It seems like most adventures these days take themselves very seriously. I don’t know if it’s because developers are out there desperately trying to make the next Myst, or simply because LucasArts keeps canceling adventures instead of releasing them, but I must slog through 10-15 adventures that are only inadvertently funny (yes, I’m going to pick on you again, Alida) before I get to one that is at least intentionally trying to be funny. That’s bad news for me because I’d much rather play a Monkey Island game than a Myst game, but it’s the Myst games that generate all the clones.
All of which brings me to Wanted: A Wild Western Adventure from developer Revistronic. As you might have guessed from the extended lead-in, Wanted is a funny adventure. In fact, it really, really wants to be a Monkey Island game set in the Old West, right down to the obligatory mini-games and the insult duels, but it’s not quite that good or that funny. However, it still manages to be an effective old-school adventure.
In Wanted, you play an anonymous gunslinger named Fenimore Fillmore. One day you ride into Starek City and discover that a rich rancher -- whose name, not coincidentally, happens to be Starek -- is picking on the local farmers and threatening to take their land. You then meet a pretty schoolteacher and, well, your fate is sealed; you have to help the town. Along the way you’ll blow up bridges, rob banks, shoot bad guys and, oh yes, solve some puzzles.
Wanted’s engine is similar to the one used by LucasArts circa Grim Fandango and Escape from Monkey Island. That is, it’s a point-and-click adventure where you move a 3D character through 3D environments, and every so often the camera position changes to give you a different view of your surroundings. If you want to move Fillmore somewhere, then you just click on the ground where you want him to go, and if you want him to pick up something, then you just click on the object you want him to add to his inventory. The interface is pretty simple, and if you’ve played more than a couple adventures you should be able to jump right into the game with no problem.
The puzzles in Wanted are largely inventory based. You spend a lot of time picking up every object not nailed down, and then using those objects to solve puzzles and get more objects. For example, at one point you discover that you need to blow up a bridge to prevent Starek from receiving reinforcements, and that means you have to solve one puzzle to get dynamite, and another puzzle to get a rifle so you can blow up the dynamite from far away. Usually I don’t like to give out solutions to puzzles when I write a review, but in this case the solution is provided in a newspaper article you can read in the game. There are actually three newspapers you can read, and they give the answers to three puzzles, and so it might not come as a surprise that Wanted is pretty easy to play. The puzzles tend to be obvious, and there tend to be a lot of clues.
If you liked the LucasArts adventures, or even the old Sierra Quest adventures, then you’ll probably like Wanted well enough. It’s just that I couldn’t help feeling a little disappointed with the game, feeling that it could have been much funnier than it was, and that the reason it wasn’t funnier is because Revistronic didn’t try hard enough. For example, consider Fillmore himself. He’s actually a competent gunslinger, and he has no problem shooting the gun out of a bad guy’s hand. When he decides to take on Starek, he makes a plan and then follows the plan to a “T.” This isn’t a game where the main character trips over his feet, knocks over a statue, discovers a key in with the debris, and then announces, “I meant to do that!” Fillmore does exactly what he sets out to do, just as he planned to do it, and that’s a pretty ho-hum formula for a comedy.
Or consider this. A lot of humor in adventure games usually comes from when you’re stuck, and you try any old random thing just to see what will happen. In some games you might get a line like, “I don’t think that’s a good idea, and I’m not even sure it’s legal!” In Wanted Fillmore just has 4-5 things he says, and they don’t depend on the situation. The game just picks one randomly. There’s also a “look” command, but all it does is zoom in the view. It doesn’t generate any dialogue at all, funny or otherwise.
In other words, Revistronic missed all sorts of opportunities for humor in the game, and so Wanted ends up being pleasant and occasionally funny, but it’s hardly a knee-slapper. That description isn’t exactly a death sentence for a game, but when you combine it with the easy puzzles, a certain lack of polish, and several minor issues (like Revistronic’s decision to force you to feed Fillmore’s horse over and over again throughout the game), Wanted misses the mark just enough that it’s a little iffy for me to recommend.