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ECOQUEST / Sierra / PC
If you were to rate Ecoquest as a typical adventure game, you'd really have to fault it for being too short and having barely any level of challenge at all. The game makes it clear up front that it's intended for the 12-and-under set, however, and given that as the target audience, I think it actually does a pretty good job re: length and difficulty.
The first 3/4 of the game is essentially more of an interactive storybook that happens to use the standard Sierra interface than it is a proper adventure game. It has all the adventure trappings, but you're lead by the nose through everything and puzzle solutions are either transparently obvious or just handed to you if you click around a bit.
The final 1/4 of the game, however, actually asks you to solve puzzles on your own without a safety net, and has at least a basic level of complexity. 12-and-under kids who were already blowing through Monkey Island and King's Quest at the time probably found this game almost insultingly simple, but for a standard non-gaming or console-gaming kid, I think it serves as a pretty good (and gentle) introduction to the adventure game format.
That's not even to mention the "edutainment" aspect - the game is also intended to be an introduction to environmentalism, recycling and the general importance of not shitting all over the oceans. As "environmentalism" was as hot a sales tool in the '90s as "greening" is now, one can't help but wonder how much of this was good social intentions by Sierra and how much was the bottom line, but credit them for at least putting in a solid effort. The game manages to interweave environmental tidbits in without really sacrificing the "game" structure or going into Preachy Powerpoint Mode, a trap that most other "message" games seem to nearly always fall into. The pack-in materials with the original release were also pretty impressive.
What really makes the game, though, is the beautiful hand-painted backdrops and the equally lovely musical score (mostly by Chris Braymen, but a few other Sierra vets pop in for a few tunes - I'm pretty sure Aubrey Hodges was responsible for the crazy wailing guitar rock that accompanies the game's final puzzle sequence.) These are worth the price of admission alone for those of us a little older than 12.
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