Amber: Journeys Beyond

Another haunted house MYSTery to solve.

Amber is an adventure game using 3DS Max rendered graphics and staggered movement to drive the action, much like that other world famous title that so easily popularized this style of adventure gaming.

The game begins with the player receiving an e-mail from a friend and employer asking him to check up on a colleague, Dr. Rosanne Westbridge. Roxy, as she’s referred to in the game, is the CEO of BIO-PSI, which is developing equipment to monitor paranormal activity. Roxy has been testing the prototypes of this equipment at a ‘psionicly-active’ (read haunted) house she evidently bought for kicks. From here the credits roll as the player drives along winding country roads and to the supposedly haunted home.

Ghost stories are nothing new, but Amber actually does a good job transferring it to the PC

Expect paranormal gadgetry to pop up in Amber. The game takes a liking to the supernatural.

Commands are limited to clicking in the four cardinal directions, with occasional off-center angles for movement. Active areas of the rooms are identified by the cursor changing into a question mark. Though there are many active spots in each room, they generally end up being what would actually be expected in a residential home, such as closets with clothes and cabinets with cups. Sound effects are sparse, but this magnifies their impact. There’s no soundtrack within the game; most exploration takes place in silence, which is all the more effective when the inevitable creaks, bumps and jump scares kick in. The game’s scares are much more subtle than any lame gore-fest could ever produce ( I’m looking at you Phantasmagoria! ).

The game’s puzzles vary from easy to moderate in difficulty. Most involve locating various parts of equipment to activate the prototype psychic detection gear. There are also many false leads, where the player will observe an item or picture and feel that it is somehow important to the storyline but later find it is actually irrelevant.

You’ll often run into the occasional apparition or eerie sound in the distance, and when you first enter the house – pitch black save for a bright red glow coming from upstairs – you wonder if it’s the flood lights or a demon portal leading to the lower bowels of Hell. Overall this is a lot more creative an adventure than the average Myst-inspired product, and is well worth checking out for those who enjoy the genre.

System Requirements: 486/33 CPU, 8 MB RAM, Windows 3.1

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