AGON: The Mysterious Codex is actually a boxed collection of the first 3 episodes of a rather ambitious point-and-click adventure game, AGON. Usually I’m a sucker for games that try new and risky ideas, so the episodic premise behind AGON is certainly intriguing. Developer Private Moon Studios decided to deliver an old-school style point-and-click adventure to their fans in bite-sized chunks. According to their website, they plan on releasing a whopping 14 chapters in the AGON story over the next several years. Although the content delivered in The Mysterious Codex collection is promising, I have to admit I’m a bit leery about how well the entire AGON project will fare. That being said, AGON: The Mysterious Codex is a very entertaining and pleasant, if short, old-school adventure game.
The first chapter opens up in the early 20th century with Professor Samuel Hunt hard at work in his office at the British Museum. A mysterious letter arrives, which propels him down the puzzle-laden road to discover a series of long-lost board games, each of which is tied to some sort of dark curse. Finding the protectors of these board games, and then mastering each of the games, will (supposedly) send Professor Hunt around the world to exotic locales. The story behind the adventure is actually quite good, despite the somewhat strange premise. Adding to the game’s appeal is our hero, Samuel Hunt. The good Professor is a refreshingly pleasant protagonist, extremely well-mannered and optimistic.
The puzzles themselves, which are the heart of any point-and-click game, are also quite good. Most of the puzzles make logical sense, and few feel shoe-horned into the plot. There are a fair share of the typical “use item A at point B” puzzles, but AGON also has a nice array of ciphers, logic puzzles, and spatial recognition exercises. Many of the puzzles have an old-school feel—the in-game notes are limited, so much of the hints and clues need to be written down on honest-to-goodness pencil and paper. Something just feels right about finishing a game with a small pile of doodles, notes, and hastily-scrawled drawings sitting at my side. On the old-school note, players should be prepared to do a bit of reading, as much of the story and many of the puzzle solutions are buried in the various books and letters sprinkled about the locations. In addition to the puzzles, as Professor Hunt finally tracks down the individuals guarding each of the board games, he must then challenge and defeat the guardians at the given game. Neither of the two games included in The Mysterious Codex were especially intriguing, but they did offer a nice challenge to round out each of the chapters.
While the puzzles may at times be challenging, AGON’s interface is simple and straightforward. The entire game is played with the context-sensitive mouse cursor. Each static location can be explored in a full 360-degree view by a click-and-drag of the left mouse button. The cursor highlights useful objects, and while there is a small bit of “pixel hunting”, necessary items are usually easy enough to find. The game looks good, although not spectacular. Given that the first few episodes came out a few years ago, this isn’t surprising. The voice acting, particularly that of Hunt, is top-notch. There are actually very few people to interact with, but those that are present do a good job.
My biggest (and perhaps only) complaint with AGON is the length of the chapters. I burned through the Mysterious Codex in a little over 4 hours, which averages about 1 to 1.5 hours per chapter. Granted, I have many years of adventure gaming under my belt, and I’m pretty quick with the more detailed word and logic puzzles, but even adventure-game newbies would be hard-pressed to hit the 10-hour mark. Chapters only consist of a handful of locations, and since each chapter is self-contained, there is no overlap or overarching puzzle to conquer. Related to my length complaint is a rather large worry about the series in general. Chapter 3 was released in 2004, almost 2 years ago. At this rate, we won’t see Chapter 14 until I will be starting to consider retirement. I am worried that the developers are a little over-ambitious in their undertaking, and we as players may never see the end of this promising and thus-far entertaining game.
As AGON isn’t truly finished, it’s difficult to give a final verdict of the game itself. The chapters contained in The Mysterious Codex are quite good, which leads me to believe the rest of the game is full of promise. However, I’m hesitant to give this a hearty recommendation, especially since the lag time between episodes is a bit troubling. For those who want a high-quality point-and-click adventure, and don’t mind the possibility that no true resolution will be reached, AGON: The Mysterious Codex is a solid, if short, contender.
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