The Hungarian city of Eger is a place rich in cultural allure. The town also happens to be the setting for the most popular novel in Hungary – The Stars of Eger, written by Géza Gárdonyi. The novel is based on the true story of how local citizens beat back an attack on their fair city by the Ottomans in the 16th Century.

Private Moon Studios (creators of AGON: The Mysterious Codex) have created an unusual mystery game that uses the city, its history, the novel and its author as significant “players” in a new adventure, Yoomurjak’s Ring.


Two Letters and a Journey Home

The game begins with a long cinematic sequence in which you meet journalist Jonathan Hunt, great-grandson of Professor Samuel Hunt (of AGON fame). The Hunt family has immigrated to America, and Jonathan’s mother, a native of Hungary, has recently died. Her death is one factor driving Jonathan on a pilgrimage back to her hometown.

Jonathan has an original copy of The Stars of Eger, in which he discovers two long-forgotten letters from a scientist named Pál Ábray to Professor Samuel Hunt. These letters discuss the practicality of traveling through time.

Jonathan goes looking for a descendant of Pál Ábray, mostly out of curiosity. Instead, he finds himself in conversation with the grandson of Abray’s assistant, Zsigmond Jámbor, who was the inspiration for the character of Yoomurjak in The Stars of Eger. Zsigmond disappeared decades before while attempting to operate a device that may very well have been a time machine. Jonathan starts out deeply skeptical about this – though events in the game indicate that his attitude toward time travel is likely to change.

I’ve been playing a preview version of Yoomurjak’s Ring for a few hours now, and I’ve been agreeably beguiled by it.


On the Street Where He Lived

Yoomurjak’s Ring is that 21st century rarity – an adventure game using full motion video (FMV).

The game environments are made up of photographs blended together to form 360 degree vistas. Playing from a first person perspective, you click the mouse to travel between nodes, and then pan to look around.

The FMV sequences come into play when interacting with the characters or when traveling to certain locations. These video segments are somewhat grainy. But on the whole, the game’s resolution is sharp enough to create believable spaces full of light and color. The environments evoke the sense of actually walking through the streets of Eger, indulging in casual meetings with random local characters.

This game will appeal to gamers who like to explore – I spent hours contentedly strolling, observing the quaint outdoor cafes and shops, and entering some of the grand buildings. The library is of particular note – it resembles a cathedral with an elaborate trompe l’oeil ceiling framed by handsome wood-carved bookcases.

A map allows you to zip directly to various locations, but you’ll want to walk the streets a few times to drink in the atmosphere and to make note of certain hotspots that will be useful later. Music in the game is pleasant and varied, and includes some energetic walking music as well as hauntingly ethereal music when you enter the church.


An American in Eger

Most of the acting in Yoomurjak’s Ring is polished – the actor playing Jonathan combines an American air of confidence with gallant old-world courtesy. Juli, the lively clerk at the Information Bureau, tries to be helpful without being too obvious about her personal interest in this appealing stranger.

In the preview version, the game is voiced in Hungarian with English subtitles. Having enjoyed many foreign films with English subtitles, I thought this added authenticity. However, for its international release, Private Moon Studios plans to use English-speaking voice actors.

Challenges so far include locating and using inventory items and deciphering a code. The story is complex; much of it is presented through letters and conversations. The key parts of conversations are recorded in the “Notes” section of the in-game menu – a very helpful feature.

Also useful are the translucent frames that appear above texts that are handwritten – these contain an easily-to-read print version of the documents. Work still needs to be done translating some of the signs in the game, but I’m sure this will be forthcoming.


Minor Quibbles

Occasionally it can be hard to locate the directional arrows if you haven’t paused at the right moment while panning, or if the mouse is too high or too low on the screen. Also, if you are examining the environments carefully (which you should as a part of gameplay) you will notice an occasional small splash of purple -- I’m assuming this is a lens flare phenomenon. (Of course it could also be a clue.)


An Innocent Abroad in Time?

Yoomurjak’s Ring draws in the gamer with its graceful surroundings and its oddly compelling mystery. Carved writings appear on ancient buildings, written by an unknown hand. Other framed stone surfaces appear to have been defaced. Could these things be messages from a traveler caught hundreds of years in the past, trying anxiously to communicate with someone – anyone -- who might have the knowledge and wit to understand?


Want to learn more about Yoomurjak's Ring? Check out the full review by gremlin.


Edited by Becky (02/18/12 09:55 AM)