Does Anna’s quest prove magical?
I have always loved a good point and click adventure game, like many other people who were gaming in the early 90s. Escape from Monkey Island and Broken Sword were just two games that I have fond memories of playing for hours back in the day. It wasn’t a great point and click game unless it contained puzzles with completely random ways of solving them and I used to spend days wandering around in game, not knowing what I needed to do, only for the answer to be right under my nose. These points in the game were frustrating but you had to persevere as there were only magazines to help you and these came out monthly with no guarantee that they would hold the answer you were looking for. The one other thing that made a great point and click game is the writing. If the script was flat, with poor character development and missing humour then the game was not going to be popular. But, if the game included well arched characters with lots of humour and an interesting story it was a winner.
Unfortunately, people started to get bored of the genre and point and click games became a thing of the past, only existing in the memories of the people who played them. Here is where Anna’s Quest steps in, a 2015 PC game made by German developer Daedalic which is now available on consoles for the first time, to try and rekindle this dead genre and remind us all why we fell in love with point and click games and over the ten hours I spent with it I feel it does a pretty good job of it.
The premise of the game is pretty simple. Anna lives with her grandpa, on a remote farm. One day her grandpa becomes ill and it’s up to Anna to leave the farm and get help. As Anna is travelling she gets kidnapped by an evil witch and it’s up to you to help Anna escape the clutches of the witch and find a way to get a cure for her grandpa. Along the way she learns she holds the power of telekinesis, makes some new friends and helps characters that have got themselves into trouble. Of course, this is not an easy task and over the six acts (which helps keep the game feeling fresh) you will come across many head scratching puzzles and problems to solve. It was a slow starting story but as I progressed through the game it kept me interested and I was invested in seeing where the story would go and how it would all end.
Anna’s Quest takes inspiration from brothers Grimm fairy tales and there are references to Hansel & Gretel, Goldilocks and Cinderella. Within its well written script there are some interesting and likeable characters. Anna herself is a sweet, caring and warm hearted girl and that endears the player to her character, but I would have loved to have seen just a little bit of mischievousness from her from time to time.
This is all told through gorgeous, hand drawn graphics. Each area is extremely detailed and you can see the hard work the developers have put in, which really helps to put you into the world she’s exploring. The game is fully voice acted to a good level, although sometimes there would be a couple of seconds gap in between characters talking as the sound bites were loading in and I experienced some sound compression issues. There are also subtitles available, shown in a largish font so they are easy to read and you won’t be squinting at the screen trying to read them if you’re playing handheld or on a Switch Lite.
“It’s a perfect example of the genre it’s out to recreate, but along the way it highlights some reasons why these games became so unpopular.”
The controls have been carried over from the PC pretty well and you can also take advantage of the full touch controls that have been included all of which work with no major issues. The left control stick controls Anna herself and you can cycle through the interactive items on screen by using the right stick, which was mostly fine, but it was here where I had issues with the controls as they seemed slightly too sensitive and I kept missing the item I wanted to select. This was most prevalent in a section where there were three levers really close together and it took me ages to highlight the lever I wanted. However, this is where I found the touch controls the most useful as I could choose the item straight away just by pressing on it. If you were to push down the right stick it will show you all the items and characters that you can interact with in the area you’re in which I found useful. When an item is highlighted, you have three commands, Anna can describe the item in question, you can try to pick it up/interact with it or you can try to use an item that’s in your hand which you can choose from your inventory. If you’re trying something that’s not right, Anna will usually tell you verbally and encourage you to try something else.
The inventory holds all the items you’ve picked up and can be accessed by pressing down on the d pad. The inventory holds infinite items and once inside your inventory you can ask Anna to describe them, look over them or try to combine them into one to help solve a puzzle. If you press left or right on the d pad on the main screen it brings up a quick version of the inventory which you can cycle through the items and select one to use. I found this tool very useful, though I would have liked the option of combining items from this too.
The puzzles themselves are what you would expect from a point and click adventure game. Some of them seem pretty obvious, some you need to spend some time before you have that eureka moment and some are totally baffling. What the game does well is give you that wonderful sense of achievement when you finally solve a puzzle, and it left me wanting more. Anna learns she can control items with telekinesis, which brings a fresh approach to solving some puzzles, but you can not use it on people as Anna does not want to hurt anyone, even the bad ones! You use her telekinesis by pressing ZL when an object is highlighted on screen, it was an interesting mechanic to use which made you approach certain puzzles in a different way. There were a few puzzles I spent a long time trying to figure out and had to result in searching online. It’s at these points where I feel people newer to the genre will lose the most patience and interest as the gaming world is all so different now thanks to the ever ending influx of new games to play.
In some ways I felt the game was a little too authentic to its predecessors, as it didn’t include any hint system for when you’re stuck. I know some will say it doesn’t need to have a system like this, but it could be made optional, perhaps by an on/off tab in the settings, there are ways of doing it without impacting the experience. The gaming world has changed since the 90s and it would have benefited from a system like this as accessibility is an important part in modern video games.
Some other more modern features would have been helpful like automatic saving, as you have to manually save the game and I would of loved a recap screen to remind me of the objectives needed to be completed as coming back to the game after a period of time meant I didn’t always remember what I was supposed to be doing. The game also features a lot of talking sections, some are quite short and some are lengthy. These are welcome respites from the puzzles, but a lot of the time the characters are just standing there not moving, and this meant I got quite bored especially through the longer sections. A few times I caught myself flicking through Twitter as I listened to the talking, which is a shame as it took me out of the game world. I would have loved some more interaction between the characters which would have made it much more interesting, but I appreciate that’s easier said than done.
Despite the negatives, Anna’s Quest holds up in many ways. It tells an interesting story, has some well crafted characters and does bring something new with the telekinesis power. Beautiful to look at and written well, It’s a perfect example of the genre it’s out to recreate, but along the way it highlights some reasons why these games became so unpopular. I had a great time playing Anna’s Quest, it really did remind me why I enjoyed point and click games back in the day and highly recommend fans of the genre and newcomers to pick it up. However, some may get inpatient with the game and more than likely lose interest, which would be a shame as this deserves more attention especially now it’s available to a much bigger audience.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch, available now on Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Linux, Steam, Windows and Mac.
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