Altered Destiny. (computer game) (evaluation)
by Jeff Seiken
At the start of Altered Destiny, Accolade's new graphic adventure, P. J. Barrett is sucked bodily through his television into a strange new world. Although not exactly the most subtle of plot devices, the opening sets the story line in motion and establishes the fanciful tone needed for the offbeat events to follow.
P. J. ends up on the bizarre planet of Daltere. Daltere is a dreamscape world that's part fantasy and part nightmare. If the environs are foreign, though, the goal of the game will be all too familiar to veteran adventurers. In yet another variation of the "Universe on the Brink of the Apocalypse" theme, Altered Destiny charges P. J. with the task of recovering a stolen jewel that's essential to the planet's stability and survival.
The most puzzling mystery in the game is why its designer has resurrected such a tired, old scenario.
You maneuver P. J. around the screen with the arrow keys or a mouse while giving him specific instructions through typed commands. The program is generally adept at understanding directions, although this seems more related to the kinds of actions P. J. must perform than the intrinsic sophistication of the game's parser. For the most part, you can get away with simple, declarative, Tarzan-like sentences. Altered Destiny isn't a very verbal game. Even the text descriptions that accompany the screen graphics tend to be terse. In short, the visual elements predominate.
Visually, the game is a rich collage of arresting, imaginatively drawn landscapes rendered in fluorescent colors. The limited animation (flower petals waft through the air, and odd creatures scurry across the ground) adds to the vividness of the screens. Like the program's varied and entertaining soundtrack (it even sounds good on the PC's internal speaker), the inventive imagery creates a mood and an impression that complement the adventure's far-out setting.
Altered Destiny is less linear than many games of its ilk. It allows you a fairly free range of movement on Daltere. Emblematic of the latitude you enjoy is the fact that P. J. starts his exploration of the planet's surface standing in the middle of a crossroads, with no clue as to which direction he should take. While certain tasks MuSt be performed before others, the game doesn't force you to adhere to a rigid path.
On the other hand, although the puzzles and pitfalls you encounter in the course of P. J.'s quest are challenging, they don't always abide by the rules of logic-or even fairness. In more than one situation, the correct response to a problem must be found through trial and error. The manual warns you to save your position frequently. This is good advice, given the program's tendency to punish missteps with death. Experimentation is also recommended because Altered Destiny is a game in which inspiration-as much as calculation and deduction-will carry the day.