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Reviewed: Secrets of the Ark
Author: Michael Ahlf       Date: March 30th, 2007
Page: 2

At the beginning of Secrets of the Ark, hero George Stobbard - who's previously investigated lost religious orders, Mayan gods, and sleeping dragons - finds his life running a quiet bail-bond business ruined as a young woman comes to his office. To be precise, it's ruined about two minutes later, when mafia thugs chasing the girl break in and start trashing the place, forcing George and the girl (Anna Marie) to run away.

The basic premise of the game follows closely with previous titles in the series; players get to solve intricate puzzles using George, a rather large inventory, and his sidekick working their way through modern and not-so-modern locations ranging around the world. The target this time - rather spectacularly displayed in the opening movie sequence - is a weapon capable of transforming a living human into a skeletal angel of death, somehow attached to the mythical Ark of the Covenant.

No good investigator would be without
his helpful PDA.

The Knights Templar had a thing for religious symbols...

as well as puzzles involving shields.

Overall, the game's controls could have used some serious work. George can be move either with the arrow keys of the keyboard, or by double-clicking on a location, except for trying to climb ladders, which requires the double-click. Ladders never get an icon, either, so telling a ladder from scenery can be difficult at times. Likewise, sometimes convincing the sidekick to go along with a plan, or do something, requires interacting with a seemingly unrelated object.

These are the controls, and players will see some real frustration from these holes in the game, though eventually enough flailing around will get them through. The real problem is that flailing is the major solution for a lot of the puzzles, meaning that it's not a good title for a player new to Adventure titles to start on.

For a dungeon, not a lot of cobwebs.

Another day, another successful mission.

Eventually, as in all good stories,
it all goes horribly wrong...

Graphically and musically, Secrets of the Ark is top-notch. The scenery is solid, the character models are very well done, and voice syncing and motion is almost perfect, with nly a few clipping issues in small cutscenes to break the suspension of disbelief. Ambient music is solid, contributing well to the mood of the scenes. There have been some complaints about changing voice actors from European players, but speaking from the American side, the voice actors are just uniformly mediocre. It'd be entirely possible to play the game with the sound turned off (or at least voices) and just on subtitles, and I was sorely tempted to do so a few times.

For recent purchasers of the new AMBX systems, Secrets of the Ark is the first released title with support for you, so it may be worth checking out on that basis alone. Regrettably, these systems are still expensive and hard to find, so most players will just have to play it the normal way.

Overall, Secrets of the Ark will probably not be the title to make Adventure titles a household name again, but it's worth picking up for genre fans.

Added:  Sunday, April 01, 2007
Reviewer:  Michael Ahlf
Page: 2/3

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