In Paradise you play a young woman named Ann Smith. Your father is the king / dictator of a small African country named Maurania, but when you go to visit him your plane is shot down by rebels and you lose your memory. You end up under the care of a prince, and the prince gives you a black leopard so that you can return it to the wild. As the story unfolds, you explore the country with the leopard, and you eventually meet up with your father, a man you haven’t seen since you were a little girl.
The story has promise, since it gives you an excuse to visit the wilds of Africa, and it introduces a theme where a father needs to reconcile with his daughter, but unfortunately the game does little to develop its characters or their situations. I thought maybe Ann Smith would learn about the country during her travels, and that the experiences would make her a better ruler than her father, but instead of taking a thoughtful approach to the premise, Ann just hurtles from one problem to the next. Ann suffers through a plane crash, a car crash, a collapsing mine, a sinking ferry, a snake bite, and more. You never really learn anything about her; you just extricate her from one disaster after another.
And that’s disappointing because Paradise was penned by none other than Benoit Sokal, who was responsible for the Syberia games. The Syberia games were two of my favorite adventures from the last ten years, but Paradise is a lesser game in every respect. The story is the big culprit here, since you’re never given any reason to care about Ann Smith or her father (or even the leopard), and so when daughter and father finally do meet, there should be a big emotional payoff, but I could have cared less. I was just glad the game was over.
The puzzles are also a problem, and that’s the most generous thing I can say about them. The puzzles are badly explained and poorly implemented, often making it difficult for you to tell what’s going on and what you should be doing next. They’re also more about busy-work than anything else, and so they’d be little fun to solve even if they were clearer. Consider this. Early in the game when you’re resting in the prince’s palace, you’re forced to do odd jobs for the concubines. This includes things like fetching sweetcakes, preparing baths, and mixing perfume. Later, you have to search a garden so you can find three sticks. Well, woohoo, imagine my enthusiasm. Nothing you do at the prince’s palace does anything more than pad the playing time of the game.
Worse, somehow the game engine even took a hit since Syberia. The locations don’t look good, often being dark, drab, washed-out, or some combination of the three. There is also an assortment of sloppy interface problems, like when you tell Ann to go to one exit and she decides to go to a different one, or when you pick up an item and see that it’s called “object_a03_badtool2.” There’s also a bug that might prevent you from seeing the ending cinematic sequence. Plus, there are other oddities, like three times in the game when you’re allowed to take over control of the leopard. So far as I can tell, there aren’t any puzzles associated with the leopard. You just run around for a while (usually in environments where it’s too dark to see anything) until you get bored. If that doesn’t define fun, I don’t know what does.
And so there’s little to recommend about Paradise. Story elements and character development are ignored, the puzzles aren’t any fun to solve, and the game isn’t even enjoyable to look at. I thought Dreamfall: The Longest Journey was a disappointment when I played it, and a strong contender for Most Disappointing Game of the Year, but that game is light years ahead of this mess. Stay away at any price.