Well, Sierra seem to have done it again. In Torin's Passage they have produced yet another captivating adventure that is fun for everyone to play. Whether you are 6 or 106, if you have a good store of imagination and a love of fairy tales, then you are sure to enjoy this one.
Of all Sierra's fantasy adventures (including King's Quest and Quest for Glory) this is possibly the one that is aimed at the youngest audience. But mature players need not despair, it's still entertaining and it's not so easy that you can skip through it in a couple of hours. Younger children would certainly need help with some of the puzzles. But all the same, it would just as well have slotted into our children's review section. We opted to include it in our regular reviews simply because Sierra's graphic adventures are so popular with players of all ages and it is, after all, promoted for everyone from 'kids to adults'.
This title is both Windows and DOS compatible and it begins with a short video sequence showing the evil Pecand's foiled attempt to dispense with tiny Prince Torin as he lies in his cradle. Rescue is at hand for baby Torin but the King and Queen of the Lands Above cannot be saved. Unaware of his birthright, Torin is reared by a kindly couple and, one day many years later just as he laments his uneventful life, terror descends from the sky and his adopted parents are quite literally spellbound and whisked away. Torin must rescue them and to set him (and you) on the right path for the adventure Pecand conveniently appears and points the finger at Lycentia, an evil witch. She has been banished to the Lands Below and your objective is to seek her out and rescue your parents.
This is where the game begins and it is presented in the same colourful Disney-like graphics as King's Quest VII. In fact if you have played KQ VII then you will be completely at home with this game. It has a similar single or 'smart' cursor interface and your inventory is always displayed at the bottom of the screen where items can be selected and held over the 'Scanning Platform' to show a larger image for closer inspection and manipulation.
Indeed, there are two inventories in Torin's Passage as Torin has a useful pet named Boogle. I say useful because Boogle can 'morph' into a number of different objects and during the course of the game it is necessary to check out his inventory to see what tricks he might be able to perform to help you out. He's both helpful and cute, and you might want to watch where you step as he tends to get underfoot and suffer the odd squashing.
As well as the two inventories this game has other features that KQ VII lacks. There are lots of save game slots -- I think around 20 -- which is a great improvement. And there is also an option to display subtitles for all dialogue, as well as an icon that will display recent conversations in text, or even spoken if you click the speaker symbol. Another button beneath the picture screen will either fast forward through sequences or replay them for you if you think you may have missed something important.
There is an excellent hint system, too, so your chances of getting really stuck in this game are slim. Though, these 'hints on tap' probably won't be everyone's cup of tea -- it's near impossible to please all of us these days. For instance, if you are like me and somewhat lacking in willpower, then they will likely be too much of a temptation. As with titles such as Under a Killing Moon, I would have preferred the choice of including the hints or not when installing the game.
Torin's Passage is divided into 5 chapters beginning with The Lands Above and thereafter taking the names of the Lands Below that you will eventually proceed down to visit. The first two chapters are typical adventure game fare and, though the problems are not incredibly mind wrenching, they are difficult enough to keep you on your toes. There are items to collect, creatures to meet and errands to run if you want any chance of even starting your quest. The second chapter ends with a tile puzzle and then the next incorporates a few simple logic type puzzles. The theme of the fourth changes again to include a couple of mazes, a pylon jumping puzzle and a final logic problem before the game returns to pure adventuring.
Bearing in mind that it is designed to include younger players, expect some of the humour and puzzles to be aimed at that age group. I don't want to give anything away in this review but younger players will surely have great fun getting hold of the peat moss in the first chapter, and I had a quiet chuckle at the talking grass later on. The mazes are quite simple and I did appreciate the cameo appearance by Indiana Jones.
It seems that I hear quite often these days that games developers don't listen to their fans and are only interested in raking in the cash. Of course the idea is quite ludicrous -- if players don't like games and stop buying them the cash dries up regardless but, in any event, it is reassuring to note that with this release, as with Shivers, Sierra seem to have heard many of the desperate cries that rang out after we grappled with KQ VII. Thank goodness the solitary 'bookmark' game save is gone in favour of ample save game slots, and the same goes for the re-appearance of text. Players with hearing problems can breathe a sigh of relief. Although, considering the wide age group this game is aimed at, the text could have been larger to cater for less sophisticated readers. But that is a minor complaint.
However, as mentioned above, this game still has the single or 'smart' cursor which won't suit everyone. My hand is up waving madly along with those of you who would prefer a 'less smart' cursor (I like to be the only 'smart' one around when I'm playing a computer game) but, regardless, I'm not complaining too bitterly here. Torin's Passage is written for the young as well as the 'old' and since this cursor does simplify the game and make it more accessible for the young, I'll refrain from jumping up and down.
Still, in this respect let us hope that adventure game designers don't forsake their more experienced and mature fans, and especially fans of the fantasy genre. Some of us would dearly love to play a more sophisticated fantasy adventure. There seems to be a troubling notion gaining respect these days, and taking its stand as 'written law' -- that fantasy is for the young and hard-core science fiction or 'realistic' horror is for the older/experienced player. Not so. Many mature players enjoy fantasy. One has only to stroll around a book store and measure the fantasy shelves against the science fiction or horror shelves. Fantasy does very well, thank you, and it can't be all consumed by children.
I can only conclude that Torin's Passage is well worth a look for fantasy/fairy tale enthusiasts. The puzzles and problems won't suit 'serious' adventure fans, but they have enough substance to keep lots of us entertained. There are a couple of bugs running around in the system but a patch is already available to help you out here -- and I expect the problems will be put to rights before too long. The game is bright and friendly and the story literally skips along -- it's certainly one for all the family. I only wish that 'modern' fairy tales could be a bit more 'modern' and leave a few of the trappings of traditional fairy tales behind. Do we, for instance, always have to rescue the fair maid in distress, and must her worth be so much associated with her beauty?
Copyright © Rosemary Young 1996.
All rights reserved.
486/33, 8MB RAM, 2xCD-ROM, SVGA, mouse