Altered Destiny is an adventure game by Accolade. It was released in 1990, so we have to see this in context: this was between Space Quest 3 and 4 on the Sierra side, and Loom and The Secret of Monkey Island on the LucasArts side. I think we might say that this game was released at pretty much the absolute peak of the graphical adventure games. The control scheme incorporates a mouse in the “click here to walk here” function, but all other interaction is still text-based. Coupled with the fact that it’s often easier and more precise to use the keyboard to walk around, I wouldn’t want to call this game a point-and-click adventure game yet. Just a graphical adventure game.
As is usual in these types of adventure games, the plot is laughably thin and nonsensical. Our protagonist P.J. Barrett goes to pick up his TV from the repair shop. However his TV is accidentally switched with the one from another customer, a warrior or barbarian that might have run straight from a D&D game. Nothing to do about it, and P.J. has to hurry because his special ladyfriend will be over tonight! So he goes back home, changes in his pajamas, and when the ladyfriend is in the bathroom to also change into something “more comfortable”, he settles in front of the TV. He turns the TV on, and then…
He gets sucked through the TV into an alternate dimension, where he promptly gets a speech from a mysterious character named JonQuah, reprimanding him for not being the great warrior they had asked for. But hey, they’ll have to do with what is given to them, so you get the task of retrieving the Jewel of Light which was stolen by Helmar, the evil twin brother of JonQuah. So, only armed with his pajamas and a bowl of popcorn, our great hero P.J. (get it? P.J.? Pajamas?) sets out to save an alien universe!
The obvious first thing I want to try is to see whether the game is a nice game or a cruel game. So I take two steps to the top of the screen, and immediately fall down a crater and die. I guess that qualifies for cruel…
So okay. Stay away from the edges, don’t do stupid things, or at least save the game before doing them. In fact you better do a lot of stupid things, because in many cases the logic of the game is strange, to say the least. When seen in the universe, the actions our hero has to do kind of make sense. But the universe is so alien and strange that you’ll have a hard time figuring it all out. As an example (spoilers until the next picture), somewhere near the start you are supposed to capture a bird in a forest. No-one gives you any directions to the forest except for the general remark that “it will be a long journey”. From the start of the game, however, you can only reach about 5 screens by walking. Where is this elusive forest? Well, it’s apparently *down*. You see, you are on some sort of floating island, and you have to grab a flying creature that occasionally passes through the screen, which will safely bring you down. Now this creature looks completely unimportant and no-one even mentions it. It’s not something I would have ever found out. The whole game is like this, filled with all kinds of details, but about 90% of it are red herrings. Good luck finding the 10% signal in this colorful, living noise.
Combine the alien logic with the usual guess-the-word problems which might stump you even if you are getting closer to the correct path, and there is a lot of room for frustration in this game. And frustration there was. At least for the first half hour. I discovered a few things and got up to about 10 points. However, there was apparently no way to go from there. So after that frustrating half hour, I took the easy path and just downloaded a walkthrough. Ah, Internet. I have no idea what I would do without you. I’d definitely not be the savior of an alien dimension though.
However, the strange feeling of the place is also its strongest point, in my opinion. There is a great variation in the places you will visit and there are many, many weird creatures that you will interact with, albeit with various levels of success. That is the main reason I would recommend this game. See the sights, meet the natives! But don’t forget to bring a guide, or you will become hopelessly lost. It wouldn’t work as an adventure game now, and I am not sure it really worked as an adventure game back then, but it works great as a view in the mind of a team of artists on LSD. Or, well, that’s my theory anyway. 7/10.