Back in 2012, indie developer Krams Design released point-and-click adventure game Anna’s Quest – Vol. 1, but with the help of German developer/publisher Daedalic Entertainment, Anna’s Quest was released as a stand-alone product, telling the whole story.
Anna’s Quest (PC)
(Australia 2015, developers: Krams Design/Daedalic Entertainment, publisher: Daedalic Entertainment, platform: PC)
Young girl Anna is in search for a cure to heal her sick grandfather, but she’s soon chased by the witch Winfriede who wants to use her telekinetic powers for her own good/evil deeds.
A fairy tale for young and old alike
Writing a fairy tale that is both suitable for children and adults alike is difficult. On the one hand, it has to include innocence and punishment as concepts that are understood immediately, with a moral at the end and memorable characters. On the other hand, in order to tell a mature story, the characters have to be round, torn between good and evil, in addition to a moral that isn’t too patronizing.
Anna’s Quest does a pretty good job to establish the ideal of innocence with child protagonist Anna, even if her attitude towards the world with her naive comments can become tiresome at times. The way how the story unfolds and even supposedly evil people like the witch are treated with a convincing, if at the end too complicated, background story, is remarkable, giving the plot and characters Anna meets more depth than a typical fairy tale story can. Unfortunately, despite an ending that brings all the missing pieces together and is quite satisfying, the script can’t hide the fact that some events are overly dramatic and sentimental, especially Anna’s story with her sick grandfather or how the witch got treated at school. As touching as these moments are, they could have been handled with fewer words.
Interconnected stories, people and creatures
Point-and-click adventure games are notorious for their long dialogues, and Anna’s Quest is no exception. Despite fleshing out NPCs and Anna with some very good humorous and serious writing, their interactions could have been shorter. Still, the people and creatures who or which populate Anna’s world give it a great sense of place. On the one hand, there are many references to fairy tales, fables and folktales, especially European ones with characters like Hansel and Gretel or the Town Musicians of Bremen. On the other hand, there’s always a darker and more realistic twist to them. Without becoming a parody, travesty or simple anthology of well-known stories, the player experiences a world that accommodates both the dreamy and nightmarish side of these tales.
Puzzling events and conversations
The way how all the background stories and past events slowly unfold with Anna helping people and how actions and consequences are interwoven with the gameplay is something not many adventure games have succeeded in. The reason for this is the puzzle design which is an integral part of the storytelling process. Puzzles are often varied, quite imaginative and require creative thinking due to Anna’s ability to manipulate objects with her telekinetic powers. But even without these, the inventory-based conundrums are a joy to get one’s head around, as they fit the world quite nicely, while the inventory is never too cluttered with objects.
There are also clues in conversations or comments to make solving puzzles easier (although the dialogues can become quite repetitive), and one always has clear objectives of what to do next. However, this doesn’t mean that puzzles are easy. Some are actually quite devious, e.g. pulling down cages with bears in a specific order, and some solutions suffer the same fate so many point-and-clickers suffer from, mainly trial-and-error. At least some of the trickier logic puzzles or mini games can be skipped. What is also quite nice is that despite a missing map one can quickly travel from one location or screen to the next by simply clicking on sign posts.
Watching and listening to a tale untold
Fairy tale books usually have very nice artwork, and Anna’s Quest showcases the same attention to detail with some lovely drawn characters and often fantastic backgrounds. The few cutscenes are also quite good and could be mistaken for an animated movie. Even the character animations are fluid, something that can’t be said about all Daedalic titles. Unfortunately, there are no synchronous lip movements, making the long conversations and more dramatic scenes a bit disappointing.
Listening to all the characters speak is generally a joy with some very good voice acting, but there are exceptions. One of these is Anna herself. Sadly her long pauses and whiny voice become a problem early on in the game that doesn’t change. Even worse is the young witch Winfriede who sounds so amateurish and downright out of context that one wonders how this voice acting got through QA of the high quality audio recordings. There are also problems with sentences being cut off or begun as if they were in mid-sentence, something that is especially promintent in the final part of the game. Fortunately, the music is of the highest order, delivering a dreamy atmosphere with piano sounds and other instrumental accompaniments.
A good story wrapped up in a good game
The original Vol. 1 release of Krams Design’s Anna’s Quest already showed what potential the story and world had, and it doesn’t disappoint with the full release. The plot might take some time to unravel all its mysteries, as players with less patience will find it less engaging at first. However, it ends up to be a touching story about innocence and guilt, cause and effect, without the typical black and white distinction made in fairy tales. It’s a world one can get lost in, but also one which is dark, maybe even too dark for younger gamers. But then again, most fairy tales are violent and dark.
Getting puzzles right is always tricky for a developer, but the game almost always hits the right notes, being quite a long playtime experience of 15 hours even for seasoned gamers. Together with a great children’s book/animated movie presentation and only some minor technical flaws, it’s an accomplished title that might not be innovative or perfect in storytelling and gameplay, but fits rather nicely in Daedalic’s catalogue of titles, while at the same time giving Dane Krams room to showcase his drawing skills and character sensibilities.
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Amazon UK (import)
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