The success of the Secret of Monkey Island, with its combination of silly humour and taxing puzzles inevitably led to a number of point and click pretenders looking to steal its crown. Flight of the Amazon Queen is one such title, which has now been re-released for iOS devices.
Taking its lead from 40s adventure serials and the Indiana Jones adventures, you play as pilot Joe King. Charged with flying famous actress Faye Russell safely to her destination, disaster strikes when Joe’s plane crashes in the jungle. It’s up to you to get everyone out of the jungle alive, using only your wits to solve the many puzzles that (apparently) lurk in such places. Oh, did I mention that there’s a mad scientist on the loose turning people into monsters with his Dino Ray?
In some ways, time has not been particularly kind to Flight of the Amazon Queen and it’s a shame that this re-release has not been given a bit more attention. Other re-released point and click games have either had extra content added (Broken Sword) or been given a makeover to enhance the graphics and sound (Monkey Island. Flight of the Amazon Queen is simply a port of the original game and, as such, looks like a game that’s now 20 years old.
There is a certain retro charm to the graphics but they are serviceable rather than impressive. The cut-scenes look good, capturing the look and feel of those old 40s serials, but elsewhere things are not so good. In particular, some of the characters look rather pixelated on the iPad’s HD screen and the whole thing feels a bit flat. The scaling as people walk in/out of the screen is particularly awful (although in fairness, it wasn’t great at the time of release).
Joe has to solve a knotty problem
Sound also comes across as a bit dodgy. The spoken dialogue is rather rough around the edges, whilst some of the voice acting leaves much to be desired. The tunes that accompany the game are fairly typical of the plinky-plonk tunes of early/mid 90s games and tend to grate on the ear. Given that the spoken dialogue is also reproduced as subtitles, I find it preferable to play with the sound turned off.
The humour – one of the big selling points of a game like this – also feels a bit tired. I can remember playing this when it first came out and finding it very funny, but time seems to have blunted it (or perhaps I’ve just grown up?!). Some of the dialogue is amusing and there were times when it made me laugh, but it lacks that same easy going charm and silly banter that made Monkey Island such a delight. There are some inspired moments (convincing a gorilla it can’t possibly exist is an early highlight), but I feel it falls between two stools: it doesn’t have the inspired insanity of Monkey Island and lacks the underplayed sarcasm of the Broken Sword series.
On the positive side, the game has been well-adapted to a touch screen environment, retaining the icons of point and click gaming but replacing the mouse with your finger. It’s an intuitive and responsive system that works very well. It takes a little while to get used to how long you need to press on an icon to select it, but after a few screens this quickly becomes second nature.
Puzzles are a bit of a mixed bag. Some of them are fairly straightforward and logical; others a little more convoluted. They can be deeply frustrating because some are so obtuse that they defy logic and require you to do things you would never think of in your wildest dreams. As such, much experimentation is needed and there are plenty of times when you have to resort to the old tactic of combining every item in your inventory with everything else in the hopes that something will happen. There can be a lot of aimless wandering between locations trying to work out what you have to do next. In fairness, though, this is a weakness of the genre more generally.
On the other hand, the puzzles are still fun and solving them brings a sense of satisfaction (even when you stumble upon solutions by accident). Puzzles are also plentiful and (on the whole) have been well integrated into the (daft) storyline so they never feel artificial. It also offers a decent challenge and if you don’t resort to downloading a walk-thru from the internet, there’s hours of fun adventuring to be had.
Like most games of this type, replay value is limited. Once you’ve completed it, it’s unlikely you will ever load it up again – but then it only costs £1.49 to download and there’s more than enough game time to justify that price. It’s just a shame that it won’t work with iOS 8 – something that will hopefully be rectified.
Flight of the Amazon Queen might not be in the same league as Monkey Island or Broken Sword, but for fans of the genre, it’s still worth playing.