isn’t the only thing to come along for the ride. Whilst he evidently managed to abandon a handful of unfortunate gameplay issues in Egypt, far too many have stowed away in his luggage to once more plague both Diamon and players alike.
The sequel commences with our luckless protagonist stuck in a bar in Shanghai with no funds to keep him in beer. The barkeeper offers to solve this problem if only Diamon will retrieve a mystical seal from his pawnbroker brother. It will come as no surprise to find this relatively mundane task soon leads to greater adventure, as Mr Jones and an unwelcome entourage head off in search of the eponymous ‘Eye of the Dragon’, an ancient artifact of immense power. Certainly this is not the most original of stories, as quests for artifacts of great power are a common theme in adventure games. What makes this an even less original choice than normal is that it is precisely the same premise as the first game, right down to beginning in a tavern. Even Indiana Jones, on whom this series continues to be heavily based, managed to mix it up more than that.
Alas, the plot continues to wend its predictable way through a number of clichés. There’s the map, torn into four pieces, that is the sole means of locating the fabled Lost City (this in spite of the fact that Diamon’s feuding brother companions are shown finding the seal in the opening cutscene. Did they somehow forget the way back?). The Lost City itself, whilst almost entirely ruined, still manages to house enormously complex mechanisms in perfect working order. And let us not forget a villain seizing the Eye for themselves, just when it is in our hero’s grasp. The characters are equally uninspired, mostly being two-dimensional and some representing such appalling stereotypes they might be considered offensive. The majority of the Chinese characters are depicted as venal and stupid, especially the Shanghai police force. This impression isn’t helped by their physical depiction as fat men with droopy moustaches and straw hats.
Those searching for a respectable piece of storytelling aren’t the only ones in for disappointment. The game world constantly displays lapses of logic that blow all sense of immersion. When you first go to the pawnshop there is nobody there, though the front door is unlocked. The shop is strewn with numerous items, many of which look quite valuable, and yet no one is around to stop kleptomaniac adventure gamers wandering off with whatever takes their fancy. This peculiar approach to retail is mirrored in later shops where I was able to walk out with what I wanted right in front of the owners’ eyes without ever being asked to pay. It would seem 1930s Shanghai is a shoplifter’s paradise. Perhaps a lack of confidence in the police has lead to this. One of them blocks you from entering a particular street until you don the flimsiest of disguises. Having passed once, the policeman will then allow you to go freely back and forth, whether you wear the disguise or not. This lack of logic extends even to the minigames that appear throughout, including a telegraph puzzle where you only need to get a percentage of the dots and dashes correct, even though any errors would almost certainly lead to a garbled message.
Minigames were a major feature of the first episode in the series, and they are just as common here. In an improvement over the original, none of these will force you to reload, as failure simply results in a restart of the game in question. This is a boon, as many of the games will require several attempts to achieve victory. Only luck will get you across the randomly rising and falling barrels in what must be the world’s most toxic sewage, which kills you the moment your feet touch the surface. There are no less than three fighting sequences, including one with a ninja (whose presence in China instead of his native Japan is never explained). The controls for these are limited to timed pressing of the two mouse buttons, not even creating appeal for those who enjoy fight games as well as adventures. Even the minigames without fatal consequences often prove frustrating. In the latter part of the game, you try to move a large bin underneath a window with a well-timed click as a pointer slides back and forth along a coloured meter. Apply too much power and you overshoot, leaving you to repeat the exercise back and forth until you apply just enough force to leave the bin in the correct position. Others are simply boring, including a dogfight where the other plane simply weaves back and forth without ever shooting back, leaving you to slowly whittle away its energy as you try to follow its dodging.
On the plus side, a small handful of minigames I did find enjoyable. A Mahjong game, where tiles are removed in pairs from the outer edges of a stacked pattern, was a pleasant diversion (at least until I realised that a simple keystroke option makes it impossible to fail). A challenge to use a knight to take all pieces scattered across a chess board required careful planning to avoid dead ends, and arranging tiles to unlock a door in the Lost City proved a satisfying challenge. Sadly, these examples are very much the exception rather than the norm. The minigames are supposedly playable from the main menu once unlocked. For some reason, however, only the games unlocked during the current playing session are ever available, so returning to the game later won’t grant you the expected access to any games prior to that point.Continued on the next page...