It all begins in an old church, where the explorer Adam Venture discovers the memoirs of a Templar knight named Charles L'Heureux. According to the memoirs, L'Heureux was part of the Third Crusade. During his time in Jerusalem, the knight came in possession of a scroll that describes the location of the Garden of Eden. Using the knight's notes, Adam locates the ancient scroll. The explorer is convinced that the document can be used to locate the Garden of Eden. After four years of searching, Adam discovers a set of caverns that is mentioned in the scroll. With the help of Clairvaux corporation, he organizes a trip to the caverns.
Adam arrives at the caves accompanied by his friend Evelyn and Professor Jacques Saint-Omair from the Clairvaux corporation. He soon finds an impressive gate with a massive stone disk standing in front of it. Symbols are carved around the disk. Adam is certain that the Garden of Eden lies beyond this doorway. The disk must be the key to gaining access. Yet something appears to be missing. He will need to explore the caverns and find a way to unlock the gate. He might be on the verge of discovering humanity's birthplace.
Adam's Venture is an episodic third-person adventure series from Vertigo Games. The first episode, called The Search for the Lost Garden, follows the explorer Adam Venture as he tries to gain access to the Garden of Eden. With its attractive visuals and relaxed gaming experience, the episode certainly has significant appeal. However, derivative puzzles, lack of plot development, and an unacceptably short amount of playtime keep the game from being a complete success.
The game begins outside the gate that presumably leads to the Garden of Eden. After brief conversations with Evelyn and the Professor, Adam realizes that he needs some artifacts to unlock the massive door. He heads into the caves, trying to find the relics that will grant him access to the Garden. What follows is a relaxed adventure as you direct Adam through the cave system. The explorer will follow a set path through the caverns and solve the occasional logic puzzle.
The game is played from a third-person perspective. Players control Adam using the keyboard. The 'WASD' keys are used for moving the explorer in the desired direction. The 'enter' key is used to interact with objects. Adam can also crouch and jump using the 'ctrl' and 'space' keys, respectively. These keyboard-driven controls can certainly make Adam's Venture seem like an action game. At least superficially, jumping and crouching your way through caverns sounds like something you would find in a Tomb Raider game. However, at its core, The Search for the Lost Garden is still an adventure offering. The game features no combat and very little platforming. You do not have to worry about long jumping sequences that require great dexterity with the keyboard. There are a couple of timed puzzles, but the time limit is fairly generous. Once you figure out how these puzzles work, you should not have much trouble getting past them. Most importantly, the occasional climbing, jumping, or crouching do not get in the way of the underlying adventure experience. If anything, the inclusion of these features makes the exploration feel a little more hands-on and improves the atmosphere.
The Search for the Lost Garden also has a good deal of visual appeal. Using the Unreal 3 engine, the game delivers attractive lighting and shadow effects in some areas. The character models are also handled nicely. However, the game frequently goes overboard with the use of light. In a number of areas, there is far too much glow, making it difficult to see what you are doing. Fortunately, this is not a prevalent problem in all sections of the game, but it still hurts the overall experience.
Given the premise of opening the door to the Garden of Eden, it should come as no surprise that many of the challenges in The Search for the Lost Garden have a biblical context. In fact, the most common type of puzzle featured in the game involves putting three fragments of a biblical quote in the correct order. If you are concerned about the presence of religious themes in the game, it is worth noting that Adam's Venture does not get preachy at any point. Having some knowledge about the Book of Genesis might make the experience more enjoyable. However, the game is most certainly not a tool to convert players to Christianity. The biblical quotes and religious themes simply provide a context for the puzzles. The same set of challenges could have been easily constructed using elements from a different faith system.
Where the game really fails to deliver is in plot development. The introduction movie rapidly explains how Adam found the caverns. A couple of conversations with Evelyn and the Professor are used to convey your overall objective. After these cutscenes, Adam is off to the caverns. The bulk of the episode consists of Adam exploring the caves by himself. He has the occasional conversation with Evelyn using his radio, but these sections do not add much depth to the story. In fact, the chats can be a little jarring since Evelyn occasionally makes a reference to things Adam did not explicitly describe in a previous conversation. The story never really advances beyond what you learn during the first few moments of the game. The only thing that resembles a plot twist is highly cliched and predictable.
In addition, as you go through the episode, you learn very few details about Adam's past. You will not discover much about his personality either. To a certain extent, this is understandable since The Search for the Lost Garden is only the first episode in the series. The episode is clearly intended to get players familiar with the gameplay mechanics and raise a few questions that will be answered in later installments. Nevertheless, a little more character interaction and some effort to introduce Adam and Evelyn as individuals would have made for a more immersive experience.
Beyond the lack of plot development, some relatively minor details about the game manage to hurt the overall atmosphere. Right off the bat, I find the idea of playing an adventure game where the hero is called Adam Venture a bit groan-inducing. Similarly, having characters named Adam and Evelyn looking for the Garden of Eden borders on the comical. They might as well have dropped the 'lyn' and just called her Eve. When you throw in a comment about eating an apple during the first minute of the game, it becomes a little difficult to take Adam's Venture seriously. Similar heavy-handed references are seen in some of the puzzles as well. Since Adam's Venture appears to be targeted toward a younger audience, the developers may have deliberately tried to make the biblical context obvious. However, a little more subtlety and a touch of symbolism would have probably done the Christian themes more justice. After all, seeking the deeper meaning of a religious text is probably not a strange concept in any faith system. In a way, blunt references like calling the main characters Adam and Evelyn misses the opportunity for more insightful exposition.
Things get even worse when you encounter a smoke monster that seems to be blatantly copied from the TV show Lost. The creature even makes sounds that will be familiar to those who watched the series. It may have been wiser to seek 'inspiration' from a less popular show. Absurdities like awkward character names and the smoke monster copycat would have been welcome if The Search for the Lost Garden were a full-on comedy adventure. However, when the overall tone of the game is fairly serious, these oddities only serve to break the mood and disrupt the atmosphere.
As you explore the caverns and admire the scenery, you will have to solve the occasional logic puzzle. These puzzles typically involve operating some kind of machinery to open the door to the next area. You may also have to find a key or some other object. In general, the puzzles are very straightforward and should be relatively easy to solve for experienced adventure gamers. In fact, some of the challenges feel overly simple and require little more than running from one part of the screen to the next. The puzzles are also fairly repetitive. In particular, the word puzzles that involve assembling the pieces of a biblical quote in the correct order are used far too many times throughout the short adventure. The development team may have tried to provide a challenge level that would be appropriate for players that are new to the adventure genre. Nevertheless, a little more puzzle variety and depth would have been greatly appreciated.
In the end, the first episode of Adam's Venture is a promising game that fails to deliver. The idea of trying to enter the Garden of Eden is certainly interesting. The visuals are impressive and the game has a welcome hands-on feel. However, The Search for the Lost Garden is hurt by a lack of plot development and simplistic puzzles. The episode is also far too short for a commercial release. It took me only two hours to complete the game. Some of the shortcomings can be excused if you take into account that the game meant to be the first episode of a larger series. However, it is hard to justify spending money on an incredibly brief adventure that also has significant problems. Even at a deep discount, two hours of playtime seems unreasonably short. Fortunately, all is not lost with the series. The development team appears to be aware of and responsive to the issues with the first episode. The second episode, called Solomon's Secret, delivers substantially improved puzzles and a more detailed storyline. The Search for the Lost Garden might be underwhelming, but at least the series appears to be headed in the right direction.