It all starts as a quiet evening in London. The streets are slowly becoming devoid of people. Darkness is covering the city. At the British Museum, Professor Samuel Hunt is preparing to once again work into the late hours of the night. But carefully tucked away into a corner of the museum, the first piece of a grand puzzle is waiting to be found. A great adventure beckons and Samuel has been chosen to answer the call.
Agon is an episodic adventure game series from Private Moon Studios. The first episode of the game, London Scene, was released back in September 2003. The developers have since released two additional episodes, completing the three of the fourteen planned chapters of Agon. As the release of the fourth chapter, Lost Sword of Toledo, draws ever closer, the first three episodes of Agon are being released as a compilation called The Mysterious Codex.
The first episode of Agon begins as Professor Samuel Hunt enters his office at the British Museum. Glancing over his desk, the Professor finds a mysterious letter. The letter speaks of secret hidden within the museum and twelve destinations. The enigmatic W.K., the author of the letter, is entrusting the Professor with a great secret.
Attached to the letter Samuel finds a page from what appears to be an ancient codex. The document tells of ancient board games and a demonic Black King that threatens all of mankind. Twelve families around the globe have been given custody of the board games. A stranger is destined to find these families and recover the relics. The lost knowledge of the games must be returned to humanity. But this is only the beginning of the mystery. Samuel will travel to the farthest reaches of the world before he can unlock the secret behind the board games and the Black King. The path will not be easy. Samuel will have to leave his loved ones behind for months. But some journeys simply have to be completed.
The first episode, London Scene, takes place inside the British Museum. Upon discovering the letter and a page of the codex, the Professor sets off to find exactly what is hidden within the museum. As Samuel struggles to get past an all too vigilant security guard and tries to find useful information among inventory logs, the stage is set for the entire series. Players get to find out more about Professor Hunt and his ever faithful colleague Dr. Smythe.
On its own, London Scene makes for a brief, but very enjoyable adventure within the confines of the museum. Players have to overcome a number of obstacles before they can get to the artifact and figure out where Samuel needs to start his journey around the globe.
Adventures of Lapland
The second chapter begins with Samuel’s arrival at an all but completely forgotten train station in the farthest reaches of Lapland. Preparations that were supposed to be made long before the Professor’s arrival are incomplete. Nobody is even around to welcome Samuel as he gets off the train. The good Professor is on his own to find the keeper of the first board game.
The second episode of Agon is significantly longer than London Scene. Adventures in Lapland offers a good variety of challenges and a much larger area to explore. The Professor needs to figure out the inner workings of contraptions built by an alcoholic stationmaster who apparently moonlights as an engineer. Samuel will have to make his way across snow covered fields and uncover a few carefully hidden secrets before he can claim the first board game.
Pirates of Madagascar
After the icy landscapes of Lapland, the Professor embarks on a journey to the sunny shores of Madagascar. But he hardly has time to enjoy the pleasant climate or the beautiful scenery. To the natives Samuel is no different than a blood-thirsty pirate. Gaining their trust and recovering the second board game will not be an easy task.
Pirates of Madagascar is once again noticeably longer than the previous episode. In the third chapter of his grand adventure, Samuel has to decipher the cryptic clues of an apparent madman. The forest holds many secrets. It will take a keen eye to unravel the mystery.
The Mysterious Codex
As a whole, The Mysterious Codex compilation offers an entertaining and relaxing gaming experience. Professor Samuel Hunt is a very enjoyable character to control. The well-mannered gentleman is a sharp contrast from the tough action heroes or wisecracking witty adventurers. Samuel’s pleasant demeanor and apparent scientific enthusiasm are very endearing and fitting for the tone of the game.
The adventure in Agon creates an immersive yet soothing atmosphere. The three episodes carry hints of a much bigger plot than what is initially revealed. The key documents you find throughout the game definitely hint at something sinister brewing. Yet despite the greater events taking place around you, Agon plays at a calm pace, allowing you to enjoy the places you are exploring. And this is definitely a good thing, especially given the game’s beautiful graphics. Players will definitely enjoy traveling through the great looking environments in The Mysterious Codex. The shore and the forest area in Madagascar especially are visual delights.
Agon utilizes a very simple and intuitive interface. The game is played from a first-person perspective. You simply pan the camera to view the environment. You can look in all directions. Just like in many other adventure games, there are specific points in any given area where the Professor can stop and take a look at his surroundings. Familiar cursors are used to indicate the actions you can perform. The inventory, the files Samuel will pick up throughout his journey, and the main game menu are easily accessible by three icons on the upper right corner.
However a couple of minor technical issues were noticed. The first problem is with the save-game functionality. The main in-game menu does not offer a way to quit the game without saving. You also cannot choose which saved game to load when you start Agon. The main menu only has an option to load the most recent saved game. If you want to load a different save, you will have to select it from the in-game menu after resuming the latest save.
The second issue was that the subtitles and the character animations seemed to occasionally lag behind the voice-acted dialog. However, it is highly possible that the problem was specific to the configuration of the machine used for this review. In any case, neither the save-game issues nor the lagging subtitles significantly detract from an otherwise highly pleasant gaming experience.
The first three episodes Agon feature a considerable number of puzzles. Samuel will encounter a fair amount of inventory-based challenges. However, The Mysterious Codex is not the sort of game where your inventory will be filled with dozens of items. At any given time Samuel should have a relatively small amount of items. The combinations and the use of the items should also be fairly clear. When you drag the correct item over a hotspot, a glowing aura will surround the item.
The game will also often require you to use your observation skills to find small but significant pieces of information scattered around each location. You will then have to pull these clues together to find the solution to a puzzle. All three episodes of Agon have at least one puzzle where you will be deciphering a message written in an old alphabet or some kind of encoding. Players will often have to make connections between various documents and interactive items. Careful observation and a good dose of deductive reasoning will be required. Be prepared to take notes about important clues on a piece of paper.
The Mysterious Codex does not have any puzzles where time is limited. However, it is worth noting that Agon does feature a handful of sections in the game where you will have to temporarily leave an area to force time to pass. For instance, if you give a guard a drink, it is only logical that a certain amount of time has to pass before the alcohol will have an effect on him. However, if you have already completed all the other portions of the episode, being forced to leave the room and walk back inside can be a bit tedious.
While Agon is not an exceptionally difficult game, finishing the three episodes will certainly put your adventure gaming skills to test. Some of the clues are hidden in locations you might initially miss. Some of the connections between the available clues and the actual puzzles may also seem obscure. However, carefully surveying each location and reading all the available documents should give you the hints needed.
The Mysterious Codex compilation does include two board games as well. The board games can be unlocked by completing the first and the second episodes. Once the games are unlocked, you can freely play them from the main game menu without having to go through the episodes. Both board games can be entertaining and players might appreciate the ability to freely access them.
Overall, The Mysterious Codex compilation makes for a very enjoyable gaming experience. If you did not have a chance to play the first three episodes as they were released, The Mysterious Codex presents an excellent opportunity to discover the world of Agon. Having the ability to play the episodes back to back is definitely a plus. Professor Samuel Hunt’s adventure is certainly off to a good start. There are noticeable improvements between the first and the third episodes. As you delve deeper into The Mysterious Codex, you will discover richer environments, more puzzles, and a more engaging storyline with each episode. When you reach the end of the lengthy adventure, Agon will leave you wanting more. It will be difficult waiting for the fourth episode, Lost Sword of Toledo.