AGON: The Mysterious Codex

Posted by Peter Szabo.
First posted on 17 November 2007. Last updated on 25 February 2010.
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AGON: The Mysterious Codex
A well illustrated book in the museum library hides an early clue.
AGON: The Mysterious Codex
Instructions on how to play the board games are written in the books.
AGON: The Mysterious Codex
This is the Fanorona board game.
AGON: The Mysterious Codex
This is the Tablut board game.
AGON: The Mysterious Codex
A strange looking statue stands deep in the jungle.

When I first heard about the game AGON and its Hungarian developer Private Moon Studios, I was immediately intrigued. I wondered because, as I noticed, there had been a recent expansion of Hungarian developers in the computer game industry. Until recently, however, these developers almost made only strategic or tactical games. Therefore, when Private Moon Studios announced that it was going to develop an adventure game for the first time, well, I was fairly ablaze.

The name AGON is actually an abbreviation for "Ancient Games Of Nations". Originally, Private Moon Studios has planned to develop the game as a series of 14 scenes (episodes). Each scene will be a whole episode on its own with different characters and distinct storylines. The main character of the game is Professor Samuel Hunt, a scientist at the British Museum from around the turn of the last century (early 1900s). One day, he receives an enigmatic letter from an unnamed person within which includes a mysterious scroll. The letter is about AGON. The professor starts to nose around for the meaning of it all. What is the mystery of AGON? Who is the sender? He wants to discover the secrets. Your job, in turn, is to help him.

Your investigation will start in the extinct corridors and rooms inside the museum at night (do not be afraid; the game is not as scary as Sierra On-Line's Shivers, and there is no gratuitous violence). You then get some clues that will lead you to different parts of the world. You will travel from the dark streets of London, to the snowy wasteland of Lapland, and finally to the remote island of Madagascar. Gamers who are familiar with the AGON series will immediately recognize that these locations correspond to the names of the first 3 scenes of the series that have been previously released: "London Scene", "Adventures in Lapland", and "Pirates of Madagascar". Throughout the game, you will find many very tricky puzzles to solve: translating a cryptographic message, opening an unusual lock system, and finding your way out from a jungle relying only on your ear. Many times, you will also find a great variety of books to read—it is expedient to check out all of them, because they are full of very cool artworks from the game, though sometimes they are a makeshift for something else.

At the end of each episode (except in "London Scene"), you will reach the main objective of the game. Your final purpose, in every case, is to learn how to play a traditional board game and defeat your teacher in it. There are 2 games you need to master: Fanorona (your teacher is a tribe leader from Madagascar) and Tablut (you come face to face with a ridden stranger in his own house). To win, you have to become an excellent and observant student of the game so to be able to defeat your trainer. These games can be tough to beat, and the artificial intelligence is often too clever. However, you can beat the odds if you make your moves circumspectly and shifty. You can also select an option from the menu to replay these board games on their own later on; the only requirement is that you must defeat your trainers at least once inside the adventure game.

What can I say about the graphic and the music in this game? I really enjoy both. The game supports a native resolution of 800x600, and the graphics are very nice and look gorgeous. The game plays from a first person perspective. At each node, you can rotate in full 360 degree to view the beautiful environment around you. Both the navigation and the command icons can be accessed via the mouse. I also have no bad complaint about the sounds. What is more is that the music sounds as authentic as it can be for a fantasy setting. I have never heard traditional folk music from Lapland (which, in real life, is a province in Finland), but I am sure that I have been listening to real tribal music from the country when I first hear the music playing at an abandoned train station in the game (of note, I have since asked Pierrot, the game's lead designer who is also a talented Hungarian pop musician, about my supposal: he guarantees the authenticity of the music).

The first part of AGON was released back in 2003. Previously, Private Moon Studios had published each episode at its own expense—you could only purchase the ticket to download it directly from the developer. In 2006, Private Moon Studios decided to release the first 3 parts of AGON together as a compilation under the name "The Mysterious Codex". This became the game now published by Viva Media on a CD.

In 2007 and after 4 long years, Lexicon Entertainment, a different publisher, has announced that it will publish the fourth part of the ANON series, named "The Lost Sword Of Toledo". Moreover, the game will not be developed by Private Moon Studios alone, because Mzone Studio, a French developer, has announced that it will also be involved. It is rumored that the fifth part of the series will be subtitled "Tales Of The Four Dragon". You can only imagine where it is going to be played!

In the end, my verdict of AGON: The Mysterious Codex can be summarized in 3 simple words: I love it! I can recommend this game to anyone who enjoys intricate adventure games, who likes challenging memorable puzzles, and who is interested in authentic board games. Even the soundtrack for the game is worthy of listening on its own. The whole game is a treasure chest—for me and other gamers alike.

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