Cydonia (aka Lightbringer)
Released a couple of years ago, Cydonia (aka Lightbringer) is about the first manned space mission to Mars.
Unfortunately I do not have the game now and cannot quite recall the minimum system requirements, though I think they are relatively standard (166, P2-3, good video and sound cards, DirectX6 compatible etc.)
You play one of a three-person crew on the first manned mission to Mars. Unfortunately, as you are making your descent to the planet surface you pass through a previously undetected force field. This causes your ship to malfunction and crash land on the planet's surface.
The game starts with you still strapped in to your seat in the ship's cockpit. You seem to have survived the crash-landing unscathed, unfortunately the same cannot be said of your colleagues, both of whom are injured and incapacitated. You're on your own! The general objective of the game is to shut down the force field and escape to the Mother-ship in the emergency escape pod, after having first stabilised the stricken vessel.
This entails you having to go out on to the surface and explore the terrain to discover the force field's source and to shut it down. Surface exploration is achieved via the ship's hovercraft and on foot when you reach certain "hub' locations on the surface.
You soon discover evidence of an extinct ancient, but highly evolved civilisation. As you progress through the game you develop an understanding of the civilisation, the universe and humankind's place in the great scheme of things. This serves as a side plot and you then have to take this knowledge back to Earth to save humanity from destruction through global war, environmental disaster etc.
As with games of this nature your progression is determined by solving a variety of puzzles. These range from simple to difficult and are a decent mixture of inventory management, logical, spatial, mechanical and so on. Much of the puzzling is based on alien symbolism, machinery and language which is always fertile ground for good puzzles and they do not disappoint.
Maybe there could have been a few more puzzles packed in, but on the whole what was offered was sufficient to keep the interest and playability up. I did not like some of the puzzles and on occasion was presented with something with no clues nor forewarning and which was, I felt, illogical and out of place.
The graphics are excellent and there is full 360deg panning. There is also up and down movement. The transitions and cut scenes are smooth and slick and initially impressive, however, you soon tire of them as they accompany practically every move. Fortunately there is a skip feature, which is simply to press the LMB.
Perhaps the most irritating aspect of the game is the frequent disc swapping as you pass from one 'hub' location to another. This is made worse as you have to revisit "hubs' regularly. This is particularly true of the game's ending where you seem to spend more time swapping CD's than on actual gameplay.
A vital part of the game is your portable information centre which contains an information database, decryption facility, photographic imagery, mission notes and recorded dialogue etc. and these all play an invaluable role.
A word of warning here! I could not finish the game. I believe I successfully completed the final puzzle but was never able to shut down the force field so never saw the end-scene. My version of the solution differed very slightly from GB's excellent WT, however, this did not work for me either. Neither did several logical variations. Weighing up my desire to witness the end-scene versus the frequent CD swapping involved in the final puzzle I adjudged myself to have finished the game without the end scene and I laid the game to rest.
On the whole I enjoyed the game, it was a pleasant exploration and voyage of discovery through Mars (and another world – play the game to find out what this is all about!). Puzzles were generally OK, the graphics are excellent and the story kept up the interest level and playability. This is not a classic game, but certainly well worth a spin.
BE AWARE, save often, as you can snuff it!! I discovered this, much to my annoyance, after a long session without saving.
The main grumble is the frequent CD swapping and the continual “to'ing” and “fro'ing” between the "hub' locations. This is compounded by the fact that the surface of Mars is relatively featureless and you can very easily lose your bearings and end up in the wrong location on more than one occasion.
My advice is to give it a whirl, especially if you can pick it up discounted or through a trade, it will wile away a few days and I don't think you will be disappointed.
One feature to note is that there is a slight glitch in the game, but there is a patch available which can be accessed from GB's WT.