Forever Worlds: Enter the Unknown Download (2004 Adventure Game)

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Forever Worlds is the story of a missing paleontologist and a mythical tree with incredible powers. Doc Maitland searched for the rumored Amazon tree most of his life, but when he finally found it, he vanished. His partner, Doctor Jack Lanser, and Maitland's daughter Nancy take up the search deep in the Amazon rainforest. Jack runs into a dangerous spell that transports him to a series of non-parallel dimensions, and he struggles to find his way out of strange and puzzling universe. Strange creatures, items, characters, locations, and graphics await.

The blurb below the name of the game on the box says "Enter the Unknown", and boy, that's the truth. I believe in the concept of a gradually unfolding story, you don't really want to know everything right up front, that kills the suspense in the game or movie. However, players won't be feeling any pleasurable suspense, instead, they'll be frustrated and confused by the utter lack of direction, and ultimately, bored.

The game begins with the story of Doc Maitland, who is on a quest for eternal life. After countless years of research, he finds a mystical tree in the Amazon, which transports him to a magical portal to an untold number of universes. His daughter Nancy is worried when he disappears and enlists the help of her fiancée, Jack Lanser, to find her father. Jack heads to the jungle, finds the tree and is soon off on his own trip through the universe portal.

(This story may seem sillier than most, but it's supposed to be, the game is touted as a campy send-up of adventure games in general, and sci-fi stories and games specifically.)

The game immediately jumps right to the action, and players are invited to explore the village on the island where they've just disembarked from a boat. This is a first-person adventure, and movement is accomplished by clicking on directional arrows as indicated by the cursor. Many of the set location scenes are designed from only one viewpoint it seems, and are always the same no matter what direction they're entered from, which is disorienting, especially for the directionally challenged. This design makes for quite a bit of wandering around endless scenes of trees, as they all look alike, and the shots of important locations like villages and artifacts always look the same, regardless of the direction of entry.

After Jack finds the tree, he's sucked into the alternate universe. There is a very quick cutscene that shows some kind of man touching Jack, then the dude disappears and Jack is left. There is someone talking, but the voice's source is unclear. There is a puzzle directly in front of Jack, so he must be expected to solve this puzzle in order to accomplish something, what that may be, exactly, players are left guessing. But okay, it's a puzzle, therefore, it needs to be solved.

It's a fairly simple puzzle like most in the beginning of adventure games, and just requires turning handles to make different geometric shapes and patterns appear on a lock mechanism, to math the ones showing on the grid. However, halfway through, players find out there is no exit from the puzzle, and the only way out is to hit control/alt/delete. Weird. Eventually, the puzzle is solved after several tries, and Jack is then transported to the universes, where there are several doors.

Jack is presented with a door to somewhere, and besides from a short conversation with a talking mask and a small written blurb activated by clicking on the door, there's still no explanation as to why we're here and what is going on. After clicking on the door again, Jack is transported to another location, where he can explore in a similar manner like on the island, and is presented with another puzzle, this time one of those audio ones, where players have to match the notes played on a tune. Oh yeah, Jack's also picked up a talking lizard as a sidekick.

By this time, I've become a little bored with the whole thing, as I have no idea what is going on, and I decide to pick up the handy solution guide so nicely provided in the game. Well, whooee, what do you know, the plot is presented in the guide! Supposedly, the quickie hug by the strange dude in the tree was actually a robot kind of person who took the opportunity to occasion a little "soul-swapping" with Jack, and actually switched places with Jack's body. So, the robot person with Jack's body is living it up with Nancy, while Jack is stuck in the tree. Right, I would have figured that out eventually, especially since Jack in the tree still looks like himself in the cutscenes, even though he's supposedly the robot now.

The rest of the game continues on the same as before, with more puzzles and lots of traveling and exploring.

First, let me say that I love adventure games, and am always happy to see a new one come along, especially one from a group of developers not afraid to be a little different. This game was designed by Courtland Shakespeare (and the other developers at Hexagon), of Jewels of the Oracle fame, a very good game that didn't get the respect it deserved when first released years ago, but now is ranked by adventure gamers as one of the best puzzle games around, despite its age. The developing team and publishers said from the outset that they hoped to make a fun game that would present a traditional adventure experience, but one that would also lovingly make gentle fun of sci-fi pulp fiction.

I love satire, and I'm all for humor in games, but somehow, the humor falls flat here and is not funny at all. Monkey Island, that was funny. Forever Worlds is not. Combine that with the total lack of any story-driven direction whatsoever during the game, and the difficult navigation occasioned by the appearance of the set screens during the player's travels, and this game is doomed, which is sad because I believe the design team worked hard on trying to make a good game.


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