Anastasia: Adventures with Pooka and Bartok

Developer/Publisher:  Fox Interactive
Year Released:  1999

Review by Rosemary Young (May, 1999)
ana.jpgThis game is based on the animated feature film Anastasia. As I am not a regular film-goer I have to once again confess that I haven't seen the film so I can only judge this game for itself. Put simply, it's delightful from the point of view of production and performance. The animations are wonderful, as are the graphics, the sound effects, voices, music and, of course, the story is enduring. As for its performance as an adventure game for children it also does a superbly entertaining job though, unfortunately, it errs on the side of brevity.

Help Pooka out
On this adventure Anastasia is accompanied by two companions, Pooka the Pooch and Bartok the Bat, both of whom are thoroughly engaging. Bartok hangs around a lot and offers some helpful (and some not so helpful) advice, whilst it is Pooka who does the hard slog as she is the star of this game and solves all the problems.

Pooka sure is a sweetie to direct around the game world and ferret out information and goodies. The game also features characters from the film and as the story progresses the player is lead on through 5 stages of play, punctuated by a short reading of Anastasia's diary which more or less fills in the blanks.

Play begins in St. Petersburg where Anastasia has left her orphanage and is on the trail of her ancestry. She is headed for Paris, but first Pooka must assist to find Dimitri who is essential to the success of the quest. In St. Petersburg there are a few colourful characters to help out and a couple of crucial items to find before visiting the Palace and picking up Dimitri. Next there is a plane journey, then a boat journey with a few more problems to solve, before the final destination which entails a search for a missing slipper.

The interface and gameplay
Anastasia is recommended for children aged 6 - 12 and it won't fail to charm. The interface is standard point and click and there is an excellent in-game hint system for each section to help out lost players. In some screens it is possible to pan around to see more of the picture and a small graphic of Pooka indicates exits to a new location. Although this works well enough navigation could be difficult for younger players as it is sometimes tricky to determine which way the Pooka-pointer is facing. Also the design of the game world is such that keeping one's bearings is not always easy, parents of younger adventurers might be forced to lend a helping hand occasionally.

For much of the time the play centres around searching locations for various items: in boxes, suitcases and drawers, under cushions and the like. Here there are some surprises in store because Rasputin's Minions are on the look out for a bit of fun and teasing. Get caught looking in the wrong place and it's a trip to The Underworld where there are some simple arcade/strategy type games to complete in order to escape.

These supplementary games are a real bonus and add to the fun factor of the game whilst encouraging exploration and some strategic thinking. All in all this adventure is sure to please as it is so captivating, but if only it were a little longer, or had a bit more substance in the form of additional puzzles and problems to overcome. As it is, in some locations there are only a few items to find and it is over all too soon.

I can't deny it, Anastasia is irresistible with some gorgeous graphics and some entertaining characters. Because of its relative simplicity and brevity, however, I'm inclined to recommend it for players at the younger end of the recommended age group or for first time adventurers who will spend more time working things out. Children who have a few adventure games under their belt, and especially older children, will probably be left wanting more. rating:  

Copyright © Rosemary Young 1999. All rights reserved.

System requirements:
486 at 66Mhz or more, Windows 3.1, WFW 3.11, Windows 95 or better 8mb RAM, 3mb free hard drive space, DirectX compatible video and sound card 2X CD-ROM drive or faster.
Macintosh: System 68040, 66Mhz 7.0 or greater, 4mb free hard disc space, 2X CD-ROM drive or faster