May 20, 2018
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Publisher: Cinegram Media    Genre: Adventure & RPG
Min OS X: Not Supported    CPU: 601 @ 120 MHz    RAM: 32 MB    4x CD-ROM

Search for the Golden Dolphin
March 31, 2000 | William Lemmon

Search for the Golden Dolphin is an edutainment adventure set during the late 18th century – the height of the Age of Sailing. The game is played from the perspective of Nathaniel Thorne, scion of a family with a strong link to the sea. This protagonist's father was betrayed and imprisoned during the Revolutionary War, and died in captivity. Upon coming of age, Nathaniel joined the nascent American Navy; and the game begins with him as a Lieutenant aboard the U.S.S. Declaration, patrolling the Caribbean. During the course of the game, Nathaniel will rise in rank; play an instrumental role in the so-called "Quasi War," a naval conflict between the French and the fledgling United States; run afoul of the son of his father’s betrayer; and scour the Caribbean for a stolen privateer…the Golden Dolphin.

Graphics and Sound
Search for the Golden Dolphin’s 1,700 rendered locations are, for the most part, quite beautiful and detailed, and the five tall-ship settings, based on replicas and drawings of historical vessels, really shine. A few locations, such as the Caribbean port in chapter two, however, seem too "smooth" and featureless.

The game’s sound effects are accurate and authentic-sounding, but quickly become annoying in a few locations. Aboard the prison ship in chapter four, I turned sound effects off after listening to hacking coughs, prisoners’ screams and booms of thunder for a few minutes. Even the lowest volume setting seems a bit too loud.

Search for the Golden Dolphin uses the interface that has become the standard for interactive adventures. The game's locations, seen in the first person, are navigated with the mouse, with arrow icons for movement, a hand for manipulable objects and a mouth for initiating conversations. This interface can at times be clumsy, as movement up and down stairways, and use of certain objects requires precise cursor placement.

Other elements of the interface include a "medallion" through which the Chart Room, an in-depth reference database containing loads of information about the ships, nautical terms and history of the 18th century (as well as a detailed bibliography and list of sources for further information on the period) is accessed; and a "journal" which automatically records all events and conversations that take place in the game. Both the Chart Room and the journal contain vital hints to the completion of several puzzles, so be sure to check these sources whenever you are stumped. Also accessible through the Chart Room are several interesting "extra" features, including a "tour" of an 18th century frigate, which allows you to explore the U.S.S. Declaration free of story-related distractions; an animated sequence showing the construction of 18th century naval vessels; and a cut-away of a historical frigate. These features are accessed through a collapsible navigation bar that resides at the bottom of the screen. Items that the player acquires during the game are also stored in this nav bar. This nav bar presents one frustrating interface problem – it is often reluctant to collapse, requiring some acrobatic mouse-work to close.


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