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Our favourite generic hero saves cultural heritage!, March 18, 2021
When I entered the first room in The Adventurers' Museum, I almost breathed a sigh of relief. It was a breath of fresh air to learn that the quest at hand was to retrieve all the exhibits that were stolen from the museum by a thievish imp. Through the actions of my anonymous adventurer, I was going to help restore the historical artefacts of the Necromancer-wars to their rightful place, for the good of future generations of schoolchildren and curious adults. My sociopathic and cleptomaniac tendencies would serve a greater cause.
I'm only half joking here. Although the gameplay of The Adventurers' Museum is the same as any old puzzle-&-looting romp, the task given to me by the old and wize curator of the museum had more importance, more weight than just treasure-taking to kill the Big Bad Bully at the end.
In his review for Baf's Guide, David Welbourn says: "Want to play Zork I again for the nostalgia value, but you've already played that one so many times that it's no longer a challenge? Try The Adventurers' Museum."
I haven't played Zork yet, but I have read enough to know that if you are eaten by a Growl in the dark and if your treasure gets randomly stolen by a thieving imp, I might as well view this game as a rehearsal for when I do tackle Zork.
The technical side of this adventure is more than adequate. There are many synonyms for verbs and nouns. Trying "wrong" things usually gives a response either why you can't do that or just lets you do them and see the funny consequences of your actions (plus it moves the game into unwinnable territory, but hey, save/restore right?)
There are several really oldschool features to this game, but it's as if the author put them in out of respect for past tradition rather than to make gameplay harder.
There's a limited lantern, but there's also an unlimited light source lying right on your path. Your hero gets thirsty, but a river runs right through the cave. You feel hungry, but the curator gave you elvish waybread on your third turn into the game. The imp keeps stealing your stuff, but you can get him off your scent quite easily.
The only thing left that can be annoying to (modern) players is the inventory-juggling, but all that does is make you take a trip back to the museum now and then.
It's probably best to put any frustrations aside and do a few exploratory runthroughs of the cave without worrying about unwinnability or the order of puzzles, just until you get a feel for the place.
Coming back to the Zork-comparison: I have also read enough that I think The Adventurers' Museum really has a special mood of its own. There is a very consistent, almost friendly fairytale-fantasy atmosphere throughout the entire game (except that one room...).
I found the layout and the feel of the map to be brilliant. The cramped cave-crawling of the cave entrance soon gives way to grand vistas of splendid underground halls, a fluorescent flower garden and subterranean pools. A nice big part of the map is accessible from the start, and already in this part the gamespace is layered in three dimensions, with sidepaths leading up and over other areas. Sometimes you get treated to an eagle-eye view of a lower area.
Puzzlewise, there is a wide variety. There's attentive exploring and spelunking, some references to pop-culture, clever time/turn counting,... And yes, sometimes violence is the answer.
Some solutions do require a completely (to me) unmotivated action, and at least one object has a use that was completely unhinted. A bit of let's-try-every-verb and see what happens. That was less fun...
The pacing of the game can be a bit tedious at first. Once you have explored the accessible map though, a nice interaction between puzzles solved, museum-objects in your inventory and bottlenecks opening sets a cascade in motion where you find tunnel after cavern after hall with treasure in rapid succession. Very rewarding.
Conversations are not implemented at all, so you only get to know the few NPCs by their actions and what they choose to say to you. I did find the old curator endearing. (And a bit intimidating. How can he get from his office to the top of the museum stairs to block your way so fast!?)
The Adventurers' Museum may not be innovative or especially creative, but I had a great time playing it.