The Windows 8 Store may be filled with familiar videogame experiences already, but the all-important Xbox branding isn’t yet fulfilling its purpose. Still thin on the ground, it may take some months for the quantity of titles to expand to a reasonable level in the same way that it took Windows Phone devices a regularly weekly injection to build a respectable catalogue. From launch however, there have been a handful of videogames worthy of note, and one such title is Adera.
Adera tells the tale of Jane Sinclair, a world traveller who has been on many dangerous adventures. However she is about to embark on a journey unlike anything she has ever experienced before. In this first episode, Jane finds herself in the Atacama Desert searching for her long-missing grandfather with only a coded message and a glowing stone orb to guide her.
Adera is a videogame experience design specifically for a casual gaming audience. Why some may suggest that there are similarities to classic point-n’-click adventures and Myst, the truth is that it has more in common with the likes of Eternal Journey: New Atlantis Collector’s Edition. Adera is played from a first-person perspective, with areas presented as either 2D images or 3D worlds based around the character in a central position; the player never has control over their characters’ feet, but takes charge of their eyes at all times during this surface level gameplay. There’s a degree of gameplay here in the finding and use of objects and the development of the plot, but it’s what lies beneath that’s most interesting.
Certain objects within the world will call into play a smaller gameplay self-contained sequence. For example, attempting to salvage a first aid kit means that you not only have to find the box aboard a crashed helicopter, but then enter a gameplay sequence wherein you must find the missing items from within. However, Adera goes one step further by introducing alternative gameplay instances: the hidden object gameplay is as good as anything the genre currently offers, but alongside that two-tier construct comes a selection of numerous other puzzle types.
Matching pairs, jigsaws, visual puzzles and logic challenges are all present and correct, and often will lead to another of the above selection only one or two steps further along the chain. It’s a well planned series of stages that can take you miles off the beaten track, but always lead back to the key point in a perfect circle of varied gameplay. With such a structure the gameplay is well paced, offering increasingly lengthy challenges between moments of plot development as the episode continues. And with that, despite being only taste of Adera with the first episode free, there’s quite a lengthy gameplay session to be had here: even more so if you endeavour to find all of the hidden items and earn the Xbox LIVE Achievements.
Adera doesn’t break any boundaries in terms of visual quality, but it is surprisingly well presented. The cutscenes feature some elegant and approachable animation, developing the characters with lessons from the Spielberg school of cinematics, and the in-game design is home to dozens of carefully implemented visual clues. The soundtrack is significantly less remarkable, though the voice acting is of a reasonable standard throughout.
Windows 8 is almost a blank slate at present, with very few titles outside of the previously released Games for Windows – LIVE catalogue using the unique features that the format offers. As such, Adera is one of the first to present a digitally distributed episodic series specifically for new adopters, and in that its attempts to court a casual audience will not go unnoticed. Despite clearly being designed to play on a touchscreen device, Adera is enjoyable on all Windows 8 based systems. The perfect casual videogame experience to launch a new format with as well as a new series of episodic adventures, Adera is a welcoming highlight for Windows 8 just as Solitaire was for Windows 3.0 more than twenty years ago.