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Reviewed: Aura: Fate of the Ages
Author: Michael Ahlf       Date: October 13th, 2004
Page: 2

The premise of Aura is pretty simple: you're an acolyte in an order of monks, sent out to collect some mystical artifacts lest they fall into the wrong hands. It's usually the setup for a fighting or FPS title, but this time, it's a set of puzzles; your job is not to kill or defeat anyone, but to solve the puzzles, find the right people, and get the items so that they don't fall into the wrong hands. The game's set up to be highly immersive, which is a good thing, and despite the graphical beauty will run on an exceedingly low-end PC.

Take your time and enjoy the scenery.

"You are standing in front of a door."

Now how do I activate this?

In terms of complexity, Aura takes things to the extreme. There's a lot of backtracking, sidetracking, and item collecting; sometimes the mouse icons are misleading as well, as the icon for "use" also is your only indicator that an item you may be carrying (or may need to collect) may be used in a certain place. In addition, the clues entered into your roving hintbook (a nod to those who don't want to spend time with tons of paper, jotting notes and trying to sketch screens) are delightfully vague most of the time, indicating often what you need to use, but not necessarily how.

Enjoy the gardens on the first world. Other people you encounter will likely not be much help, other than as information devices. Getting places can be tricky.

Graphically, Aura's gorgeous - provided you remember to do one simple thing. For some reason, the designers didn't include a brightness adjustment. Functionally, you may need to ramp up the brightness on your monitor to compensate, as some of the darker environments quickly turn into nothing but black. As an example, my monitor's brightness normally sits at 20 (of 100); at 30, the normal Windows desktop looks washed out. For this game, playability came around 55. 

Panoramic scenes are a great reward. How many puzzles can you attach to one statue? Some of the puzzles are ridiculously complex.

As far as puzzle complexity goes, Aura's puzzles range from simple to insane, but not necessarily in that order; on any given world and at any point in the storyline, a puzzle may be exceedingly easy or exceedingly hard. The last image in this set is of the worst of them, the only one I had to resort to Gamefaqs to find a solution for. It's actually got a rotation of four of those disc sets, each one of which has to be set just right.

Musically, Aura's quite nice. As an Adventure title, it's all mood music, but that's good. The voice acting is so-so and doesn't always sync with the lips, but I understand that's because the sound was originally synced for a language other than English. For what they had to work with, it's not bad.

Is Aura worth buying? If you like Adventure and puzzle titles, yes. If you like brain teasers, definitely. If you're looking for something to blow up, this isn't your game. Still, it's a nice diversion from the normal run-and-gun fare.

Added:  Thursday, October 14, 2004
Reviewer:  Michael Ahlf
Page: 2/3

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