Ace Ventura touts itself as a new adventure game from 7th Level Interactive. Unfortunately, as anyone who plays this title for even a short time will discover, there isn't much here that could be described as new and there isn't much that's fun in this game.
The game is presented in the second-person perspective -- you see Ace and his sidekick, Spike the Monkey, on your screen at all times and you steer them through the puzzles they encounter. A number of elements in the game combine to make it more like the movie. This is the first of them. You may be in control of where Ace moves within a particular scene, but the fact remains that it's still a scene, scripted; the outcome is non-negotiable. Unlike many adventure games wherein your choices throughout can take the game in any one of several possible directions, in Ace Ventura there is generally only one right answer and until you find it the game grinds to a boring halt.
Worse than the fact that Ace Ventura is more an interactive movie than it is an adventure game is the fact that Ace's creators seem not to have cared about that one whit. Time and again, the game hijacks the player and forces him to sit through a scene whether he wants to or not. Understand me: I'm not opposed to creative scenes and dialogue in a game, the kind that elaborate on character or further the story. But players should always be in control, should always be able to override unnecessary scenes easily with a click of the mouse -- there are some players for whom the game's the thing. For such players, Ace Ventura will prove supremely frustrating.
Jim Carrey was criticized for mugging for the camera in his movie portrayals of Ace Ventura, of twisting his face and body into odd contortions to mask the absence of real substance in the film. This game does the same thing, and as a result the replay potential of the game is nil.
A case in point: Early in the game Ace is goofing in his apartment when his landlord, Mr. Shickadance, pounds on the door demanding rent money. That's your cue to click on the doorknob, open the door and engage the landlord (incidentally, this game repeatedly asks players to perform such mundane tasks as clicking on a door knob, or taking a key out of inventory, clicking that on a door, just so Ace can go through an elaborate process of digging keys out of his pocket and jingling them before opening the door -- it's supposed to make you feel involved). Back to the scene at hand: before Ace will open the door on Shickadance, he turns to the "camera" and mugs: "Pet detective motto ... he who knocks on my door demanding money instead of offering money must be messed with." Ace then flings open the door and hurls a long string of stinky-dysfunctional bowels humor at Shickadance.
After the scene with Shickadance concludes, other prompts lead you to Ace's computer where, finally, you receive the clue that sets the game in motion -- Eskimos are reporting the disappearance of all their sled dogs. None of this is high comedy, for sure, but it's amusing once ... mildly. But my machine shut down at that point for reasons unrelated to the game. I had to start up again and proceed again to that same point in the game. I was in Ace's apartment and I knew I had to get the clue from the computer to move forward. I tried to steer Ace to the computer. He wouldn't go for it. Nope. Not until he went through the exact same scene with Shickadance again ... same sequence of events, same jokes, same pet detective motto. And there I discovered the cruel truth about Ace Ventura: you aren't allowed to skip anything. Ever.
That confused me at first -- why not let me skip a scene I had already seen if it wasn't pivotal to the progression of the game? But I figured it out: 7th Level has built obsolescence into this game. In their planning they never intended for players to start the game from the beginning again. In fact, the story is completely linear and once you solve the mystery, you're done, that's it, it's over. So here's what it boils down to -- pay attention, cause it's pretty tricky -- you spend 30 or 40 bucks on this game, play it for a week and finally get to the end. And before your elation over the success has ebbed, your CD-ROM has become simply a worthless plastic disc unless you want to sit through the exact same scenes again, knowing the outcome all the while. But, hey, if you're hungry for a new Ace Ventura game, it's a good bet there'll be a sequel and you can buy that. Got any more money?
I've never really been impressed with games based on movies. It seems that more often than not they lack the quality of original titles, because the makers bank on the fact that fans of the movie will forgive any shortcomings in the game because it bears resemblance to or reminds them of the film. As a result, the developers often don't put forth the same effort they would if the game had to stand on its own merits. Well, by this point it should come as no surprise to you to hear me say that 7th Level seems to be banking on the popularity of the Ace Ventura movies to carry this game. The animation is passable, the graphics crisp. But it's simple. Flat. Two-dimensional without even the hint of an effort to create any 3D sense. And though Ace moves when you tell him to, very little else ever happens. At one point I took my hand off the mouse and just watched to see what would happen. Ace stood in one place blinking, Spike was a wooden statue, and because Ace was on a submarine, a school of fish would periodically swim past the window. The same fish over and over again. It all had the feel of a cheap cartoon -- Speed Racer or G Force -- where characters in transit pass the same tree again and again and again ... and every time they do, you get a vision of how much cash the creators saved by not having to buy an additional frame of animation.
I wasn't any more impressed by the audio in Ace Ventura than I was in the graphics. Like the graphics, the audio functions, but it's just as dull as the visual elements of this game. Ace mugs it up and you get to hear lots and lots from some guy doing an adequate job of imitating Jim Carrey playing Ace Ventura. But that's not the kind of audio that really makes a game rich. It's the surrounding sounds that are important for creating tension and excitement, for building a sense of place and atmosphere. Those sounds are woefully absent in Ace Ventura. Instead, Ace moves through rooms filled with the sound of dead air -- in some cases you hear what may be intended as the distant hum of machinery. The game's opening sequence and closing credits are accompanied by rousing musical scores, that's true. But throughout the game itself I was more aware of the sound of my computer's cooling fan than of any audio associated with the game.
Reviewed on: Pentium 120, 16 MB RAM, 6x CD-ROM drive, SoundBlaster 16, SVGA video card. I had no trouble meeting the technical demands of this game with my machine.
Maybe 7th Level really believes this game is so amusing that we'll all sit through it again and again, watching the same old scenes, and thank them for the opportunity. Or maybe they don't understand the adventure game genre and the need to infuse it with mystery -- how ironic -- and multiple possibilities. Either way, the outcome is disappointing -- and, quite frankly, insulting. I wondered many times as I was playing what reason 7th Level could offer to encourage us to buy Ace Ventura if it wasn't the cousin of a pair of hit movies. My answer? Certainly not replay potential, or graphics, or audio or originality. Just about everything here is a rehashing of the two Ace Ventura movies. If you were a fan of those ... well, honestly, I don't think that will help any. I liked the movies well enough. Whatever else you could say about them, you couldn't deny that they were unique. Don't bother trying to say that about Ace Ventura the CD-ROM game -- it can't be done.
Download Ace Ventura
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP