System Requirements: Mac OS X 10.3.9, PowerPC or Intel processor, 640×480 display with thousands of colors, DVD-ROM drive
Review Computer: 2.4GHz 13″ Intel Core 2 Duo white Macbook, 2GB RAM,
Network Feature: None
Processor Compatibility: Universal
Time travel. Imagine that you had a magical device which could take you back to ancient eras, forgotten times…times as far back as the 1990s, when new technology—the CD-ROM—allowed game makers to add video to their point-and-click adventures, a move which was supposed to add an unheralded level of realism to video games, but usually just ended up embarassing the actors who had to recite ridiculous dialogue in front of a green screen.
One exception was the Journeyman Project, a series of games about Time Agents who explored history, but who more often got caught up in adventures which (all together now) threatened to destroy time itself!
Presto Entertainment, the publisher of the original Journeyman series, is making a 10th anniversary of the final published game (Legacy of Time) available on DVD-ROM for OS X. For old school gamers, it’ll feel like coming home. For new gamers, they’ll be up to their necks in backstory, bemused by the “cutting edge” technology of the 90s, and likely entertained by a really good point and click adventure.
All right, enough of the nostalgia: how’s the game?
Legacy Time drops you, head first, into the continuing story of Gage Blackwood, Agent 5 of the Temporal Security Protectorate. Turns out that after his last adventure, Gage had his memory wiped, which makes it really convenient for the other characters to explain things to him (and players, like me, who don’t know the game’s back story). Turns out the rogue Agent 3 has been mucking about with time, and when she creates a time rift, it’s your job to bring her in.
Which you do rather quickly. Huh. Because what’s really going on is an even bigger plot involving two alien races who have visited Earth’s ancient history and destroying our most advanced civilizations: El Dorado, Shangri-La, and, of course, Atlantis. All video games created in the 1990s had to involve Atlantis. It was a law. You can look it up.
You travel through the different zones of time by using the prototype Chameleon suit, which not only features a wise-cracking virtual-reality assistant who guides you through the adventure, but also allows you to imitate the appearance of other characters—part of the challenge of the game. If you appear as a blind beggar, the boatman will turn you away, and the bridge guard has a very different reaction to the holy Lama than to the Khan who punched him in the face. But then again, you can never tell what a character might reveal to a different person, and part of the fun is figuring out which persona you have to adapt to get the next vital clue to the adventure.
Legacy is a point-and-click adventure in the Myst mold, which means you won’t be blasting aliens with four-button combos so much as you’ll be figuring out where you can find gold leaf to melt in the kiln so you can create a fake token to give to the temple guard. The focus is on exploration, interaction, and clicking on every damn thing in the room to see if you can add it to your inventory. Dialogue is handled in the same way; once you start talking to someone, you’re given a series of set responses. Guess the right response and you’ll advance the conversation (and the plot). Guess wrong and you’ll have to start over. Of course, it also matters who they think they’re talking to; the High Priest gets a very different reaction than an agent for the Underground.
The game itself is relatively straightforward, the puzzles make sense and integrate well with the game, rather than insane leaps of logic. (“Ah yes, coat the umbrella with cat hair and give it to the zombie. Of course.”) There’s also an element of edu-tainment in Legacy that was nostalgic: in addition to talking to people from lost civilizations, you learn what life was like for the ancient South Americans, farming crops on tiered steppes or getting an intro to Buddhism in Shangri-la.
The video elements…how best to describe these? The acting isn’t bad, which is high praise coming out of that era. Seeing an actor standing in front of an obviously computer-generated background was nostalgic, as was clicking on an object and waiting to see if an animated sequence would start. There’s a lot of pixelation in the video, mostly as halos that surround the actors as they move, which is the only problem with the images—though they don’t quite match up to the high-def games you’ll see today, the scope of some of the images (especially in El Dorado and Shangri-La, which take place on mountains) is impressive. This video problem is apparently why the game has not been fully released, as Presto is working to resolve a bug with Quicktime 7.6.
If you’re a fan of classic home computer gaming, point and click adventures, or have someone (like a child) who could immerse themselves in a compelling science fiction story with educational elements, then Journeyman 3: Legacy of Time is a game well worth looking for on the 10th Anniversary DVD (once it’s released). And best of all, you don’t have to worry about swapping out your CD-ROMs.