-   -   -   -   -   -   - 

Alabama Smith in
Escape from Pompeii
Developer:Alawar Games
Genre:Casual Adventure
Release Date:December 2008
Article Posted:June 2010
System Requirements

Alabama Smith is thrilled to hear the news. The gifted archeology student has been selected to participate in a summer program at the University of Naples. Alabama will join Professor Fairchild in the search for an ancient artifact. Known as the Amulet of the Ages, the artifact is believed allow its bearer to travel through time. While Alabama does not believe the amulet’s supernatural powers, discovering the item would be an excellent start to his career. However, the young archeologist’s job will not be easy. A secret society is rumored to have an interest in the item. If he wants to find the Amulet of the Ages and survive his summer program, Alabama will have to remain vigilant.

Alabama Smith in Escape from Pompeii is a casual adventure game that puts players in the role of the young archeology student. The game is divided into three chapters. The quest for the amulet begins at the University of Naples. During the first chapter, Alabama searches the campus for clues about the artifact’s location. The second chapter takes the archaeologist to several excavation sites as he continues to hunt for the amulet. The final chapter offers a few surprises. As the story picks up, the game also utilizes some fairly novel puzzles to keep things interesting. Escape from Pompeii may not be a groundbreaking achievement for the genre. However, despite its flaws, the game manages to be entertaining throughout and could be worth trying if you are in the mood for a quick adventure fix.

The chapters are divided into small segments that typically involve a single room. In each area, the game provides some instructions about what to do on the bottom right portion of the screen. In order to advance to the next area, players are asked to locate several hidden objects and use them to solve puzzles. There are also several documents that provide clues for solving puzzles. In general, the items are not exceptionally difficult to locate. The game also offers a hint system to help with the task. Clicking on the question mark icon on the bottom left portion of the screen causes a hidden object to flash, making one item easier to spot. Once you use the icon, it takes a few moments to recharge.

The puzzles come in several different varieties. Some of them simply involve using an inventory item on an object in the environment. The game also features several types of logic puzzles, including a couple of jigsaw puzzles and one slider puzzle. Each time you encounter a logic puzzle, the game provides a short set of instructions outlining how it works.

In addition to the object finding and puzzle solving segments, Escape from Pompeii contains several matching sequences. After completing all the puzzles in certain areas, players are asked to hide evidence of their visit. This is accomplished by presenting two views of the location. The left side of the screen represents what the room looked like before you started collecting items and solving puzzles. The right side represents the current state of the room. You are supposed to find the differences and click on the appropriate areas to correct them. You may need to clean handprints or put inventory items to the spots where you found them.

While these matching sequences can be entertaining, the game contains too many of them. It seems as though they exist for the sole purpose of padding gameplay time. To make matters worse, some of the differences between the two images seem entirely arbitrary. Items you could not pick up when you were solving puzzles in the room suddenly appear in your inventory. Evidently, objects he didn’t even touch have a way of spontaneously jumping into Alabama’s pockets during cutscenes. The game would have been better off with fewer matching sequences and a couple more rooms to explore. Fortunately, the matching segments do not last long enough to significantly detract from the overall experience.

As with many other casual adventure games, Escape from Pompeii has a score system. Players earn points by finding hidden objects and solving puzzles. The game uses a score multiplier to discourage players from randomly clicking on everything on the screen. Each time you correctly perform an action, the multiplier bar at the top of the screen is filled by a small amount. When the full portion of the bar reaches the sections marked with 2X, 3X, 5X, and 10X, the corresponding multiplier is applied to next set of points you earn. However, if you click on an incorrect spot, the bar recedes, taking a few seconds to reach its previous position. If you continue to perform incorrect sections, the score multiplier eventually reaches zero and you have to restart the accumulation process.

Your score also depends on the difficulty setting. Escape from Pompeii features two difficulty settings. In the ‘Casual’ mode, players earn fewer points for each correct action. However, the game displays a list of the hidden objects you need to find at the top of the screen. Players are also given the option to skip puzzle sequences. In the ‘Expert’ mode, it is possible to earn more points, but things are more challenging. The object lists and skip options are not available. The hint icon also takes longer to recharge. It is possible to switch between the two difficulty modes at any time during the game.

Alabama Smith in Escape from Pompeii certainly has its share of issues. The hiding evidence segments can become repetitive. Even for a casual adventure, the game is on the short side and there is little reason to play it more than once. My initial playthrough took less than three hours. However, despite its shortcomings, the game still manages to provide a fun and relaxing experience. The hint icon and the ‘Casual’ difficulty setting make the game accessible to new adventurers, while the ‘Expert’ mode will keep things interesting for more seasoned gamers. The puzzles are entertaining throughout the adventure. In particular, the final chapter contains a couple of fun surprises. It may not deliver the most memorable adventure-gaming experience, but if you are looking for a simple game for a relaxing evening, Escape from Pompeii is worth considering.


PC System Requirements:
OS: Windows XP/Vista
CPU: 800 Mhz
RAM: 512 MB
DirectX: 7.0
Hard Drive: 76 MB