Cassandra Galleries (by Kutoka Interactive, Inc./Corel, 1996)
System Requirements: Win95 - Pentium P60, 8 MB of RAM, 2 x CD-ROM drive, 8-bit audio capabilities, 640x480, 256-color graphics display. Win 3.1x - 486-66, 8 MB of RAM, 2 x CD-ROM drive, 8-bit audio capabilities, 640x480, 256-color graphics display. Macintosh - 68040 or PowerPC, System 7.1, 8 MB of RAM, 2 x CD-ROM drive, standard Macintosh® audio, 640x480, 256-color graphics display.
Installation: Flawless. Took about 2 minutes and was the easiest, quickest game installation I’ve so far been witness to. The game ran beautifully also. Graphics and sound for the most part were crisp and clear – the only exception being the voice overs in a few of the puzzles which sounded a bit fuzzy, but that can also be attributed to my speakers and aging ears.
The game came on 2 disks. You always have to start with CD1, but there are no lengthy introductions or cutscenes to skip through in order to get to CD2, and there is no annoying cd swapping. CD 1 covers the first part of the game, then you switch over to CD 2 for the finish.
The Game Menu: Functional: You can save, load, quit, adjust volume, view the credits and “The Scoop.” “The Scoop” is one screen showing a brief newspaper article on the disappearance of William Cassandra and his daughter which gives you a brief overview of the game story. There is also a convenient map which is a lifesaver cause it’s very easy to get lose your bearings in this maze like building. The saves are limitless. You can save and go instantly back to the game or save and quit. Loading a save is just as instantaneous. I was really impressed with how smoothly this game ran.
The Story: You have been invited to the home/art gallery of William Cassandra who has recently, mysteriously disappeared along with his daughter, Maya. You are greeted in the large lobby/foyer by Cassandra’s personal secretary at the start of the game. He’s glad that you’ve come, and, apparently, you are there to investigate their disappearance by examining the art collection, the Cassandra’s private residential space (kitchen, bedrooms, studios, etc.) and their personal effects. The secretary tells you a little bit about the Cassandras and the history of the art collection, and then sends you on your way to explore and find out what you can.
It is never really clear who you are or how/why you came to be there. This is a first person point of view “adventure,” and you are left to wander around and explore the game world by yourself in the tradition of Myst, Morpheus, Amber, etc. Although throughout the course of the game you will run into other “guests” who will introduce themselves, tell you something about their relationship with the Cassandras and maybe share their insights into the disappearance, you will not be able to interact with these folks, and your moments with them are brief.
The story, what little there was of it, was somewhat interesting and it could have been/should have been developed more, particularly at the end. The last puzzle especially had potential for the spectacular in terms of story. The graphics and atmosphere in that puzzle were outstanding, and I really expected something exciting to happen, for the story peak and draw to a satisfying close there. But the story didn’t end there.
I can see how some people may be let down or disappointed at the ending, which seemed a bit abrupt, brief and weak but frankly I was just puzzled. I sat there staring at the screen, thinking, “What? Did I miss something?” I eventually “got” it, but it was a bit too cliché. They could have done better.
Gameplay: Ye good ole point and click. The graphics presentation is done in slide show, and movement is restricted to certain paths. Again, much like Myst or Amber. I didn’t find these predetermined paths as annoying or cumbersome as I did in games like in Loch Ness or Faust. Occasionally it was tricky angling myself in a certain direction to examine something more closely or to get to a certain area of a room. Movement was very smooth, and I didn’t see any “seams” in the slide show.
There’s a lot to look at, but there’s very little you can “click” on and examine more closely. There is no inventory, with the exception of 7 urns that you can pick up one at a time and carry with you. Placing each urn in a specific spot in each gallery will transport you to a different world, the world of that particular gallery, and that’s where all the puzzles are. The majority of the clues for the puzzles are to be found in the “real” world galleries and in the family’s personal space.
Gamelength: I played about 2 hours a night over a period of 5 days. I’m not the best puzzler so more experienced puzzlers may get through the game in a shorter amount of time. I thought the length was just right, although I enjoyed the puzzles so much I didn’t want the game to ever end.
Graphics/Sound: With the exception of the secretary and the other guests, who are played by real actors in Quicktime video clips (like Atrus in Myst and the ghosts in Morpheus), the graphics are hand-drawn, almost photo-realistic in their detail, similar to the graphics in the later Nancy Drew games and in Amber. Statues, paintings, draperies, wallpaper, bathtubs, the kitchen stove, the dining room table, a piano, artifacts, posters, stained glass windows, a suit of armor, etc. all look “real” in terms of color, texture and appearance of dimension. It was a pleasure just to walk around and take in the sights. The Quicktime clips were “pasted” onto the drawn environment, and in some spots – such as a woman sitting on a drawn couch or piano bench and crossing her legs – was thoroughly convincing. The acting was professional and could have been sensational if the actors had been given a better script. They definitely rose above the material.
Each of the 7 galleries has its own unique atmosphere, architectural design and sense of time. This was done so well it bordered on the educational, Architectural Design 101.
The background music was an interesting mesh of new age, subliminal and elevator. Two pieces were particularly enjoyable: the background in the gallery foyer and in the Nostalgic period which had a infectious guitar twang. That piece reminded me very much of the music during the bees garden episode in Amber.
The Puzzles: This is where the game excelled. These puzzles are truly the most entertaining and enjoyable puzzles I’ve yet come across in a game. They are also brilliantly drawn and animated, particularly the Punch and Judy puppet show, the playing violin the Victorian world, the TV sets and comedian dolls in the Nostalgic world, the Queen chess piece in the Medieval world and the talking myth statue in the Ancient world - I could go on and on naming just about ever puzzle in the game! There were several animations just thrown in for fun – a wing-flapping bird (Medieval) and a beautiful blue fish swimming around in a pond (Ancient). You also have the opportunity to play King Arthur (Medieval) and pull a sword out of a stone. Admittedly, a great deal of the time I felt like I was taking a pop quiz or was a contestant on a game show (which is actually a puzzle in the game!) and there was this horrible geography puzzle (I spent hours printing and studying world maps off the internet in order to get through this one), but for the most part I had a really good time with these puzzles and was thoroughly entertained.
There’s about 8 or 9 puzzles in each world, and times that by 7, and you get a lot of puzzles in one game. The puzzles are varied and plentiful, including question and answer puzzles, identifying sounds, composers, patterns, mythological figures, television personalities and comedians, excerpts from classic literature, arranging shapes, astrological symbols (both Western and Chinese), elements and number sequences. I had the hardest time with the mathematical and geographical puzzles, but as difficult as they were for me, I was never really overly frustrated or stuck for too long.
In conclusion, I very much enjoyed Cassandra Galleries and would recommend it for its puzzles. They were original and refreshing and a welcome change of pace from the game I am currently stuck in now (Hitchcock). Or rather was stuck in. I think playing Cassandra revitalized me, and I was finally able to get through that Hitch roof sequence! Although this game is difficult to find nowadays (mine was a loaner), if you come across it BAAG it immediately. HAPPY GAMING!
(this review is dedicated to Leigh-Anne. She knows why.