Originally released 9 years ago, Epic Adventures: La Jangada was the first PC game developed by the Pakistan studio Urchin Games. Finally hitting the Steam store in 2019, and published by HH-Games, this is another well deserved effort to bring true classic games from the old-school catalog to a wider audience.
Epic Adventures: La Jangada is based on Jules Verne's novel of the same title, La Jangada. It’s not necessarily required to be familiar with the works of the author to enjoy the game, but those who are, will already know the ending, as well the entire plot. Which, considering all things, it’s probably for the best. This game should not work as a substitute for the fantastic works of Jules Verne! However, if you never read La Jangada, do not worry, it’s a relatively well placed narrative, delivering key moments to maintain the originality of the book.
With the 20th century as setting, players take the role of Minha, the daughter of a wealthy South-American family. Minha has always had everything she could ever want, except love, but that’s also about to change. As soon as she meets her brother's acquaintance, Manuel Valdez, they fall in love. With her parents' permission, Manuel proposes to Minha, who happily accept his feelings, and to celebrate the event, the family goes on a trip alongside the Amazon river, on a massive boat!
Happiness seems to come to an end when Minha’s father, Joam is suddenly arrested on board of the Jangada, by the Brazilian police. Joam has an unknown past, that refuses to let him go, and now, 25 years later, he’s brought up in court, to answer for a crime committed 25 years ago. Minha knows her father to be innocent, and starts a journey to search conclusive proof to save her father and deliver the truth once and for all.
Epic Adventures: La Jangada is a mix of a Visual Novel with Hidden Object Scenes, and we’ve seen this method working wonderfully for indie developers in early career. This is also the case for Urchin Games, who managed to fuse the narrative through the main protagonist, while placing Hidden Object Scenes and some Mini Games along the mystery plot.
As classic Hidden Object goes, players go through the story with a text-based scenarios, narrated by the protagonist. The one thing that stands out above everything else is the simplicity, it is a pleasant read, with excellent English and fantastically executed. The plot manages to create mystery, adding the gameplay elements to the plot without compromising its flow.
Collecting objects, or finding specific symbols or items in a scene are usually the challenges. Visually, the scenes are large and way too big, which can be hard to spot small objects. Scenes are rarely re-visited, meaning there’s quite the amount of content to go around. Puzzles or Mini-Games are perfect for a casual experience and beginners!
The whole game is based on 3D renders, and this includes the characters and background locations. A very accessible art direction, but still captivates the intended goal, using very detailed locations and although facial expressions could be better in today’s standards, they were quite appropriate in 2010. The game still delivers a good atmosphere of locations and historical facts, such as clothes and objects.
Technically, Epic Adventures: La Jangada shows its time, and didn’t age well either. With a base resolution of just 800x600, the Fullscreen mode automatically uses the widescreen option, and Windowed Mode fixes the default resolution, which is not good. Thankfully, the 16:9 mode does stretch the image, but not in a bizarre way, so it’s still enjoyable to the eyes. Unfortunately, resolutions are not the only issue… Vsync is off by default, and since nVidia definitions force Vsync on 3D software, it doesn’t seem to work on 2D Apps, which is the case for the game. Unless you want to run over 3 thousand frames per second, it’s required to use third party software such as the RTSS Setup, to cap the framerate at 60 or at your desired frequency, otherwise it’s a waste of GPU usage!
Hidden Object Scenes are very detailed and rich, it’s truly a shame the resolution affects the quality. Because each scene is in PNG format, increasing the resolution won’t change its quality. Cutscenes are slightly better since they don’t have any gameplay context, and at the native Fullscreen resolution of 720p, the overall quality is still accepted, but anything above that, and it’s a mess.
One thing that stands out tremendously is the voice-over, although only Minha has dialogues, which also serves as a narrator, she is voiced by Diana Ward, with a very classic, and well spoken English. The traditional accent, with the fantastic voice expressions and emotional attunement, makes this one of the highest points of the entire game, well worth to be mentioned!
Epic Adventures: La Jangada is far from perfect, it has issues, lacks optional settings, it’s outdated, but at the same time, has a very unique vibe, of a time where indie developers didn’t have either the tools or the large support we now have from engines to Kickstart campaigns. Such limitations did not stop their dream of creating a game, and for what it is worth, it’s 100% functional, and delivers what was intended, even if times changed. For that, I am thankful, for both Urchin Games and their perseverance, and HH-Games, for delivering these goods from a different era.