The game takes place in 1936, and deals with the search for Shambala, a utopian place mentioned in certain Buddhist traditions. The plot begins when some Nazis of the paranormal research type attack a monastery in Tibet looking for a portal leading to Shambala. A British officer, Richard Weston, just happens to be present, and escapes into the portal. The British authorities in Hong Kong are left wondering what happened to him, and turn to one of his old friends to go and find him. This is Fenton Paddock, a discharged officer who now makes a living as a pilot and smuggler. He agrees to go look for his friend, picking up his once-and-future love interest named Kim along the way. The Nazis are after some of the same clues he is - they're trying to get into Shambala for its power, while he's trying to find his friend. In the course of it, Fenton passes through Hong Kong, Tibet, Morocco, Germany, and India. In the end, Fenton, Kim, and the Nazis all make it into Shambala, where the Nazis are thwarted just as they try to seize control of its power.
Players spend most of the game controlling Fenton, the exceptions being the prologue (where they control Richard Weston) and assorted portions in the remainder of the game when they can switch between Fenton and another character (either Weston or Kim).
(There's a 1933 book with the same title as this which also deals with expeditions to a hidden Himalayan paradise, but this game is not an adaptation of it (or the 1937 film based on it). Aside from sharing the concept of a secret magical place in Tibet, there's no significant similarity at all, whether in plot, characters, theme, or style.)
A sequel was released in October 2015.
This game provides examples of:
- Action Girl: Kim turns out to be one, rather to the surprise of Fenton.
- Always Save the Girl: Fenton is prepared to leave his best friend Richard stranded in Shambala in order to prevent the Nazis from gaining access, but he caves immediately as soon as Kim is threatened.
- Artistic License Geography: The Kathiawar peninsula (in what's now the Indian state of Gujarat) is depicted as rather lush, with copious jungles and the odd swamp. In real life, it's mostly rather dry, with lots of scrubland. Also a bit problematic might be the presence of tigers, which don't seem to have lived there even before they became endangered. The map gives a nearby river the name of one that's really in Kerala, so it's possible that the designers initially intended it to be set there (though that leaves the question of why they changed it).
- Artistic License History: There was never a governor of Hong Kong named Lord Weston, and the 1936 Olympic decathlon event was not won by someone named Glenn Parker. note
- Androcles' Lion: It may look as though its being set up when Fenton removes a spike from the paw of a tiger which is menacing the village, but unlike in the original fable, there's no suggestion of the animal later coming back to help. Instead, Fenton and the old villager quite practically take it an hour or two outside the village to release it, hoping not to see it again.
- The Baroness: Well, countess, anyway. Hanna von Hagenhild is a Nazi scientist who is leading their attempts to find Shambala.
- The Bartender: Shen, at the Hou Hai nightclub. In contrast to many instances of the trope, his advice to Fenton is unasked-for, and is initially dismissed. It does, however, turn out to be good - Fenton was in over his head with the triads.
- Can't You Read the Sign?: At the Nazi camp in Tibet, Fenton walks up to a sign warning him not to fall down a crevasse and promptly falls down the crevasse.
- The Chanteuse: The Hou Hai nightclub in Hong Kong, where Fenton is first introduced, has a glamorous Chinese singer whom Fenton takes an interest in. The bartender bets a bottle of his best whiskey that Fenton won't get anywhere, but a sufficiently direct approach will impress her enough that she gives him her room number. She then helps him escape when some triad thugs show up, though the aftermath of this prevents him from following up the invitation.
- Cheaters Never Prosper: Quite the opposite, since Fenton cheats all the time - drugging a wrestling opponent, using a metal detector in a shell game, impersonating a judging official at the Olympic Games, and more. He isn't exactly proud of it, but justifies it with the fact that he's trying to save the world from the Nazis.
- Crazy Enough to Work: Fenton seems surprised at the success of some of his own plans, implying that he was running on this logic when he decided to give them a try."Can't believe that worked!"
- Dark Action Girl: Countess von Hagenhild is definitely this, though not good enough to beat Kim.
- Dark and Troubled Past: Fenton has one as a result of the incident in which his eight civilians were killed by troops under his command (the unintended result of an attempt to save a friend - see Would Not Shoot a Civilian, below). It got him discharged from the army, and also created a rift between him and another of his close friends (and said friend's niece, with whom he may have been romantically involved). Although he did not order the shooting (despite what was publicly announced by the army for scapegoating purposes), he does consider himself to have made a very bad mistake, since the eight lives lost outweigh the one he saved.
- Enhanced Interrogation Techniques: The Nazis are doing this to a captive British officer, using sleep deprivation and constant bombardment with very loud music through headphones.
- Fate Worse than Death: According to Fenton, being tortured with German marching music is this.
- Ghostapo: Sort of. The Nazis are definitely interested in chasing up what most people scientists would dismiss as being occultism or mysticism. The real-life Thule Society is involved. However, the main villain of the game takes a distinctly scientific approach, treating it as high technology rather than mysticism and seeming rather disdainful of the Thule crowd.
- He Is Not My Boyfriend: Kim, regarding Fenton, at the start of the final fight. At the end of said fight, the two seem to reach an understanding to change that.
- Hive Mind: In the game, a rather weak (but all-encompassing) form of this is actually true of humanity. Echoing a real-life pseudoscience, there's some sort of field or energy which links all members of a species together, functioning like a spiritual/telepathic Jungian collective unconscious. People aren't said to think together, but are considered to (potentially) know together, and in the right place (Shambala), you can tap this central pool and directly gain the sum of human knowledge (or alternatively, to control what humans know, as Fenton does at the end when he makes the Nazis think a dragon is attacking them). Richard Weston says that fully absorbing this would be a bad idea - it would send you mad, not just from excessive knowledge but from the fact that you'd get the bad parts of humanity just as much as the good parts.
- How Would You Like to Die?: Mun Tong, a triad boss, disposes of Fenton in a way that gives him a choice of how he dies - he is thrown in the harbour sealed in a box that has a small, coverable hole in it, and he can choose between waiting to suffocate or letting the water in to drown him. Tong gloats for quite a while about it, expecting Fenton to be anguished as he decides whether to die slowly or die quickly. Of course, Fenton doesn't end up dying at all.
- Hyperspace Arsenal: Definitely present - Fenton can carry all sorts of stuff around. Lampshaded somewhat by his comments when asked to pick certain things up - for example, when he gets the rope barrier and two accompanying posts, he is initially just going to take the rope and coil it up, but instead casually decides he might as well just walk off with the whole thing. He does baulk at carrying away an entire suit of armour, though.
- Kleptomaniac Hero: Fenton specifically uses the term kleptomania in relation to his habit of walking off with whatever odd items he happens to stumble across. Some of the things he pinches are actually quite valuable, but he considers it justified on the basis that he's saving the world.
- Indy Ploy: Fenton likes to work this way.
"It's a lot more fun if you just worry about these things later."
- When Hayes questions the wisdom of trying to infiltrate the villain's operations in Berlin, Fenton says:
"That's Richard's plan, anyway. I'll probably just wander around breaking things until something interesting happens."
- When contemplating Richard's relatively complicated plan, he says:
- Inspiration Nod: The game's overall feel seems to owe quite a bit to Indiana Jones (what with the whole "rugged but good-hearted rogue racing against the Nazis to secure an ancient secret that would give them unimaginable power" angle), and a number of things which show up are likely to be nods in its direction. The Travel Montages are one. Another is the plane crash in the Himalayas, which happens to use the exact same type of plane as Indy was in (a Ford Trimotor).
- It May Help You on Your Quest: A great many bizarre items are vacuumed up by Fenton as he walks around, with their usefulness often being hard to see at the time. This is lampshaded once or twice by Fenton's remarks when he picks them up, as he comments that he can't see how something could help but he'd better bring it anyway. Other characters wonder out loud wonder why the heck he'd want whatever junk he's collecting.
- I Will Only Slow You Down: The dying Professor Hayes says something along these lines when he's shot - it's too late for him, and Fenton has to get away before the police arrive and prevent him from chasing the Nazis.
- Just Plane Wrong: The German fighter that attacks Fenton's Trimotor is a Bf 109, which was still a prototype in 1936, and had not entered service.
- Loveable Rogue: Fenton is, among other things, a smuggler, but he's sufficiently affable in his manner and his overall objectives (if not his methods) that he probably comes under this trope.
- Magic from Technology: Assuming that what Shambala has counts as technology, it probably counts as this trope. (Fenton summons a dragon with it, after all.)
- MacGyvering: A fair number of the puzzles involve joining up various odd items to achieve improbable results. When Kim makes a sarcastic comment about the apparently useless junk he keeps collecting, he reminds her that he recently took out a German fighter plane with just a pumpkin, a bag of flour, and some water.
Fenton: "Or that works too."
- In one case it goes horribly right. One puzzle is that you have to repair, and then sneak a British album into the records that they are using to break down a British officer. You have to glue the record, use gunpowder to cover up the glue, steal the paper cover of a saw blade, take a flyer so it looks like a German orchestra record. This way when the British officer hears the British National Album he'll look up and see Fenton and the two of them can then overpower the interrogator. What happens is when the album is played the needle causes a static charge which ignites the gunpowder, causing an explosion that knocks out the German interrogator.
- Mentor Occupational Hazard: Assuming Hayes is considered a mentor, anyway - he's not there for very long. He is, however, riddled with bullets the instant he's served his information-dispensing duties.
- "Metaphor" Is My Middle Name: The elderly Indian villager warns Fenton that the mushrooms he found can be made into an anesthetic strong enough to knock out a water buffalo.Fenton: No problem. Caution is my middle name.
- Military Academy: Fenton went to Sandhurst, and although he's no longer well disposed towards the army (see Would Not Shoot a Civilian, below), he certainly values the friendships he formed there.
- Never Found the Body: When Kim is apparently killed in an avalanche, Fenton is unable to go check the truck's wreckage due to some Nazis on the surviving truck arriving to shoot at him. Sure enough, it turns out that Kim survived (albeit still in Nazi custody).
- Never Heard That One Before: Fenton encounters a journalist named Baltus Edison in Berlin.Fenton: Edison? Like the famous inventor?
Edison: Yes, quite. You're the first person to ever notice that, in fact.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Fenton's attempt to rescue Kim by jumping on the back of a truck and fighting the guards. The Nazis still had reason to keep Kim alive at that point, but a rocket discharged in the course of the conflict triggers an avalanche, apparently killing her. (In fact, she is later revealed to have survived, but wasn't helped any by Fenton's attempt.)
- No Swastikas: As with many games made in Germany, the swastika is not present despite there being copious Nazis. It is replaced in all contexts by the iron cross. It's particularly noticeable during a visit to Berlin, where you have flags and banners all over the place that obviously would have had the swastika, but don't.
- Obstructive Bureaucrat: Philippe Lacoste, a French colonial official in Morocco, doesn't seem to be a bad person, but he does insist that Fenton get a stamped form from the gendarmerie before he'll release Professor Hayes' heart medication. The gendarmerie isn't really any better, saying that they can't do it and that it'll have to wait for someone else. They're not exactly villainous, but they're hardly helpful, either.
- To the extent that he counts as a bureaucrat (he's enforcing bureaucratic rules), the police officer outside the governor's mansion in Hong Kong may count - he's outraged at the notion of Fenton walking across a small patch of lawn.
- Officer and a Gentleman: A number of characters are current or former British army officers, but despite outward appearances, most of them probably aren't this. Fenton lacks the refinement, Lord Weston lacks the integrity, and Huxley lacks the courtesy. Richard Weston might qualify, though.
- Old Flame: Fenton and Kim may be this to each other. It's not explicitly stated how close they were to each other originally, although they saw enough of each other for Fenton's mechanic Gus to slyly raise the issue. Their reunion doesn't go smoothly (see We Used to Be Friends, below), but they eventually end up together.
- Old Friend: The friendships formed while Fenton was at Sandhurst are significant more than once. His friendship with Richard is what gets him drawn into it all, while his friendship with Glenn is very useful in pursuing his search. In the end, though, it isn't the most important thing to him - he reluctantly concludes that if it's a choice between saving Richard and stopping the Nazis, he'll have to go with the latter.
- Opt Out / Refusal of the Call: Done by the main protagonist in the penultimate chapter. His reasoning is that the only way to rescue Richard would be to open the gate to Shambala, and that doing this would also let the Nazis in. As much as he likes Richard, he can't let other people die just to save his buddy (something he did once already in his backstory, at the cost of eight other lives). He hopes that the guy he's delivering his refusal to (Richard's father) will understand that, but he doesn't. The end result is that Fenton buckles when his love interest is threatened.
- Our Dragons Are Different: The imagery of eastern dragons turn up a fair amount, particularly in connection with Shambala. Professor Hayes seems to think that it's warning people away from whatever cataclysm supposedly struck Shambala, though he doesn't think this cataclysm was a real dragon. In Shambala itself, we do see a dragon, but it's western-styled. Since it's an illusion being imagined into being by Fenton, a westerner, this makes sense.
- The Password Is Always "Swordfish": At one point, Fenton needs to get into his office safe to find a photograph, but because he hardly ever uses it, he has forgotten the combination. It's written down on a piece of paper, but he just lost the wallet containing it, and has a certain amount of difficulty recovering it. The combination he couldn't remember? If the icon is to be believed, it's 1-2-3-4-5. He mentions that he should have been able to remember it.
- Point-and-Click Map: These exist for Hong Kong, Berlin, and the environs of Marrakesh.
- Qipao: Kim wears the shirt version, over trousers. Other women seen in Hong Kong have fuller versions.
- Running Gag:
- Various people on multiple continents all manage to get Fenton Paddock's (admittedly a bit odd) name wrong in one way or another.
- Fenton's escalating battle of wits with the animal kingdom, in which he "defeats" first flies, then a cat, then a mountain sheep, then a guard dog, then a tiger, then a shark. He keeps track of his successes, and is inordinately proud of proving himself cleverer than the not-noticeably-intelligent animals.
- Shout-Out: On occasion.
- Indiana Jones seems to have been a significant inspiration for the game (Nazis chasing a mystical MacGuffin that'll give them world domination, etc), and gets a direct reference when Fenton uses the line: "Nazis. I hate these guys."
- Monkey Island's famous distraction technique is referenced when Fenton, confronted in Hong Kong, can try: "Behind you! A three-headed dragon!" It doesn't work.
- Later, when looking at an argali, Fenton points out that it's "the second biggest sheep [he's] ever seen".
- Suspiciously Specific Denial: Fenton needs an organ-grinder's hat to complete his reporter disguise and offers to trade for it.Fenton: I've got this polished metal bowl that absolutely isn't a rubbish bin lid.
- Thicker Than Water: Lord Weston, governor of Hong Kong, towards his son, Richard. When first informing Fenton of Richard's disappearance, Lord Weston delays mentioning the identity of the missing officer until it becomes necessary, saying that the fact that Richard is his son should not be allowed to influence his duty. However, it transpires that he doesn't really believe this - he has been cooperating with the Nazis as a backup plan in case Fenton doesn't succeed, since if Fenton can't (or won't) pull it off, doing a deal might be the only way for him to get his son back. He eventually betrays Fenton to the Nazis for this reason.
- Sociopathic Soldier: Fenton was portrayed as this after the riot incident, in which he was said to have ordered his troops to fire into a crowd of protesters. In fact, he didn't give any order - the deaths came about due to confusion and panic which he inadvertently caused by running to the aid of a friend. He does not consider himself to have done the right thing, but he also believes that the army made a scapegoat of him by pretending that it was his deliberate choice on his part (which gives them someone they can publicly punish in order to assuage public opinion).
- Travel Montage: Given the amount of inspiration this game seems to take from Indiana Jones, the presence of very similar travel montages can probably be considered an explicit homage.
- The Triads and the Tongs: At the beginning of the game, Fenton has annoyed a triad leader by not staying out of what they consider to be their business (probably related in some manner to Fenton's smuggling, though the details are never made explicit). He is initially dismissive of the threat they pose, but changes his mind when they seal him in a box and throw him in the harbour. The triads are also used by the Nazis to go after Yen Wuang's maps, and the danger they pose is the reason why Wuang's niece Kim leaves Hong Kong with Fenton. They have no role in the story after that chapter, though.
- Well, Excuse Me, Princess!: Kim isn't as impressed with Fenton as he is with himself, often snarking at his unusual strategies and complaining about the problems she's had as a result of leaving Hong Kong with him. He, for his part, keeps trying to offload her as if she's a helpless liability. They get together in the end anyway.
- We Used to Be Friends: Fenton is not keen on having to go see Yen Wuang (his former friend) or Kim (Wuang's niece), though the former turns out to have died. Fenton parted ways with them acrimoniously after the incident described under Would Not Shoot a Civilian. By Fenton's account, Wuang left as soon as possible and gave Fenton no chance to explain himself, with Fenton concluding that Wuang wasn't even willing to hear him out. Kim, however, says that Fenton could easily have found them to explain if he'd wanted to, and that his refusal to try left them to assume that the press reports must be accurate. Kim does accept Fenton's account once he opens up, however, and actually seems to think he's beating himself up about it too much.
- The World Is Not Ready: The power of Shambala is said to fall under this heading - see Hive Mind, above.
- Would Not Shoot a Civilian: In his backstory, Fenton was court-martialled and dishonourably discharged from the British army after allegedly ordering his unit to fire on civilian protesters in Hong Kong, despite the authorities having given orders for him to withdraw. The truth is more complicated - his friend, Richard, was in danger from the crowd, and when Fenton unthinkingly rushed to help, some of his unit rushed after him, which both the crowd and some of the soldiers assumed was the start of a fight. Eight civilians died before Fenton could regain control of the situation. In the aftermath, the British authorities needed to placate angry citizens by punishing Fenton, and so covered up the fact that Fenton hadn't actually given an order to fire (though Richard pulled strings to keep Fenton out of jail). Fenton himself is conflicted - he was naturally glad his friend had survived, but on balance, cannot accept that the eight civilian lives lost are an acceptable price for that, and now feels that he should have obeyed orders to withdraw even though Richard might have died. (He does, however, resent the fact that the army made him out to be a villain - he considers himself to have made a terrible mistake, not to have been immoral.)
- His backstory becomes relevant right before the final chapter. Richard is in trouble again, and Fenton has a chance of rescuing him, but reluctantly refuses to help on the basis that it's the same thing all over again. Richard might be saved, but the cost would be letting the Nazis get what they want, and that would threaten far more people. (His choice makes no difference in the end, since Richard's father does consider Richard to be more important than opposing the Nazis, and has secretly been cooperating with them.)
- You Can't Get Ye Flask: At one point you have to light a bunch of fireworks using a lighter. You can't pick up the lighter. What you have to do is give the fireworks to Kim, have her light the rockets, and then hand them back to Fenton. Yes it doesn't make sense.