Sometimes it’s ok to be average. A burger and fries doesn’t have to be the best thing ever, so long as it gets you through the day. Average TV kills time nicely, and sometimes it’s nice not to have to get the brain cells fully engaged. An average action/adventure game, however, is going to have a tougher time of it. While Deadfall Adventures isn’t bad at all, it’s also not particularly great, but once you get past the fairly dull intro level it settles into an easy rhythm of shooting and light puzzle solving, and ends up fairly playable.
It’s 1938 and you’re James Quartermain, grandson of Alan Quartermain and heir to his adventuring ways. Trouble has landed at your door in the form of a shapely red-head chasing after The Heart of Atlantis. So are the Nazis and the Russians, as it turns out, so it’s a race across the globe from Egypt to the Antarctic and Mayan ruins, seeking artifacts and a bit of bonus treasure along the way.
The start of Quartermain’s FPS/adventure is fairly rocky, though, as it’s initially far too easy. Firefights of 2-3 enemies and puzzles that involve little more than completing obvious tasks sap the adventure of any excitement. It takes longer than it should to start ramping up to being anything more than an uninteresting stroll through the same ruins that anyone who’s ever played a game has seen time and time again, and it’s not helped by the notebook feature. Most puzzles pop up a reminder that you can hit a button for a hint, which causes Quartermain to pop open a notebook with the solution clearly spelled out. It only takes a couple of times peeking at the notebook to realize that “following explicit instructions” and “puzzle solving” are very different things and only one of them has the potential to be fun.
The shooting comes off a bit better, once the game starts throwing a decent number of enemies around. They’re bad guys aren’t particularly smart, and are generally content to hang around behind cover, take potshots at you, and toss the occasional grenade, but there’s a good number of guns to play with and you frequently cycle between them. Quartermain can carry three weapons max, although usually he’s only got two, plus explosives and a machete for melee. The standard pistols are dual-wield with infinite ammo, but you can find better ones with limited ammo throughout the levels. The second gun is generally whatever you can scavenge from dead enemies, and they carry a variety of sub-machine guns and shotguns. Weapons generally last long enough to be fun without wearing out their welcome before it’s time to switch to a different one, which goes a long way towards negating the near-complete lack of AI in the enemies. It’s not uncommon to see the cover an enemy is hiding behind light up, only to realize it’s because they forgot to stop crouching before firing.
Adding a bit of variety to the combat are the environmental effects, which range from your standard exploding barrels to the far more interesting mummies. Shoot open an ancient tomb and a mummy shambles out ready to attack anything in its path. Do this in a firefight and you can kick back and watch them tear into Nazis for you, which is always fun. Mummies are effectively bulletproof unless you light them up with a concentrated beam from your flashlight, so even setting only one among the bad guys can yield entertaining results.
While Deadfall Adventures does have its better moments, it usually doesn’t take long for something to bring the party to a stop. Maybe it’s getting stopped dead while walking because of a one-inch step that, for some reason you need to jump over. Maybe you went searching for one of the treasures marked on your map (useful for upgrading stats) only to accidentally trigger the next area with no way to go back other than reloading the level. Possibly you realize that, with a bit of timing, it’s faster and more effective to rush into enemy fire like The Amazing Human Bullet Sponge and flail away with the machete than it is to shoot back. It might even be simple exasperation at needing to reset the control scheme away from the 360 game pad every time the game boots up. It’ll be something, though, and you’ll need to make a conscious effort to ignore it.
Deadfall Adventures isn’t actually a terrible game. The dialogue is dumb, AI companions have an unnerving tendency to teleport behind you, it’s far glitchier than it should be, but somehow it’s also not unlikeable. It can be very easy to fall into a pleasant haze of gaming once you get used to its issues, shooting enemies and searching for goodies as the levels go by. The occasional annoyance is offset by steady progress, and there’s a decent variety of scenery to travel through. Deadfall Adventures rises above its issues and somehow becomes an average bit of adventuring, and while that may not do it any favors during a crazy-busy holiday season, it’s still not a bad way to blow off a couple night’s gaming.
Version Reviewed: PC