Torin's Passage is a 1995 offering from Al Lowe, of Leisure Suit Larry fame. Tired of making games of our favorite loser Larry, Lowe had moved away from his "adult" type humor and tried to show the gaming world that he had a full sense of humor, not just one that involved sexual innuendo. His last game prior to Torin's Passage was called Freddy Pharkas, Frontier Pharmacist. His effort was pretty good, and Freddy was quite funny.
This time around, Lowe embarks on another type of comedy adventure on a magic fantasy world called Strata, that holds five lands, one underneath the other. Imagine peeling one layer off of the planet and finding a new one underneath.
The essential story line of the game is not very original. The royal couple are murdered by an evil wizard while they are sleeping. Their only child, a baby, escapes death because at the time of the murders, he is being nursed by his nanny outside. The nanny finds out what has happened and runs away with the prince to a safe place.
Fast forward to a few years later, when Torin has grown up into a muscular teenager. He has been brought up by a foster family, the Farmins, and has no idea who he really is. He is a typical teenager who now works on the family's farm and he has a pet - a strange shape shifting creature called Boogle, who throughout the game becomes quite useful by "morphing" into needed objects.
Now here is where the plot thickens. Another wizard, an ugly looking woman, appears on the farm and "freezes" his foster parents, making them look like statues. She then teleports them somewhere (you only find out where much later), and disappears. You, of course, are a witness to the whole thing and are shocked, and thus begins the adventure to find out where your step-parents have been abducted and who has abducted them.
The introduction to the game is a beautiful combination of two and three dimensional graphics. Hand drawn characters are superimposed to three dimensionally rendered backgrounds and the effect is very nice. Graphically speaking, this game was outstanding. From beginning to end it was obvious that much time was spent on the detail of all of the pictures. It seems that from now on, all of Sierra's adventure games will contain such great drawings. In fact, playing the game could be best described as playing an interactive Disney adventure. You really feel as though you are watching a Disney movie. All of the game's graphics are in Super VGA resolution, and are seamless. Everything interacted properly and the movement was very smooth. The game was highly original in the way all of the characters were drawn, from the BitterNut family (you don't want to know) to the palace guards and the two-headed vulture.
The Sound System in the game was also flawless. The music was fully orchestrated and blended in very well with the game. Once again, Sierra has taken a step towards having all of their adventure game music written and performed by an orchestra, and the results are excellent. The sound effects in the game were also very well done. The voice recordings were crisp and clear, and the timing was right on. Quite often, there is a delay between the characters mouth moving, and the voice coming out of the speakers. It's almost as if you are watching one of these bad martial-arts import movies. Not so here. The voices were well done and very original. In fact, each character's voice seemed to suit him or her, adding to the enjoyment of the game.
The game play is also very good. Al Lowe's wacky sense of humor keeps the game going at a good pace and I found myself looking forward to see what new jokes he could crack. There is one particular point in the game where you walk into a home built inside of a tree trunk. The family inside are called the Bitternuts, and the setting is of an old T.V. show from the fifties. Everything Mrs. Bitternut says is met with a laugh track (whether or not she said something funny). It was highly original and very funny. Another personal favorite was the queen, who was incredibly sarcastic every time the king said something. The funny part was that the king was hard of hearing and wouldn't hear what the queen said. When he would ask her what she said ("Eh, what was that you said my dear?"), she would always reply with a normal comment that phonetically sounded like her sarcastic comment. It was very funny.
The game was not that hard to play and I went through it in a few sittings. However, if you did get stuck, there was a hint machine that would point you in the right direction. The machine could be set so that it would only help you out after an elapsed amount of time. It would have been better to just do away with the hint machine altogether and let the player struggle out the puzzles as they aren't that hard anyhow. Another good point (or bad depending on how you look at it), is that there are only two stupid puzzles. A stupid puzzle is one where you have to run your mouse over every pixel of the screen to find an object. The first time this happens, you are locked into a room, with no way out, so you get an idea that you have to find the spot. But the second time, you have to walk through a maze, and if you do not see the glint of the object flashing on the screen, you can be stuck for quite a while. Generally however, the rest of the puzzles were better.
Overall, I enjoyed this game very much. The quality of the graphics were excellent, the sound was very well done, and the game was incredibly funny. While the overall story line was not very original, the way in which it was followed was. The fact that you had to travel to five different lands, one beneath the other was fresh idea, and each land was original enough. Also, each land provided genuine puzzles to keep them relatively distinct from each other. Some people may find that the game goes by a little quickly, and it has almost no replay value but I found it was worth it. Al Lowe did a good job on this one.
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Toonstruck, Touche, Titanic: Adventure Out of Time, Woodruff and The Schnibble of Azimuth, Time Paradox, Tony Tough and the Night of Roasted Moths, Time Machine, The New Adventures of the, Universe
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