grumbel's AMBER: Journeys Beyond (PC) review

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An intriguing start is spoiled by a cliched second half

Amber: Journeys Beyond is a Myst style first person adventure game released back in 1996 in which you take the role of an unnamed college of Dr. Roxanne Westbridge, who has to find out what happened to her after she has gone missing.

Mechanically the game follows the Myst formula pretty closely. Graphics are prerendered and presented from first person perspective, clicking on the scenary makes you jump from picture to picture. An inventory is present, but rarely used. A few animations and video sequences are thrown in to give the environment some live. FMV sequences, while present, are rather minimal, as you never end up interacting directly with another character.

The game starts out quite interesting, once you arrive at the deserted house of Roxanne you start investigating, search through her stuff, read some diaries, manuals and so on. The athmosphere is mysterious and things get quite spooky once you start assembling some of the  apparatus with which Roxanne was experimenting and the first few paranormal events happen. The game provides very little direct guidance, so you are mostly on your own making sense of what you find and given the setting that's probably a good thing.

The first third of the game is spend that way and for most part quite good spooky sci-fi stuff. After that however the game takes a sharp turn and kind of drives off a cliff. Once you have assembed enough tech gadget you'll end up with one that lets you jump into the ghosts consciousness and then go through their memory to finally free them. Those journeys into ghost-land, of which there are three, turn however out to be pretty boring and filled with rather cliche ghost stories. Even worse, those ghost stories really don't connect back to anything you did earlier and they aren't connected with each other either, they are pretty much completely self contained. Once those three ghost episodes are solved the game ends soon after without spending much more time in the real world.

Overall it's simply a rather disappointing game. The game starts out great, but then instead of building up on what it has, it just throws all of that away and wasted time with trips to the astral plane, that neither manage to keep the athmosphere going nor are very interesting on their own. With just a little over four hours the game is also not very long and most of the puzzles are easy, depending more on the navigational obscurity, then on actual thinking. There definitvly was potential for more, but it remains completely unrealized in the end.

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