By Marty Mulrooney
Alternative Magazine Online reviewed Anna’s Quest Vol. 1: Winfriede’s Tower – created by Australian game developer Dane Krams – in 2012, describing it as “indie adventure gaming at its finest.” In a follow-up interview that same year, Mr Krams revealed his plan to release two more ‘volumes’, completing the game as a trilogy. Instead, in 2014 it was announced that Krams Design had teamed up with Daedalic Entertainment to finish the project and release it as one complete adventure game – something that wasn’t originally possible at the time. The finished result is simply titled Anna’s Quest and was released in summer 2015. Grab your keyboard and mouse brave adventurer: it’s finally time to save young Anna’s grandpa and defeat the evil witch Winfriede once and for all!
The premise of Anna’s Quest (along with the opening chapters) hasn’t changed much since the original release of Vol. 1: Winfriede’s Tower, as detailed in AMO’s review. Anna still sets out from her farm at the beginning of the game to save her beloved grandpa, who has fallen seriously ill, before being captured in the nearby dark woods by an evil witch and locked away in a fortified tower. Winfriede’s motive? To acquire Anna’s hidden powers of telekinesis…
It’s a fairy tale with a modern twist – notice the CCTV camera and electronic speaker device attached to the wall of Anna’s ‘bedroom’ – and the premise still feels as fresh as it did in 2012. Teaming up with Ben, a scared little boy trapped inside a giant teddy bear, Anna’s first task is to escape the tower before journeying onwards to the town of Wunderhorn to find a cure for her grandpa…
It’s here the adventure really opens up, no longer confined to a single location. The town of Wunderhorn is home to a mysterious chapel, a cabin of murderers holed up in the woods, a dangerous moonlit lake, a mill where children always seem to disappear… the list goes on. All connected by the town square, it’s somewhat reminiscent of Plunder Island in The Curse of Monkey Island, with puzzles able to be completed in any given order. Anna isn’t like most other adventure game protagonists either. If she doesn’t believe a solution is ethical she will refuse to do it, requiring an alternative approach to be thought up.
It helps that for the most part, the puzzles are intuitive and logical, giving an immense sense of satisfaction as solutions fall – and indeed, click – into place. The inventory is never overwhelming and collected items are always used to great effect. There is also a dedicated button to use Anna’s telekinesis powers which can certainly help when stuck in a tight spot – she’s only a little girl after all! It’s only in later chapters that the logic sometimes falters (and it can occasionally annoy when the game stops you from getting too far ahead of yourself) but overall, the puzzles are great. The lack of a hint system is a shame, but most fans of the genre should only find themselves checking an online walkthrough once or twice at most, if at all.
It’s an epic journey in the classic adventure game tradition then, with Anna later riding a dragon to the top of a mountain of glass, escaping a dungeon overseen by the Devil himself and sneaking into a palace to halt a royal wedding. The locations are numerous and filled with detail, along with a wide and varied cast of interesting characters. Adventure games are known for being ‘talky’ and Anna’s Quest is no exception.
Sadly, this is the one area of the game that may grate for some players. The voice acting is undeniably professional across the board, with Sophie Le Neveu in particular giving a superb performance as Anna. However, Anna is presented throughout the game as sweet and innocent to a fault, resulting in a slow and often unsure delivery of her lines. It fits the character, but because the world is so dark (and the humour so light-touch) the people and creatures she interacts with can be nervous or cagey. The result? Conversations that often don’t reveal much and take a long time to do so, making the experience drag.
The biggest loss from the original version is the son of Dane Krams voicing Ted (now renamed as Ben) – he doesn’t return here, which is perhaps understandable as he was 8-years-old in 2012 and the role was a lot smaller. The replacement voice actor does a great job, but you can’t beat the charm and authenticity of an actual real child and the new delivery is a little bit slow in comparison. However, the new version does present the beautiful graphics in full 1080p widescreen (no more black borders) and the traditional 2D animation is gorgeous.
The worst offender for overall pace dragging is the penultimate chapter, but players will hopefully continue to push forwards with Anna’s quest as the final chapter is an absolute knockout. Everything that happens in the game ties into this final chapter, which is hugely refreshing and immensely satisfying. Anna’s Quest is heavily inspired by the folk tales of Brothers Grimm and makes no secret of this fact, but it isn’t merely a simple tale of good versus evil as it first appears. The game would have worked perfectly well if main antagonist Winfriede the witch was simply being evil for evil’s sake. Instead, she’s given a tremendous backstory that makes the hard-hitting conclusion as bittersweet as it is triumphant.
Anna’s Quest is a beautiful 2D point-and-click adventure game that does more than enough to stand out from the crowd. The dark tone could have been balanced out with a little bit more humour and the slow conversations can make the experience drag at times, but the storyline is one of the best told in recent memory within the adventure genre and was more than worth the three-year wait. If you love traditional point-and-click adventuring, helping Anna on her quest to save her grandpa is a perfectly respectable way to spend 12-15 enjoyable gaming hours – let’s just hope the hints of a sequel during the end credits come to fruition!
8 OUT OF 10