By Marty Mulrooney
Anna’s Quest Vol. 1: Winfriede’s Tower is an indie point-and-click adventure game created by Krams Design, an independent Game Design & Development Company based in Brisbane, Australia. It tells the story of Anna, a little girl who sets out on a quest to find a cure for her ailing Grandpa. Venturing into the nearby dark woods, she is captured by an evil witch and entrapped in a fortified tower. Winfriede intends to perform experiments on Anna to steal her hidden telekinetic powers – but Anna has no intention of remaining the witch’s prisoner…
Anna’s Quest uses the versatile Adventure Game Studio engine (as recently used by games such as Gemini Rue and Resonance) and runs at an impressive 1024×768 resolution. After a brief initial loading screen, the game runs flawlessly and looks absolutely beautiful – this is the most visually stunning Adventure Game Studio commercial project released to date, utilising traditional, frame-by-frame 2D animations.
The game is wonderfully narrated by voice actor Karen Kahler, with the opening cutscene presented like the pages of a fairy-tale book. When Anna’s Grandpa falls ill, she ventures into the dark woods to find a cure and is soon kidnapped by Winfriede the Witch (voiced by Holly Stevenson). The game begins with Anna (voiced by Sophie Le Neveu) trapped in a creepy children’s bedroom full of cuddly toys, with Winfriede watching and listening via high-tech surveillance equipment installed in the room.
It soon becomes apparent that the witch wants to steal Anna’s powers of telekinesis – a power that Anna can’t even pronounce. After being forced to bend a spoon with her mind, Anna decides to harness her newfound power on her own terms and escape the tower so that she can help her Grandpa. The first puzzle tasks Anna with creating a homemade version of the witch’s power enhancement machine so that she can unlock her true telekinetic abilities and use them to her own advantage.
The control scheme is reminiscent of those used in the LucasArts games Full Throttle and The Curse of Monkey Island. Although the game doesn’t immediately make it obvious, the player can hold down the left mouse button on any hotspot to open an interaction menu with four options – ‘pickup/interact’, ‘look’, ‘speak’ and ‘use telekinesis’. Clicking the right mouse button brings up Anna’s inventory. The numerous puzzles are all logical and extremely fun. There are also plenty of items to pick up and interact with, which should satisfy genre purists.
Anna’s telekinetic powers add an extra layer of depth to the puzzles – and the voice acting is so strong that simply exploring the detailed environments is a joy. Then there’s Ted – a scared little boy trapped inside a giant teddy bear. Voiced by Anna’s Quest creator Dane Krams’ son, Ted is one of the most lovable sidekicks one could hope for in an adventure game. Players will find themselves chatting to him just for the sheer fun of it – he’s adorable and gives an already emotional story its true heart and soul.
The original soundtrack by James Flamestar brings a delicate mixture of rousing epicness and underlying dread to the table. Although used sparingly, the music is integral and helps sell the story’s unique mixture of fantasy, science fiction and children’s fairy tale. Anna is a likeable protagonist that cares deeply about her Grandpa – and so will you. Volume 1 of Anna’s Quest only features seven screens in total – which admittedly doesn’t sound like a lot – but when playing you would be hard-pressed to notice. Each screen is crammed with hotspots and the tower itself feels like a coherent, real location.
Anna’s Quest Vol. 1: Winfriede’s Tower is indie adventure gaming at its finest. Arriving seemingly out of nowhere, Dane Krams and Krams Design – is this really the work of one man?! – have created a beautifully drawn, professionally voiced point-and-click adventure that deserves to be played by any self-respecting adventure gamer. The only real complaint that can be levelled at Anna’s Quest Vol. 1 is that it’s over before it has even really begun – although for the low price of £4.00 you arguably won’t play a better traditional adventure game in 2012, indie or otherwise. Mr Krams – we want Anna’s Quest Vol. 2. When do we want it? Now!
9 OUT OF 10