Review

The Adventures of the Black Hawk Review - back to the 90s?

We shouldn't take everything from the old game designs.

Juho Rutila

Review by Juho Rutila

Published on Thu May 02 2024

A game that promises to "follow the path of the classics of the 90s", or be a homage to the old school point'n'click games, always gets me to the edge of my seat. This phrase can be used as a "get away from jail free" card for many aspects of a point'n'click game. There's a reason adventure games have done their best to evolve and change in the last 30 years.

In the Adventures of the Black Hawk, the first game by Spanish Croqueta Asesina Studios, we follow Jean Pierre de Saint-Cove, an aristocrat in late 18th century France, trying to overturn the king. The locals of the small town, around which everything is happening in the game, can only speculate about the true identity of the Black Hawk - the vigilante has skills in concealing his identity and annoying the nobility alike. This time the prince himself is visiting the local marquis giving the Black Hawk the opportunity of a life time. The game features aspects like sword fighting, horse riding, aristocratic insults and secret passageways, fitting perfectly into the genre. The story is also captivating and something to care about. Each of the three parts of the story have a clear meaning and closure that takes the adventure forward and as such captivates the player to continue playing.

First, I must mention the music of the game. It is well composed and supports the story fitting well into the game. The intro tune is actually so catchy that it caught me as an ear worm multiple times. For graphics, more than once I found myself inspired by the views and buildings. For the desired pixel graphic style they look really beautiful and any game from the era can be jealous with the level of detail and style. To that, I was hoping that the one time we raised high above, with a device designed for looking at vistas, we would have seen actual scenic view instead of only sky. Well, who cares about the view when you have a puzzle to solve up there!

And the puzzles are the most problematic aspect of this game. Or not actually the puzzles, there isn't that much moon logic, but the lack of help from the game in solving them. The developers address this in the game manual (yes, it has a manual, with a copy protection) by saying: "The Adventures of the Black Hawk will not be an easy game to beat. No hints or highlighted scenario elements will be shown. Solving all its challenges and puzzles will require a big effort from the player, because games were like that thirty years ago, as we wanted to recreate here." What this in practice means is that, too many times, when you had exhausted all talking points with an NPC they wouldn't speak you anymore. This is problematic as they tend to talk about a lot of other stuff, including red herrings, and if you come back to the game after a brief break you have no idea what you were doing and there is no way to learn it again. I spent too long time trying to figure out how to get bread to Napoleon, as that's all Jean Pierre was talking about after exhausting all dialogue. Well, there is a way to hear the dialogue again: loading a saved game and doing it all over again. Hopefully you used those eight save slots wisely! You can also die in this game which causes you to do the same thing, no auto saves.

To me, a hard point'n'click game means that there are many concurrent puzzles going on and a lot of active items. This increases the number of possible actions to the extent that it becomes hard to decide what to do and what puzzle to solve. The amount, and vagueness, of signposting also has an impact. But in this game the hardness comes from the fact that you quite often don't know what you are even trying to achieve. And there isn't that much signposting, either. Even getting close to the solution doesn't trigger any indication that the player is close, only the default "I don't think that is a good idea". I felt I was just trying to find the correct combination that unlocks the next step in the puzzle. When I write gradual low-spoiler guides, I try to point the player to possible signposts they can try to get hints from the game. When writing the guide for this game I really couldn't find any help inside the game. To me this feels like after any advancement in the game you were supposed to grind all previous options and combinations again, if Jean Pierre this time felt like doing something.

The lack of hotspotting increases the hard-factor and some devs of modern style games also avoid it. My brain can't live with the uncertainty that the missed pixel somewhere is preventing me getting forward. That's why I wrote the pixel hunt guide for this game, so that you can even be sure about collecting all items.

Maybe all of this puzzle design, or the lack of it, is just there to give you the 90's feeling. The old games were some times really annoying and hard. I never forget the moment in Leisure Suit Larry 2 with the airplane and the missing parachute. Where was that last save game, again? If this frustration was the developer's intention, then well done, you achieved it. Can we all still now agree, that when making an homage to the games from the 80's and 90's, we can apply the lessons learned during these 30 years of game development? Thank you.

The game does feel like the good old classics in some ways (though it'd be nice to not see the copy protection warning every single time it's loaded up) with graphics and music, and the frustration of playing badly designed puzzles. Some things are probably lost in translation, but I can't be sure as English isn't my native language either. I suspect that the word "gasoline" in Spanish has a double meaning related to cooking, perhaps? So, jump into a great story but please, for the French revolution's sake, take my guide with you. It is written so that you get some idea what puzzle you are actually solving before giving more hints, and of course the correct combination for the solution.

Puzzle Difficulty

Hard, for wrong reasons

Puzzle Satisfaction

Frustration

Story

Adventure awaits!

Overall

Try it, with the guide!

About the author
Juho Rutila
Juho Rutila

Hi! I developed this site inspired by Universal Hint System. I really like the idea of gradual hints and I am determined to bring you more of those.

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