Adam’s Venture: Chronicles review for PS3

Platform: PS3
Also On: PC
Publisher: Playlogic
Developer: Vertigo Games
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No

I’ve got to hand it to Vertigo Games. In Adam’s Venture: Chronicles, they’ve basically made a review-proof game. See, it’s pretty terrible, but it’s also overtly Christian, which means that any bad reviews the game receives can easily be brushed away as simply being hostile to religion and religiosity, both in games and in general.

As such, let me make this abundantly clear: my problem with Adam’s Venture: Chronicles isn’t that it’s Christian. I don’t have a problem with Christian art. I think Flannery O’Connor is a phenomenal writer. If her brand of Roman Catholic-infused Southern Gothic isn’t religious enough for you, then you can replace her with C.S. Lewis. And if that’s still too secular for you, I’ll even admit to liking and owning most of the back catalog of Jars of Clay. And, of course, here’s my trump card: my dad isn’t just an ordained Anglican minister, he’s also a bishop. In other words, like I said, I don’t have a problem with a bit of religion in whatever art I’m consuming.

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What I do have a problem with, however, is when religious is shoehorned into something in the most awkward, obvious way possible, and that’s something that Adam’s Venture: Chronicle is guilty of time and again (and again, and again). You play as Adam, and you’re accompanied by your sidekick/colleague/love interest, Evelyn (get it?). You’re on the hunt for all kinds of Biblical artefacts, and, wouldn’t you know it, you need to use Bible verses to unlock some of the puzzles. Christian iconography is scattered throughout the game, ranging from the obvious (i.e. crosses and doves) to the relatively subtle (i.e. anchors). Every so often, you stumble across hidden chests, but rather than giving you treasures, a la Uncharted, you get a series of passwords to use on the game’s website — and it just so happens that those passwords are straight out of the Bible, and occasionally accompanied by quotes from Scripture and historical facts.

All of this might have been forgivable if the other facets of the game were any good. Needless to say, they are not. The graphics are just plain bizarre; at times, the backgrounds and clothing are incredibly realistic and detailed, while at others, they look like they’re only a few steps above Microsoft Paint. The titular Adam looks like he stepped out of a PS2 game, and any time he’s shown interacting with anything — say, when he’s holding a walkie talkie — the objects appear to be embedded in his hand, rather than simply held by it. Other characters have slightly more detail, but they still come awfully close to being nightmare fuel every time they open their mouths.

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Also terrifying: watching the characters move. No one moves in any way that’s remotely human-like. Everyone walks all stiff and straight-legged, you slide along obstacles when you hit impassable (and invisible) barriers, and when Adam jumps, it’s in a way that’s best described as “jolly woodland sprite”.

Not too surprisingly, no one talks like a real human being either. Perhaps it’s because the developers were committed to not showing any conflict, perhaps it’s because they took the phrase “the Devil is in the details” literally and stripped the game of any and all nuance, perhaps it’s because they didn’t have the budget to actually show anything impressive; whatever the reason, pretty much every phrase uttered in the game is an expository sentence. Never has “Show, don’t tell” been a more desperately needed and wholly ignored guideline.

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Actually, that’s not totally true. There is the odd time when characters aren’t explaining everything happening at any given moment: when Adam is spouting his stupid, cheesy one-liners. Essentially, imagine Uncharted’s Drake, and then strip him of any semblance of charm — seriously, take away every last drop of it — and make him a blithering idiot. The resulting smarmy douchebag is a pretty good approximation of what Adam is like. And speaking of lousy characterization, if you ever needed more evidence that the Useless Damsel trope is alive and well in 2014, Evelyn is constant, terrible proof.

Of course, no matter how terrible the component elements might be, they still reach a whole new level of awfulness when you combine them all together. You’ve got a bunch of horrible characters “running” (for lack of a better description) around in eyeball-meltingly ugly environments, solving puzzles that veer from insanely easy to impossibly difficult, to advance a story that makes no sense whatsoever. Then again, when I put it that way, there’s something fantastically ironic about the fact that a bunch of developers aiming to create a Biblically-inspired game have come awfully close to creating a literal version of Hell, albeit in video game form.

Long ago, in practically another lifetime, I briefly dated an evangelical Christian who fancied herself to be an intellectual. While the relationship was a disaster, one thing she said has stuck with me all these years later: that it’s awfully hard to be a Christian aesthete when the Christian pop culture industry is so committed to churning out so much crap. After playing Adam’s Venture: Chronicles, I’m pretty sure that viewpoint goes double for Christian gamers.

Grade: F