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King's Quest: Mask of Eternity

Developer: Sierra Studios
Publisher: Sierra Studios
Release Date: November 1998

By Stuart Yoder

     

When he was assigned to review this game, Stuart Yoder produced an experiment in creative reviewing. While we here at Just Adventure rather liked it, many readers complained that it was not informative for those who had not already played the game. So Stu kindly agreed to write a "regular" review, too. Below you will find the "experimental" review followed by the "regular" review. Please keep an open mind and try to enjoy them both.

Stu's "Experimental" Review

As you enter the world of game reviews, you feel the cold wind of Opinion sweep across the darkened land. The citizens of this fine land have all been turned to stone by the evil difference of opinion concerning the worthiness of adventure games. You hear the eerie caw of the Raven Randy, who leads you to the Crafty Craig, a powerful wizard who explains your task: find the five pieces of the Mask of the Reviewer. He conjures a special map for you to use in your quest. You realize that you, and only you, can find the lost pieces and free the people from the curse. You have thus completed the introduction and now must begin-eth your quest with one piece of the Mask.

You begin your adventure in the Region of the Plot. You soon discover that you can play from the first-person or third-person perspective, and even better, you can switch perspectives during gameplay. You find this to be a very honorable, and helpful, thing. Your quest is to find all five pieces of the Mask of the Reviewer, but in order to do so, you will have to explore vast and varied regions and solve challenging puzzles. What's even more challenging is that besides just solving puzzles, you will have to confront and defeat many beasts and evil beings whose only purpose in life is to stop you from fulfilling your quest. You will have to fight such monstrosities such as the illusive I'm Right, or the bony and angular It's Good Only If I Think It's Good. However, you like this challenge and you face it head on. Through might and ingenuity you defeat these spawns from hell, solve the puzzles, and find the second piece of the Mask.

The next region is a beautiful place called Graphics. Here you enjoy all the visual treats that make the adventure so enjoyable. This region is indeed captivating: water, trees, animals, hills and mountains, plants, and architecture. O, sure, you've seen prettier places, but it's the differences in one world compared to another that make adventuring so enjoyable. You will have to defeat a beast or two in this region, but with a few swings of your mighty sword of Understanding and Forgiveness, the beasts lie dead at your feet and you enjoy all the good that you see. Thus, you discover the third piece of the Mask.

You enter the region of Sound, Music, and Voice Acting. This is a strange land, sometimes filled with the sounds of battle, and at other times swathed in the soothing sounds of safety and comfort. The music is your ally as it warns of imminent danger and is your friend as it quietly stands by your side as your mind steels itself against some powerful puzzle. The voices of those you encounter are as varied as the personalities themselves. Yes indeed, this be a strange land, but one of quality and beauty. The beasts you must slay are Repetitive and her twin I Can't Stand To Hear Myself Die Yet Again. You slay those monsters and are filled with joy to find the fourth piece of the Mask.

You sense that you are close to victory and the fifth piece of the Mask as you enter the ominous region of Puzzles. Once in the region you are quickly swarmed by packs of demons and monsters. You quickly realize that if victory shall be yours, you will have to swing a mighty sword. Indeed, one of your biggest challenges is, "how do I defeat all these wicked and vile beasts?" And lo, these beasts are mean and hungry for your flesh. There's the two-headed monster, The Puzzles Are Too Easy or The Puzzles Are Too Hard. You will also encounter a foul beast called Jumping Puzzle. These are evil things that have the power to kill you several times over. The big, dark being I Hate Action Elements in Adventure Games is powerful and requires reasoning and some meaningful exploring within yourself. But if you crack open your mind (and a barrel or two), you will find more than enough healing potions and magic spells to keep you healthy and strong. By far the most powerful beast in this region is the Feather Patch with its ability to freeze you. You will encounter a puzzle that yields a feather. When you take this feather and then try to access your main menu, your game may freeze. The quick and agile ally Sierra has already paved the way to victory over this powerful and foul beast. You will find the magic potion (patch file) you need here. Once again, patience and persistence have allowed you to discover the fifth and final piece to the Mask of the Reviewer.

The discovery and gathering of the five pieces of the Mask allow you to enter the final region, the region of The Final Grade. Once in the inner sanctum where all Game Reviewers are sacrificed, your hands quiver with anticipation as you reassemble the Mask. As the final piece of the Mask slides into place, you are confronted by the Sinister, Sly, and Somewhat Silly Stu, the evil being who broke the Mask into five pieces. You know you are in for the fight of your life as Stu beckons you to combat.

"So, brave warrior, you think this Mask will protect you?"

"All I know is that I had fun playing this game."

"Fun!? Fun!? What about the Feather Patch! Surely, you found this to be a foul, despicable creature, capable of destroying your whole adventure."

"Nay, dark knight. My friend Sierra gave me the magic potion and together we slew that evil beast."

"Ah, but there was Jumping Puzzles. You hate Jumping Puzzles. Those beasts alone surely soured your enjoyment of this game."

"Wrong again, Sinister, Sly, and Somewhat Silly Stu. I dislike dying as much as the next adventurer, but the difficulty of the challenge only serves to make the victory that much sweeter."

"Arghhh. Surely, you found the slow load times between regions and reloading to be unacceptable and extremely irritating."

"Ha. I laugh at your lack of appreciation of how difficult it must be to create a world as vast, beautiful, and challenging as this. I could wait for the next region to load for it only meant that my quest continued, and I live for the quest."

"Your pious attitude makes me sick. For I know that the mere inclusion of action elements into your petty little adventure must surely make you cringe in fear and cower in defeat."

"Don't call me Shirley! I found the slaying of monsters and beasts to be rather enjoyable, and my ally Roberta supplied me with plenty of healing potions and magic spells to keep me strong and alive. And, now I shall enjoy slaying you and your opinion minions. Die thou Sinister, Sly, and Somewhat Silly Stu!"

You hold up the reassembled Mask of the Reviewer, and Stu is sucked into the vortex of It's Just My Opinion. As you savor the heady rush of victory, running your hand across the smooth surface of the Mask, you are overcome with the realization of Truth: you had fun playing this game. Nay, more than that, you had a royal blast, so much so that you hated to see it end. And that ultimately is what gaming is all about.

Pass out the ballots for Action/Adventure game of the year. I'm ready to vote!

Final Grade: A

Stu's "Regular" Review

Well, here we go again. Some of you liked my first review; some of you did not. In retrospect, my original review was primarily, if not solely, for the entertainment of those that have already played the game. Therefore, the reason I am rereviewing Mask of Eternity is because I agree that the review does not help someone make a decision whether or not to purchase the game. We at JA do listen to our readers and we appreciate your feedback, so Craig and Randy have allowed me the chance to rewrite my review. So let's get to the game.

Let's establish a very important fact right off: this is an action/adventure game. A good portion of the booklet that comes with the CD is a gallery of pictures along with explanations of the creatures that you will encounter and fight as you explore the regions. Sierra even went so far with the fighting to include death scenes featuring the severing of limbs (your enemies', not yours!) and the spewing of blood (once again, your enemies', not yours). Action also means that instead of only using your head to solve puzzles, you will also have to use your keyboard and mouse effectively in order to navigate and traverse the different terrains. In fact, most of the puzzle-solving involves figuring out ways to conquer the physical environment, i.e., running, jumping, climbing, and pushing. One of the features that I found helpful was the ability to choose between playing from first or third-person perspective. What was even more appreciated was the ability to toggle between the two perspectives. I played the game from the first-person perspective, but I found it extremely advantageous to look at a particular challenge from the third-person perspective, especially those nasty jumping puzzles, but more on those later. The bottom line is, if you don't like action elements in your adventures, you have been forewarned.

The plot of the game is simple and straightforward: you must find the five pieces of the Mask of Eternity. Since the Mask has been broken, the citizens of the world have been turned to stone, and anarchy reigns among the other species. You play as Connor, the hero challenged with this task. In order to be successful, you will have to travel and explore vast and varied regions, solve challenging puzzles, and defeat many foes whose only intent is to kill you. Although the plot is not overly original or involved, I liked the plot because it was clear from the beginning, and remained clear throughout the game, what my mission was. I give the plot a B.

There are seven distinct regions that make up the game world of Mask of Eternity, so you get to see a lot of different scenery and architecture. The challenge of creating such a huge game world must have been daunting for Sierra: water, trees, animals, hills, mountains, plants, buildings, etc. I found most of the graphics to be pleasing to the eye and conducive to the storyline. However, I found the "blockiness" of the characters and scenery to be somewhat distracting. Also, there are times when Connor doesn't match up to the environment. For example, during one particular jumping puzzle, I could get Connor into a position where he was standing in mid-air next to one of the stones, and what was even worse was I clearly had Connor making it to the next stone, but he would end up going through his agonizing death scene regardless. Clearly, the graphics didn't match up to the game in this case. I grade the graphics a C.

The sounds, music, and voice acting are all done quite well. The music score was at times useful as it warned me of imminent danger and was at other times enjoyable as it soothed my wearisome adventuring spirit. This is always the hardest category for me to rate because the sound, music, and voice acting really don't matter that much to me. You can have the worst sounds, music, and voice acting as long as the story and gameplay are good. I will tell you that I got rather tired of hearing myself (Connor) die. Because this is an action/adventure, I did a lot of dying, and I found myself reaching for the volume control whenever I knew I was going to die so I wouldn't have to hear that dramatic moaning and groaning again and again. Overall, this is the strongest category of the game, so I give it an A.

When it comes to puzzles, I have found there to be different approaches depending on what type of adventure it is. For example, one of the approaches to puzzles is the real-world approach, i.e. find the wrench so you can loosen the bolts. In Mask of Eternity, the puzzle approach is exploration. At the beginning of the game, you are given a map. This map will fill itself in as you explore the different regions. When I found myself wondering what to do next, I would often refer to the map, even to the point of leaving it on screen so I could watch where I was going and could see what part of the map still needed to be filled in. This became an important approach because as the booklet that comes with the game says, "if you get stuck, try exploring the places you haven't been yet." Part of the exploration approach means that many of the puzzles involve figuring out ways to get where you want to go. What I'm trying to say is this game has jumping puzzles. I don't particularly like jumping puzzles, but it does feel good when I finally make it to the other side! In addition to exploration, a majority of the puzzle-solving is figuring out how to kill all the evil beasts that you encounter. I appreciated all the healing potions and magic spells that were generously scattered across the land. I ate a lot of mushrooms during this game. One final note about the puzzles: you may need a file patch for a particular puzzle. I say "may" because Sierra has corrected the game for future presses of the CD, but you may buy a copy with the problem. During one particular puzzle, you will receive a feather. After you have the feather and then try to access your main menu, your game may freeze. Sierra has posted the patch for this error at www.sierrastudios.com/games/mask/updates. As I have said in previous reviews, I play adventure games for the puzzles. Overall, I had fun playing MOE, so I give the puzzles a B.

I can hear everyone who read my previous review already asking the question, "Why the change from straight As to one A, two Bs, and a C?" That's a good question; I'm glad you asked. Let me answer using a device that MOE uses, the ability to toggle between first and third-person perspective. In all honesty, I wrote my previous review from the first-person perspective with the mindset that I would rather play a fun game than wait around for the "perfect" game to come along. I rated MOE all As based on the amount of fun I had playing the game, and I indeed had a great time playing the game, in spite of the flaws and weaknesses. In other words, I got more than my money's worth. However, the grades that accompany this review are given based on a third-person perspective in an effort to try to help you decide whether or not you should buy the game.

Final Grade: B

System Requirements:
Pentium 166
Windows 95/98
32 MB RAM
4X CD-ROM drive
400 MB of free hard drive space
DirectX
Graphics Card
DirectX 16-bit Sound Card