Released in 1996, 3 Skulls of the Toltecs is a cartoon adventure game in the style of LucasArts' The Secret of Monkey Island. Unlike the popular Monkey Island, however, this game seems to have had very little impact on the adventure playing community. Perhaps its style was already considered dated by the time of its release, or maybe its 'wild west' scenario just didn't strike the right chord with many adventurers. I must admit I was put off by this latter aspect when I passed up the opportunity to play it about twelve months ago. Fortunately for me, a friend insisted that I at least give it a try and I'm glad that I did. As new adventure games are scarce at the moment I was in no position to turn up my nose a second time.
So you want to be a cowboy?
3 Skulls of the Toltecs is a third-person perspective adventure and your character is Fenimore Fillmore who stumbles across the path of three villains in the midst of ambushing a lone snake-oil and hair-restorer salesman. Having seen off the baddies you learn that the salesman was attacked for the golden skull in his possession, one of three 'keys' that are needed to unlock the secret of the fabled Toltec treasure.
In this introductory sequence you unwittingly contribute to the 'death of a salesman' and ride off with the skull, only to have it stolen from you within minutes. Now, if you want the treasure, you must find not one, but three skulls (or possibly more) and, in the best tradition of this style of game, you know it isn't going to be easy.
Interface and puzzles
In this mouse-controlled game you move Fenimore around the screen by simply pointing to where you want him to go then clicking the left mouse button. Double clicking on an exit will jump you to the next location and a handy map is provided to speed you to new areas once you learn of them and once you have a means of transport sorted out. A control panel appears beneath the playing area from where you can select verbs to carry out actions in a way that will be instantly familiar to those who have played the earlier Monkey Island or Simon the Sorcerer games.
The story unfolds as you talk to other characters (there is an on-screen text option) and find out what they want or learn why they won't let you do something. You will, of course, need to do many things unrelated to the main story just to overcome the obstacles to your progress. Inventory items are crucial so I shouldn't need to tell you to collect everything that isn't nailed down, and don't be easily discouraged by those that are.
Ok, so it's a little dated, but it seems that adventurers can't be choosers at the moment and many of us still like this kind of 'old fashioned' adventure. The cartoon graphics are still fine and the game is fun to play. Maybe cowboys aren't as interesting or as romantic as pirates and wizards, but don't let this put you off as the puzzles will keep you generally entertained, though it does fall away as you near the end. The game is an irreverent send up of the western genre and seems influenced, if not inspired, by the television series, F Troop, even if the humor is a little suspect at times. I wouldn't put it in the same league as Monkey Island or Simon the Sorcerer, but it is worth a look if, like me, you are partial to this style of adventure.
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