I am a fairly frugal gamer:  I like to bide my time and wait for games to come down in price before picking them up at bargain basement prices.  At the same time, I enjoy keeping up to date by playing the majority of demos that come to Steam.   Unfortunately for my wallet, after playing the 90 minute demo for Deep Silver‘s indie adventure game Lost Horizon, I couldn’t resist buying the full game for the undiscounted price of $20.

Lost Horizon is, without contest, the best point and click adventure game that I have ever played, easily surpassing classics like Tales of Monkey Island and Day of the Tentacle.  There are simply too many things to love about this game:  everything from the intuitive yet challenging puzzles, to the user interface improvements, to the fully voiced 10+ hour plot are executed brilliantly, bringing a genre that is sometimes accused of being stale and outdated into the present.

At the core of every point and click adventure game are the item-based puzzles in which you have to first locate things in the environment, and then use and/or combine them in a specific manner in order to solve a challenge and progress the plot.  I’m not sure exactly how they manage to pull it off, but Lost Horizon’s puzzles manage to be both mentally engaging and completely intuitive at the same time.  At first it is often unclear how an item that you find can be used, but as you acquire more belongings, visit more scenes, and listen to more descriptions things just seem to click into place.  There were very few times during the entire game that I found myself forced to mouse over every item with every other item to solve an obscure puzzle that had stumped me.  The game excels at making its player feel smart on a consistent basis.

One of the huge criticisms that point and click adventure games receive is that they force players to waggle their mouse all over the screen in order to find hot points where interactions are possible.  Lost Horizon does away with this outdated mechanic by including a magnifying glass button which, when clicked, places an icon on every spot of the screen that can be examined.  It is amazing what a difference this simple little tool makes:  instead of being ticked off because I failed to mouse over a key half-inch of the screen, the game allowed me to just play and focus on the story and puzzles.

And what a story it is….

Lost Horizon blends some of the overarching themes from the 1933 novel of the same name with an Indiana Jones-inspired plot that spans three continents over the course of seven chapters.  The game, which takes place in 1936, starts off with the Nazis storming a Tibetan monastery in search of a mystic artifact.  From there you take control of Fenton Paddock, an ex-military British chap living in Hong Kong, and are tasked with unraveling the mystery that seems to have captivated pre-WW2 Germany in the snowy mountains of Tibet.

The game is fully voiced, with every item description, item combination (success and failure), dialog, and plot point acted to a fairly decent quality.  Some of the English-speaking Cantonese accents were not convincing – especially the female lead – however I am particularly sensitive to that accent being married to a Chinese woman. The script is usually fairly serious, but some of Fenton’s quips are sure to draw a smile – he has a great personality, and his actor does a wonderful job bringing him to life.

The static scenes that you visit and explore are wonderfully drawn, with the art style appearing like a very slick cartoon.  The artists clearly spent some time researching their subject matter, because the world is full of very authentic details; in particular the costumes in Hong Kong were utterly fantastic.

Lost Horizon’s story feels like a great action romp, a feat that is all the more impressive since the game play consists of methodically exploring environments, and performing relatively simple mechanical actions.  Yes – at times the twists are predictable, but what action movie doesn’t have that problem?  I found it exceptionally satisfying to work throw the game in hour-long segments, solving an entire section of the game before taking a break for the day.

If you haven’t played a point and click game in a while then you really need to check out the Lost Horizon demo – it is a great example of how much fun a modern adventure game can be.  If you’re already a fan of the genre, then what are you waiting for?!?  This game is a steal at $20, and well worth your time to devour.

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One Response to “Post mortem: Lost Horizon”

  1. Planning on making time for this one. Y’know… someday. ;)

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