When someone describes a character as a 1930’s snarky explorer and treasure hunter with a swaggering sense of pride and a fondness for the ladies, it’s safe to say that your first thought will most likely be of Indiana Jones. Well, Deadfall Adventures introduces James Lee Quatermain, a spiritual twin who unintentionally has half the intelligence and a tenth of the charm as Indy, a sentiment made more humorous by the fact that James is the great-grandson of Allan Quatermain, a character written by English writer H.R. Haggard who acted as the template for the creation of Jones. If you’ve ever wanted to know what a sub-par video game rendition of one of the most iconic film sagas would contain, then continue reading.
Deadfall Adventures‘ main undoing is not its story, but it is far from great. If you take the most stereotypical and clichéd aspects of any adventure tale set in the ’30s, they are most likely included in this game. The plot is a jumble of overused devices – quests for the heart of Atlantis, Nazis, Russians, and a completely out of place love story that arises within the first five minutes of the game. The voice acting is awkward and over-the-top, especially in any situation where a non-American character is speaking.
However bad the overall story was, I felt a sense of nostalgia at certain moments that would almost trick me into thinking the game wasn’t half bad. It was easy to see where aspects of the Indiana Jones series shone through. Deadfall Adventures is also self aware of the fact that it is a loose retelling of a classic story. Popular quotes such as, “It belongs in a museum!” are woven into the dialogue and changed to fit the new mood. Moments like these kept me genuinely laughing long enough to enjoy the corniness of the story until the biggest problem became unbearable.
Despite the faults and predictable twists of the story, Deadfall Adventures could have been a cheesy but loveable throwback to the Indiana Jones series were it not for the infuriatingly broken gameplay, particularly the puzzles. While exploring caves and ancient ruins, you are tasked with solving puzzles in order to move on to the next part of the map. Ideally, you are supposed to read your great-grandfather’s notebook to find clues to solve these puzzles, but often times the scribble of words and diagrams in the notebook are so illegible that they cause more of a headache than help the situation. It also didn’t help that some of the puzzle environments would glitch in some way, making them unsolvable. I had to restart checkpoints on multiple occasions after an hour of running around trying to solve a puzzle just to realize that a portion was glitched under the map or not completely loaded.
As far as combat goes, it’s a stereotypical shooter with set moments for fighting. There is no option for stealth; as soon as you hit a threshold, enemies will be alerted to your presence and attack automatically. There are never many enemies on screen, but they take at least half of a bullet clip to kill when using the majority of guns, and the hit boxes aren’t always consistent. Some of the fights occur alongside your companions who are supposed to provide backup, but they tend to hide behind one spot for the duration of a fight and are useless when enemies are anywhere but right in front of them.
The most maddening aspect of the game is not enemies that act as bullet sponges, nor is it even glitchy puzzles. It’s the lack of clear instructions in a game where the rules of the environment are not consistent. I do not expect a game to hand-hold the player, but I do expect that when instructions or hints are presented, they are concise and can easily be accessed again. When on-screen instructions pop up, they are displayed as small font text that clears as soon as you hit any button and they also never repeat again. Which means that if you are already holding down W in order to move forward and a block of text pops up, the text is immediately bypassed. There are also situations where you can pick up maps of the environment, but there is no way to access them after you initially obtain them which makes the maps useless.
Although the selling point of Deadfall Adventures is the exploration of exotic locations, each new environment did not provide enough variance for the settings to be the main attraction. The only reason to stray from the linear path is to find treasure that is hidden throughout the maps, but in most cases these treasures are located in the most obvious places. Deep exploration of any location was useless. The cinematics are sometimes exciting, but there is an obvious imbalance between how entertaining the cut scenes are and how entertaining it is to actually play the game. All in all, you’re better off just watching your favorite Indiana Jones movie again.
Pros: Lovely, although simple, environments. Cut scenes are exciting. Nostalgic charm to parts of the dialogue.
Cons: Writing is sloppy and unoriginal. Voice acting is substandard. Puzzles are buggy and convoluted. Combat is weak and adds nothing of value to the story.