To me, the first episode of Adam's Venture, The Search for the Lost Garden, felt like a missed opportunity. The game offered attractive visuals, a pleasant relaxed pace, and an interesting premise. The keyboard-driven controls seemed fitting, creating a welcome hands-on feel. However, the adventure was hurt by its remarkably short length, overly simplistic puzzles, and lack of plot development. In the end, The Search for the Lost Garden was a somewhat shallow adventure that did not fully capitalize on its strong points. Fortunately, the second episode of the series, called Solomon's Secret, addresses many of the concerns I had about the first chapter, delivering a far more satisfying adventure-gaming experience.
At the end of The Search for the Lost Garden, Adam and Evelyn had board an airplane headed toward Jerusalem. Picking up right where first episode left off, Solomon's Secret begins in this airplane. Adam and Evelyn, the two protagonists we met during the first chapter of the saga, explain to the pilot what transpired in the caverns. Unfortunately, the pilot is not too thrilled with Adam and Evelyn's report. He takes the duo to a facility owned by the Clairvaux corporation, which was the company that funded the excavation from the first episode. Adam and Evelyn are locked into a cell and told to wait for company management to arrive. It will be up to you to help the two explorers find a way out of the cell. If you can manage to escape the compound, you might be able to seek some shelter in Jerusalem. With some luck, you might also discover the ancient city's secrets.
After the opening cinematic, you assume control of Adam inside the prison cell. Your first task is to find a way to unlock the door and escape the facility. The first few minutes of the game also serve as a quick tutorial. At appropriate times, the game reminds players about the keyboard layout. As with the first episode, you use the WASD keys to move Adam. The space key is used to jump and the ctrl key is used to crouch. Adam investigates objects, picks up inventory items, and talks to other characters using the enter button. Just like the first chapter, the controls are straightforward and make you feel immersed in the exploration. The game does not require overwhelming amounts of dexterity with the keyboard either. You do not have to worry about long jumping sequences or challenging timed puzzles. Similar to The Search For the Lost Garden, Solomon's Secret has a relaxed pace and encourages the players to enjoy the scenery.
Keeping in line with the first episode, Solomon's Secret is visually appealing. Starting with the very first building you need to escape, all the areas are fairly detailed. It seems the development team spent a great deal of effort to ensure every location is fun to explore. The second episode also seems better at avoiding the over-the-top glow that occasionally obscured your vision in the first chapter. There are still some sections that look a little awkward, but in general, the light and shadow effects are a little more subdued and the game looks better for it.
In addition to correcting some of the graphical issues from The Search for the Lost Garden, Solomon's Secret offers a more diverse set of locations to explore. The entire first episode was confined to a series of caverns that had to be explored in a linear fashion. While the caves were fairly detailed and alluring, they did not offer much in the way of variety. In Solomon's Secret, Adam and Evelyn cover a substantially larger area. Besides the facility where the game begins, you get to explore several locations in Jerusalem. The progression is still very linear. Adam and Evelyn are confined to a very restricted path as they explore Jerusalem and its surrounding areas. However, the periodic changes in scenery help the episode feel less monotonous. The different sites Adam and Evelyn visit give the game a bigger scope, making you feel like you are involved in a grand adventure.
The second episode also does a somewhat better job with plot development. There is a lot more to the story than figuring out a way to open an oversized door. Events escalate as you go deeper into Jerusalem and start to find out more about the Clairvaux corporation. The story still does not carry a tremendous amount of depth. Do not expect an exciting tale that will have you clinging to the edge of your seat. There are no shocking plot twists or grand revelations. However, the story is well-paced and far more engaging than what we saw in the first chapter of the saga.
In Solomon's Secret, we also get to know the two protagonists a little better. Adam and Evelyn travel together during the majority of the episode. The frequent chats between the two characters reveal a few details about their personalities. At times, the dialog feels very awkward and could have used some streamlining. Adam and Evelyn use phrases that just don't fit the flow of a normal conversation. In addition, Adam's occasional pig-headed remarks are not at all amusing. If the developers were attempting to be humorous with Adam's sexist commentary, they missed the mark entirely. Presumably, the idea is to deliberately portray Adam as an immature jerk, so he can evolve into more of a gentleman in future installments. Unfortunately, the end result is that you get to play as a somewhat annoying and unlikable protagonist during Solomon's Secret. However, there is a silver lining to the attempts at character development. Despite the negative aspects of the dialogs and Adam's undesirable traits, the simple fact that the developers put more of an effort to flesh out Adam and Evelyn's characters is very much appreciated. The protagonists are still somewhat shallow and one-dimensional, but there is at least a noticeable effort to move things in the right direction.
Where Solomon's Secret makes the biggest improvements over its predecessor is in the puzzles department. The first episode contained a number of overly easy logic puzzles. In addition, the puzzle involving putting portions of a biblical quote in the correct order was reused far too many times to be entertaining. In the second episode, the puzzles are substantially more diverse and engaging. You will need to examine the clues in the immediate area and try to determine how various mechanisms work. Some of the puzzles test pattern recognition whereas others require a small amount of arithmetic. Occasionally, you will also be tasked with exploring an area to find several items. Several challenges, such as the lock-picking mini-game, will be familiar to seasoned adventurers. Fortunately, Solomon's Secret also has some fairly novel puzzles that are rather fun to solve. Thanks to the increased puzzle diversity and quantity, the game delivers a significantly more fulfilling gaming experience.
Despite the considerably larger number and variety of puzzles, Solomon's Secret still feels like a game designed for relatively inexperienced adventurers. Do not expect overly complex puzzles that require a great deal of thought. You will not need to make great leaps of logic or meticulously search each area for clues. In many cases, you will be confined to a rather small location with a single puzzle to solve. Any clues you might need will be available nearby. While the simplicity of the puzzles may disappoint veteran adventurers, the relatively easy challenges do create a relaxed gaming experience. After all, every game does not need to be punishingly difficult.
It is worth noting that there is a small amount of repetition with the game's puzzles. Several contraptions are encountered multiple times. In each instance, the mechanism gets a little more complicated and you need to come up with a different solution. These multiple incarnations of the same puzzle seem to be intended as stepping stones, helping gamers understand how a machine or mechanical lock works before they have to solve the most complicated version. As such, the repetition does not detract from the overall experience as it did in The Search for the Lost Garden.
The biggest problem with Solomon's Secret is its length. With the increased number of locations and puzzles, this episode is significantly longer than The Search for the Lost Garden. Nevertheless, in my opinion, Solomon's Secret is still too short for a commercial release. You can expect to complete the entire episode in less than four hours. Once you watch the end credits roll, there is not much of a reason to replay the game either. To a certain extent, the short length can be justified when you consider Solomon's Secret is intended to be a single chapter in a larger saga. However, I would have still preferred a longer and more satisfying adventure.
Overall, Solomon's Secret is a significant improvement over the first episode of Adam's Venture. It seems as though the development team made an effort to respond to every complaint about The Search for The Lost Garden. Solomon's Secret features a more engaging story and a larger number of locations to explore. There are also marked improvements in terms of puzzle variety. At the same time, the game maintains the visual appeal and relaxed pace from the first chapter. Unfortunately, despite all the improvements, there are still several issues with the game. Some of the conversations seem awkward. The relatively simple puzzles and the linear nature of the game can be frustrating for some gamers. The short length of the adventure is also rather irritating. However, if you are in the mood for a laid-back adventure with attractive visuals, Solomon's Secret is still worth a try. On its own, Solomon's Secret is not a remarkable adventure, but if the development team continues to make improvements, Adam's Venture may still turn out to be successful and enjoyable saga.