The Vortex: Quantum Gate II

4_1The year is 2057 in the awkwardly-made Quantum Gate II, and Earth is facing total environmental meltdown. The only thing that can replenish the planet is a rare mineral found abundantly on planet AJ3905 — which can only be reached via the Quantum Gate. Too bad the planet’s atmosphere is deadly and its inhabitants are big, vicious insects. As Army medic Drew Griffin, you’re sent to AJ3905 in a protective enviro-suit, your vision “enhanced” by a virtual reality unit. Are you seeing your enemies as they really are, or as the vested interests of Earth want you to see them?

That’s one question lingering over the course of the plot, as when your suit is breached and you have to pull off your helmet, you find something completely different. You regain consciousness surrounded not by giant bugs, but by attractive humanoids who look like idealized hippies with angel wings; and the sky is pure and blue, and not a toxic wasteland. You wake, in fact, in something very like some alien paradise, a wildly beautiful world populated by idealized tribes of people living in harmony with their environments.

The bulk of Vortex consists of Drew’s (the player’s) quest to find out the truth about this new world and the threat posed to it by the rapacious invaders from Earth. Eventually — and predictably — Drew must take a stand on one side or the other. Oh, and the “interactivity” comes from conversational choices, and the use you make of information imparted by various dreams and visions that pop up over the course of this point and click adventure.

6_1Although the actors try hard to bring Vortex to life, the preachy, syrupy, save-the-whales script mocks their efforts. The cliches are overwhelming: “How can a culture value profit more than truth?” asks one of the winged folk during a Q and A session in which Drew’s moral values are probed. This episode, called “The Sounding” and central to the story, is really embarrassing. The narrative structure, as a whole, is messy. There are too many dream sequences and too many jerky, abrupt leaps over plot-holes. The most appealing character — Illyra — is written out of the story at the very moment when she should be central.

Even if Vortex were better, this adventure game is too awkward and not game-like for it to be fun, and can easily be chalked up as another example of wayward ‘experimental’ game designed that so often plagued the 1990s.

System Requirements: 486/33 MHz CPU, 4 MB RAM, Win 3.1

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