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Lighthouse

The Lighthouse Box

Sometime ago I was in the Merchant Navy and no matter how good the electronic navigation aids were, such as radar, satellite navigation systems and so on, there was always something comforting in the sight of a lighthouse. No matter how sure I was of our position it was always nice to see the regular blinking light of a lighthouse. Unless of course, it was the wrong light, in which case it was just down right embarrassing :-) Well, usually, but there was one time when I overjoyed to see the wrong light, but now is not the time to reminisce. Mind you todays lighthouses are not what they used to be. A lot of them have been shut down and converted to private homes. Just like the one in Lighthouse.

The Lighthouse referred to in the title of the game is a converted lighthouse which is now owned by Doctor Jeremiah Krick. Dr. Krick is your typical 'mad' scientist, even down to powering his inventions with lightning bolts. You have recently moved into a house just down the coast from Dr. Krick's lighthouse and have spoken to him a few times. Actually you are the nearest thing to a friend that he has, but about all you know about him is that he lives with his baby daughter Amanda.

The Dark Being

When the game opens you have just arrived home to find some messages on your answer machine. Most of the messages are of no real concern but one is from Dr. Krick telling you he has had to go away suddenly and could you look after Amanda. Needless to say you go to the lighthouse to find the little girl, and while you are there a portal into another world opens through which a strange being comes and takes her away.

It is at this point that your first choice is made; do you follow the strange being and Amanda or do you search the lighthouse for information on what is happening. There are a number of places in the game where you can make choices which will affect the way the story unfolds. As you play the game you find out that the device which creates the portal between the our world and that of the strange being was invented by Dr. Krick. However, the device has not yet been The Roost perfected and the portal will only stay open for a short time. In the other world a creature known as The Dark Being has stolen the plans for the device and is attempting to perfect it. Once The Dark Being has perfected the portal he/she/it will take over our world.

The world into which you are plunged is inhabited by a number of strange creatures, including mechanical birds, a bird man and woman who is permanently attached to a machine. The whole thing looks like a Victorian Scientists view of the future. There is, for example a plane that flies by flapping it wings and a submarine that propels itself by waving its tail. On the whole this works very well and any apparent inconsistencies are explained when you learn the history of the place.

Lighthouse uses the 'first-person' approach to the display so that the screen is always showing what the central character would see. Some people find this confusing but I find I have no problems with it at all. What I do find confusing with the interface in Lighthouse is moving around. The cursor changes to show you which direction you can move in. Clicking on the left mouse button then moves you. The trouble was that it was not always obvious how to get to where you wanted to go. For example, if you entered a room and there was a table on the left, I would expect to turn to the left, or better still just click on the table. However, in Lighthouse you might have to move forward and then turn left and possibly even look down.

When graphic adventures first came out the cursor tended to be the same shape all the time. This meant that part of the game was to spot the objects that you required. These objects were usually pretty obvious and easy to find. Then someone had the idea of changing the cursor when it moved over an object which you could use. At the time I felt that this was a bad idea since all you had to do was move the cursor slowly over the screen to find all the objects. This in turn meant that it was easy to find all the possible objects all you had to do was work out what to do with them. Lighthouse has gone back to the A Strange Creature old idea that the cursor does not change when it passes over an object. This means that you have to find the objects. Now this does add an extra dimension to the game but I must I must confess that at first I found it to be a nuisance. I think that the trouble is the objects that you need to collect are not obvious enough. This means that you end up clicking on all the objects you can see, rather than thinking along the lines of "Hey, I can use that thingamabob to open the whatsit"

The puzzles are mostly fairly obvious to work out, since in a lot of cases it involves figuring out how to get various machines working. Since you can't seem to damage anything all you need to do is press a switch, pull a lever, turn a dial or what ever and see what happens. Then try the next one and the next and so on. Eventually you'll work out how the machines operate. There are however a number of other puzzles, including a puzzle box, which is extremely frustrating since when you complete a puzzle it just opens up to reveal another one. And then the last puzzle in the box has to wait until later before you can complete it. There are also a number of 'conventional' puzzles such as 'how do I get across this chasm', 'how do I get into the safe', 'how do I switch the lights on' and so on. There is even a maze, which you don't see very often these days. Mind you this maze is a bit different since it's an underground railway. And yes, you do get to drive the train :-)

My only complaint with the puzzles is that sometimes the execution of the solution is a bit difficult. For example, at one point in the game you have to wind something up. This involves turning a handle an exact number of times. If you don't turn it enough then nothing happens. Turn it too far and it will unwind itself. The trouble is that there The Kidnap of Amanda is no indication that anything is happening when you turn the handle. Nor for that matter any indication of which way it should be turned. Fortunately there are only a couple of points in the game where this occurs and I suspect that many of you will manage them quite well.

I was about to say that the graphics were fairly good, but in fact they are excellent. It's just that the quality of the graphics has improved so much over the last year or so that I'm now expecting very high quality pictures. The backgrounds are all extremely well done and give the whole place a feel of some where alien. All the characters, creatures and machines are obviously not of this Earth, with the obvious exceptions of Amanda and Dr. Krick. In fact in one case the 'thing' was so alien I'm not sure if it is meant to be a machine with eyes or a living being with mechanical bits.

The sound is also up to the same high standard expected these days. The speech is excellent quality and easy to understand, not that there is a lot of it. In fact you only get to 'talk' with one person during the game. I say talk but in practice you just listen, she does all the talking. This lack of speech means that the background music is particularly important. And in Lighthouse they have managed to get it right. The music adds nicely to the overall effect yet it is unobtrusive. The machines and creatures make the sort of sounds you would expect them to make.

The manual is a small booklet which doubles as the CD case insert. It has 14 pages of which 4 are devoted to the credits, one to the warranty, one to the table of contents, one to a list of contact numbers and one telling you, in poetic terms what a lighthouse is. That Creature Again That leaves 6 pages to tell you all about how to install and play the game. Now I have to admit that I had no trouble installing the game and it worked without problems. But, I'm sure that there will be people who will have problems and the only thing in the manual to help them is a phone number. The daft thing is that there is a read.me file on the CD which has a lot of information on what to do if things go wrong, but there is nothing in the manual to tell you where this file is. Now I'm sure that Sierra would say that when the installation program has finished installing the game it shows you the help file, and you can always get it by starting the help file. Well yes you can, but what if the installation process fails. After all the first problem mention in the read.me file is what to do if the installation program 'locks-up'.

To summarise, Lighthouse is a good adventure game with excellent sound and graphics. There is a nice range of puzzle types and difficulties and the story line is interesting and very well written. The game play is good and the user interface is nice and uncluttered.