Boarding the anticipation band wagon can be perilous at the best of times. When the promise is met, there’s no better feeling—finally playing and loving something that’s been a long time coming. There’s also a very real risk of something buckling under the weight of expectations. That’s the price you pay for riding, I guess. One of those risks you take. Anna’s Quest is a game I’ve been following for a long while now. (Since it was Anna’s Room in fact, revealed on the old Adventure Gamers forum.) In that time I’ve gotten to know the developer a little better. In some ways this makes prospects a whole lot scarier on the anticipation front. I want this to be great, but what if it wasn’t? What if I didn’t like it? I’m happy to say that ol’ waiting predicament has paid off!
Anna’s Quest is a traditional hand drawn, point-and-click adventure of a welcomed kind, one with a sense of charm and old school nostalgia. Saying the art direction is beautiful would be an understatement. It’s just so damn pretty looking: clean, sharp and colourful. A comparison that constantly came to mind as I played was definitely Curse of Monkey Island and not just in art direction, an influence found in the interface too. Those familiar with LucasArts’ adventures of the late ‘90s will know what to expect, a collection of simple and intuitive contextual icons. (Examine, take and talk.) Like the beloved kick icon in Full Throttle, Anna’s Quest has a unique one too—telekinesis—an interesting hook pivotal to the story itself.
The game pretty much hits the ground running, with our protagonist Anna already in all kinds of trouble: captured in a fortified tower surrounded by woods, experimented on by an old hagged witch—truly the makings of bed time reading at its finest. This story book feel isn’t coincidental either, a stylized presentation established almost immediately in a sepia-toned opening cutscene. (Not to mention in the free, playable prologue that complements the game.) There’s something warm and endearing about it, I’ve got to say. A premise that’s simple and executed with an expert precision. I appreciated how well realized the world and lore of Anna’s Quest felt too, something helped by a generous supply of hot spots!
Ever since my formative adventure gaming years I’ve had a thing for exploring a game’s world to the fullest. Sure, you can have elaborate backgrounds with plenty of detail, but it means nothing if a character has little to say. (I’m looking at you Syberia. *shakes fist*) Hearing a character’s unique thoughts and point-of-view of their surrounds adds a whole damn lot to the setting. It’s fun to get an insight into our hero’s noggin as well, what makes ‘em tick and all that. (One of the reasons I love the Gabriel Knight games so much.) Might seem pretty minor, but it’s something I really do appreciate and something Anna’s Quest happens to do well.
I like the characters too, all likable and funny. There was a goofy smile plastered across my face almost the entire time through at the dialogue, an occasional line or two that would make me laugh out loud like an idiot as well. For the most part, the voice acting serves the small ensemble nicely. (There’s a little inconsistency in the sound quality, but the performances are excellent.) This won’t be an issue to some people, but I would’ve appreciated the ability to turn the subtitles off. Often when I’m playing a game with subtitles no matter how much I’m enjoying it, I feel the need to read the text instead of watching the animation and listening to the actors. Unfairly makes the voice acting seem slow as a by-product. Just something to keep in mind.
The puzzles are the kind I appreciate, inventory based and occasionally abstract. Anna’s Quest does a good job of giving you subtle hints in the dialogue too. There’s enough advice given to help you out if you’re stuck, but not enough to hinder that feeling of satisfaction at successfully solving one good and proper. From time-to-time the game will stop you from getting one step ahead of a puzzle, for better or worse. (For example if you try to get an inventory item before you’re supposed to or have reason to you will be stopped.) This makes a lot of sense story wise, but unintentionally gives the impression you’re on the wrong path. These instances were really the only time I found myself properly stumped.
The length of the game itself is relatively short, a couple of hours at most depending on how fast you get through the puzzles. (Though a couple of hours I’m very glad I took.) It’s worth noting that Anna’s Quest is the first volume in a longer series, so story points will be left open and not resolved. There’s enough of a self-contained story to keep this installment satisfying enough, but I warn you now that you’ll certainly want more by the time the credits roll. (Ain’t that the rule, though? Always leave ‘em wanting more.) There’s plenty of clues to character origins and I’m sure a little foreshadowing in there too. Honestly can’t wait to see what’s coming up next.
For such a small team, they’ve done an incredible job keeping the production values high. The score is stirring and mysterious too. (With a little bit of music box thrown in to set the mood.)
Anna’s Quest is not without a note worthy flaw, though, specifically the 4:3 resolution. To me it seemed a little out-of-date, especially on a large wide screen monitor. It looks incredibly good, even stretched though and you have the option to play full screen with black borders. You can’t really fault the game too much, just worth noting. In some ways I think it’s an ideal candidate for iOS and Android platforms. Also the lack of any auto-save makes the ol’ adventure game chest nut to save early and save often note worthy. (I’m only mentioning this because of a one off technical problem I had that skipped all the dialogue, but otherwise it ran perfectly.)
You might be wondering why I wrote such a long, detailed write-up. Truth be told it was to show my appreciation for such a cool little indie project, a kind that I hope to see more of side-by-side with the current big titles on the horizon. The game is truly a labor of love, that much is obvious. I can’t recommend it enough if you’re even remotely interested!
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Time Played: 2-5 hours