"Lives and worlds hang in the balance!" Are you up to the challenge? Then come on down and enter the strange, intriguing and sometimes maddening world of Sierra's Lighthouse. You are the summer neighbor of the eccentric lighthouse keeper, Dr. Krick, and his infant daughter, Amanda. Dr. Krick has found an alternate world, one that -- unfortunately -- is ruled by the "Dark Being." You are summoned by a mysterious phone call in the night to Dr. Krick's house. He seems to have vanished! You are relieved to see that Amanda is a little hungry, but otherwise fine. While you are looking around the house for clues to the doctor's disappearance, a weird creature comes and grabs Amanda, carrying her through a strange, glowing portal. Dare you follow? Only you can save Dr. Krick, Amanda, and of course, both worlds.
The graphics in Lighthouse are beautifully done. Each environment is richly detailed and just begs for exploration. This was my favorite part of the game, just looking at it. I looked forward to each new area, wondering what the people at Sierra would come up with next. The graphics interacted with the gameplay in a very realistic way -- you were unable to cut wood until you had turned on the saw, unable to shoot the gun until it was loaded correctly, etc.
When I first reached the Lighthouse, I had a great time exploring all the rooms. I got a kick out of the fact that even the contents of the refrigerator had been well-detailed, even down to the Chinese take-out containers. However, my favorite spot to explore was the alternate world's Lighthouse. This area had some great touches that cried out "explore me!" including a skeleton that, if you weren't careful, would literally lose its head. There were also several interesting mechanical creatures, but they weren't very nice... one mechanical bird even killed me (or at least he flew at me and everything went red for a moment; not a bad way to go as far as a game death is concerned!). Beware of these birds; they're vicious, even if they are afraid of cuckoo birds.
It's easy to miss some areas of the game if you're not looking closely enough. In one area, you'll find your own private submarine (wouldn't that be the life!), but you may never find it if you miss the path that leads to it. The submarine itself was fairly realistic -- at least it was complicated enough for my submarine-knowledge-deprived brain. (One hint: if you get stuck here, think ballast.) Overall, the graphics were definitely the best part of the game and make it worth checking out.
This is the only area where Lighthouse doesn't shine. Unfortunately, this is the same area that can make or break an adventure game. I enjoyed the idea behind the game and the investigation of the game's areas, but when it actually came down to smooth-flowing gameplay, Lighthouse fell flat. At best, I was able to stumble through it. This game was downright hard. I'd like to meet anyone that finished this one in a timely manner without considerable help. It was hard to the point of absolute hair-pulling frustration at times.
Here's an example of gameplay "Hell" in Lighthouse:
At one point, you are in an underwater submersible. Your task here, should you choose to accept it (and you must to continue), is to grab a hook from the wall of a sunken ship using a crane-like apparatus. Sounds easy, right? Well, even though I was aware of my task and knew what my goal was, it took me 32 tries (I counted) before I was able to position my crane correctly to get that darned hook -- now that's frustration.
Speaking of gameplay, and we were, I must mention that Lighthouse is also inflicted with the dreaded "click all over the screen" syndrome. Most games in this genre will have a cursor that changes when it passes over something you can pick up or move. Not here. If you fail to click all over the screen in every room, you may miss something, causing you pain and frustration later in the game. Believe me, it's no fun. I was there.
The puzzles in Lighthouse often have truly arbitrary solutions. In other words, even if you use your brain, sometimes you'll come up short and the game won't help you out. Most puzzle solutions make sense in hindsight, right? In this case, wrong. And sometimes there was no visible sign that you were coming any closer to an answer (and some of the solutions take five or six steps -- a lot of variables for guesswork gameplay). So beware that some of the answers may be completely arbitrary, and for that reason, completely frustrating.
One last note about gameplay: I had to switch between the two CDs so often that it almost hurt my wrist -- and I'm sure the CD door motor got tired of it too. Every time you switch game areas (and that happens a great deal), you'll have to stop to switch CDs. Better planning here with the data arrangement would have helped.
The audio effects were fantastic. Gizmos whirred, saws buzzed, doors creaked, and fires crackled -- you name it, and it probably happened. My favorite moment of the game's audio came when the mechanical bird at the Lighthouse was perching on a rod, then moved toward me, and I could hear his claws clicking as he came closer and closer (this was, of course, right before I saw red...)
The music in Lighthouse was also great. It was well-placed and enhanced whatever feelings the game was trying to convey at the moment. Bravo to the Lighthouse team for their choices of music, and for realizing when music is nice to have and when it just gets in the way.
486DX2/66, 12 MB RAM for Windows, 8 MB RAM for DOS, 2X CD-ROM drive, 20 MB hard drive space for install, MS-DOS 5.0 or higher for DOS version, Windows 3.1 or Windows 95 for Windows version, SVGA (640 x 480 x 256 colors), sound card with DAC
Recommended: Pentium, 16 MB RAM, 4X CD-ROM drive, 30 MB hard drive space, sound card with DAC
Reviewed on: P-120, 16 MB RAM, 4X CD-ROM drive, Diamond Stealth 64 PCI
The booklet included with the game was adequate, but nothing beyond the norm. It was helpful to some extent in explaining basic game functions, but left out some important details, like system requirements (they were on the box only).
I thoroughly enjoyed Lighthouse when I was able to play smoothly through it. Unfortunately, that wasn't very often. Most of my time was spent contemplating how to get past the next puzzle and still keep my sanity. I give Lighthouse a score of 75. I think it was a well-thought-out game (perhaps too much so), but the lack of fluidity and other gameplay shortcomings brought the game score down dramatically.