Saturday, April 16, 2011

Paradise (Benoit Sokal)

Paradise by Benoit Sokal, developer of the Syberia series, is another point and click adventure featuring his unique fantasy visual flair and is particularly reminiscent of his earlier work Syberia in this department; So fans of this series, me included, should love this game. But as you would expect from a talented artist and director Mr. Sokal was not content to just create a clone of a successful game with new locations and new characters; Paradise, like all his previous work, is very unique, and very dissimilar in many areas to his other works.

The protagonist (Ann  Smith), as she travels across Maurania

The main divergence happens in the plot and is categorized by the sweeping sense of loss and of being trapped between a rock and a hard place; But then you think maybe all is not lost, maybe the glory of the past is being brought back to life, only to have reality crash back upon you; Not that there is no hope, there is always hope.

Starting off the game, you are flying over the country of Maurania, which is currently in the middle of a heated civil war between some outside forces, joined with willing civilians, fighting for a "free and democratic" Maurania verses the aged hereditary King. Your plane is shot down and you wake up in the harem of a prince without any memory of your past life, not even your name. What follows is a unique adventure in which you traverse the entirety of Maurania, get embroiled in the civil war, learn who you are, and potentially even decide the fate of a nation.

At first, after finishing the game, I had a lot of negative opinions of the plot, and it does not really rap anything up and ends very abruptly and surprisingly, but as more time goes on I respect Mr. Sokal's vision far more and (after much thought) come to understand why it was so powerful and simply excellent. This power is all the more poignant because you start off the game so subtly and sheltered from the war, the outside word, and even yourself, within the prince's harem. Which is possibly even to the detriment of the games success; The beginning is so subtle that many users might give up and pass off the game as mediocre before the game has really even begun, something I did a few years back the first time I attempted to play it.

This plot in addition to being told through beautiful, and numerous, cut scenes is worked into the background rather nicely. Their is always that side-note, or conversation you overhear that mentions how the war is going and some person's view on it; And by the end of the game I would be surprised if you have not decided one way of the other who you support, with people taking both sides. In addition to hearing the story and general news of Maurania from the people you will also get to listen to radio broadcasts, read news-papers, and even uncover some lintel reports from both sides; And more then that, the people these were particularly fascinating and like any good story left me wanting more. The one area that I wish was used more to tell the story was the environment, because except for the occasional newspaper you find lying around, the environment is rather devoid of interactive objects that are not used in some puzzle. But there is some consolation to fans who want more, and that is a four part graphic novel entitled The Lost Paradise of Maurania, which is a retelling and deepening of Paradise's story (I wish I could get my hands on a copy).

Like any game by Benoit Sokal, Paradise does not break any ground in the puzzle department. For the most part it is completely inventory based, pick up everything that isn't nailed down (and somethings that are), system with the occasional talk to some guy or go here to progress thrown in. The remainder are a few arcade sequences, such as fishing for Sand Dabs in a dessert and the Leopard night sequences. In these sequences you play as a leopard and must navigate a 3D environment. These sequences are by far the worst part of the game, with horrible graphics and buggy almost unusable controls, but thankfully they are fully skip-able.

The only real problem with the game is the numerous bugs. In addition to the aforementioned leopard night sequences, there are numerous navigational and interaction problems, some of them game breaking without the proper settings and patches applied. Almost every interactive object in the game can be somewhat hard to use and interact with because of badly defined interactive regions. Additionally the game is subject to crashing on occasion.

A image ripped from the games loading screen
that makes a great desktop wallpaper.

Now for a section that I am thinking of making regular, but is particularly needed for this review. A section dedicated all things technical and outside of the game play. Basically how to get it running on a modern systems and any info about its windowed mode and ability to be (Alt+Tab)ed.

Getting it to run (on a Windows 7 64-bit machine):
  • You will want to apply the 1.1 patch, as it fixes many bugs [recommended]
  • There is a 1.1.3 patch that seems to have been abandoned by all official channels. One reason for this might be that it changes the copy protection, and I have heard of it making legitimate people unable to play. But if you have run out of options you can try it, and the no-cd crack for version 1.1 of the game still works with this patch installed
  • For one section of the game I needed to change some settings, and a restart from earlier in the game (before I encountered the bugged section). These settings are: turn off anti-aliasing, turn off animated cursor, set shadows to 2D. One possible problem with these settings is I found that with them enabled sometimes the cursor would not show active even when over a interactive object, but when clicked would cause the correct action to be performed.
  • For some other sections of the game I needed to run the game in Windows XP SP3 mode [recommended]
Windowed Mode:
As far as I know this game does not nativity support any type of windowed mode.

Fully supports Alt+Tab with the only side-effect being blank sections of the screen when re-enabled. These sections persist until the screen is updated (moving to a new location, etc.).


  1. Seems I've been very stupid to have ignored my Paradise DVD for all those years. Oh well, as soon as I find some time then. Thanks for the reminder Jonathon :)

  2. In the config.ini, to get into window mode: