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Not Exactly Gold, But Decent Anyway

  • Frogge
  • 02/08/2019 06:10 PM

Guardians of Gold by amanta4ray
Length: ~3.5 hours

Truly a book worthy of preservation.

While it was The Treasured Medallion for the review pirates event that got the bounty, I ended up having to try out another one instead. I mean, can you really blame me? People have said that game's over 30 hours, and knowing that I do not review games unless I finish them, if I ended up taking on that bounty, I absolutely would not have had the time to play and review anything else. However, I was intrigued by the developer's style for their games and wanted to give something from them a go, even if it wasn't the game with the bounty. I decided that I wanted to start with the shortest of the bunch, which happened to be Guardians of Gold. Sadly, I should've probably paid a bit more attention, because as it turns out this is actually a sequel to Echoes of the Past. And while I generally make it my duty not to play sequels without playing the original, Guardians of the Gold luckily turned out to be a pretty self contained experience that I was easily able to understand without having to play the predecessor. There seem to be a few connections to the previous game scattered throughout, but nothing too major from the looks of it.

Guardians of the Gold is a point and click game, a genre I wish I could say I'm good with, because I genuinely enjoy what a lot of them have to offer, but Guardians of Gold is possibly one of the very few I've ever actually played, let alone finished. I'm also not super familiar with these sorts of indiana jones or tomb raider-y stories about discovering ancient civilizations and going on adventures throughout the world, but it's a genre I've always enjoyed in the rare occasions where I actually watched a movie or played a game within it. I was hoping Guardians of Gold might encourage me to get into the genre a little more because I should definetly play or watch more of these sorts of experiences, and I'm happy to say that it might indeed be a game that can set that in motion.

What immediately drew me is the game's kind of weird, low poly 3D model design that looks straight out of the early playstation era. I'm not gonna lie to you, it looks ugly as hell, but I think that's part of its charm. There's something really intriguing about it that I can't really explain. Maybe it's the nostalgia, or maybe it's how surreal it looks, but it's definetly what sold Guardians of Gold for me. The game uses a mix of 3D renders and photorealistic images, and while I'm not super fond of the latter and would have much preferred that the world be fully rendered in the low poly 3D style, I don't necessarily mind either. If the visual style from the screenshots intrigues you, I think you'll enjoy what the game has to offer in terms of its visuals, some areas in particular looking genuinely great. The character renders are also ugly as hell, but that kind of fits the game's entire aesthetic of the early plastation look. I will say some of them could use a bit more refining, especially in terms of hair. There's a few characters who have their hair coming out in these really weird thin streaks and you can see all of their bald spots, almost like their face has been burned off. For the most part, though, they look perfectly fine, and Guardians of Gold's visuals get my stamp of approval. I can see why some people might not like the look of the game, but I can appreciate the whole aesthetic it's got going on.

Man, I can't believe they actually got Johnny Depp in this game.

The animations are generally pretty damn well done too. I like that the character faces actually animate as you talk to them, it's a really nice touch. The animation does feel a bit... laggy, if that makes sense, because most of it has few frames with long pauses in between. I thought this might be due to low FPS at first, but no, it's actually just how the game looks. This is the only major issue I have with the visuals, and while it doesn't particularly ruin this aspect of the game, I'd still have preferred that the animations were a bit faster.

And you know what else I wish was faster? The walking speed. It was a great decision to make it so that you can quickly teleport to the other maps by double clicking the exits becuase waiting for Ally and Kyle to walk anywhere is a literal punch in the balls. It doesn't help that the pathfinding can sometimes get confused and take longer roads to reach your destination, forcing you to watch characters do a full unnecessary U-turn just to get to where they're supposed to. You also can't cancel an interaction midway while walking, so if you accidentally click on an object, you're gonna have to wait until your character walks all the way there to check it before you can move again.

The gameplay in general is actually the worst part of this game, I would say, but I'll go over the other half of the game's presentation real quick before I get to that - the sound design.

The music here isn't really all that bad. I don't know if it's stock music or an original soundtrack, but the tunes can generally set the atmosphere just fine. There's some issues I had with sound design, such as how a lot of your actions, particularly during puzzles, don't really have any sound to give you feedback, making them feel a bit more bland, but that's hardly the worst thing about the puzzles, though more on that when we get to talking about the gameplay. The music's generally pretty mellow and quiet. The game's atmosphere in general is very peaceful and you probably won't find yourself getting very stressed. There's little to no danger in the adventure, and no way to die in the game at all. That being said, I'm glad the stress is sort of non existent because trust me when I say the puzzles are gonna take a lot out of you in this game. Again, I'll get to that soon. Do beware if you decide to turn the audio up, because while most of the game's pretty quiet, the goddamn plane sound effect scared the jeebezus out of me because of how much there's a spike in the loudness of it compared to the rest of the game's sounds. Some of the sound effects here are also straight up hilarious, which I'm not sure if that was intentional, but I get the feeling that it probably was. The sound effects in the church and auction in particular straight up feel like they've been taken from The Simpsons or something, and the auction section in particular gave me a good chuckle. There's also a section where you have to give a guy laxatives to get him stuck in the bathroom, giving you time to snoop around in his hotel room, and if you actually go near the bathroom door, you can hear him taking some real wet shits. Make of that what you will.

Only issue I had regarding sound design is that the music seems to reset each time you enter a map, so if you walk around a lot like me, you're gonna hear the first 5 seconds of each track a LOT, and you probably will considering how much you're likely to get stuck and wander around aimlessly in this game.

Well, the most disappointing part of this game so far is that I can't look up porn on the internet.

But enough teasing you about how dumb the puzzles in this game are, time to actually talk about how dumb the puzzles in this game are. I think I'll sum up my experience pretty well by saying that I needed the walkthrough literally 5 minutes after starting the game. There's absolutely no attempt made into easing the player into the gameplay here with easy challenges, you're straight off thrown into a gigantic puzzle that requires you to collect a whole bunch of items and solve multiple puzzles just to actually get the game's story started. And I could not put down the walkthrough the entire game, sadly. The difficulty curve is surprisingly weird too. I struggled a lot near the start, but found the game getting easier for the second half of the first act (up until you get to France), and then pick its pace back up, get easier again, get harder, and so on. In fact, I would say the final area was laughably easy in comparison to the first. That being said, I still needed the walkthrough just like I did with the rest of the game, I just managed to get further on my own before needing to pick it back up. I think it mainly boils down to the fact that the game rarely every gives you any direction as to what you're supposed to do, and I don't think a puzzle game should hold your hand by any means, but throwing someone in the middle of the woods and telling them to find the way out isn't the same as throwing someone in the middle of the woods but teaching them to use a compass. Both are challenging, but at least in one of them you have a chance of figuring your way out. If it isn't clear enough, Guardians of Gold takes the route of leaving you stranded without any direction.

While the majority of puzzles involve having to use items on specific locations like in most adventure games, there's also a few straight up puzzles thrown in there, and if you thought the rest of the puzzles were bad, wait until you see these. Not a single one of these ever felt like it was actually fitting as much as it felt like it was there just to be there. To give you an idea on how stupid they can get, there's anything from having to figure out some maths problems on a puzzle book to find the code for a safe (maths on its own is bad enough!) to solving an anagram puzzle on a statue that somehow makes a hidden compartment open up. Some of them aren't even puzzles. There's some straight up minigames in the final area, such as one where you have to move a basket with the arrow keys to catch falling orbs or a sort of candy crush-y one where you have to fill the screen with gold coins by getting rid of all the other gems and skulls on screen. I oversimplified that last one a bit, but take my word for it when I say that it really isn't much of a puzzle.

Are you shitting me, Eduardo? You're gonna hide the location to a key that unlocks a city of gold and you do it with a second grade level word finding puzzle?

There's also an issue in that a lot of these puzzles are really time consuming and tedious. For example, in the word finding puzzle I showed above, you have to click the letters in their exact order, and it doesn't help that one misclick can force you to reset. Even accidentally clicking the same letter twice leaves you unable to cross that word out, forcing you to reset. While not every puzzle is this annoying, all of them still take way longer than they probably should. Believe me, if the game handed me a skip option, I would use it on every puzzle in this game.

This is the main aspect of the game that ruined it for me, because everything else here is actually pretty solid. I'm sure the correct audience can appreciate the brain teasers and how difficult most of the game is without a walkthrough, but I'm personally happy the walkthrough exists because there's no way in hell I could have beat this game without it.

Luckily, the game lets you switch between Kyle and Ally after the first act which serves nicely to break things up a little bit. It prevents immediately having to rush to the walkthrough when you get stuck and lets you try playing as the other for a while if you're getting bored with your current character. I do kind of wish Ally and Kyle could actually meet (you can put them in the same map, but the other won't actually be there. When you switch, whoever the other character is will disappear), it would be fun to see them talk a little to break things up more, and it might've also been a good oppurtunity to have the other give you some hints if you're stuck.

Something else like the puzzles and walking speed that's unnecessarily time consuming is navigating the menus. The buttons are super tiny so trying to switch to my cursor or "interact hand" always took me a couple clicks to get right, not to mention the menu itself really takes some painstakingly long time to navigate. The menu isn't really that good visually either, which is something about the visuals I forgot to mention and am too lazy to go back to add in to that section of that review. The UI in this game is actually really ugly, feeling like something mocked up in MS paint. I know being ugly's this game's entire aesthetic and stuff, and that's kinda what I like about it, but I'd be lying if I said I was a huge fan of the UI. The title screen, too, actually, is hilariously bad looking. The options are kinda just randomly thrown around without any order. There's little to no visual feedback for clicking on something in the menus, just like the lack of sound I mentioned earlier. A lot of the UI feels highly unpolished, almost as if the developer didn't really know what they were doing and just kinda threw together what they could quickly. I've never used Adventure Game Maker so I can't really tell how impressive this game is by the engine's standarts, but it could definetly use a bit more refining none the less.

Oh yes, putting on sunglasses in a dark catacomb to solve a puzzle. How did I not think of that just like any sane person would?

Luckily, the writing along with the visuals was enough to keep me going through to the end. While the story isn't excellent or anything, I really enjoy this sort of ancient society search across the world type of story as I said earlier. The dialogue's pretty belieaveable and the characters are likeable. It's interesting, this game's written in such a way that it almost reminds me of something piano would write, so I think he might enjoy this game. Anyway, before I get sidetracked again, back to the writing. The humour's not that bad, and while there wasn't much to make me laugh, I appreciate the lighthearted nature of the game. Some jokes can feel really forced at times, such as the ones at the temple, but nothing too bad, at least in my opinion. I can see that some people might really hate this game's sense of humour, but I don't mind personally.

Writing wise the only thing I really don't like is actually the ending, which feels very abrupt. It's a very boring ending, with some short boring credits to weaken the impact even more. I think longer games like this really need to have finales that are gonna leave a sweet taste in your mouth, and I've seen 30 minute long games with better endings than this game's. Hell, the average movie is an hour thirty minutes long, and even the really shitty ones generally have an ending that I can at least say left me feeling satisfied. I felt like I watched that movie and it ended, whereas Guardians of Gold almost feels like it just rushed some quick bs in there just for the sake of it and made no effort to leave any impact. I wasn't left thinking "Man, I sure finished that game" as much as I was left thinking "Oh, it's over. Okay." Also, the game needlessly spoils the first game at the end too by mentioning some things the characters had to do and some of the experiences they had in a completely unnecessary attempt at adding in a connection between this game and the last. Thanks for spoiling it when you absolutely didn't have to, you jerks!

However, despite everything, I think I enjoyed Guardians of Gold. The issues are sadly very striking, but I still feel interested enough in the rest of the developer's games to play them soon. The visual style has a charm to it and the writing's quite decent. There's a lot of genuinely great moments sprinkled throughout that I think will be pretty memorable to me, but the gameplay really makes it kind of difficult to give the game a higher rating. I think there's potential here, and I hope the rest of the developer's games will be much better than this was. Even so, I can recommend giving Guardians of Gold a spin for the writing and visuals, but just have the walkthrough at hand, because you're absolutely gonna need it.

I give it three and a half golden tokes out of five.

I keep clicking but it won't let me connect to the internet!