Anna’s Quest may appear to be made for children, but this game is a dark journey through the end of a childhood. The game evokes a helpless sense of loneliness, but uplifts with the optimism that only a child could bring in the bleakest of situations. On your crusade to save your father from a curse, you’ll meet talking animals, manipulating witches and save people from hopeless situations. The level of care is simply top notch, and should impress those who go on this magical journey. Don’t be fooled; Anna is definitely a hero, and her Quest is worthy of a King.
WHAT WE LIKED
º An engaging tale of discovering a sometimes dishonest world.
º Solid controls wrapped around fair, yet tough puzzles.
º Beautifully drawn animations accompanied by an exquisite soundtrack.
WHAT WE DISLIKED º A few rough edges in transitions and localization.
º Anna can get a little stale from being so nice.
º Some conversations are a little long winded.
Point and click adventure games were one of my first real introductions to PC gaming when I was a kid. I use to remember battling with my IBM Aptiva, trying to figure out how to install classics like Myst and Monkey Island. I loved how the action took a backseat to the story in these types of games, offering more puzzle than obstacles. The genre has kinda melted away over the past 20 years, mostly due to poor level and puzzle design. Outside of Telltale’s modernization, most gamers have moved on, forgetting the rich and imaginative worlds of the classic LucasArts SCUMM games.
While I was at E3, I discovered a developer I never heard of producing some of the most beautiful PnCs I’ve seen in recent years; Germany’s own Daedalic Entertainment. With outings like The Whispered World, Edna & Harvey, The Night of the Rabbit and the Deponia Series; they’ve proven themselves to be adept at creating imaginative and artistically dynamic worlds. After meeting with them, I was more than happy to review their newest game Anna’s Quest. I’m glad I got a chance to play this charming and insightful little gem.
In Anna’s Quest, you play a young girl who leaves her father’s secluded farm for the first time in search for a cure to his sudden illness. Upon leaving, you are swept up into a world of little understanding; one that’s much darker than you’d ever imagined it possibly being. Before you can even make it to the first town, you’re grabbed by a witch who shuts you in an Orwellian tower and forces you to perform experiments involving telekinesis. Unbeknownst to you, you are somehow already quite capable of being able to alter things with your mind. It turns out your sweet father hasn’t been entirely honest, as you discover secrets he’s been hiding from you.
While the game may look childish, its dark tone and puzzles make this game an interesting journey for veterans and newbies alike. It’s heartbreaking watching a young and vulnerable Anna learn how cruel the world can be, watching as she journeys deeper into the awfulness. In order to complete your goal of saving your father, Anna will have to compromise her beliefs, sometimes venturing into the gray areas of morality in order to proceed.
Now while this may make the game sound depressing (and at times, it can be), it’s ultimately uplifting because of her constantly pleasant attitude and child-like innocence. Talking to ghosts (Yes, Anna is a complicated child), you’re able to put their souls to rest. You recover stolen goods for the downtrodden and save people from untimely deaths. Like a true hero, she assures everyone to stay hopeful as she overcomes insurmountable odds and saves the day; she may be young, but her story is the stuff legends are made of.
You also get to share this journey with Ben, a young boy trapped in the body of a teddy bear. Constantly afraid, he puts his trust in Anna and joins her on her trek to the nearest town in search of cures for both him and her father. Ben provides some of the funnier comic relief and is a great companion character- although he’s a little under utilized and tends to stand off screen. Despite this, you will undoubtedly grow connected to him, as the story twists and unfolds.
This attachment is only helped by the small details that the developers haven’t overlooked. The crisp artwork in this game is close to rivaling big American film studios, and even has the emotional heart of Studio Ghibli. The dialogue is simple, but dripping with malevolence. Anna acts like a little girl but is wise beyond her years. It’s because of this attention to detail that the game breaks through the genre’s limitations, and offers an engaging and heartfelt story that’ll surely make you empathize with Anna as she overcomes the dark play she’s been cast in.
The puzzles are engaging, but perhaps a little on the easier side. While I can’t stand a puzzle game where the solution makes no sense, this game’s solutions were all able to be figured out with a little time looking for the clues. There were a few that had me scratching my head in confusion until I finally got that high of realization, followed by laughter at my own stupidity. Every item seems to have a use, and sometimes you can see the sequence of events to come if you could just open this bottle to get onto the others. Simply put, you won’t be using a rubber duck to get a key off tunnel tracks; each of the puzzles I experienced was logical, and with a little perseverance, a walkthrough shouldn’t be required.
There’s also cleverly hidden candies for Anna to find throughout her outing, that unlocks video game-inspired artwork of Ben in costumes from other franchises. Ben dressed as Mario or Solid Snake, they provide a cute little reward for observant players. There’s a ton of easter eggs to also find, adding replayability to a genre that sometimes forgets to incentivise gamers to revisit the experience.
I should also note that Daedalic has a great way of streamlining their games. Instead of having to click on your inventory button to pull up objects, the game allows you to lightly scroll your mouse’s wheel, pulling up your inventory. They even have keyboard shortcuts if you don’t mind playing with two hands. There’s even a clue system that shows you what items can be interacted with. There’s not much to customizing when it comes to these kinds of games, but it’s nice to see them expediting and innovating controls.
That’s not to say there aren’t some faults within the game. While the game works as a lighthearted tale, the humor lacks the grit of Monkey Island or Deponia. There are some funny situations for sure, but a lot of the one-liners come across as well as a ten-year-old telling knock-knock jokes; you’ll laugh, but nowhere close to Day of the Tentacle. That’s not labeling it as bad, but the humor comes from drawing colorful mustaches defiantly on creepy dolls; It’s more cute than side-splitting.
And as much as it pains me to say this, Anna can sometimes get a tad annoying. She never feels one-dimensional, but after a few hours of her overly sympathetic dialogue, it may start to become repetitive. Her heart is always in the right place, so it doesn’t bring the adventure down too much; but in trying to create a very innocent character, they may not have explored some rougher lines they could’ve gone with. Then she says something so innocent and heartfelt, you realize that her inexperience and naivety is not only her greatest weakness but is also her unbreakable strength.
The voice acting, which is always above par when it comes to Daedalic Entertainment, has a few characters that simply don’t deliver as well as others. They’re not awful- they just simply miss the mark. Some of the dialogue is briefly snipped at the beginning of lines and songs sometimes cut instead of fade; while a small annoyance, it does bring you out of the game. There’s also a few rough patches of German to English in the written dialogue that the actors thankfully smooth over in their performance. The rest of the audio is fantastic, with a beautifully arranged soundtrack and some real polish in the mixing; it’s just a shame some of these edges weren’t smoothed out.
Despite these problems, Anna’s Quest made me feel like a true heroine inside of a mythical world that needs to be saved. The adorable lead is not your typical archetype, and that makes the experience all the more engaging. The loss of innocence is a prevailing and relatable undertone throughout the course of the game, and will leave you fearful as Anna sometimes loses sight of her confidence and belief that she can save her father. If you’re a fan, or even a newcomer to this genre, you’ll be doing yourself a favor by picking this game up. Anna and Ben’s journey through a broken world is one you must experience, especially if you enjoy magic-filled stories of heroism and adventure.