It’s always a bit dangerous to look back in time with rose-tinted glasses, thinking back to a game we loved playing 10, 20, or 30 years ago, getting excited when we hear it’s been remastered and re-released. Then the disappointment hits hard because you can never recapture that initial feeling you felt the first time you played it. But when a game uses the tools of the past and creates something new and unique with it, then heads are turned. With that in mind let me introduce you to Sumatra: Fate of Yandi.
Sumatra: Fate of Yandi has been influenced by the golden age of point and clickers; titles like Monkey Island, Indiana Jones, and King’s Quest. These are games that can take you to far away realms, both real and fantasy, delivering hours as you work out puzzles and explore. Sumatra uses the old style retro point and click look and gameplay, but manages to tell a fresh new story; one that is full of mystery, exotic locations, and action.
Set on the island of Sumatra you play the lead role of Yandi. Yandi is a young man who is recently happily married, working for a logging company. One morning his annoying boss sends him and his best friend to go out and do some work on a hillside, yet there is a sudden landslide and Yandi is thrown into a river where he falls unconscious. He wakes up on the shore, lost and with a useless soggy radio. Where is his best friend? How does he get help? What does he do now? The story then tells a tale of survival, corporate greed, strange creatures, and true love. It’s a great tale, told well with compelling characters and really does feel like a good old-fashioned adventure.
Sumatra: Fate of Yandi plays like an old-fashioned point and clicker, letting you walk around as normal with a little cross-haired cursor that can be used to highlight objects to interact with. It’s not totally straightforward and there will be occasions where you miss things, but most items that are of importance are obvious, letting you interact with ease. There’s the chance to collect objects, and then utilise an inventory that is accessed at the top of the screen. You’ll know the drill by now – combine certain items, use these objects with items, people, or animals on the screen. The usual standard stuff. Sometimes though this gets a little tricky, particularly as the top of the screen can conflict with pointing to an exit. But it’s not a game-breaker.
The puzzles and solutions required can be tricky at times, but thankfully they never feel impossible, mostly due to the characters and people you meet along the way giving you enough clues to work out the problems. For example, there is a section where you have to find a password to a computer; the answer you need can be found by just searching around the room with the computer in and entering all possible combinations from documents lying around. In the second act, you stumble across a village in the middle of the jungle. To appease the villagers and get them to trust you, you’ll need to venture out into the jungle and complete some tasks. For example one of them needs you to find their child, who is lost in a cave which requires you to complete a sequence of events involving honey from bees, feeding bears, getting a doll from some monkeys, picking up poo, and using a pleasant nasal potion to get through some stinky flowers. It’s a clever, old-fashioned system, but it’s one that I have loved.
Visually, Sumatra employs the same 1990’s point and click art style you might expect from a Sierra Entertainment or LucasArts game; it works along similar colour palette and character design lines. In fact, the design is excellent throughout, especially in the mix of jungle wildlife that is on display. It’s helped that the design team have perfectly mixed little cutscenes with the action. The sound design is also borrowed from yesteryear, full of retro effects and a decent soundtrack.
If you’re a fan of old-fashioned point-and-clickers then you must give Sumatra: Fate of Yandi on Xbox a go. It looks, sounds, and plays like one of those adventures from back in the day, and even though it may well play better on PC than with a controller, it works well enough. However, if you’re not a veteran of the scene, you may find some of the puzzle solutions baffling, yet the story is unique enough, the gameplay great enough and the world within intriguing enough to warrant you venturing to Sumatra and helping out with the fate of Yandi.