I don't know why, but I kept dragging my feet about playing Road to India. I finally opened the package, installed it, and watched the opening cutscene with my wife. What a shock! For the first few seconds, we honestly thought we were looking at a live video of a real city. From that point onwards, we were hooked.
I will ruin any suspense for you right now. I would consider Road to India as one of the classics in adventure gaming, except for one major flaw: it's an amazingly short game. I don't normally comment on game length, but this one took my wife and I about five hours to play from end to end.
Graphics (quality, animations, cut scenes)
The graphics are truly superb. Everywhere you look, it is obvious that massive care and effort has been put into making this game a visual delight. The scenery is lush and extremely detailed -- not just different buildings in the city, but different paint colours and textures, cigarette butts on the ground, scrap paper on the street, clothes hanging from a balcony, and so on. The scene lighting is fully ray-traced, with the extreme feeling of depth that real-time 3D environments cannot (yet) provide. If you want to enjoy Road to India, take your time and look at the scenery and the lighting -- it feels like being a tourist in a real city.
The cut scenes were equally good, with the 3D characters moving in a very naturaly way, and almost no feeling that you were looking at a bunch of polygons. The game has a large number of cutscenes, and they were all, without exception, a visual delight
Because of the visual quality and detail, I found this game to be extremely immersive: you really felt like you were there.
Sound (music, voices, special effects)
The music was very good, but it was looped over much too short a time period, which could get irritating if you stayed in one area for too long. This was exacerbated by the fact that I wanted to stay for a long time and look carefully at every location.
The voice acting was quite good, with only one notable exception -- the bad guy. Thankfully, you don't have to listen to him for very long, and his dialog was actually more of a problem than the actual voice acting.
The special effects sounds were also excellent, with sounds being used as a hint for some of the puzzles. You don't need good hearing to solve any puzzles, but some of them are definitely easier to solve if you listen to what is going on around you.
Story (plot, theme, depth)
The basic story isn't exactly spellbinding, but the game makes great use of "dream world" and "real world" sequences to enhance the entire experience, and the endgame nicely puts it all together for you. The dream world and real world contrasts made the story seem much deeper and vivid than any straightforward plot could manage. The authors get top marks for doing something different and making it all work.
Characters (depth, development, interaction)
The characters weren't elucidated with incredibly depth, but a few characters had enough detail and conversational tidbits to be interesting. Nothing earth-shattering, but at least people won't be complaining about excessive dialog.
Puzzles (difficulty, uniqueness, suitability, ugliness, linearity)
Road to India is quite a linear game, with all the puzzles being extremely logical. Many times, this made the puzzles too easy, since doing the obvious turned out to be the correct solution.
There was a maze, but it had enough redeeming features to make it enjoyable. I can't say any more about it without spoilers, but I can assert that you shouldn't get upset when you run into a maze.
There were no timed sequences, no action sequences, and you couldn't die.
Controls (user interface, save/restore, sound/video adjustments)
The game engine is node-based movement, and the cursor is centered, with the view moving around you for a complete shperical view. The mouse control was execptionally smooth and well controlled.
There were adjustments for music and FX volumes, but the default settings were perfect.
There was no gamma control, but I didn't need it; the lighting was almost perfect.
The game save/restore system was easy to use, but could have been better and simpler. e.g. Click on save/load/quit button, then click on save, then click on "new save." Didn't allow you to specify name of saved game (picture and date/time only).
Bugs or problems
This game was obviously tested thoroughly before its release; it felt like a quality product in all areas. This was such a pleasant surprise, since almost all games released these days seem to be bug-ridden, have poor controls, and in general feel like they were rushed to market.
Clean install and uninstall
Graphically superb -- a true visual delight
Enjoyable story and characters
An unusual maze solution
It was still a maze
Much, much too short (one short evening of game play)
Music loops were too short
The only thing wrong with this game is its lack of playing time, but in all other respects, Road to India is a delight. I really must recommend that you buy and play Road to India; it may be high priced in terms of dollars per hour, but it is one of the cheaper games on the shelf.
Microids really needs to be encouraged to write more games like this one; they have a team that knows how to write and produce a good adventure game.
This article copyright © 2002, Murray Peterson