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#901824 - 07/17/13 04:41 PM Timescape: Journey to Pompeii/Pompeii: The Legend of Vesuvius
RichAlexis Offline
Settled Boomer

Registered: 06/21/13
Posts: 190
Loc: The Netherlands
(This is a review of an old game. I published it on the Amazon site first, but was allowed to reprint it here. I hope you enjoy it!)

A game with good educational potential, but subpar gameplay and character design

I hesitated between giving this game two stars or three stars overall. I settled on three, because I appreciated the generally detailed historical reconstruction of the town of Pompeii. I also liked the smooth playing interaction with the map and the well-written, extensive and nicely illustrated encyclopedia, by means of the spacebar and the amulet, respectively. The fact that you can look around the town, various houses and establishments at leisure in a visit mode (which I would recommend to players to do first, to get your bearings) is a very nice touch. It's a 360 degree view too, which allows you to look up and down and zoom in (with the up-arrow key) from any spot. In this way, Timescape aka Pompeii: The Legend of Vesuvius in Europe, can serve as a welcome educational tool.

However, I felt really disappointed with the design and gameplay, both of which leave a lot to be desired.

First of all, the image is way too dark. I knew that Romans just had oil lamps to light their homes, but even out in the open, the shadowed areas obscure lots of details.

Also, the streets look so deserted the town already seems evacuated before the eruption, or indeed like the excavation site it is today! It's weird to see the forum always completely empty, and that there are only about two dozen Pompeiians around in the whole town!

Even when the game came out in 2000, its design looked dated. The Atlantis series, also published by Cryo, which started in 1997, had synchronized lip movement, and used animated transitional cutscenes between locations. In Pompeii, characters don't move their lips and don't appear in close-ups when they speak, which can be very confusing. Sometimes, they don't even face each other when they talk! The characters often resemble elongated plasticine puppets, like Modigliani on a very bad day, with awkward movements and gestures. Also, you jump straight ahead to another location on a mouse click, a bit like in Myst and Riven, and often end up facing a wall, which won't help your sense of direction.

And then there is the gameplay ... rolleyes

Puzzles often seem random and have little bearing on the social and political implications of the storyline. For instance, the first timed riddle (which can even kill you and end the game instantly!) involves putting together a strange contraption where simply luring the mule with the bait would have done. So, save the game often by entering sequential names or the like on the save screen, because you can get arrested, wounded, or killed at the drop of a hat.

While leading man Adrian appears to be a very shrewd character with strong bartering and negotiating talents, a lot of his actions seem very arbitrary, sometimes even ridiculous. The problem already starts with the preface in the various languages on the DVD sleeve: Adrian is either a Scottish cartographer or a geologist, does not sound Scottish but American in the English version, and his love Sophia is either his wife or his fiancée! And I know that the game is supposed to be part of a trilogy, but in the sketchy introductory scene, you learn that he was put under a spell in a cave in Armenia by the Assyrian goddess Ishtar and then magically transported to Pompeii! Wouldn't it have made 100% more sense if he was an archaeologist already working in Pompeii, who became so obsessed with a statue or painting of a beautiful young woman, that he dreamed about finding out her true identity?

In the course of the game, after all this silly business with a stubborn mule, I got really annoyed when I found myself suddenly randomly throwing javelins, and playing several games of tali (knucklebones), a chance game
Click to reveal..
you can hardly influence, and where what little control you have is totally inconsequential
!

Finally, there is one general quibble I have with the limited view you get of Pompeii. You basically have one main street to roam, the Via Dell'Abbondanza, which allows you to visit only two private houses. This means you cannot visit some of the most beautiful residences of the city, with their famous murals and mosaics, such as the House of the Faun, the House of the Vettii, the House of the Tragic Poet (so no "Cave Canem") and the Villa of the Mysteries. I know a broader view would complicate hunting for clues, but the creators could at least have given them a well-defined role, and included them in the visit mode. You can't even get a closer look at the Vesuvius!

If you want more and better 3D reconstructions of Pompeii, I would advise to get the Italian Capware DVD Viaggio a Pompeii (Journey to Pompeii), though this is not interactive, and unfortunately, of limited availability, mainly at museum shops.

P.S. I played this Windows 95/98 game, without any glitches or compatibility adjustments, on Windows XP Home Edition, in the game's 24-bit, fullscreen mode.

Rich




Edited by RichAlexis (07/17/13 04:48 PM)

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#901842 - 07/17/13 05:51 PM Re: Timescape: Journey to Pompeii/Pompeii: The Legend of Vesuvius [Re: RichAlexis]
Marian Online   content
Global Moderator
Sonic Boomer

Registered: 07/04/00
Posts: 31344
Loc: near Yosemite in California
Thank you for that really informative review, Rich. It was a good read. wave

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#902285 - 07/19/13 12:31 PM Re: Timescape: Journey to Pompeii/Pompeii: The Legend of Vesuvius [Re: Marian]
RichAlexis Offline
Settled Boomer

Registered: 06/21/13
Posts: 190
Loc: The Netherlands
To get an idea:

YouTube playlist of Pompeii gameplay videos:

Spanish version of Timescape: Journey to Pompeii game

Rich

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#902332 - 07/19/13 02:32 PM Re: Timescape: Journey to Pompeii/Pompeii: The Legend of Vesuvius [Re: RichAlexis]
looney4labs Offline
Moderator
Sonic Boomer

Registered: 04/05/04
Posts: 47099
Loc: Alabama
Thanks Rich wave
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"Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole."
-Roger Caras

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#933859 - 01/06/14 08:25 AM Re: Timescape: Journey to Pompeii/Pompeii: The Legend of Vesuvius [Re: RichAlexis]
Orfyn Offline
Shy Boomer

Registered: 11/22/13
Posts: 40
Loc: Maryland, USA
This is a favorite old game of mine. I agree with much of what RichAlexis says. However, the historical detail is amazing. I have been to Pompeii and have read most of the literature. Just Goolge Image Pompeii and you will see how faithfully the reconstruction of the city was done.
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Unhappy thoughts are easy, they get into negative feedback cycles. Happy thoughts take effort.

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#934495 - 01/10/14 09:31 AM Re: Timescape: Journey to Pompeii/Pompeii: The Legend of Vesuvius [Re: Orfyn]
Mad Offline
Sonic Boomer

Registered: 11/21/00
Posts: 27315
Loc: United Kingdom
"A game with good educational potential, but subpar gameplay and character design."

That's how I felt about it, too !! smile
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Time : The Most Precious Commodity

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#959916 - 06/01/14 06:57 PM Re: Timescape: Journey to Pompeii/Pompeii: The Legend of Vesuvius [Re: Orfyn]
RichAlexis Offline
Settled Boomer

Registered: 06/21/13
Posts: 190
Loc: The Netherlands
It's very cool you visited the actual site of Pompeii, Orfyn! Must have been impressive! I just wish I had.

So you can confirm how detailed the reconstruction is. I still like using the Visit Mode now and then, just to wander around the baths and the houses, gaze at the frescoes on the walls and take in the scenery. My only complaint was that the view was limited. I just wish I could walk towards Vesuvius to get a full view, and visit the other famous houses.

It's a shame the Italian Capware company I mentioned appears to have stopped its supply of consumer products altogether. Especially now that mass tourism and, alas, pollution, lack of investment and vandalism are damaging historical sites, I think there is a huge market for detailed digital reconstructions for educational and entertainment purposes. For instance, just think of the House of the Gladiators in Pompeii that collapsed 4 years ago! It looks like they now concentrate on large on-site simulations and exhibitions, but I reckon it would be a good idea to have a retail outlet as well.

This looks extremely promising, though, so I hope they'll follow through:

House of the Gladiators Reconstruction video

Rich

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#961786 - 06/11/14 07:07 AM Re: Timescape: Journey to Pompeii/Pompeii: The Legend of Vesuvius [Re: RichAlexis]
ipad_Lover Offline
Settled Boomer

Registered: 01/26/14
Posts: 142

I played this game way back in the day. The review brings back memories.
_________________________
I love playing adventure games like Gemini Rue on my ipad mini and Gray Matter on my PC Netbook.


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#1108905 - 04/29/17 05:53 PM Re: Timescape: Journey to Pompeii/Pompeii: The Legend of Vesuvius [Re: RichAlexis]
RichAlexis Offline
Settled Boomer

Registered: 06/21/13
Posts: 190
Loc: The Netherlands
I recently gave my old Pompeii game a rather surprising new lease of life!

Making use of its interactive Visit Mode, city map and encyclopedia, I made screen recordings of a number of visits for a friend of mine, who is a Classical teacher.

He had noticed me explaining the game's functionality, and I must say his students and colleagues were really impressed, even though the graphics are of course somewhat old school.

There are of course companies like Capware, Altair4, Archeolibri and Radical VR which specialize in often graphically superior virtual city reconstructions, but they provide mostly pre-rendered movies, or software confined to specific VR headsets or navigation tools, and these game visit modes give you the unique opportunity to explore exactly what you want, at your own pace, and insert map views, pictures and descriptions as you please - in this case made to order, as it wouldn't do to have students play these games themselves and record them, given all the various (outmoded) hardware and software requirements.

The same would apply to similar games like Versailles, China, Aztec, Jerusalem, and the Egypt series, or even related edutainment titles like Echo (The Lascaux Cavern), Rome: Caesar's Will, and various historical city-building and strategy games, like Grand Ages: Rome.

Rich

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#1108908 - 04/29/17 06:17 PM Re: Timescape: Journey to Pompeii/Pompeii: The Legend of Vesuvius [Re: RichAlexis]
Marian Online   content
Global Moderator
Sonic Boomer

Registered: 07/04/00
Posts: 31344
Loc: near Yosemite in California
That is really neat, Rich! I enjoyed reading your post. thumbsup

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#1108945 - 04/30/17 08:02 AM Re: Timescape: Journey to Pompeii/Pompeii: The Legend of Vesuvius [Re: Marian]
RichAlexis Offline
Settled Boomer

Registered: 06/21/13
Posts: 190
Loc: The Netherlands
Hi Marian!

Thank you for your comment! A few months ago, I went to a lecture by a professor who's one of the leading authorities on archeology at Pompeii, and I immediately noticed he used a screenshot from the Timescape game!

It showed the wall around the arena at the amphitheatre decorated with beautiful frescoes, which got lost immediately after excavation due to frost damage, but were preserved in watercolour thanks to an observant artist.

Other reconstructions I have seen fail to include them, showing blank panels instead.

It clearly shows how seriously they took their research!

Best,

Rich

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#1108978 - 04/30/17 12:14 PM Re: Timescape: Journey to Pompeii/Pompeii: The Legend of Vesuvius [Re: RichAlexis]
oldbroad Offline
Addicted Boomer

Registered: 04/01/06
Posts: 3033
Loc: Chicago
I was never big on history when I was in school but I've played some of the games you mentioned above and really enjoyed them. I wish I could replay Timescape.

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#1109141 - 05/01/17 02:38 PM Re: Timescape: Journey to Pompeii/Pompeii: The Legend of Vesuvius [Re: oldbroad]
RichAlexis Offline
Settled Boomer

Registered: 06/21/13
Posts: 190
Loc: The Netherlands
Originally Posted By: oldbroad
I was never big on history when I was in school but I've played some of the games you mentioned above and really enjoyed them. I wish I could replay Timescape.
Well, I guess I'm a history and art buff and a stickler for details, so I got a lot out of these games, even more than I admitted at first, because in retrospect I think I rated them too low.

I mean, without insulting anyone, there are so many so-called adventure games around now with casual puzzles or random hidden objects thrown in, which hardly make any sense at all, like "Yes, the pharaoh is eager to meet you, but first you have to throw four balls at the right holes in the door" or "I'm so glad you found me! I have the map with directions, but oh no, my six cats have run away, and one of them has taken the map! Find them for me!"

So now I appreciate all the effort that went into researching, designing, storyboarding, voicing (and often localizing!) those games even more than I did a few years ago. I needn't always be edutainment, but at least give me some logic, relevance or food for thought!

Best,

Rich

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