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The Alchemist Reviews

Author: Renata Burianova
Date: 2003

Reviewed by Lumin
This is the most frustrating game I've ever played. On one hand, there are important things that seem broken, under implemented, unclued, or just plain unclear. But on the other hand, this is not a game you can easily dismiss. Even setting aside the fact that English obviously isn't the author's first language, in places the writing is just so GOOD and evocative as it sets the scene ("The roofs were all covered with snow and trees were kneeling under the weight of frozen branches.") with the music and pictures enhancing the effect, that there's no denying this was a labour of love. 

You play as Alessandro d'Estino, a 17th century alchemist who has discovered the secret of creating gold and been summoned to Prague by the king to duplicate his experiment. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to make it much farther than that; once it was time to stop reading journal entries and touring the palace and admiring the scenery, I hit a brick wall. The only clue I was given was that I needed a certain item, but there were no hints as to where I might find it, even after examining everything and attempting to talk to every NPC I could find. 

At some point I accidentally destroyed another item, and after that--with the developer password protected so I couldn't even take a peek for 'inspiration' and with no way to make further progress--I had to concede defeat.

After searching around I discovered a walkthrough on the wiki, but unfortunately it only highlights the problems with the puzzle design. Short of literally reading the author's mind, no one would ever figure out most of the required commands, and so 90% of the game remains inaccessible unless you're willing to sit there and follow the walkthrough step by step.

I'm convinced the seeds of a great game are in here, but the obvious lack of beta testing (and of a native English speaker to comb over the text) really shows, and makes The Alchemist all but unplayable in the end.


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