First posted on 15 February 2000. Last updated on 30 June 2009.
Atlantis. What chords does that word strike when you hear it? Atlantis to me echoes of something ancient something mysterious something lost and gone forever. The kind of place you see on a around the world tour. The kind of place to have an once-in-a-lifetime adventure in. The kind of place that has to be more exciting than where one usually dwells.
Atlantis is mentioned in 2 fictional discourses "Timaeus" and "Critias" written by the Greek sage Plato in 360BC or so. Plato describes Atlantis as an advanced island civilization 10,000 years ago, which has come to grief after being submerged by the sea. There are two prosaic explanations of how Plato has come to write about Atlantis. The first is he has just made it up rather like Swift has made up Laputa and Lilliput in "Gulliver's Travels". The second is Plato is giving us a garbled account of the Minoan civilization on Crete and Thera. Minoan civilization is believed to have been cut off in its prime by a volcanic eruption 900 years before his writing.
More imaginative ideas about Atlantis have arisen in the 19th century. People begin wondering why you find pyramids everywhere from Mexico to Mars. Theories are expounded that the technology of all the ancient civilizations (Egypt, Easter Island, Maya, Stonehenge, and others) has been diffused from a single source. Atlantis is a natural fit as the mother proto civilization. Such a theory has inspired Thor Heyerdahl to sail a papyrus boat across the Atlantic (named after Atlantis because Plato has placed Atlantis beyond the Pillars of Hercules or the Straits of Gibraltar).
Leaving conventional reality well behind we have various revelations about Atlantis from mediums (channellers is the current term) and other fringe thinkers. In popular myth Atlantis is now mixed up with other fabulous lost islands like Lemuria or Mu, with visitors from other planets, with telepathic group minds, with reincarnation, with whatever takes your fancy really.
There are quite a few adventure games that give you the chance to visit fabled Atlantis. Perhaps it is more accurate to say quite a few adventure games have locations called Atlantis. One of the advantages of Atlantis as a name is that you can make your Atlantis any way you like, just so long as it has something to do with the sea. Here is a list of just a few of the adventure games with Atlantis in them:
- Atlantis: The Lost Tales
- Behold Atlantis
- Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis
- Journeyman Project 3: Legacy of Time
The different adventure games featuring Atlantis paint widely different pictures, from the women ruled paradise of Atlantis: The Lost Tales to the they-come-from-outer-space origin of Timelapse.
Which adventure game is most accurate to what we do know of Atlantis? Surprising or not only Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis shows any signs of its authors having read Plato's discourses which are the first mention of Atlantis. Plato has not quite said orichalcum is a power source or the Atlanteans are aliens, but you do not learn history from adventure games.
Which adventure game has the best puzzles? Timelapse has plenty of head scratching puzzles, one of which (working out the Egyptian numbering system) is for me just too convoluted. It is quite "Mystish", nicely done. I wish they have not put an arcade style puzzle right near the end though.
Which adventure game has the best realization of Atlantis as a place? I vote for Journeyman Project 3: Legacy of Time. This game suggests an Atlantis which is populated by real people with real problems, but it has to do that based on just a few locations. Graphic adventures have this problem--the pictures can be pretty (pretty pretty pretty), but it is hard to get real depth in the story department. If you want to tell a story about an Atlantis reluctant to share its advanced technology (parallels with China protecting the secret of silk) or the interplay between religion and science, it may be easier in a text adventure.
Which adventure game is most annoying to play? No competition here. Cryo Interactive win hands down. Atlantis: The Lost Tales has such innovations as invisible cursors, no save game feature, unexpected death around every corner, that I have no hesitation in awarding them this prize.
Which adventure game makes you feel closest to the author? Laurence Creighton's text adventure Behold Atlantis is written to fit onto a 48K computer in 1989. If it is sci-fi it may be labeled as fiction written by fans. Playing it is like being in a dialog with the author (and being in a dialog with the author does help finish it). Obviously it is crude compared with a graphic adventure but I like this about text adventures--they allow more people the chance to write a game, and they allow more freedom in the storytelling side of things.
Now we come to the ultimate paragraph. Even though Atlantis, Egypt, Anasazi ruins, and Mayan temples are all considered to be staple locations of adventures, what about home sweet home? When I read a novel what I like is the way the author writes, their personal voice. Not clever plot devices. Not exotic settings. Not saying something that has never been said before. That is very hard to do. Jane Austen's books do not see the universe being destroyed and recreated, but nonetheless are full of engaging action. I do not want an adventure game set in Atlantis. I want an adventure game set in my kitchen.