There has been discussions about this game here and other places that suggest there are things about it people do not like. As there is only one review I have seen which is quite good, Mata Hari seemed a good choice for a review here. The one review I referred to can be found at Adventure Gamers by Andrea Morstabilini and I find little to disagree in her fine description. I read the review a few minutes prior to starting the game which led me to wonder if it was worth the time. Andrea mentioned mini games which for me is an instant turn off. I hate mini games. More about that further down.Mechanics
This is a straight point and click third person adventure game. The graphics are quite good with detailed backgrounds of several different city scenes. Each attempt the flavor of the profiled city and the developers did a credible job. Not that I have ever been to any of the locations but they looked good which is good enough for me. Music is of reasonably good quality never interfering with vocals or becoming intrusive. I experienced no glitches or crashes using xp pro. Voice acting was good quality with no character seeming to be annoying. Mata's voice is quite good which is welcome as she is the only character you play. This is fine with me as many games have jumped on the multiple character play bandwagon. Since Mata is the only character you really care about in the game this choice is reasonable. Besides you want a strong heroine you don't need one where you must play another to get her out of trouble. There has been some discussion about the subtitles. They are there but you have to activate them because by default they are not selected. You find the control panel bottom right of the screen next to your inventory. There is a cluster of three icons (In game, Load and save, Diary) The in game option is where you find settings, select options then choose Game. You will notice two of four boxes are not checked. "Show Dialog Bubbles" is the subtitles and you will likely want to check "Show mini game panic button." Though mini games are not as bad as you think. Saves are unlimited and when you click on "new entry" a box pops up you will want to backspace through the words erasing "new entry" in the box and put your own title in. Every save titled new entry could get confusing. It would have been better to provide an empty box. On your hard drive saves are found under My Documents/Matahari/saves. Mata will not run she only walks but double clicking on an exit point will sometimes produce instant access to the new scene. I say sometimes because you must do a rapid click on the exit dialog printed on your screen or she will simply walk to the exit. The inventory is at the bottom of your screen, hidden until you mouse over.[b]Game play/Story
The inventory is a bit different but nothing to cause difficulty. It will contain solid objects you pick up,dialog items and ideas. Mata sometimes request her agent to set up a performance. He will tell her she needs to present a new idea for a dance first. She then must go out and gaze upon something that provides her with an idea. As a result a light bulb icon lands in your inventory and you use it on the agent. People offer her pieces of conversation which she clicks on other people to advance her goal. Nothing complicated and it takes but a minute to get used to. There are also bits of information hidden about that Mata either touches or observes providing points. They are not needed to complete the game but your point total determines the ending of the game. Some also help you avoid mini games without penalty. They are worth gathering, here is an example,
talk to a spy in a train station and they give you a tip to take the express. This allows you to avoid the train ride mini game. The tip is shown in your inventory as a express ticket when the ticket agent asks where you wish to go click the express icon on the agent. No tip and you take the local which is a mini game.
These mini games are not like the ones found in other games produced lately. All the traditional adventure game puzzles are called mini games. Several times Mata is required to do a dance which most often has little to do with the story. These dances are in fact annoying mini games. They do not appear to advance the story while the dance itself is rather simplistic adding nothing to the game. But the red button in the closeup screen allows you to skip the mini game. You will likely enjoy doing most of the mini games because all the puzzle content the game offers is considered mini games not puzzles. Skip the dancing as that adds nothing. You will be required to perform the usual put the cheese in your inventory into a box to attract the rats kind of things. For the most part it is pretty straight forward lacking scratch your head moments, primarily it is a fairly easy game.
Mata Hari has an interesting story which is told in four chapters the first being a test to see if you don't explode from tedium. Stay with it because once past the initial slow start the story proves worth your patience. Yes you will have to ride the train a lot and face that mini game if you don't talk to the spies when you can. The train,
after buying your ticket you instantly see a grid with train stops between places. You must click on a space to advance keeping away from the bad guy. If he catches you then you start over, no save part way through. Caught five times and you automatically advance. Hit the red button you advance. However, the fewer tries the more points.
You do want Mata to survive don't you? Most of the time the train game is easy and fun in the beginning. After many runs it gets old. As for the telephone complaint well you only do it twice. No, the game does not give you a logical reason for the impediment. If it did then we could give them a pass, however, this is simply a stupid move on the developers part. The characters are well rendered and when Mata stands in front of something your cursor sees through her and you can still pick the item up, neat huh? If you press your space bar all the hot spots show up on your screen and they remain until you hit the space bar to close, another neat feature. You will not see the hidden extra point items using the space bar feature. You must highlight them with your cursor. Yes you want to find them because your point total determines what happens to Mata (you) in the end. You don't know what your score is until the game ends so you are running blind in regards to how you are doing. Will Mata survive or not? Depends on your points.
Final verdict, it is a decent game with good story and short dialog spurts, nothing overwrought with conversation. No conversation trees, you use inventory icons to converse. Most conversations use three or less icons resulting in short replies. There are four seduce methods available as part of your conversation options with various people. They are simply styles of flirting type approaches to use to get information. Your choice of approach depends upon the character you are speaking to. There is nothing off color in the choices it is just another unique approach adding an interesting touch. No timed puzzles, action sequences with one mini maze type sequence. Playing with walk through perhaps taking between ten to twelve hours with easy puzzles. The game is fairly average length compared to recent games, but short by classic standards. Definitely a story based game which should satisfy most gamers who like this style. Myst fans, you won't like it. I can recommend it because of its unique story and slightly novel approach. The negatives are there but they are minor. You should get a different result in additional plays if your score is much different. I only saw the one ending from my single play though but I am happy to report Mata reached old age. I cannot say how much the endings vary or how many versions apply. All in all I would give it a B+