a mournful review by inferno
A Series of Unfortunate Events
A Bemoanful Beginning
When I was first asked to review this morosely intensive and repentant game, my only trepidation was in the fact that this particular offering was not a pure “point & click” adventure. *( “morosely intensive” a phrase which here means: Could I comfortably work through the game with all the jumping, fighting and shooting sequences there might possibly be and still have both my wrists intact?) But after having read the original tittle-tattle about the trials of the three tenacious and steadfast Baudelaire children, I decided to give it a go. After all, it was expertly chronicled and recorded for one’s perusal under the clever guise of “Children’s Literature”. Authored by the famous (or should I say suspicious?) Mr. Lemony Snicket who indeed habitually gives the general population pause as he has a tendency to be quite reclusive in nature and usually hides himself away letting his dear friend and confidant, one Mr. Daniel Handler, (with out whom the profuse writings of Mr. Snicket would most certainty not exist) suffer the brunt of all Mr. Snicket's reviews or criticisms no matter how mild or severe they might be. It has even been said *( "even been said" a phrase here which means I have gleaned this knowledge upon the highest authority although I shall not reveal my sources to anyone.) that Mr. Snicket has been reputed to be a spy, a famous author, a gad-about-town, a fraud, a sometimes innocent man and most recently the narrator of this video game. However, we shall not dwell on such circumstances of opaque duplicity here. It is a far better course to concentrate our efforts upon the trials and tribulations put forth in this woefully moanfull adventure game and not worry so much as to whether or not Lemony Snicket does his own writing. Although I do have my dubious thoughts,
You won’t hear another word about it from me
Suffice it to say, I awaited the arrival of my copy of the PC version of this game in the mail with breathless anticipation sent to me by one "Mrs. Floatingfeather", truly a dear friend and colleague. *( “breathless anticipation” a phrase which here means: I practically attacked my postman everyday for a week until the small parcel finally arrived.) Upon its unperturbed emergence at my doorstep (for after all, most mail is unperturbed until one “perturbs” it) I hurried to my Windows XP System and feverishly loaded it up. Ah yes, dear gamers, how despondently wonderful it is to have a piece of software that works without a hitch on my system! Such joy, most sincerely met. And as far as the subject matter went, how pleased was I that my worrisome expectations were not dashed upon the jagged weather worn rocks of my imagination, but rather that the visual look and pensively disquieting musical underscore of the adventure was as enticing to me as the first three books in the series which I had penitently read a few years before while awaiting the fourth installment of a certain biography about another orphaned child by one of my favorite authors: J.K. Rowling.
Terrible Technical Stuff and Nauseating Nonsense
The game encompasses the first three books written by the insidiously infamous “Lemony Snicket”: The Bad Beginning, The Reptile Room, and The Wide Window. Which does plant certain ambiguous seeds to mind that this may in fact be a start of an adventure gaming series, well...if it was good enough for J.K. Rowling and her sort, suffice it to say that one may only hope. I will tell you that I did play the PC version of the game before the movie came out, and was so very delighted with the “look” of the game itself: The eerie and sometimes desolate backgrounds, the victorianesque characters, the color palate choices of jewel tones against a sometimes sepia-healed canvas which developed just the right touch of misery. Add to this mélange the melancholic music of Jerry and Julian Soule and we have the makings of a truly disheartening setting. All was exactly as I had imagined the tragic sorrowful tale of the pitiful Baudelaire children to be. The “topper” to all of this was to have the “voice” of the narrator, Lemony Snicket, to be one of my favorite Computer Game Voices… yes, ladies and gentleman I give you none other than that wonderful man … that “Gabriel Knight” of a character… That Sweet Transvestite from Transylvania ...The One…. The Only… the “Frighteningly Fabulous”…. Hold on to your drawers…. the insidious Mr. Tim Curry. *(“Frighteningly Fabulous” a phrase which here means that for my money, it’s enough that he is in the game alone with his scathingly brilliant and sardonic witty delivery, which appears throughout the entire adventure as either plot exposition or epithets of mournfully acerbic encouragement when one loses at a particular gaming sequence or when one of the Baudelaires faints dead away from sheer misery.)
From the very beginning of the game when Tim Curry as Lemony Snicket declares,
"If you are interested in casting magic spells, or saving the Earth from alien invasion, you might as well stop right now."
"You see the videogame you are about to play is extremely unpleasant. It does not have a happy beginning, middle and if a happy ending is important to you, you would certainly be better off with something else.”
I knew then that I would be in for a treat. I suppose I should also mention that a few of the lead actors from the movie’s original cast lent their talents to the voices of the characters in the game itself. Jim Carey is perfectly at home as usual as the obnoxiously despicable buffoon, Count Olaf, no surprises there. I can't tell you the level of positive jubilation I received during the endgame in both the PC and PS2 versions of the adventure after I had soundly thwarted Count Olaf. For me, he is an actor I absolutely love to despise. He plays a wonderful villain. The voices of the two older Baudelaire children: Violet played by Emily Browning and Klaus played by Liam Aiken are also a delight worth mentioning. Interesting to also note here that the animated characters within the adventure closely resemble their cinematic counterparts. Well done...most well done.
The gaming interface was quite easy to use even though it is not a simple Point & Click. While it employs both mouse and keyboard, its steps are really quite logical and simple to handle once you get the hang of it. The actions are basic strafing, jumping, grabbing, operating those curious inventions, and changing characters (something I really liked in the PS2 version) between the three children Violet, Klaus and Sunny as the moment calls for it.
Disagreeable Differences: PC & Console Version
Unfortunately in the PC version one is unable to choose with which child one would have perform the task at hand, in the Console version one is afforded that peculiar luxury. In both versions the untoward gamer, under the personae of "Les Orphans de Baudelaire" (well, one at a time to be sure at any rate...) will spend much of his/her time collecting various items for Violet's curious contraptions, brass eyes and of course various interesting and sometimes very odd things to use as ammunition. However, The fascinating parchments in which a single letter of the alphabet will be shown with an explanation of a certain vocabulary word, (for which one can only ascertain that this game perhaps infuses a certain learning curve with regard to expanding one's verbal skills...) is afforded only to those who play the PC version. Console gamers will just have to be begrudgingly satisfied with collecting various colored puzzle pieces which when accumulated in total will open up thus and sundry film clips, recitations of various stories by Count Olaf and other interesting cinematic paraphernalia from the recently released movie production of the same name. This could be due to the little known fact that PC Gamers have long been known to be more of a cerebral lot and most assuredly would not be at all interested in such tawdry drivel as viewing overrated movie clips and other such nonsense. The unfortunate Console Gamers will also have the disagreeable task of creating each of Violet's inventions, that are similar to but yet quite different from those contraptions Violet creates by herself in the PC version. *("Violet creates by herself" a phrase which here means that for the PC gamer, while you will still have to help the children seek out and grab these parts, the inventions themselves are compiled together by a vehicle known in the vernacular as "the cut scene".) How misguided!
While the storylines for both versions follow the motion picture which in turn follows the first three books, they each offer the gamer a different gaming perspective. Which actually was a good thing as I am in possession of both a number of Desktops and a PS2.
Saving is automatic for either version which is the only feature about this game that I didn’t care for and for some reason, you cannot exchange saved games with fellow games on other systems with regard to the PC version... how regrettable... but let us turn from this particularly wearisome experience and forge ahead.
Now I will state straight away that if you are an experienced Platform/FPS or RPG aficionado, this game, unfortunately, is not for you and you should cease reading this verbal reflection immediately, for it will not get any better as you go along and might truly prove to be an unhealthy venue for you indeed as the game's path is quite linear and very easy to master... if you are meagerly intelligent and are in possession of intuitive thought. But if you’re anything like me and think you might desire to spend some time in the woefully imaginative world of three very ingeniously inventive and precocious children such as the Baudelaire Orphans then I heartily recommend this adventure to you. Everything you need to advance the venture to its completion is always right there in front of you, all you really have to do is maintain a weathered eye.
As fatefully mentioned earlier, the game employs the use of both mouse and keyboard. There is a plethora of perilous situations and curious conundrums, (I counted over fifteen the first go 'round) to explore as the three orphans move throughout their world snatching up smidgens of this and bits of that for Violet to use in creating her ingenious inventions. The children each possess their own special abilities whether it be Violet's creativity, Klaus' seemingly endless knowledge or Sunny's carnivorous aptitude for chewing through almost anything as they outwit Count Olaf and his dim-witted cronies. As you progress though the game, the three forlorn orphans will take turns finding things for Violet to use to create her inventions. (There are eight of these, each one more bizarre than the next.) I found it to simply be a superb time and thoroughly enjoyed myself.
It is also fairly interesting to note here that the family who suffers together stays together. Suffering seems to be a matter of course for the poor wretched Baudelaires, so much so that Mr. Snicket has graciously allowed the use of “The Misery Meter” *( “The Misery Meter” a phrase which here means: a mother's golden locket in the shape of a heart, which when touched by one of the children will act as a sort of “restorative” for them) and raises their happiness somewhat by lowering the level of their abject misery to a more bearable degree.
For as anyone who is anyone knows:
"When one is filled with misery, one has a tendency to faint."
Keep in mind that while the two older orphans have full run of their woeful universe (such as it is…) Sunny, the youngest Baudelaire, is most lamentably exploited in tight spots and small oppressive situations. It is truly quite awful to treat a baby in this manner but such is the life of the Baudelaire infant and "needs" must almost always find their own level.
"Always remember", Violet Baudelaire often tells her unfortunate little sister, “When life offers you lemons; make sure that you use them in the Lofty Lobber!”
Smart girl, I’d say.
The Fateful Fable and the Power of Three
So, who are the Beaudelaires? It is a mournfully sad fable set somewhere in an area of New England during sometime between the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A sort of "New Englandy Dickensian" period of sorts if you will. Don’t understand? Well then...you’ll just either have to take my word for it or play the game to see for yourself now, won’t you?
You see... there are three Baudelaire children. Violet, the eldest at fourteen, is an incredibly imaginative child. Quite precarious actually with a passion for engineering. No giggling, foolish girl was she… no, no. While other young ladies her age were collecting hair ribbons, biting their lips and pinching their cheeks into a rosy bloom as be suits their nature, Violet used her ribbons to sensibly tie back her hair so as to keep it out of her eyes whilst she was working on one of her many incredible inventions. Klaus, the middle child, whose age I would place at twelve years, was blessed with a photographic memory and a profound proclivity toward reading each and every book he could get his hands on. This fact will come in quite handy as the story unfolds. Klaus is a veritable wealth of information. And then finally, there is Sunny, the precociously precious baby, a toddler really and while most assuredly innocent in the ways of the world possesses no shortcomings when coming to aid of her older and more experienced siblings. This feat is usually done by biting through various objects with her four very tiny but extremely effective razor sharp teeth. They are children of the privileged class but not at all spoiled. *(The word “privileged”, which here means: Their parents were filthy rich and they wanted for nothing.)
The children, as they play on the lonely and desolate shores of Briny Beach one day are ill met by their parents' local banker, Mr. Poe. *(The phrase "ill met" which here means that Mr. Poe being a well meaning adult has some rather awfully bad news to impart to the children) It is here that their unfortunate journey begins as Mr. Poe relates the sad and most unsettling tale of how the unfortunate children's patiently philanthropic parents had precariously perished in a fire at their home and that all of their belongings were destroyed. Alas! They would now be considered “orphans” and would not be entitled to any of their majestically massive fortune (appropriately left to them by their patiently philanthropic parents but still under the watchful and well meaning eye of Mr. Poe) until they had come of age. The kindly, but rather imperceptively literal Mr. Poe arranges for them to be placed (as a condition of their parents’ will) with their closest living relative. Who is none other than the outlandish and dastardly Count Olaf. Enter “Jim Carey in animated form”. The children are whisked away to the Count’s decrepit and might I say not very well maintained home, where the Count along with his evil henchmen….er, Troupe of Talented Thespians plot to "do away" with the children along with anyone else who might get in their way…and claim the inheritance. But unfortunately for them, they have grossly underestimated the wretched but highly intrepid Baudelaires...
…and we’re off to the races!
I realized all too soon that I would be precariously and perilously drawn into Mr. Curry’s superlative spell as he wove the woeful and ominous tale of the three doleful and misery filled Baudelaire children and their series of unfortunate events. And after just 10 minutes into the game I knew I was right. At times I felt that I could actually hear a stifled giggle or two as I showed my mediocre talents during the "arcade levels" of the end game in the PS2 version. *( "arcade levels" a phrase which here means thank the Maker, not to mention the well meaning game designers for not programming such dastardly occurrences into the PC version) Perhaps I'm drawn to such woebegone and sad tales of miserly relatives, righteous albeit pitiable orphaned children and well meaning adults as it allows me to asses my own hideous state of affairs and realize that the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence, as it were.
Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events is one of many in a new “sub genre” of Action/Adventure Games. I like to refer to them as “Books-to-Movie-to-Video Games” or BMV Games for short. This particular one was developed by Amaze Entertainment and published for both the Computer and Console systems by Activision, in conjunction with Nickelodeon, DreamWorks and Paramount who had produced the motion picture, which was released in theatres this past December to the consummate joy of this reviewer. *(The phrase “consummate joy” which here means: I absolutely loved the books and the movie... this genre is so straight up my alley that I’ve played the PC version three times and the PS2 version twice.) If you are fortunate enough to belong to that ever growing gaggle of Adventure Gamers who own both a PC and a gaming console, and think you would enjoy this genre, I encourage you to do as I did and play both the PC and the Console versions, for while they are similar in look they are solidly singular in their approach. I highly recommend them both, and look forward to Mr. Snicket's next installment.
Developer: Amaze Entertainment
Released: November 2004
PC Requirements: Windows98/ME/2000/XP
3D hardware accelerator card required
32 MB video card
English version PIII 600 MHz
or Athlon 800MHz or higher
128 MB of RAM
738 MB of uncompressed hard disk space
200 MB for swap file
60 MB free for saved games
16-bit sound card
quad speed CD-ROM
Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition 2002 w/SP 1
Pentium 4 CPU 2.00GHz
512MB DDR Memory
Video: 64MBNVIDIA GeForce 2 MX/MX 400 AGP
Sound: Creative SB Live
DirectX Version: 9.0b
played also on:
Lemony Snicket Opening Underscore written by Jerry & Julian Soule
Lemony Snicket graphics owned by Amaze Entertainment all rights reserved
This document may not be distributed without the express
written permission of the author and the content may not be altered in any way.
For Questions or Comments Please write to: INFERNO Copyright ©2 /2005 INFERNO