Keepsake is the latest overseas import from The Adventure Company. In the game, you take on the role of a young initiate named Lydia. It’s your first day at the Dragonvale Academy, where the land’s mages go to learn their craft, but when you arrive at the front gate, nobody is there to meet you. In fact, nobody seems to be in the school at all. That prompts you to explore the school and its surroundings. You manage to find a friendly peddler and a dragon (currently in the form of a wolf) named Zak, but neither has any idea what’s going on, leaving it up to you to find out.
Most of the adventure takes place in Dragonvale Academy. The game uses a third person perspective, so Lydia appears on screen, and you just have to click to tell her where to go. The academy itself is rather convoluted, with a series of walkways and staircases and teleporters making it difficult to navigate, but the game includes a map feature, so you can always check where approximately you are. Unfortunately, the map doesn’t allow you to jump to locations that you’ve already visited, which would have been nice because all the walking around can get tedious.
Dragonvale Academy includes lounges, classrooms, and offices, and the puzzles in the game take advantage of these locations. You might need to study the lesson in a classroom to advance the plot, or open a door that students aren’t supposed to go through, or just play a game that the students have set up. All of the puzzles are mechanical in nature, where you have to pull levers or push buttons to beat them, but unlike some adventures where the mechanical puzzles are just big locks, and nothing happens until you flip the switches in just the right order, in Keepsake the puzzles are little games, and just about everything you do gives you some feedback.
For example, in one puzzle you’re given a 4x4 grid, and you must move a dragon from one corner of the grid to his cave in the opposite corner. The dragon can only switch places with wizards, wizards can only switch places with the dragon and gnomes, gnomes can only switch places with wizards and knights, and so forth. That is, the puzzle has easy-to-understand rules, you can see your progress as you play, and the puzzle is tough without being impossible to solve.
The dragon puzzle is symbolic of most of the puzzles in Keepsake: they’re fun and they’re solvable. I’d say that Keepsake has the best mechanical puzzles of any adventure without the word Myst in its title. Better yet, if you have trouble with any of the puzzles, or if you find that you can’t solve some of them, the game comes with an integrated hint system. The hint system is sort of like a mini UHS file for the game. It starts out with subtle hints and then gives you more and more detailed hints, culminating with an offer to solve the puzzle for you automatically. That way you can skip some of the puzzles if you want, which is good because while I liked the majority of the puzzles, there were a couple stinkers, too (like one puzzle where some of the controls are on opposite sides of the academy, and it’s a pain to run back and forth and try to figure it out).
The storyline is also nice, and I mean that in every sense of the word “nice.” The story is well written and competently acted (nice as in good), but it’s also filled with family-oriented messages (nice as in warm and fuzzy). This isn’t a game where you discover that the students of the academy have been butchered into little pieces, and that you need to decapitate a demon to save their souls. Instead, you learn about dealing with death, making friends, overcoming fears, and things like that. Keepsake would be a good game for families to play together, especially since the dialogue never gets too preachy.
In other words, it’s easy to recommend Keepsake. It has a couple of problems here and there (like odd echoes to the dialogue), but it sports a couple dozen intriguing puzzles, it’s well made, and it’s well acted. It should provide you with at least 15 hours of entertainment, which is longer than most adventures these days, and so it seems well worth the $30 SRP.