Written by: Rik

Date posted: November 18, 2007

SPOILER ALERT: That’s not a real dinosaur.

Without wanting to begin a review by dismissing the game in question as an also-ran, there are times while playing Flight of the Amazon Queen when you can start to entertain thoughts about how it might be quite easy to knock up a semi-decent adventure yourself if you weren’t so damn busy at weekends. While a couple of seconds’ consideration quickly reveals the folly of such sentiments (not to mention the need to apply the usual caveats about how the people who develop games are probably ten thousand times cleverer than the most of the people who play them), it still doesn’t bode all that well for the game that brought them into your head in the first place.

We’ll return to that later: for now, it’s worth saying immediately that Flight of the Amazon Queen is a not bad game. It just so happens to be one that can make you think quite carefully about the differences between a ‘not bad’ game and the very best out there. It doesn’t help itself in this regard by wearing its LucasArts influences very much on its sleeve, even going so far as to include frequent Star Warsreferences, as well as a ‘Special Thanks’ to George Lucas in the end credits.

You play Joe King (ho ho), pilot for hire. Having somehow managed to win a contract to transport Hollywood actress Faye Russel to the set of her latest movie, you find yourself caught up in a thunderstorm, which sends your plane, the Amazon Queen, crashing down in the middle of the jungle. With your plane slowly filling with water, and Ms Russel quickly losing her patience, it’s up to you to go for help. As so often is the case, you quickly get embroiled in some local trouble, this time involving the kidnap of Amazon women by a sinister lederhosen company which is actually a front for a madman who wants to breed an army of dinosaur-women to help him take over the world. No, really.

Before you even get to the jungle, you have to deal with Anderson, your Dutch nemesis.

Clearly, such overblown ridiculousness is delivered with tongue firmly in cheek, and there is a certain 1940s B-Movie feel to proceedings at times, particularly during cut-scenes, or when crazy professor Ironstein is talking about his dastardly plans (and about anything else for that matter). Still, the story as a whole is difficult to pin down. At times it’s pure Indiana Jones, and the opening scenes see you escape from a trap, ask for help from an old flame, have an altercation with a rival and making a briefly-triumphant getaway before having a dramatic accident and becoming stuck in the jungle with a stuck-up woman who hates your guts.

Then, just as you might expect the bickering to continue and build towards the inevitable mid-game romance, things then take a different turn, with the jungle turning out to be much less hostile than you might expect, housing several easy to access locations populated by gently amusing characters รก la several LucasArts adventures, particularly Monkey Island. Then there’s still time for some fairly solemn periods of wandering around on your own before you reach the frankly bizarre climax – about which I can’t really say much more, but trust me, it’s guaranteed to make you go ‘huh?’

Dr Ironstein: a man with very particular tastes.

Despite the mish-mash of influences, there’s a pleasantly jolly feeling which persists throughout, and what’s more, the script is generally pretty good, containing a few chortle-worthy moments, as well as very few cringe-inducing ones. While Joe may not be the brightest star in the firmament, he’s a decent companion for the duration of the game, with even his sub-Stallone drawl proving more than acceptable. The same goes for the rest of the voice acting, and although some of the delivery is definitely on the ‘iffy’ side, there are some genuinely good characters in there too, with Joe’s Dutch rival Anderson the pick of the bunch. Bizarrely, there’s also a cameo from British actress Penelope Keith, best known for playing snooty upper-class women in BBC sitcoms during the 70s and 80s. It’s pretty brief and seems so unlikely in the first place that you might think, ‘That sounds like Penelope Keith’, without even bothering to check whether it’s actually her. It is though.

As for the game itself, it does most of what you’d expect from a point and click adventure. The most noticeable feature of the gameplay is that it’s relatively free-flowing, and you’re often at liberty to complete one of a number of puzzles in whatever order you choose. Sometimes this approach can lead to bouts of tiresome wandering around, but this is negated here by the fact that puzzles are all clearly signposted, and there are very few obscure solutions that require you to employ some twisted logic (or ‘use everything on everything else’) in order to proceed.

Fans of Leisure Suit Larry will be pleased to note that there are plenty of unnecessary shots of pixellated cleavage.

Unfortunately, this also means that the game isn’t all that challenging, and though it is nice to cut down on the head-scratching, there are far too many instances when you know exactly how to solve a puzzle as soon as it’s presented. Some of the solutions are implausibly straightforward with characters occasionally asking you for things that you wouldn’t expect them to want or need, and more often than not, which you already have lurking in your inventory.

To return to the point I made at the start of the review, it’s at times like these that the game feels kind of amateurish. The best adventures are good at hiding the fact that they’re essentially quite simple games, but here the disguise wears a little thin in places. The graphics are also a little bit slapdash, and when you factor in a plot and characters that are arguably derivative of other similar games, you’re left with the impression that the developers probably could have done better.

While it’s not going to impress anyone, though, Flight of the Amazon Queen is still a passable yarn, and does nothing that’s particularly hate-worthy. For those who’ve tried and enjoyed all the A-Grade adventures, there’s still some fun to be had here, especially since the developers have very charitably released the full CD version as freeware.