The game was created using Chris Jones' invaluable Adventure Game Studio, a creation tool and runtime engine without which many fine contemporary adventure games would not exist. This game is meant to be a quick, entertaining play, but it looks and sounds very professional, something that would not have been possible on a limited budget without AGS to handle all the technical details. And Mr. Jones has always made his tool available free -- a fine example of a generous spirit all year 'round.
As always, interested readers are encouraged to take on Christmas Quest before reading my notes below. It's also free, and can be downloaded at AdventureGamers.com (click on the game's title screenshot, the same image shown above, to download the installation package.) Beyond this point, I'll be describing my complete experience with the game, and there are certain to be...
***** HO! HO! SPO!LERS AHEAD! *****
After we start a new game, a few screens of text (with voiced narration by Doug Tabacco) set up the plot -- we're certain Santa Claus has delivered the Best Adventure Game Ever, and (compulsive sort that we are) we must solve some puzzles to restore the perfect holiday setting before we can sit down and indulge in all its Besty Everness.
We fade in on our living room on Christmas morning, with a wilting, unlit Christmas tree, a locked closet door with a keyhole, a star that has fallen off the tree, a fireplace, and a bulky, unattractive turquoise couch. There's also a staircase leading upstairs, but we can't make use of it -- "kinda defeats the purpose of coming down, doesn't it?" And the power is out, so the tree lights and our trusty gaming computer are both out of commission.
Most of the items onscreen can be interacted with, though many of the responses are just for chuckles; for example, concerning the lit fireplace, "I really should have put this out last night. Santa can't have been pleased." The main character isn't voiced, but the writing is light-hearted and gently funny, with in-jokes tailored to people like me (us, I whisper conspiratorially to long-time GA40 readers.) Just to set the tone, some of the Christmas cards on the mantle are from Sierra's Ken and Roberta Williams, Steve Purcell/Lucasarts/Telltale Games' Sam & Max, Sierra's Gabriel Knight and friends, and there's a portrait of Lucasarts' Green Tentacle on the wall.
Examining the presents under the tree yields a bulky, pink, unopened present, a multi-purpose Ulti-Pan, and a refusal to open a present that isn't for our hero ("What kind of a take everything that isn't nailed down klepto would take someone else's present?") We can pick up the fallen star, but can't put it back on the tree just yet as it will just fall off the wilted treetop again. We can take the empty glass of
We can open the window to the chilly, snowy outside world -- I was hoping we could catch enough falling snow in the pan or the glass to water the tree, but that didn't work out until I realized I was clicking on the Window and not the Snow. Of course, we have to melt our glass of snow in the fireplace, and now we can water the tree, miraculously restoring its turgor pressure in the blink of an eye.
Now maybe we can get the star back on the tree... but, of course, now that the tree is standing upright, we can't quite reach its top. We can't seem to move the couch or use the sticky candy cane to extend our reach. We can, however, revisit a classic, oft-employed adventure gaming puzzle -- we can observe something is jammed in the locked closet's keyhole, slip our brother's Christmas card under the closet door, then poke the blockage with the candy cane. ("Ever notice how the key always falls RIGHT on the paper?")
Unlocking the closet reveals "a circuit breaker, a goat, and enough cobwebs to knit a scarf." We can just use the Darkness to turn the lights back on (having avoided the goat, as well as the grue alluded to earlier if we try to use the ulti-pan on the keyhole.)
Now we just need to get the tree topper back on the tree top. This solution didn't occur to me earlier, but as we're running out of options now it becomes obvious that we need to stack the portable pink present on top of the non-portable green present, and voila! All three puzzles are solved and everything seems suitably cheery again:
The music shifts from a cheery, repetitive rendition of Deck the Halls to the more portentous Silent Night, we open the Best Adventure Game Ever, put it into the computer... and find out this was just Episode 1 of a projected Christmas Quest trilogy (which did in fact materialize in later years). For the moment, it's a happy ending, and a victory of sorts:
Christmas Quest was actually a little more challenging than I expected -- the contained space and limited number of items notwithstanding, I had to do a little more trial-and-error experimentation than I thought I would. But it's a pleasant, straightforward, and entertaining little game, and the perfect title to post about on Christmas Eve. I'll likely be coming back to this series in years to come.
And thank you to everyone who visits and reads the Gaming After 40 blog; your comments are some of my favorite gifts of all. Happy Holidays, everyone!