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Flight of the Amazon Queen is a 1995 point-and-click adventure that has been transferred into public domain, and since free is a price tag hard to beat, I downloaded, started and completed the game today.
It starts as an homage to old Hollywood adventure movies, later devolves into pulp magazine territory, and all too often interprets its status as love letter/send-up as Get Out of Jail Free-card for the corniest puns in video game history. I can deal with the cheap, juvenile sexual innuendo - in fact it's one of the few charms the game has - but Flight of the Amazon Queen isn't content with just naming the main character Joe King, no, it even spells out the, uh, joke in case anyone didn't get it. We wouldn't want people to miss this bit of cleverness, would we?
On the gaming side, the first half was a little light on the puzzles, a little heavy on the backtracking, but nothing you could really complain about. At least I progressed quickly, meaning I didn't have to put up with the weak soundtrack looping too often and got to see fresh, frequently beautiful visuals without much hassle. I had no idea what kind of nose dive I was in for.
Once the action moves out of the jungle, the music turns from slightly annoying to excruciating, the graphics become what looks like scraps left out of Fate of Atlantis for being too reliant on dithering, and the puzzles descend into the lowest pits of "use whatever you have with whatever else you got and/or everything on the screen", which only made the thoughtlessness of the user interface all the more obvious.
What hurts about criticizing Flight of the Amazon Queen like this is that it still feels like a labour of love. The creators' reverence for their sources reverberates throughout the entire game (even the "Special Thanks"-section of the end credits mostly lists people such as Aric Wilmunder and Ron Gilbert and even includes Steven Spielberg and George Lucas themselves), but love alone just won't cut it when you litter your product with unfunny references just for the sake of having referenced something ("I find your lack of humour disturbing" indeed). In the end, the only way this game could have been less clever was if the name of the German would-be world conquering mad scientist's organization, Floda, meant something when read backwards.
Game Traits applied to Flight of the Amazon Queen (PC) by pierben