Passage: Path of Betrayal is a 3rd-person fantasy adventure in the tradition of the Sierra King's Quest games, totally controlled by mouse. During the opening movie, we get to know, what it's all about: Our hero Riff is dreaming a prophetic dream about an assault of dark and evil powers upon his home land Arkane. Arkane is part of a mythical world with hundreds of lands, all connected by powerful portals, known as "Eternal Passages".
That his dream can become dangerous reality Riff is assured by his magic advisor Windar, who had the same dream. Windar and Riff set out to avert the disaster. We are now wandering with Riff through quite a number of most different places, where he meets a lot of more or less helpful creatures.
We control Riff's movements with the left mouse button. If the mouse passes a hotspot, then the small arrow lights up hardly noticeable and we can call the object menu with a left click in these places. Here we find a number of necessary verbs like "Look", "Take", "Talk", "Operate", "Action" and additionally the actual selected inventory item. Clicking on these options will cause Riff to give a comment, to talk to people, pick up or apply objects or execute an action.
First of all Riff will examine everything and will fill his inventory. The inventory is placed at the bottom of the screen. If you click on an object with the left mouse button, a small menu is displayed: "Look", "Use" and the actual selected inventory item. With the right mouse button an object is selected and is highlighted until you select a new one. With "Look" you can examine an item in the close-up. Sometimes you can manipulate this item too. The verb "Use" lets Riff apply the object on himself. With the many icons and possibilities the whole thing starts a bit confusing and you need a certain learning time.
Several objects may contain a secret or can be combined with other objects, so that a new object is produced. Some objects can be used several times. In the inventory max. 15 items can be displayed - and this limitation can be fatal: The inventory cannot be scrolled. If you pick up more than these 15 items, some will be invisible and unusable. In some situations this leads to the fact that you cannot finish the game!
The puzzles in Passage are mainly inventory-based, quite various, imaginative and mostly also logical. If you've listened to all conversations in every detail, have examined or read all objects, then you always get a clue and don't have to grope blindly. Often Riff finds new situations, interlocutors or objects in places already visited.
In certain scenes the gamer can scroll the screen to the right, left, up or down - it's indicated by small arrows within the right inventory area. If there's a possibility to leave the current scene, large arrows will show you the way.
Unfortunately on my computer the scrolling and animation sequences show by jerks and tear off the screen contents. This was particularly disturbing during an arcade sequence in the last chapter. Because Riff can also die - and here he did it very often, since the screen reassembled only slowly and fast reactions with the mouse couldn't be carried out necessarily every time you want it. However one can resume the game again directly from a spot in time briefly before getting killed and is not forced to load a savegame.
it is possible to store up to 10 savegames. Sometimes I would have wished more. To call the option menu with the save and load functions you drive your mouse to the top of the screen. There an options icon appears. From there you may either save or restore your game, exit to the main menu or continue playing. You may also view your current score in the game - as in old Sierra games.
The game is linear at the bottom, i.e. you have to follow a certain solution path. However it is possible to solve puzzles in different order.
The extensive dialogues with a large number of interlocutors sometimes run automatically but usually they are interactive. It is recommendable to use all interactive choices in order to miss no hints. Riff speaks not only with human participants such as sorcerers, dealers or the beautiful princess but also a frog and several crickets. With the right mouse button you can accelerate the texts but you couldn't abort conversations. There is no spoken dialogue in the game but only texts. If Riff applies the "talk icon" to a person, the two interlocutors appear at the bottom of the screen in animated close-ups.
These animated close-ups were quite successfully designed in contrast to the character graphics in the main screen area. Perspective and proportions are not correct and underline the amateur character of both the animated and the background graphics. Riff and the other human inhabitants look somewhat underfed and stretched á la El Greco. But one can call that still freedom of the artist, especially if you regard in comparison e.g. the compact, gnomish shortened bodies in the adventure game "Touche", created by professional designers. All graphics were hand-painted by Darris Hupp. A multicolored, pleasant-sympathetic art. The large number of locations, there must be around 50 I think, and the dozens of animated non-player-characters give an idea of the hard and long work and the expenditure of producing the game and let grow the respect to this One-Man-Show.
The 20 music pieces were composed by Micael Brewer, David Rubenstein and Daniel Singer. Up to that somehow wrong placed modern rock title they support the magic-phantastic atmosphere of Passage very well.
The developing time of over two years is reflected in a complex story and sophisticated, tricky puzzles, while handling and graphics don't fulfill wishes. The first work of Dragon Works, alias Darris Hupp, is still far away from perfection, shows however a great potential when it comes to story telling and creating puzzles. Some technical and contentwise bugs were eliminated by a patch already and support is excellent. In approximately 20 hours Passage - Path of Betrayal let the players have a lot of puzzle-fun. Recommendable for all those, who put more value on story and puzzle quality than on perfect graphics.
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