IntroductionI do not consider myself a vindictive person. I feel that I try to be fair to most games and most ideas, so long as the end result is something I feel is worth my time and energy to experience.
So when a game fails spectacularly to make its experience worthwhile, as is the case with Adam's Venture: Origins, I feel I must be upfront about my feelings. It is my sincere opinion that this is not a good game, or even a passable one. I cannot conceive of an angle or state of mind that would allow for developer Vertigo Games's work to be viewed as anything less than a sub-par, half-hearted creation.
It yearns to draw in the Uncharted crowd with its promise of environmental puzzles, platforming and scenic locales based on history (after a fact). Yet it doesn't deserve to be compared to anything so stellar - not with such simplistic and inane mechanics surrounded by technical issues and baffling design decisions aplenty.
Those with the interest in purchasing this game can find it on Steam.
StoryAdam's Venture is set in the 1920s and follows Adam Venture (yes, really), the son of a scholar with a taste for adventure and a habit of making terrible jokes. Adam is swept up in a hunt for notable religious locales, because of a map in a tomb underneath his father's study (how or why this tomb is conveniently underneath Adam's father's estate is never made clear).
On his globe-trotting adventure, Adam is joined by the dry-witted assistant Evelyn and is opposed by a corporation seeking these religious locales because of money. Also, there's an evil spirit that might be the Snake from the Book of Genesis.
Where do I begin?
Adam's a boring character who'd be annoying if he weren't playing the Nathan Drake-but-in-1920s-Europe angle without an ounce of passion. Evelyn is worse, sounding detached and disinterested even when the script suggests otherwise.
No character is given an exceptional amount of depth, no one's motivations are treated with even the slightest hint of mystery or nuance, and no attempt at raising tension and building to a satisfying climax works because the game feels at once too short and stretched out to fill time. There's also an overwhelming lack of clarity to whatever mysteries ARE posed, such as the aforementioned evil spirit.
What exactly is it? Why is it here? One thing's for sure: you'll never get an answer from the game.
Even worse, the subject matter on which the story rests is mundane at best. The central "hook" here is that this game is taking Naughty Dog's approach to showcasing exotic locales in its games and applying it to concepts ripped straight from Christianity. Major names like the Garden of Eden and King Soloman's tomb get dropped here, with Adam's Venture seemingly banking on these common references being enough to draw in religiously-inclined players.
I'll admit, as someone whose faith has grown increasingly complicated in recent years, the game doubling down on its Bible quotes and "Power of Love" theme really did nothing but inspire cool indifference in me. Moreover, there's just nothing clever or particularly intelligent being DONE with these ideas and locales - it's all trite, obvious writing better suited to Sunday School than a commercial product.
By the end, I was sick of listening to characters I didn't care about drone on about a conflict that didn't matter to me. There's a gem of an interesting idea in the "main" villain's scheme, in that it's something that could conceivably make for a powerful story exploring the tensions between differing religions. However, as with everything else in Adam's Venture, this story beat is tossed aside moments after it's introduced and is forgotten by everyone but the player. What a waste.
GameplayIn design, this is a bog-standard 3D puzzle-platformer, wherein the player primarily solves a string of loosely-connected puzzles while occasionally running, jumping and climbing through levels.
Adam is controlled from a third-person perspective, with simple but functional movements keys in place. For unique instances where running and jumping isn't as viable, Adam carries around a grappling hook (TOTALLY NOT ripped lazily from Uncharted 4) that must be called upon to cross certain gaps or pull down objects that subsequently serve as makeshift bridges.
There are some obligatory stealth sections that involve evading guards thrown in as well, but overall the focus is squarely on the puzzles. To the game's credit, some of these puzzles can be legitimately challenging and interesting in design, though for the most part, the difficulty here is due to obtuse design. Solutions are often obscured by each puzzle having different and poorly-defined rules, thus making it so that no one approach or way of thinking can carry you through.
This issue of constantly-changing puzzles really grinds the game's pace to a halt during the last few levels, where I was increasingly left frustrated by Adam's Venture playing coy about how to progress. One puzzle near the end even left me damn close to hysterics, with the solution inspiring an "Are you serious?" response in me
Where the game isn't infuriating and opaque, it's boring. Every bit of platforming is linear and controlled, with the game not really encouraging exploration of its frankly small environments. Stealth sequences were irritating to play through, in large part because the guards' field of view is erratic (you can sneak through a nearby aisle even as they're flashing a light from the other side, but if you lightly brush behind them it's game over). And level length goes from astoundingly short to excruciatingly drawn-out.
Not helping matters is the game's frequent bouts of slowdown, which occurred even after I lowered the settings as far as possible. Bugs and glitches also abound, with one death happening because I hit a wall while jumping and fell through the world. What little competent gameplay is here has been further compromised by these dreadful technical issues.
PresentationIf there can be one thing said in the game's favour, it's that the locales on display during Adam's quest are beautiful from an artistic standpoint. The level locations range from the desert city of Jerusalem to dark caverns, all nicely lit and showcasing a healthy array of colours. I was particularly drawn to one level set in a crystal-filled cave, bathed in cyan light.
However, this is undermined by the slowdown mentioned above - which seems to affect even sparsely-populated areas - as well as clear graphical limitations of the engine. Several characters' hair had this odd peach-fuzz quality indicative of low-fidelity textures, and up-close some character models clearly belong in the Uncanny Valley with how disconcerting they look.
I'm also a little put-off by their animations, especially in cutscenes. Male characters, in particular, do this constant head-bob motion that passed by me the first time but became incredibly obvious as time wore on. When taken with their plastic doll-like appearance, I found myself legitimately unsettled and detached from the experience as a result.
Sound design here is inoffensive but unremarkable, with the clearest lack of effort appearing in the voice acting. Whatever happened to make the voice cast phone-in their performances, it shows virtually every time a character opens their mouth. Adam's voice actor fares best, in that it's at least not grating when he speaks, but I'm puzzled by the character talking as though he were raised in the 2000s rather than 80 years prior.
My VerdictI wanted to like this one - there's merit to its puzzle-first design philosophy and I appreciated the look of the world if nothing else. But it's not worth your time or energy persevering through an otherwise low-energy, low-effort production just for a few bright spots.
|+Good Art Design||-Dull & Trite Narrative|
|-Boring, Simplistic Characters|
|-Poor Sound Design|