I’ve played some good adventures, and I’ve played some bad adventures, but Beyond Atlantis II is easily the most bizarre adventure I’ve ever played. It includes a talking dolphin, a magic skull, time travel, and something called a “psychopomp.” It even has a Gameboy-like arcade sequence featuring monkeys, hippos, and coconuts. About the only thing Beyond Atlantis II doesn’t have is Atlantis (it’s beyond that, apparently -- way beyond). But, while strange, Beyond Atlantis II is engaging, and it has excellent graphics, first-rate cinematics, and relatively short and easy puzzles. So while it’s not a great adventure by any means, it’s good enough to be entertaining. Call it a guilty pleasure.
In Beyond Atlantis II, you play a young, female archeologist. You’re hot on the trail of the “Key to the Interdimension,” and your search has led you to the Middle East. Of course, you’re not the only one looking: an anonymous bad guy is also in pursuit, but since only one of pure heart can obtain the key, he’s out of luck and needs your help. You don’t want to help him, obviously, but since he has a gun and you don’t, what else can you do? Luckily, it turns out that all you have to do to prove yourself worthy is do things like hunt wooly mammoths in prehistoric times, take part in a tales from 1001 Arabian Knights, and wake up pharaohs and stuff. If they had asked for an IQ test, you probably would have been in trouble (no, your character doesn’t seem too bright).
In other words, the story is pretty thin, and it’s just there so you can go to all the exotic places the people of Cryo Interactive thought up when (possibly) they were taking some pretty good drugs. How else can you explain “the membrane,” a warped place with glass balls, weird walkways, and that talking dolphin? Or all the monkeys that appear in the game? Luckily, hallucinating or not, the world Cryo Interactive created is great. It looks good whether you’re in a colorful magician’s courtyard or in a dingy cave, and, as a result, just walking around and looking at everything is one of the more enjoyable parts of the game.
The puzzles are also relatively good. Beyond Atlantis II features both inventory puzzles and gadget puzzles, and while they’re fairer than what you’d find in most other adventures, they’re also a little too easy (maybe those two things are related). For example, there are few objects to pick up and even fewer places to use them, so figuring out what to do with your inventory is always straightforward -- even in situations where it shouldn’t be, like when you have to spin a top to open a portal. The gadget puzzles are more creative, but they’re usually straightforward as well. For example, at one point you’re given 24 tiles, 12 with sentences and 12 with pictures, and you’re told to “bring the story to life.” Well, it doesn’t take any great leap of logic to understand you just have to put the sentences in the right order and illustrate those sentences properly to solve the puzzle.
Beyond Atlantis II is also pretty friendly to play. It’s not up to the LucasArts level of friendliness since you can actually die, but should that sad event take place, the game is nice enough to put you back at an earlier position so you can try again -- and so you don’t need to keep loads of saved games around. The only real problem with Beyond Atlantis II’s gameplay is that, because the puzzles are relatively easy, they’re also quick to solve, and so your total playing time for the game will probably end up in the 5-10 hour mark. That’s just not long enough, even for an adventure game.
But the high water mark for Beyond Atlantis II is its graphics. The locations are “merely” good. They’re varied and interesting, and they help to bring the adventure to life, but they’re also a little muted and fuzzy, so they’re not as good as they could be. Where the graphics really shine are in the character models and in the cinematics. The characters actually look reasonably real, and they lip-synch well. Cryo Interactive even did a good job modeling the heroine’s hair. (Ok, it doesn’t rival Aki’s hair from Final Fantasy: the Spirits Within, but it’s the best I’ve seen in a computer game.) Meanwhile, the cinematics are outstanding as well as plentiful, and a few are genuinely cool. I won’t go so far as to say they’re worth the price of admission all by themselves, but they impressed me, and I’m hard to impress.
The sound is also generally good -- except for one place. Somehow Cryo Interactive managed to get the worst actress ever to play the heroine, and she’s just plain painful to listen to. I mean, you have to hear lines like “There is a scarab beetle in the box you gave me,” which make it sound like she has trouble reading let alone acting. Plus, she’s unwaveringly monotone throughout the entire game, so not only is she bad, she’s also boring. But other than that, the other actors did a fine job (especially the “psychopomp”) and the ambient sounds and background music did their jobs well.
Lastly, the interface is surprisingly bad. Graphic adventures like Beyond Atlantis II have been around for a long time, and so you’d think it would be easy for developers to come up with a good interface. I mean, you could just play some other games and then flat-out steal an interface. But apparently Cryo Interactive decided to try something new, and what they created was the ugliest, least intuitive menu system I’ve ever seen. I guess their intent was to create a system easy to port to other languages, but man, what a mess. And to top things off, the save game interface has problems. For some reason Cryo Interactive doesn’t let you name your saved games, and it doesn’t let you save over existing saved games. It doesn’t even let you delete saved games. So you end up with a whole bunch of useless saved games, in a game that only really requires one saved game slot. Well, great.
Overall, Beyond Atlantis II is just a weird game. The content is weird and the quality is weird. But the puzzles are reasonable and the game looks good, so it’s a worthwhile adventure to play if you don’t mind spending $30 -- that’s right, DreamCatcher upped its prices -- for less than ten hours of gameplay.