Back in the 90’s point and click adventure games were riding high. LucasArts were effectively the sector leader within the genre, producing such timeless classics as Monkey Island, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis along with Day of the Tentacle.
So imagine how disappointed little Mark was one Christmas morning to wake-up and find after frantically unwrapping his present not Monkey Island but Flight of the Amazon Queen from Renegade Software under the Christmas tree. This was in spite of a month long campaign of dropping hints, circling the game in the Argos catalogue and collecting Toys-r-us item ticket. To be fair it wasn’t as bad as the year I received Premier Manager 2 without the piracy protection code wheel. Now I don’t want to sound like I was a spoiled ungrateful child, but I wasn’t too happy about not finding Monkey Island under the tree. I cried, then proclaimed “But I’ve been a really good boy this year” (That statement couldn’t have been further from the truth but my childhood is another story altogether).
Now to be fair Flight of the Amazon Queen (FOTAQ) is far from a terrible game, it just wasn’t the game I’d been hoping for. Anyway like any child at Christmas I made best of a bad situation and played the game regardless of my disappointment.
Initial disappoint aside I have nothing but fond memories of my time with FOTAQ as a child, but to my frustration I was never able to complete the game. This wasn’t due to the disastrous bug that plagued the initial release of the game. The bug concerned a character that you met within the first 20 minutes and a conversation tree action required to obtain a door key was never triggered. My roadblock was a late game puzzle where I could never pass a giant snake that was preventing me from progressing through a door. So I set out to rectify this travesty that has blighted my gaming history for too long.
Firstly I had visions of fiddling with DOSbox or creating a virtual machine but thankfully due to the magical SCUMMvm (Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion Virtual Machine) platform the process was effortless. The virtual machine allows users to legally play a hefty library games that run on the SCUMM engine and a solid collection of Sierra games that don’t (King’s Quest, Leisure suit Larry and Space Quest to name a few).
Anyway. So FOTAQ is very much your standard 90’s point and click adventure. Walk here, pick up this, pick up that, combine this and that to move thing, its a tried and tested formula that still works to this day.
In the usual point and click adventure style you take control of a character whom will carry out actions you request through that method of pointing and clicking. In FOTAQ you take control of Joe King (I kid you not), Joe a pilot for hire and owner of the Amazon Queen airplane. Whilst en route to the Amazon jungle the plane crashes and subsequently loses his passenger, famous movie star Faye Russel. The game in itself is a pastiche of early 1920’s pulp magazines that have been used for inspiration for other fictional characters like Indiana Jones and Zorro.
The game holds up relatively well, but it does suffer from many issues that plagued all point and click adventure games from the 90’s. You will get to a point where you are totally stuck and end up just clicking every single area of the screen and combining using every single item you have picked up. Then when you have exhausted every single combination and clicked every item you are, like little Mark was all those years ago, Stuck.
Maybe it seemed extremely alien 15 years ago that a game would actually help you if you were flummoxed by a puzzle or lost navigating a jungle. But then again maybe I wasn’t the most intelligent child around. Because any idiot would know that to scare off a snake you use the flint in the lighter and rap the mummy bandage around the ulna bone and light the bandage to scare off the snake, right?
So some 15 years after starting the game I finally managed to finish it, without the aid of hints/ cheats or referring to the internet. Its not a great game by any stretch of the imagination. It has a strong premise and the first half of the game is witty and has enough nods and winks to other games of the style to raise a broad smile. Its just a pity when the more outrageous science fiction elements start venturing into the main storyline the ability to suspend disbelief becomes harder and harder.
I wouldn’t discourage any one from checking out Flight of the Amazon Queen. Its a charming adventure that just happened to have been over shadowed by slightly better games.