The concept of Agon, a new adventure game, is that the developers Private Moon Studios will release a total of fourteen downloadable episodes over the course of two years. This works much like a book, because just one episode in itself tells only a chapter of the story. Agon is basically an adventure game that tells the tale of a British professor by the name of Samuel Hunt who loves to investigate strange things, solve puzzles, and so on. So far two episodes have been released, each priced at about $10. The game’s premise starts in 1903 - specifically in the British Museum of History in London. You learn of some strange artifacts and some equally strange games that are somehow connected. During the first episode you walk around the museum, looking for clues, trying to fool the not too bright security guard, and once in a while conversing on phone with your friend Dr Thomas Smythe, who offers assistance.
In the second episode quite a few things have happened, and you’ve traveled to Lapland (Finland) in search of a man named Vainio, who as you’ll learn holds the key to another piece of the puzzle. I don’t want to talk about the storyline too much, because it would be easy to spoil some of the surprises.
You play the game just like you did in games like Myst, Riven, the later Tex Murphy games, and so on – being able to pan the camera to your will, clicking in the direction you want to move. Like in the previously mentioned games you spend much of the time moving around, looking for items to interact with, figuring out what to do next, and pulling your hair at the sometimes devious puzzles. While playing the game you’ll usually have to keep a notebook close by, because the game sometimes requires you to remember number, morse code, messages, and so on. The puzzles range in difficulty, but most of them are relatively logical as long as you’ve read the appropriate books, which are typically close-by. Sometimes you have to look at machine schematics to figure out how certain locks work, and other times you have to read log books to figure out the correct order for certain things.
I’d say the overall difficulty is at about “medium” compared to other adventure games, because while the game may be easy at times, the developers seem to have hidden critical items in spots you might not have thought of at first, making you run around in circles looking for that one important item that’s hidden right above you, or behind something. Unlike in some similar games you can’t really tell what items are important just by looking at the rendering, so prepare to do some old-fashioned “pixel hunting”, just like in the good old days of VGA. Having to look for hidden items is probably the biggest challenge in the game, for better or worse.
At the time of their release Myst and Riven amazed people with extremely detailed renderings. Private Moon Studios is a much smaller company, so you can’t expect it to be equal on every regard, but it still looks very good. The characters look nice, are animated well, and so on, but a few of them could’ve used some more polygons in the face. Reflective surfaces are used on mirrors, and you’ll find a couple of semi-dynamic shadows in use, but honestly this is a game you play for the storyline and the puzzles, not the eye-candy.
I doubt the interface could’ve been much easier than it is. I’ve already explained the “move and use” mechanics, but to the top right of the screen you find three buttons. The first brings up the menu, where you can save, load etc. The second brings up your files, which holds clues, and acts as a partial log. The third brings up the inventory, where you can investigate certain items, or drag them to something in the game to interact with it. You rarely keep a huge load of items in your inventory, so you rarely have to try a lot of items on something, just to see if it works.
In terms of audio the game does a good job as well. The voice-overs are professionally done, and seem to fit relatively well with most of the characters – especially in the first episode. In the second episode the Finnish characters seem to speak without any form of Finnish dialect, which doesn’t sound overly realistic – but that’s not a big detail. Really nice background music is used at certain times in the game, usually to make a situation more exciting or emotional. During most of the game you’re left with the sound of yourself walking, and the sound-effects when you interact with items. I think the developers did a good job balancing the amount of audio, because too much could distract you from the thought process, while too little could make the game somewhat boring.
Agon’s storyline may not be as epic, or fantastic as those in other major adventure titles, but it has a bit of that magic ingredient that gets you addicted. This isn’t an easy game, so you should be a bit motivated before you get started, but it’s also not a very hard game, so veteran adventure gamers may not be overly challenged. I really like how the game takes you to very different locations in the individual episodes, and how the quality seems to be high so far.
There will be a total of fourteen episodes, so if you'll get addicted, you’ll have to pay a bit to experience the whole storyline, but when it’s spread over two years I’m sure the developers will make it worth it.