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A review by André 13th September 2002
Like so often lately I started my "new acquisition" again, an old Pentium 1 for playing "Archibald Applebrook". Because since I possess this computer, suddenly very, very many old games run now under WIN 95, which already waited on my shelves for years, never functioning on my new computer. So again with Archibald Applebrook's Adventure, a classic comic adventure in 3rd-person-perspective. And the game isn't so bad at all, even if it quite possesses its weaknesses.
Archibald Applebrook is again one of these games, which were actually conceived for DOS. However not on the box, but quite small on the jewel case cover sheet it notes that Archibald Applebrook is compatible with Windows 95. And it could actually be installed problem-free as said on the old computer under Windows 95, even if the speech output was missing due to my configuration. Archibald ran perfectly and there were neither bugs nor crashes.
After the beautiful intro, which tells a brief prehistory, in which a researcher undertakes a venturesome expedition, one meets Archibald Applebrook, a small employee in the library. He is dissatisfied with his job and suppressed by his irascible boss. He dreams about great adventures and rather browses through the few adventure novels that are in the library, instead of holding down his job with filling out lists and other "exciting" office activities.
When he encounters between the boring books references of the past expedition (intro), he expects an adventure and would like to leave the library immediately to follow the trace. However his boss objects against it and so Archibald must conceive of something to escape from the library.
Here the story begins with a good idea. A small spider is helpful and one can switch between the spider and Archibald with space-bar. The developers did not invent the idea of changing between several "characters", but it makes fun and I would have wished more such ideas, in order to inspirit the game. Because the game often comes across a bit pieced together.
Archibald can leave the library after a short time and visits in the course of the game the most diverse, adventurous locations. But there are only relatively few scenes at each location. The whole game process is also very linear and not particularly complex. The impression of a somewhat sluggish game process is strengthened by the fact that Archibald does not run fast and some quite long-winded sequences. On a ship and towards the end, where you can explore a whole island, the rigid game process is then somewhat broken through.
A further point of criticism is in any case the humor: It's nevertheless partly flat and on a naive level and somehow typically German. However by-and-by I admittedly got accustomed to the humor (respectively over-heard it unobtrusively) and the naivity also has its charm in a certain way.
Besides the story develops a little during the game process, although the game becomes, like already said, not really complex. Archibald meets the pretty however obscure Melanie for example (well, pretty is relative: does Melanie actually wear black Spandex trousers or carrot Jeans to her pink socks?) and I wanted to know whether she uses him only for her plans and whether the two come together at the end. However the promising beginning gets lost. So the story does not develop further and towards the end it is not correctly cleared up, for whom Melanie is exactly working. Well, maybe not so important probably. Comic-like cut scenes can only be found in the intro and end sequence.
The already mentioned intro in form of an animated cartoon is very beautiful and turbulent and well succeeded for the age of the game. In addition the developers tried very hard to create great multicolored, handdrawn background pictures. They are besides very detailed, what lets the game look clean, clear and graphically solid. Also the characters were well integrated into the game. However the main character, Archibald himself, somehow does not please me in particular. My first impression was that his kind reminds me of an actor of the - from today's view maybe a bit embarrassing - comedy movie series "Carry On ..." from the sixties. And even if Archibald is a Scot and the game begins in Scotland, Archibald looks somehow anxiously funny and misplaced, as if one endeavored by all force to give the character his own identity.
Although I sometimes prefer harder food, I play at least just as gladly a simple adventure game without brainteasers. And exactly that is Archibald Applebrook. The puzzles range all together from quite easy to medium. Archibald Applebrook is as said also very linear and does not really come along with new or innovative ideas. But that has on the other hand also the advantage that the puzzles remain well comprehensible and no frustration arises. So the game is best suitable, if you occasionally want to relax with a smaller adventure.
It has mainly two kinds of puzzles. Primarily you have to collect a quantity of objects in the classic way and and use them in the correct place. Now and then one also may combine two things in the inventory. Besides there are (just as classic) dialogues with multiple choice procedure. Thus you must select the correct from different response possibilities, so that a new course of action or a new place results.
Fine that there are no timed puzzles and one cannot die. There are also no unimaginative labyrinths fortunately (in this case I remember as "the best" negative example the adventure "Necronomicon", where you finally had to rush under time pressure through monotonous labyrinths). Likewise there are no dead ends. At least I have discovered none.
The option menu is quite versatile. You can select whether you would like to have only speech, text or both. There are three different volume controllers and one can adjust the text speed too. The menu is partly a bit user-unfriendly. So one can e.g. hardly recognize, which of the functions (text and/or speech) actually is selected. When saving a game you must first use the Enter-key and then still two further keys to confirm. I think, one confirm-key would have perfectly been sufficient here.
Nice again that there (probably) is no restriction, what concerns the number of save locations. The texts are well readable and the hotspots easy to recognize. Archibald Applebrook can simply and quite comfortably be controlled by mouse in typical point&click method. With the left mouse button you can walk. If you click on an object or a person with the right mouse button, you can already see the given possiblities like "speaking" or "opening" for example. Besides you can of course apply each inventory item to objects or persons and receive depending upon (non-)sense of your acting the appropriate comment or - if correct - a result. Really unpleasant, because pedantic was combining two objects within the inventory. One first opens the inventory and selects an item. Then the inventory closes automatically. Thereupon one has to open it again and apply the just taken item with another. Uff! That is lengthy and does not provoke to experiment with objects.
Unfortunately I can't say anything about the dubbing, but about the sound effects. And those were used quite economical - much to economical. You can hear from time to time, if you knock on a door or use a machine. But for instance bird twitter, wind or similar background noises, which would animate the game, are not existing. Also the accompanying music is rather modesy and minimalistic. The instruments are limited to two e.g. piano from the keyboard and identical stringband. That sounds mostly somewhat monotonous to nice and doesn't disturb, but is sometimes a bit nerving like "Dad has got a new home organ". Besides the music volume substantially varies between the individual sections. Now and then I had to regulate therefore the volume down.
I spent approximately 12 to 14 hours, in order to play Archibald to the end. That is not much for a game from this time, but much more isn't provided by the story. But fortunately the game wasn't unnecessarily lengthened.
I believe, that the developers tried hard to create a beautiful adventure, and Archibald Applebrook indeed became a proper and solid game, but somehow the spark will not jump over 100%. One can fasten the weaknesses concretely: The dialogues and the character himself act too anxiously funny and the atmosphere of a game depends crucially on the main character.
Besides Archibald moves, as already said, quite lamely. Here a "fast running mode" would have been better. Nevertheless the simple story is entertaining and the puzzles are solid and nearly all comprehensible. Archibald Applebrook cannot really be recommended to lovers of fastidious comic adventures. But for players (like me), who not always expect the top and who are searching a quite playable comic adventure, Archibald Applebrook is nevertheless a quite entertaining pastime, but thereby just as far from masterpieces as "Broken Sword", as from games in the style of "Auf der Suche nach dem Ultimate Mix" (On search for the Ultimate Mix).
- 80% - 100% excellent game, very recommendable
- 70% - 79% good game, recommendable
- 60% - 69% satisfactory, restricted recommendable
- 50% - 59% sufficient (not very recommendable)
- 40% - 49% rather deficient (not to be recommended - for Hardcore-Adventure-Freaks and collectors only)
- 0% - 39% worst (don't put your fingers on it)
Minimal System requirements:
- DOS 5.0 or higher
- 486 SX or higher
- 8 MB RAM
- SVGA colour (VESA)
- Hard disk
- Supports Soundblaster and compatibles and General Midi
- Windows 95
- Pentium 1
- 32 MB RAM
- Soundblaster 16
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