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Hands-on Review: Aldon's Crossing
By: Scott Windom
November 16, 2002

The Palm OS RPG market has grown by leaps and bounds, following the processing power of our little machines all the way up. By now, the market is full of many selections, some of which are worth a second look, and others not worth even installing. Aldon's Crossing falls quite solidly into the first category, worth the time and money, especially for anyone interested in RPG's. It has a rich plot, which is not necessarily expected of Palm games in general.

When I first loaded Aldon's Crossing, the size was one of the first things that hit me about the game. It took up in the neighborhood of 800 KB on my device. Fortunately, I have learned through experimentation that it is very PiDirect II friendly. As such, only my save files occupy space in RAM and stay around when I am not using the game.

Aldon's CrossingOnce I began getting the game set up, I saw the introductory screen. Normally, I wouldn't even give such a thing a second thought, much less mention it in a review, but I thought this one deserved some credit for doing its job exceptionally well. It is about the best one I have seen, especially with the ghosted face, and contributed significantly to my anticipation of the game itself.

Aldon's CrossingI had to begin my game by selecting my character's stats. It was refreshing to be able to select not only my character's race, but to determine the gender and select what strengths I wanted, as well. When I actually started playing, I found the user interface a bit difficult to get used to. It seemed a bit clumsy to walk around and try to pick up the first few items. Once I figured out how to pick things up, use items, and equip weapons and shields, movement was fairly simple. By the time I had been playing for a while, I got used to it and even grew to like it. The interface is quite efficient, especially when dealing with multiple characters, such as a main character and a pet, or someone else who tags along. I also like having the choice to pick up items I find or not. It's nice to leave something for later, or even leave it behind altogether to prevent clutter with items I don't need, instead of having to pick them up automatically and then waste time dropping them.

It was when I had been playing the game for a while that I discovered how complex it was. The assignments became more and more interesting as I went, sending me further and further afield hunting for people and other quarries. It was a novel addition to be able to get a pet to walk around with me. It makes up for the fact that the game doesn't allow a party, but only one player. The dog I selected (A cat was also offered) was a literal lifesaver at several points when I was fighting against multiple enemies. I even got to change him out later in the game for a dragon. I love dogs, but breathing fire is much more interesting, and I was able to go and check on my dog at will after I got the dragon.

I noticed some optional assignments in the game that required me to change my guild association to get spells and other abilities. They weren't required, but they made the game more interesting and a bit more PC-like. This was what I discovered over time. Some games entertain me for a few hours and then lose my interest quickly, and some RPG's are too repetitive to be any fun. I tire quickly of doing the same thing too many times, but Aldon's Crossing has held my interest, and I could start the game again easily without being bored with it.

Aldon's CrossingI will put the graphics on both sides of the review, because there were marked positive and negative points. On the developer's side, the slight motion of the character and pet graphics when standing still makes for a nice effect. Also, some of the background images, such as water, appeared in motion and added to the game. It is also thoughtful of them to have the character's graphic change when his or her guild changes. The difference in appearance between a thief and a warrior is notable, as it should be.

Now, on to what I didn't like as much. The game was quite entertaining, but the bird's eye view highlighted the shortcomings of both the application and the device. Unfortunately, the rest of the graphics did not live up to the standard set by the introduction. To begin with, I had to run it in center on my HandEra 330. I didn't take any points off for that, because it won't affect many users. Even so, the graphics left something to be desired. It would doubtlessly be difficult at best to have the game show the character graphic actually walking, instead of just moving a static picture across the landscape. However, that doesn't prevent it from looking a bit choppy when the character's still picture moves next to another still picture and a battle ensues. More motion would have provided a much better experience.

To close, this is one of the better RPG's I have played for the Palm OS. The graphics were less than what I was expecting, but that was the only shortcoming I found. The controls were difficult at first, but I came to like them more than others I have used. All in all, this game is an excellent time-waster, well worth the registration fee. I would highly recommend it to people interested in RPG games.

PIC Bottom Line

PROS
CONS
  • Nice touch with introduction graphic
  • Efficient user interface
  • Rich plot
  • Pets allowed
  • Complex enough to hold my interest over time
  • Large size
  • Hard user interface to learn
  • Graphics not the best

RATING: 7 / 10
Graphics: 2 Interface learning curve & OK graphics
Playability: 5 Rich Plot; fun RPG
value: 4 Good Time killer

Aldon's Crossing is available from Constant Games for $19.95.

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Palm OS shouldn't be limited like that...

s_n_m @ 11/16/2002 9:26:39 AM #
The Palm OS is good enough for smooth game boy color graphics, why do you think it is choppy?

Ran out of developement time?

Knick knack Cadillac give a dawg a bone.

RE: Palm OS shouldn't be limited like that...
Davy Fields @ 11/16/2002 12:24:11 PM #
Ehh... story wins out over Graphics. I'll take that trade anyday, too many flashy games aren't fun or intresting enough, so a good game doesn't need good graphics. A 320x320 Color version of this would be killer though.

-Davy Fields
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Palm_OS_5/
RE: Palm OS shouldn't be limited like that...
abosco @ 11/16/2002 12:41:50 PM #
"The Palm OS is good enough for smooth game boy color graphics, why do you think it is choppy?

Ran out of developement time?"

I would say it's like this because it is low-res greyscale. It would look really weird if you saw moving legs because it would probably look like a large amoeba walking across the screen instead of a person.

The game seems fun, the graphics seem OK, and it looks like a good role playing game overall.

Great review, Scott!

---
This signature is witty. You like it.

RE: Palm OS shouldn't be limited like that...
mermogoat @ 11/16/2002 1:22:24 PM #
I agree with the comment about trading the graphics for a good story. I miss the old days of Final Fantasy 4, 5, 6, and Chrono Trigger on Super Nintendo :) Simple graphics but the best storys and gameplay ever. I'm kinda sad now that we are in the days of 3D games when it comes to RPG's... I'm old school all the way.

RE: Palm OS shouldn't be limited like that...
saw9000 @ 11/17/2002 2:57:05 PM #
"Ehh... story wins out over Graphics. I'll take that trade anyday, too many flashy games aren't fun or intresting enough, so a good game doesn't need good graphics. "
Quite agreed, Davy. I like a good story line when I play a game. Good graphics wow me the first time, but the wow factor doesn't last.
Scott

HandEra Moderator
Off-Topic Moderator
I'm trying to be PC, I really am, but I'm just too into handhelds.
RE: Palm OS shouldn't be limited like that...
iain.collins @ 11/18/2002 1:53:25 PM #
I would assert that modern good game should have good graphics. Good sound, good gameplay, good graphics are all part of a good game.

If a game has poor sound, poor graphics and good gameplay, it's a poor game (as is a game with good graphics, good sound and poor gameplay). Game developers should not be excused poor graphics in the name of nostalgia. It should also be be noted is 'good' is relative to the the realistic technological possibilities at the time.

Games with truly polished graphics are typically indicative of time and attention spent on the game. Games with poor or rough graphics are typically indicative of little time spent on the game.

The same is broadly true of any software and applies to realms outside of software development entirely. Good presentation indicates that some at least attention was paid to detail. Poor presentation usually demonstrates with certainty that attention to detail was not paid.

In any case, the reality of the software market means that if a piece of software, and this particularly applies to games, does not look appealing then consumers will spend their money elsewhere.

OS 5

ptc @ 11/16/2002 2:42:36 PM #
I emailed the Constant Games website and got a nice reply from the developer Anthony Davis. He said the current version (1.0.5) is OS 5 compatible, and that he is working on a high-res version of the game with new graphics. I've heard so many good things about this game, so I'm really looking forward to a high-res version.

Sounds kind of like Kyle's Quest, which I loved, but nobody seems to be making new adventures for these days.


_________
Paul C.

RE: OS 5
masitti @ 11/17/2002 1:49:02 PM #
I never really play adventure/RPG's on a PDA - I use the games on the PDA to pass a few minutes by - while waiting in school, waiting for haircut, etc. Not to spend hours and hours going deep into a game. :)

------------------------
Mario Masitti
O/T Mod
I Love Tennis :)

PiDirect II

sandbuck @ 11/16/2002 4:41:06 PM #
Does anyone PiTech;s plans (if any) for this product under OS 5?

RE: PiDirect II
rvdw @ 11/16/2002 5:33:07 PM #

I love this game,.

helf @ 11/17/2002 4:12:50 PM #
The best rpg for palm :D

The game looks wonderful in color .

Why didn't you use color pics ryan ?

RE: I love this game,.
saw9000 @ 11/17/2002 6:12:40 PM #
I used the game on my HandEra 330 when I was testing it, so all the screenshots are greyscale.
Scott

HandEra Moderator
Off-Topic Moderator
I'm trying to be PC, I really am, but I'm just too into handhelds.
RE: I love this game,.
helf @ 11/17/2002 7:29:45 PM #
oh.. woops. Don't know why I put ryan :)



RE: I love this game,.
bcombee @ 11/18/2002 3:46:42 AM #
I tried the trial version of the game, and it looks like a pretty standard RPG, with some good elements. However, I wish the programmers had spent a little more time fixing user interface bugs. Its not that the dialogs don't work, but they aren't laid out to follow Palm OS user interface guidelines, and may have some hidden bugs.

1) Dialogs aren't bottom justified and full-width. While Palm OS allows this for a top-level dialog, screen redraws may malfunction if a dialog is popped up over a nonstandard dialog.

2) Buttons aren't spaced nicely in many dialogs.

3) Some places should be using popup triggers rather than buttons.

4) In general, you put your choice text directly in buttons, rather than putting buttons next to choices. This shows up a lot in the "multiple choice" dialogs.

5) Finally, there are buttons that use bold borders -- while supported by Palm OS, the user interface guidelines say your shouldn't use these.

I don't think programmer's should be slaves to the guidelines, but its better to follow them when your alternative isn't any better.

--
Ben Combee, CodeWarrior for Palm OS technical lead
Programming help at www.palmoswerks.com

RE: I love this game,.
iain.collins @ 11/18/2002 2:10:54 PM #
I agree with Ben Combee's comments.

Though I haven't played enough of the game to want to comment on the gameplay in detail, the user interface shows poor alignment in the widgets and poor layout (and would indicate to me the developer needs to spend more time learning about User Interface design, a remarkably important field often overlooked on small software).

Most software has people dedicated to the User Interface design and modern console games, who's entire developer and artist compliment might be 10-20, typically have 3 people dedicated full time (a manager, designer and graphics artist) to such seemingly trivial things like the main menu, the options screen and the on screen HUD.

It's very certainly not the wose I've seen and is all correctable (unlike some games where the entire system is irreparably poor) but it does need more work. In addition to poor layout of widgets, the game does not nearly make good use of the available screen real estate IMO.

I look forward to a re-released hi-resolution version in the hope that UI will also be addressed (though I have some fear it will not be).

PS: Ed, you might want to consider putting color screen shots in reviews. Completely regardless of the reviewers personal views or personal choice of handheld, people focus on visuals first and make snap judgments, it's biological imperative and unavoidable. I believe it's unfair to put the product it it's most unfavorable light when the software does run in color and there is a significant difference (if that were not so we would still be using grayscale monitors, televisions and cameras).

I would also add that, IMO, the users with the most money to throw around (and those most keen on Palm gaming - all in all meaning those most likely to buy the product) will also have a color device...

RE: I love this game,.
helf @ 11/18/2002 2:31:36 PM #
um..no.. The games interface is perfect the way it is.

RE: I love this game,.
saw9000 @ 11/18/2002 3:33:57 PM #
Personally, I'm quite fond of the UI as it stands, as I stated in the review.
Ed doesn't work here any more. I am Scott and I did the review. I used a HandEra 330 to do it, because I had no color device at the time.
Scott

HandEra Moderator
Off-Topic Moderator
I'm trying to be PC, I really am, but I'm just too into handhelds.
RE: I love this game,.
nightslide @ 11/21/2002 12:39:16 AM #
I agree, i liked the UI as well, nicely laid out, and most importantly, customizable.

I also agree that you should add color screenshots, and PLEASE, try out the new graphics, they are very nice.

RE: I love this game,.
thepalmist @ 12/3/2002 7:54:50 PM #
I love this game as well. I am puzzled by the follow up comments concerning the game. IMHO the ui is great. I have played it for some time. It is one thing to contemplate what would be good in games in general but this is a Palm OS game. Many people including me played Kyle's Quest and loved it. It had graphics one step above stick men. This game ups the anti quite a bit on what I now expect out of a Palm OS rpg and I don't buy very many Palm games in spite of the fact that I have a color palm. I bet if you play it for a while you'll like it a lot.

What's also great is the wonderful customer service that the developers provide and the forums on their site where if you get stuck help is easy to get...

http://www.constantgames.com/forums/


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