It strikes me as rather odd that, given the length of time these American/French animated graphic adventure thingies have been around, and the considerable number which have been produced, no-one has managed to come up with a snappy title to neatly encapsulate the genre. We've got scrolling shoot-'em-ups, driving games, puzzle games, flight sims, cute games... but no pigeon-hole for these devils. Don't worry, though - I'm not about to try and find one.
With another hopelessly forced intro out of the way, let's take a look at the game. As usual, you play an ordinary sort of bloke, minding his own business, who gets unwillingly dragged into an alien world and has to solve a quest to get back out again. The bloke is called P. J. Barrett, the world is called Daltere - and is depicted by a huge quantity of slightly amateurish but nonetheless attractive graphics - and the quest involves finding a jewel and defeating a baddy. And above all the whole game is weird. Very weird.
I've never actually played any of the Leisure Suit Larry games (heaven forbid), but I believe Altered Destiny's control system is similar to theirs - movement of your character is achieved by clicking on where you want him to go, while any other actions (such as picking things up) have to be routed through a parser, which means flexing your fingers and typing things like GET PENCIL.
Luckily, the parser while very crude, manages to cover most eventualities, so you shouldn't have to spend too much time struggling with its vocabulary. The only real problem comes when you see an unidentified blob on the ground and can't examine it until you've worked out what to call it, and can't work out what to call it until you've examined it. If there's a simple way of finding out what something's called without going mad in the process I've yet to find it.
More likely to be a source of hassle are the interminable pauses between things happening, as often as not accompanied by disk accesses and swaps. (The game comes on six disks!) I can't imagine a hard drive would ease the situation much either, as most of the time seems to be spent decrunching rather than reading data. You eventually get used to the game's very laid back pace though.
Interestingly, Accolade have taken the dubious step of including in the package a clue book, containing complete solutions to the whole thing in varying degrees of crypticity. This is good news in some ways, as many of the puzzles are extremely obscure and you'd probably have ended up sending off for it anyway, but it immediately robs the game of much of its challenge and mystique. You'll just have to be disciplined enough to hide it under the bed until you reach the hair-loss stage, and then sneak it out and tentatively peek at the bit you need before snapping it shut and checking no-one saw you. (As a reviewer I was obviously allowed the privilege of unrestricted access, however.)
I know I've been almost entirely critical of Altered Destiny so far, but it's actually not a bad game at all. A vast amount of manpower has obviously gone into it, and that shows in the game's huge scale and correspondingly long life expectancy. It's all very American, of course, but perfectly enjoyable if you're prepared to make the necessary allowances.
The Bottom Line
Nothing new - and if you'd showed it to me five years ago I'd have said much the same thing - but it's as absorbing as these big American graphical adventure quest games always are.