When I heard about Enter The Story, I was immediately excited. This ambitious one-man project, with a bit of help from others, aims to turn classic literature into adventure games, combining two of my favourite things. Although I have great enthusiasm for classic books, and the 19th century is quite possibly my favourite century, I am a slow reader, and there are still many books I have yet to read.

The Count of Monte Cristo is one of those many books that I haven’t yet ticked off my list. It was written by Alexandre Dumas, père, who is known for his adventure novels, including The Three Musketeers. I’ve only read one of his books, The Black Tulip, which was an enjoyable and almost cinematic experience, so I’m definitely interested in reading more of his works. The high degree of adventure in his stories should make for good adventure game material, so if this adaptation plays its cards right, it’ll have moved Monte Cristo up on my list of books to read.

Should you decide to read this book after playing the game, you needn’t look very far – included in the software is the entire text of the novel. That’s a nice bonus, but not more than that. I can see how you might use it for quickly browsing through to get a feel for the story, but in terms of e-readers there are plenty of better alternatives out there. But then, this is not e-book software; we’re reviewing a game here.

As far as the gameplay goes, Enter The Story: The Count of Monte Cristo isn’t at all complicated. You use only the left mouse button, and there’s no inventory to worry about, nor are there any dialogue puzzles. Add to that the useful pointers that come up when you press F1 at those moments when you don’t quite know what to do next, and the game becomes a breeze to play through, even if you’re not familiar with the story.

There are a few puzzles where you have to think just a bit, but clearly the focus in this game is not on solving puzzles, but on experiencing the story. And it certainly gets that job done. The backgrounds, based on numerous public domain images, are mostly monochrome with a touch of colour here and there. That may sound boring, but it actually works quite well, making the whole world look like it just jumped off the pages of a book onto the screen. Add to that the carefully selected, mostly classical music, and you have a game with an appropriate atmosphere that matches the story.

Which brings us to the most important point of a game of this kind: the story. From what I gather, the game follows the book’s story very closely, so with such a classic source story, surely the end result must be nothing less than superb? And I believe it is. In the developer’s diary, which is hidden away in the game as an easter egg, Chris Tolworthy (the man behind it all) explains how the Enter The Story games are supposed to be “tasters” for the book. In that respect he definitely succeeded. After playing the game, my desire to read the novel has only increased.

I can’t see how it wouldn’t have that effect on all fans of classic literature. But what about people who aren’t too fond of old books? As a video game, perhaps the story will be more accessible to them, and at least the interactivity will make the experience less tedious than actually reading the book. I hope that it won’t become a replacement for the books though, but that the Enter The Story games will introduce more people to great literature, and that it will entice them to read more. And going by this installment in the project, there’s a good chance of Enter The Story succeeding in that mission.

Jan’s Score: 4 of 5 starks


Note: You can buy The Count of Monte Cristo and other Enter the Story games (Les Miserables is freeware!) at http://enterthestory.com/