AGON: The Lost Sword of Toledo
First posted on 07 July 2011. Last updated on 07 July 2011.
The game is available at GamersGate.
From time to time, an adventure game tries hard to stray away from the repetitive formula of the genre that has been done over and over ad nauseam. The common wisdom is that adventure games feature more intelligent protagonists who can contemplate the intricacies of a thought provoking mystery, instead of just some wisecracking heroes who only know to fight through an escapade with their fists. Private Moon Studios, an independent game development company based in Hungary, has surely manged to craft an intellectual figure to be the protagonist for an adventure game—Professor Samuel Hunt, and the adventure game worthy of his intellect—AGON: The Lost Sword of Toledo.
The Lost Sword of Toledo is the fourth game in the long running AGON series. It follows from the previous games (The London scene, Adventures in Lapland, and Pirates of Madagascar) that serve as chapters in the professor's past globetrotting adventures. It is not necessary to play the previous games before playing this sequel. Moreover, the game does a good job to provide a recap (accessible from the Main Menu under Extra Features) of the series' back story.
Hunt is a professor at the famed British Museum. The story (for the game and the series) begins when he receives a mysterious letter, an unknown artifact, and a few torn pages from a puzzling codex. Intrigued by these seemingly indecipherable clues, the professor sets off to a journey of exploration around the world in search of a set of mystical board games and more pages of the codex. This time, he arrives at Toledo, Spain, where he seeks to continue his search. He becomes involved when he decides to help a deceased old friend's daughter, Carmen Diez-Palencia, who is in love with a local young man, Francisco Candelas, who has been imprisoned for theft of an antique sword.
Hunt agrees to try to find evidence to free the young man, but only if it does not interfere with his search for more codex pages. He elicits help from the Toledo locals and townspeople, including a street guitarist named Domingo and a French butler named Hugo who has a secret past of his own. While conversing with the locals, Hunt also uncovers evidence of a secret society, whose fate may affect the denizens of the entire city. Hunt uses his deductive reasoning skills as he investigates and exposes the society's dark history and its tragic consequences.
The game uses a straightforward interface. You navigate around in a 3D environment from a first person perspective with 360° panning. Navigation is node based, and standard fading transitions are used to animate your movement between the nodes. You interact with the environment using a context sensitive cursor: direction arrows to move, a cog wheel to operate, and a hand to pick up. The game menu is a dial that hides itself in the upper right corner of the screen, and each menu option is tucked away like a key from an old typewriter.
The graphics are beautifully rendered. Much of the beauty and charm of Spain has been painstakingly recreated. The buildings, the roads, and the townspeople all look authentic. To the credit of the developer, I can even catch a glimpse of my own character's reflection off mirrors and shop windows.
The voice acting is above average. The most authentic voice is that of Hunt. The rest of the voices seem not to be as immersing, as if the actors who provide them are just reading blindly from a script but are not in tune with the characters which they are supposed to portray.
The ambient sounds are used to great effect in each scene. Often, I have found myself just listening to the peaceful sounds of the breeze blowing through the trees or the chirping of the birds or the footsteps hitting the cobblestones. Likewise, the background music adds much to the ambience of the scene. Some music is actually essential to solving some of the puzzles, but even they are a pleasure to listen.
The puzzles in this game are challenging. Several of them are quite long and involved. The game encourages deductive reasoning by giving you clues that reward such thinking. The puzzles vary from inventory collection, pattern matching, and logic deduction. I have found it useful to record the clues myself in a notebook, which I can then reference for later use. The depth of the puzzles alone set this game above other similar puzzle games in the genre.
The game includes a journal that documents most of your conversations with the locals. This certainly comes in handy when I have to remember a conversation to solve a particular puzzle. The game also includes a map that you can use to jump to different locations quickly. You can save the game at any time, but the game also autosaves when you exit.
AGON: The Lost Sword of Toledo is a great adventure game that literally sets its own rules in terms of gameplay with its unique and challenging puzzles. The game is akin to a fine wine—a delicacy that needs to be savored and enjoyed slowly. If you like a fast paced action adventure, then Hunt's expedition is probably not to your calling; but if you enjoy a more cerebral adventure, then Toledo is definitely your next destination.