Anna's Quest: Clickable But Not Too Likable Fantasy Tales
While scrolling through the Nintendo Switch eStore, I suddenly recognized the Daedalic logo. Some game called Anna’s Quest, clearly a point & click adventure game, with
90% off? Count me in! The Deponia games were on sale as well but Rufus' brutishness and the sometimes maddening puzzles turned me off back in the day—I never managed to get past the first two episodes. After Return to Monkey Island, we were still hungry for more, so I set out to help Anna on her Quest to find a cure for her grandfather’s illness. Or so I thought.
Anna’s Quest starts out small: you’re captured by an evil witch and need to make your escape. Then you learn that a nearby village might hold the solution to cure searching problem, but the witch is yet again one step ahead of you—which servers as the main thread throughout the game. Anna, being a little girl, looks, feels, and plays worlds apart compared to Guybrush. She loves teddybears, refuses to pick up pointy things (most of the time), or to use her telekenesis to hurt people. With her special power, she can move objects that seem out of reach or bend them in certain shapes. That is the big “twist” in this otherwise very conventional point & click game.
Using telekenesis is where the shortcomings of this Switch port becomes apparent. The action is mapped to the shoulder button, but aiming involves a lot of fiddling about as the target is the active thing on screen the “pointer” highlights. Except that there isn’t a pointer: it works exactly like an inferior version of Return to Monkey Island’s circles of interest and active player controls. Objects close to each other are difficult to highlight and working with the inventory system feels awkward: Anna can also use her ability on objects you already picked up. The color scheme used to highlight selected items in the inventory are in dire need of more contrast as well.
The limited available actions—compared to full-SCUMM verbs—mitigate the fiddling somewhat: there’s
Y to look at,
X to use an active item in your pockets on,
A to pick up/use, and the invisible
R for your powers. Still, the first hours were mainly spent grumbling about the controls. This is yet again one of those games what would probably be better off with simple mouse emulation as seen in the console version of Dexter Stardust. Point & click games should be played with devices that easily point, I know, but hey, it was
€1 on the eShop, so what the heck, right? Don’t make that mistake—buy it on GOG.com and play on a PC instead.
The theme of the game is a weird blend of classic fairy tales that include portions of Cinderella and Red Riding Hood. The result isn’t what could be called a coherent whole, especially considering the excellent but weirdly disconnected chapter 4 in which you’re trying to escape from a dungeon of the Devil guarded by sick goblins. The puzzles, humor, and background art of that chapter were some of the very best, but it felt completely out of place compared to the previous and next chapters that try to tell something more serious and perhaps grim.
Anna’s Quest isn’t a particularly beautiful game: the color palette is muted—I hope on purpose—expect to encounter 50 shades of brown. The art style of the characters didn’t particularly appeal to me but didn’t stand in the way of the gameplay either. What did get on my nerves was the awful voice acting. The town of Wunderhorn sounds delightfully German, which comes with classic German folklore such as lake of the Weiße Frauen, but since Daedalic is German, I had the feeling they just applied a layer of Germanic fantasy to cover up the accents. Anna herself becomes very annoying very fast: her Oh Dear! and high-pitched voice, that of course fits a small child like herself, will grow quite tiresome, as will those stupid footsteps.
Speaking of tiresome, the intersection between Anna’s Quest and Winfriede’s, the evil witch, still eludes me. The story just didn’t really click with me.
Are the puzzles any good then? Mostly. The first two chapters had my head scratching more than a few times, especially in combination with the controls and the uninteresting scenery (and very annoying background music), but it does get better as the story progresses. It took me about 10 hours to finish the game without having to consult a guide more than a few times to get the game on the road. The game is fairly linear, but the better chapters throw multiple locations and TODO lists towards the player to explore, leaving room for context switching when stuck on a particular puzzle. That said, most of the things felt logical and Anna’s pockets are not even half as full as Guybrush’s. If a diversion is needed, it’s usually the telekenesis the designers go for, which is quite obvious after trying and failing to manipulate objects the conventional way.
After finishing the game, I asked myself: who is this game for? The seasoned adventurer that is in desperate need of anything clickable? The casual player attracted to fairy tales? Children who like playing as a child? I don’t know. As you might have guessed by now, I’m not blown away by the quality of the game and I’ll probably never play it again. And yet, I did finish it. Considering it’s quite a lengthy adventure, that does tell something.
The awkward controls on the Nintendo Switch combined with the mediocre story and overall blandness of the game makes Anna’s Quest tough to recommend. If you’re a fan of Daedalic’s point & click games, perhaps first try out other games in their catalogue. I wish they made all chapters like chapter 4. The game certainly has its (very) good moments. It’s a shame these are overshadowed by the run-of-the-mill portions that make up for the meat of the game.