Amber: Journeys Beyond

Publisher: Hue Forest
Developer: Hue Forest
Year: 1996
Platform: Windows; Macintosh

How do you take a Myst clone and get me to like it? Add a developing story, voice acting, some FMV sequences, inventory based puzzles and a suspenseful atmosphere, and that should do it. On second thought, that doesn’t sound much at all like a Myst clone; rather, it sounds like a promising game.

Amber was developed by a husband and wife (in their basement, I’m sure) with the help of only a few friends to program, write music, and act. The story has you checking up on your partner, Dr. Roxanne Westbridge, a scientist convinced that there are indeed humans who are trapped in this world after death, remaining in limbo (as ghosts with some untamed psychic powers) until they come to terms with their death. She has discovered some psychic activity around her new office (an old house in a secluded forest area), and instead of waiting for her team of scientists to help her, decides to use her equipment to try and enter their world. As the cohort she trusts the most, you’ve been asked to make sure she doesn’t get herself in any trouble.

The only thing similar between Myst and this adventure is the interface.  You play a sexually-ambiguous scientist in the first-person perspective, exploring a world with no human interaction. However, you never quite feel alone, with all the psychic activity around you. The game draws you in immediately, with its richly designed, realistic atmosphere with plenty of spooks. And while there are plenty of puzzles, including some of the mechanical variety, most are intuitive. Even the more inane puzzles are fairly easy, so nobody should get stuck for a long period of time.

The FMV sequences are mostly prerecorded tapes that your character can view, and while they are shot well, the acting is average at best. Sandi Fix, who plays Westbridge, gives a good effort, but unfortunately has not been able to parlay it into a prolific acting career. The rest of the actors are only heard and not seen, and while the dialogue is well written, there is nothing memorable.

Despite all the excellent features in this amateur adventure, it is painfully short (i.e. not worth the original cost), and has the all too familiar gift-wrapped resolution. Still, if you can get this game cheap (or wait until it becomes abandonware), it is worth the few hours to immerse yourself in the creators’ world. Sadly, the game didn’t sell very well, and we haven’t seen any more adventures from Hue Forest Entertainment.

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