My dear friend Lydia,
I am so happy that you were accepted at the Academy! You will see, Dragonvale is the best place to live and study. After all, it’s the most prestigious and renowned school of magic amongst all!
I can’t wait to see you. It’s been 8 years and I wonder if I’ll be able to recognize you when we finally meet again. I bet you won’t recognize me either! I have been so lonely here without you and I’m ecstatic that we’ll finally be together again very soon!
I’ve already planned a full day of things for us to do as soon as you arrive. It will be so exciting! I’ll show you around the campus which is enormous. I’ll also introduce you to our teachers. We could even go for a walk in the beautiful forest beside the school if you don’t arrive too late.
I’ll wait for you by the fountain at the main entrance.
Having met when they were small children, Lydia and Celeste form a bond of friendship that can never be broken. Shortly thereafter, Celeste learns that her father has accepted the position of Principal at Dragonvale Academy and together they will be moving a long distance away. In order to ensure they never forget each other, Lydia and Celeste perform a friendship ritual. Each girl gives the other something they treasure. Celeste gives Lydia a pendant that once belonged to her mother. Lydia gives Celeste her favorite doll which up until this moment has never left her side. These are the Keepsakes.
Many years later, Lydia receives a much welcomed letter from Celeste as she prepares to journey to Dragonvale and begin her life as a student of magic. But, much to her dismay, Lydia’s welcome does not go as planned. Celeste is not there to greet her at the fountain. With the exception of a merchant named Mustavio, the outside of the school appears to be devoid of students. Where could they all be? Well, this is a school and there are probably classes taking place, right? Surely, that’s where everyone is.
It takes some craftiness, but Lydia is finally able to get inside the school. Hmmm…the main hall also seems deserted. This can’t be right. Time to take a look around and find someone, anyone, to clear up this mystery… Well, Lydia does find someone, or shall we say; a wolf named Zak. The wolf claims that he is really a dragon. One of the students played a cruel trick on him and changed him into a wolf. Adding insult to injury, he was then locked in a cabinet. He is quite grateful to be released and is willing to help Lydia in her search. Something doesn’t seem quite right with Zak’s story, but he’s all Lydia has right now. So, with Zak as Lydia’s constant companion, the game truly begins.
Keepsake comes with a game manual and 3 CD’s which take a considerable amount of time to load. Keepsake is a 3rd person point and click adventure game. Depending on your ability to plow through some of the game’s extremely taxing puzzles, it can easily take 20-30 hours, if not longer, to complete Keepsake. The beginning of the game features a mandatory tutorial which must be completed before you can start the adventure.
Getting around can be accomplished on foot, through teleportation pads, or using the occasional magic portal. There are 2 maps provided in-game which can be accessed with a click at the bottom of the game screen. The maps are essential due to the fact that Dragonvale is quite large and a bit confusing with all the secret locations. And, it’s important to note that not all the locations are listed on the map. When you find one that isn’t listed, it might be helpful to notate it on the map in your game manual. This is a long game and your memory might fail you.
The main menu can also be found at the bottom of the screen. It is here that you can view your inventory. All the items Lydia will find in the game are already listed in your inventory at the beginning. But the items remain grayed out until Lydia actually locates them. The Vision Menu also works in the same fashion. Throughout the game, Lydia experiences psychic visions about Celeste, her father, and the school. These visions can be viewed multiple times, but only after Lydia actually experiences them for the first time. Sound volume and Gamma adjustments can also be made from the main menu. All the necessary navigational cursors are pretty standard and are explained fully in the tutorial.
The main menu will also allow you to save or quit the game. What is unusual is that you are unable to go back and load a previous save while you are playing the game. You must quit entirely and restart the game. Then, you can choose the “continue” option and load a saved game. It is also rather odd that you are only shown your last saved game. If you click on the down arrow in the panel, you will get a warning message asking you to proceed with caution as loading an older game will overwrite any current saved game. There are only 9 save slots in total which is not enough for a game of this size. The option to go back without penalty would have been preferable especially if you want to try and solve a specific puzzle again. You can not just go back to that point without losing all your progress. This was certainly disappointing.
Keepsake offers the unique feature of an in-game hint system. Clicking on the question mark at the bottom of the screen will give you a preview of where you are supposed to go next. In most adventure games, wandering is just what you do, but being that the academy is huge and your tasks are scattered all over, you would likely be wandering forever without this helpful feature. What’s even better is that the hint system provides help with the puzzles. Clicking on the question mark during a puzzle will give you a chance for a first hint, second hint, final hint and then, if you really need it, the solution.
Keepsake is a puzzle intensive game, but very few of the challenges you will encounter are inventory-based. The majority of the puzzles are logic-based and a lot of them are really quite difficult. Unfortunately, the hint system may not always help you as well as you would like either. But, if you truly can not figure out the puzzle, you can choose to have the game solve it for you. For some of the puzzles, it will show you how it was solved step by step. Other times, it will just be solved without an explanation. This should have been more consistent one way or the other, but considering that other games with this level of difficulty do not provide help at all, the hint system in any form is a considerable bonus.
That being said; make sure you have your thinking cap on as you go through Keepsake. You might want to double up on the caps for extra peace of mind. Keepsake will start you off with a nice easy puzzle around the fountain, luring you into thinking that this game will be a piece of cake. Then the game knocks you back into reality quickly with much more difficult challenges. One such puzzle consisted of setting 8 different control pads (each with 4 options on them) in order to send a power flow in the correct direction to turn on all the machines. It took this reviewer half the day to figure out the solution to this single puzzle. The hint system was not much help on this particular challenge. The majority of the puzzles have magical properties to them such as a painting puzzle where figuring out the relationship between 2 paintings causes them to magically change into new paintings. There are other puzzles that have maze like properties to them and you will need to follow the directions you are given to successfully navigate your way back. Sometimes even figuring out how to go from one location to another can be a challenge. There are also puzzles that deal with astrology and runes. There are trials to overcome requiring logic and school history that you pick up as you explore. Even though your brain will be exhausted by the time you’re through, the puzzles are a lot of fun and the magical aspect makes them even more interesting. Even though the game may not seem all that entertaining after you have spent 4 hours on a couple of the challenges, there is a nice balance to keep any puzzle hound satisfied.
The primary characters in Keepsake are Lydia and Zak. Interaction with other characters is extremely limited. Celeste and her father are seen only in Lydia’s psychic visions. Lydia is an intelligent and quite loyal young lady. She has a strong determination and refuses to be thwarted from her goal of finding Celeste and the rest of the student body. Zak is quite the character. Trapped in his wolf body, Zak seems to have honorable intentions but also show signs of being a tad shifty. Being in a school of magic, his story seems quite plausible, but the details of that story seem to change a bit each time you hear it. Sometimes Zak will slip up and say something he surely wasn’t supposed to say. Lydia will question him about it but never quite get the answer she’s looking for. The more detail you get from him, the more you will wonder who he truly is. You’ll be wondering if he will turn out to be some evil entity that’s just been messing with you the whole time.
The voice acting for the most part was decent. There was a clunker here or there, but as it wasn’t a main character and the problems were not great enough to detract from the game. The actor who voiced Zak does deserve special recognition. Zak’s voice was wonderfully believable; showing real emotion, seeming innocence, and just the right inflections to let you surmise he’s keeping secrets. He damn near made this reviewer cry in the middle of the game. Truly, Zak was a joy to listen to for this reviewer. And, to be honest, the other voices became less and less noticeable. While there aren’t a lot of characters to speak to, you will get decent amounts of conversation between Zak and Lydia. If you stand too long in one place, Zak will usually just start up a conversation to get you moving again. All the conversation is essential so there’s no worry about endless rambling or extremely long dialog.
The character renderings were good, but it’s really hard to tell as you rarely see them in close-up view. The creation of the gorgeous backgrounds seems to be where the developers focused their energy. It feels like you just walked into Harry Potter’s Hogwarts after they spruced it up a bit. Outside, you can explore a lush forest where every blade of grass is so clear, you can almost smell it. The inside of the academy is bursting with color. Each room you enter will fill you with delight. You can see the magic all around in the colorful bursts of energy that take the place of torch lighting. Walk outside on the balconies and you can see the mountains, waterfalls and all the bridges and towers. In the garden is a small body of water similar to a pond. It is amazing to see the water move and glisten. You can see all the fish swimming around and it is frighteningly realistic; as if you could stick you hand right in.
There are so many locations to see. There are multiple towers, magical classrooms, a laboratory, a secret library, an enchanted crossway, and a whispering stairway. The list goes on and on. You’ll be glad that Lydia has a pretty quick running speed. There is certainly a lot of ground to cover. The only minor gripe is that in some locations the camera angles were not the greatest. For example, in the Academy’s Façade, you will be in an area with multiple exits. Because of the camera angles, it is truly hard to see where those exits are. It is even difficult to tell where you’re going. Thankfully, this is not the case throughout the game, just in a few areas.
There are some cinematic cut scenes. Some occur while using the teleportation pads which allow you to travel magically from one tower to another. You will be able to see the direction your magic travel takes you. These are slightly blurry, but I assume this is to convey the magical essence of the teleportation. One can only assume that to travel in this way would require the physical body to disappear. It is doubtful that you would see clearly while you are being teleported. The other cut scenes are manifestations of Lydia’s psychic visions. They are done using still pictures with accompanying text and voice. The music is appropriate, light and unobtrusive. Ambient sounds were also done well and helped capture the mood of the game.
Lydia’s psychic visions are essential to the flow of the storyline. They tell us what we can’t possibly know by walking around the academy. Each new vision brings us tiny shards of the overall story. The visions will raise the number of questions you have and give you more reason to worry. Each new piece of information brings you closer to finding out the truth. The story progresses at a slower pace which gives you a chance to absorb each shred of information. This is much more enjoyable than having the story jammed into you all at once. There are some sad parts, but the focus does not stay there very long. The ending is not what you might be expecting and some may be disappointed. But, it is still appropriate, conclusive, and most certainly not cliché.
Despite some minor gripes, Keepsake is a thoroughly enjoyable and challenging game. If you’re a gamer who likes a mystical theme, interesting storyline, and a ton of puzzles, give Keepsake a try. Those who like their puzzles on the easier side can still enjoy the overall story and beauty while utilizing the hint system to solve the more beastly challenges. The puzzles and fantastic environments alone make this game worth the purchase.
Final Grade: 90/100