First Look: The Eyes of Ara

Recently, 100 Stones Interactive was kind enough to provide me an alpha key to their upcoming point & click adventure, The Eyes of Ara. It was just a teaser demo for the upcoming release. Just enough to get me excited. And it worked!

This is a classic adventure puzzler in the vein of Myst. Little coins and photographs are hidden throughout the environments as completionist-bait, giving the game the slightest hint of hidden-object gameplay. But in a good way.

I spent about 90 minutes in this alpha demo. It felt like the game was just getting started when it was announced that I’d have to wait for the full release to see the rest. Such a bummer. What I saw was beautiful, fun and challenging and truly worthy of the project’s Kickstarter success. The environments are gorgeously detailed. The puzzles are straightforward and satisfying. Very little of the story was revealed in this demo, but the rich settings imply an equally rich story. But we’ll have to wait for the next release to learn more.

The Plot

Yeah, so about that. . .

Not much of the plot was revealed in this alpha. The game opens with the player in a boat, having rowed out to a mysterious island with a castle. Apparently, the player is sent there as a sort of hazing ritual to spend the night. The place is haunted or perhaps just creepy.

The alpha demo was pretty short so perhaps the story unfolds more deeply later in the game. But I would have liked to see a bit more backstory on the castle.

It is revealed in one document that the castle owner’s sister and children have come to stay there. The castle is a lab and the owner is concerned that the visitors could disrupt research. So maybe there will be more on that later in the game. I hope so.

If the game is supposed to be creepy, or the plot dark, I think 100 Stones would do okay to reveal a little more earlier in the game. If this is just a jaunty puzzler, they are doing fine.

I’m excited for the full version, to see what the story is all about.

The Gameplay

This is a point & click adventure. Point somewhere. Click. Go there.

The 3D environment is beautifully rendered. Lighting effects look great and frame rates are good, even on my laptop. For reference, I usually don’t even bother with 3D games because my PC is totally meh. But this runs really well. Post alpha, added transition effects might change this, but so far so good.

Even though you click a location to move, you can see a full 360 degrees around your position once you’ve moved there. You must spot interactive objects and click them for a closer look. Open stuff. Place puzzle items in your inventory. Click and drag them over the items on which you want to use them. Pretty simple.

That I made it all the way through this demo should tell you it’s not too hard. I’m notoriously sissy at games and run out of patience with puzzlers. I did not find all the coins, so perhaps the devs made the main plot easy and optional puzzles and hidden objects more challenging for completionists. Perfect.

I have to say that a few puzzles I just guessed. One in particular – a rotating glyph puzzle accompanied by a confusing scribble of paper – I just trial-and-errored. The puzzle’s clue didn’t make any sense to me.

But that was just one of the many puzzles in the game. Each room has a puzzle, sometimes consisting of multiple parts, sometimes involving an item from another room. Very satisfying. Mmmmm, puzzles.

My Take

This may be the prettiest game that’s ever given me 30+ fps. My little laptop isn’t really as crappy as I make it out to be, but it’s rare for me to get 30 fps on 3D games. I was surprised how smoothly this ran. The outdoor areas really shined and from what I’ve seen on their Kickstarter page, there are more of them deeper into the game.

I also hope the plot is more fleshed out that what I saw in the alpha. Adventurers will still like this game, but a great plot would be truly welcome. If the castle is haunted or supposed to be creepy, that will hopefully be made evident. Either by music, ambience or plot items.

I’m excited about this release. The Kickstarter price for a copy of the game was set at $10. For that price, I’m a believer. Very nice looking game. I hope my criticisms don’t overshadow my overall feeling of tweenage puppy love. I want to ask this game to be my girlfriend, but I don’t know how. What if it says no? I can’t take rejection! But I love this game and you will too when you get hands on it.

To the Devs

Thanks for making me part of this. I usually put dev-directed comments here, but I think the stuff I mentioned above applies. The Eyes of Ara looks really good and the puzzles are mostly simple and straightforward. I’m a casual gamer so I like that. And the scattered coins and photos will please the more hardcore crowd.

The puzzle I mentioned earlier (and on Twitter), where I was given a paper with a star and an asterisk or something? Very confusing. I would make the clue a little more figure-outable.

But. This is good stuff. Very pretty. Very rich. Lots of attention to detail in making the environments feel complete.

I look forward to your beta release and I’ll give you more thoughts then.

As ever,

Yer pal,

~The Ghetto Gamer~


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