When involved in the games industry, Lucasfilm’s software publishing division LucasArts revolutionised the adventure game years ago when they released the first ever point and click adventure. They released a wide range of games quickly, including licences of their own Indiana Jones series, but the most well known to everyone, and the games that are always used as benchmarks, are the Monkey Island series.
Not originally known for their games, software re-seller Epic Marketing set up their own games wing, Islona, and they entered the point and click adventure genre themselves with Sixth Sense Investigations. In SSI, you take on the role of the two staff of the Sixth Sense Investigations Detective Agency – the owner and head sleuth, Frank, his well-meaning sidekick Ben (who you can control at various stages during the game) and a ghost who is occasionally summoned by Ben, Arthur, who lends a spiritual helping hand.
The game starts off with a brief introduction setting the scene for Frank, Ben, and Arthur, and gives a little background into the Agency and one of their less successful cases (cat owners should look away while this is running!). Just in the intro alone, you’ll see plenty of examples of the game’s strange sense of humour – there are plenty of in-jokes to be found and there are more than a few occasions where the programmers are paying homage to their heroes!
Following this, you go into the game itself where Frank receives a phone call from the local cheese company, American Cheesers. On arrival, he finds that the place has been ransacked and it would appear that there have been other similar incidents in town. From here a web of intrigue is spun and it is up to you to find out what is going on.
When this was unleashed onto the Amiga scene, it was just the game I had been waiting for since Simon The Sorcerer – another good point and click adventure. SSI was another worthy addition to the genre with some great jokes, tough, but not impossible puzzles, and even when you think you are up against a brick wall with no way forward, you can still enjoy wandering around the game until you are struck with a fresh idea to try and solve a problem – not many adventures can claim to keep the attention like that. Because the game was developed by a team whose native language isn’t English, there are one or two minor problems with the translation for some of the text, but nothing that isn’t readable and understandable. It’s just that there are some strange choices of words in places, but it doesn’t mar the game at all.
Graphics are bright and bold and are extremely well animated. There are plenty of frames of animation for all of the characters, and there are lots of small background animations as well to bring the game to life. Sound effects are somewhat sparse and don’t really add that much to the game, but there are plenty of background tunes that don’t interfere with gameplay and only serve to add to the gaming experience.
I have been playing adventure games of one form or another for well in excess of 30 years and it has to be said that in the point and click genre, Sixth Sense Investigations has the best control system of any of them. The system is context sensitive with the function of the mouse pointer changing depending on the on-screen position. It saves a great deal of time when playing and the change in graphics for the pointer make identifying the function simplicity itself. In fact, it is quite possible to play the entire game (with the exception of conversations) just by using the pointer on the main game screen and avoiding the control panel altogether!
It is far more intuitive, easier, and faster to use than any of the LucasArts games, and as such enhances the game immensely, making the game far more accessible and more enjoyable to play as a result. It was sad to see that the game engine wasn’t used for more adventures or that it wasn’t licensed out to other Amiga developers or released commercially as a developers system. It really did set a new standard by which other point and click games should be compared.
In addition to this, the game manages to run significantly faster than any other point and click adventure I have seen on the Amiga – whether it is character animation, moving about the screen or from one location to another, or simply interacting with the background, SSI runs rings around all the opposition. It even has quite nippy disk access considering the amount of data that is on the hard drive.
The floppy version comes on a massive ten disks and will only run from a hard drive (needing 25MB of space to be installed – understandable for all the animation, graphics, and music). The CD version is identical to the floppy version except for the fact that all of the dialogue is also spoken. However, where games like Simon The Sorcerer were enhanced with speech, I’m not too sure about SSI. The voices, while not grating, don’t really seem to fit the characters and the reading seems monotonous and the script isn’t read with any enthusiasm. It does add more to the game, but I’m not too sure if it really improves it in any way so the disk version just has the edge if I had to choose one over the other.
In its latter years as a mainstream system, the Amiga had a drought of really good adventure games and it was great to see so many being released in its twilight years with this amongst them. This is easily as good as the best of the point and click adventures we have seen on the Amiga and certainly offers enough to keep any games player’s attention. Superb value for money, good humour, great graphics, jolly music, and plenty of puzzles to stretch the braincells – what more could you ask for?
Sixth Sense Investigations was released by Islona, and was available for AGA Amigas, released on disk and CD. The bulk of this review was published previously.