Reisende im Wind
for Amiga (OCS/ECS)

Mr Creosote:
Alternate Titles: Reisende im Wind II
Company: Infogrames
Year: 1988
Genre: Adventure
Theme: Based on Other Media / Cartoon & Comic
Language: Deutsch
Licence: Commercial
Views: 3079
Review by Mr Creosote (2020-11-01)

French comic book series Passengers on the Wind claims to have sold more than 3 million copies worldwide. Sufficiently high profile to warrant a computer conversion for sure. Though of course, the usual question comes up: how to turn a static narrative into an interactive one? Can it even be successful giving the player sufficient agency while retaining a strong dramaturgy? The game Passengers on the Wind could serve as textbook illustration how not to attempt such a thing. Or as cautionary example why not to even try.

To ride? Don't you mean “write”?

First impression isn't even half bad. Large pictures fill most of the screen, likely based on the comic's original illustrations. The bottom part of the screen is where the gameplay happens. Interactivity is restricted to cycling through available characters per scene and selecting who should have the next line or take the next action. That line or action usually not being selectable (with few exceptions, which also don't make things any better). Worse, what will happen by giving a character the voice is not even foreseeable.

This makes the whole “game” a pretty boring and potentially frustrating affair. With very little of consequence to do, players can hardly be considered to be in the driver's seat. Failure happens through no fault at all, just by selecting the “wrong” character picture at times. And when failure isn't looming, progress is just a matter of exhausting options until something happens. What happened in the comic, the game expects its player to replicate, because it happened in the comic. Whether it makes sense from the uninformed player point of view or not.

So, not much in the game department, but how does Passengers on the Wind fare as a recreation of the comic plot? It seems to follow the original storyline, placing itself in the semi-popular historical fiction kitsch genre shortly before the French revolution.

May make more sense in French™

Though by itself, it is virtually incomprehensible, not all of which can be blamed on the awful translation. Instead of a coherent, flowing narrative, the game is divided into individual scenes with large jumps in between. Even within those scenes, lack of illustration of what is actually happening takes a strong toll on plot readability, the dialogue lines and occasional picture flashlight alone not being sufficient to grasp the development of the scene itself and its significance for the overall story arch. The assumption seems to have been that players are already familiar with the characters, their relation to one another and the main actions taken.

This makes it hard to identify with the main characters, as neither their identity, nor their goals, feelings or really anything is clear. Agency is further weakened by having the player basically act in the role of all characters at once. Not just the protagonists, but also the minor characters of each scene. Meaning you'll also find yourself enabling slimeballs and rapists. While “playing” their victims at the same time.

Does the plot arrive at a satisfying conclusion? Good question, if only I had the slightest idea what happened throughout… Though for those who enjoyed it, the sequel story (sometimes referred to as Passengers on the Wind II, although the title screen just re-states it without the number) has been packed into the same pretty oversized box, along with a sample comic. Take your guess which of the two is more entertaining. Hint: the second disk plays exactly like the first one.

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