I don’t know what to make of The Strange and Somewhat Sinister Tale of the House at Desert Bridge (henceforth referred to as “Desert Bridge”). After playing through nearly all of Kyratzes’s games, with all of their grim and determined stance against war and its effects, here comes Desert Bridge – an amusing, whimsical, colorful, and serious game.
In a sense, it’s a lot more fun.
One of Desert Bridge‘s main qualities is the game. There’s more game in here than the author’s previous works – there’s a lot more puzzles to solve, and also a lot more “interaction.” You can see his efforts especially in giving practically each mouse hotspot in each room its own description, and there’s a lot of objects to tinker with, though most of the time what I did get were menus for the tinkering instead. Being a Kyratzes game, there’s still some “codes” one will need to break, but it’s more about where to find these codes, and using the right device or recipe to make it useful, so to speak.
References to other adventure games also abound: the shovel in the Larder room refers to the underwater scene in Photopia, for instance.
Portokalopsarius’s Psychedelic Bath
The best thing about Desert Bridge, I think, is the splash of color. Remember how lead male characters in movies such as Ghost Rider and Rambo used to be told about them needing a woman’s touch? Verena Huber’s hand-drawn crayon strokes and Helen Trevillion’s music add a lot to the game’s humor and atmosphere, and is a refreshing change to the author’s usual Terragen-generated monochrome stills and sombre music. After showing Desert Bridge to a couple of my cousin’s kids, they were ecstatic, and they are still playing the game.
A couple of things I’d like to bring to Jonas’s attention, though: the use of menus, or more specifically, the use of a menu within a menu. When the game was first released, it was described as a “transdimensional portal” to the Land of Dreams. Fine, sure, but I’d rather the game tell me I can press certain keys to restore or save my game, or even quit, rather than go through hoops for that. There’s got to be some way I can switch a “portal” off when I need to.
Other than those, it can be said Desert Bridge has everything: colorful art, easy puzzles, lots of humor, and more importantly, a big heart. And, of course, an important lesson to learn. It’s the perfect game to play for the holidays, whether you’re a kid or a kid-at-heart.