Murder in the Abbey

 

 

 

Genre:   Adventure

Developer:    Alcachofa Soft

Publisher:    The Adventure Company

Released:  August 2008

PC Requirements:   Microsoft Windows XP/Vista, 1 Ghz Intel Pentium or AMD Athlon processor, 256 MB RAM,4X DVDROM, 64 MB DirectX-compatible graphic card, Dirext X 9.0c, Direct Sound Compatible Soundcard

Walkthrough

 

 

 

by flotsam

 

Known simply as The Abbey in Europe, and still identified as such on the opening screens and the credits, Murder in the Abbey is an animated reminder of games from times past that also owes a very obvious debt to The Name of the Rose.

When asked what inspired him to write The Name of the Rose, author Umberto Eco once said something along the lines of: ďI felt like killing a monkĒ. Someone else clearly felt like killing one too. And why stop at one? Having one brother crushed by a large metal censer may simply be careless, but losing another one to a well aimed shovel is, wellÖmurder.

And in an abbey at that. The abbey Nuestra Senora de la Natividad, to be specific.

Not even the presence of the erudite brother Leonardo of Toledo and his less erudite acolyte Bruno puts a stop to the deeds most horrid. Leonardo has travelled to deliver Bruno to the arms of the brothers, but finds an abbot with a death to be solved and an abbey full of talk of devils and the supernatural. It is Leonardo whom you pilot through the game.

Anyone familiar with The Name of the Rose will see similarities, including that the story is a definite strong point. Itís well written, full of intrigue, and dotted throughout with a little wit and a little wisdom. It is well delivered by an engaging cast of monks, each with a distinct personality -- some more eccentric than others. There is a rush of exposition at the end, but it is not too out of step with the style of novel it is emulating, and it is introduced with a nice dig at what is to come.

Murder in the Abbey is also, across-the-board, one of the better voiced games I have played for quite a while. Bruno was overdone, and one or two others a bit strained, but it really is a topnotch cast.

It does get very wordy, and it is often more of an animated interactive story than a game. The limited number of out-and-out puzzles adds to that feel, and those that exist are not terribly difficult. Most of the conundrums in the game are inventory based Ė find and use the right items in the correct way. Like many such games, some are a touch obtuse and one at least is completely illogical in its construction. But there are a lot of them, and patience and an awareness of the goings-on will get you through the bulk of them, albeit with some experimentation.

Looking

There is plenty to examine, lots of conversations to be had. Left clicking will usually bring a comment on whatever it is you are examining, right clicking will usually cause you to look closer. Things you can look at have hotspots, and nothing else does. No action cursers, nothing to differentiate something else to do. Perhaps you will pick something up, or perhaps you wonít. Maybe you can interact with the item by using another item, and maybe you canít. So think about your objectives (which may be helped by consulting Leonardoís diary in the inventory), and try to think laterally.

The conversation trees can be quite lengthy, the resulting dialogue even longer. Much of it simply fills in details and helps bring life to the story, but key conversations will trigger progression of the events. You may learn something that will open a new line of questioning, or the trigger may be less obvious. I am sure there were conversations I had where I was simply unaware anything significant had happened.

You will have to revisit many locations, and talk again and again to many characters. There were certainly times when I thought this was a bit aimless. I wandered around hoping to find something different in a scene or with a character without really having any idea of what the difference was that I was looking for. I confess that I tend to resort to walkthroughs more in these types of games than I do in more puzzle-oriented games - the story is the thing and I want to keep it moving. But whilst I did need a nudge here and there to get past a few lengthy meanderings, the writing and characterisation present here encouraged me to persist where I otherwise might not have.

At times the dialogue is a little clunky, and once there was a conversation loop where the same thing was said all over again (no, I didnít ask the same question twice). But it pretty much flows very nicely. Some conversation options disappear when you have used them; at other times they remain even though there seems to be nothing new to be said. This may confuse some players, but was not really a significant issue. Whilst there are sometimes different options with respect to answers to questions, there are no wrong answers.

A small point is that Leonardo speaks the line that you choose for him from the dialogue trees. I much prefer that to games where the line is not spoken, but simply read by you.

Searching

Some hotspots are somewhat tiny, and some occur even when you canít see the item itself (a lock and a motif come to mind). Items will also not be present in some locations until later in the game, even if you have already searched their eventual location. So revisiting is, again, the name of the game. This is assisted by a map, which you can use to jump to any location (but not at night). The map is a particularly useful feature, given that Leonardo likes to stroll calmly everywhere he goes. A double click on an exit will load the next screen, but traversing a self-contained screen (the main screen of the church for instance) can take Leonardo a fair bit of time. No doubt it isnít easy to run in the raiment of a monk.

The orchestral soundtrack is very good, jaunty at times and full of foreboding at others. Sound effects are limited to the actions going on; the music takes the place of ambient sounds. (Or there were so few I simply didnít notice.) Most of the effects are realistic enough, although watering the garden was a complete dud.

Murder in the Abbey is also well drawn and animated. The colour palette of its cartoon presentation is washed out and muted, which suits the generally drab nature of the abbey and the sombre goings-on. There are flashes of vibrancy, however, which heighten the effect when it is used. Inquisitor Nazario and the treasure trove are cases in point. Cutscenes can be somewhat blotchy when motion is involved, but many have a cinematic quality about them.

As the story is the thing, I will say no more about it, other than to say that many adventure game players put a lot of stock in the story. If you are one of them, you will probably find that this one offers you a fair bit of what you enjoy.

That said, there were times when I did want a bit more ďplayĒ. You canít save during conversations or cutscenes, and there was one period where I waited for what seemed like about ten minutes to be able to do anything more than click a conversation option to propel the game forward. At other times, it was like turning digital pages in an online comic book - I wanted to do more. Hence my description of an interactive story, albeit a good one.

Fiddling

You can tweak a fair few settings, including adjusting the voice, music and effects volume, an option I like having available. Subtitles can be on or off, and the inventory can sit in a sidebar to the game screen, or will appear as a pop-up when you move the curser to the top of the screen. The save screen comes up via the escape key, and you simply double click a space to save a picture of your current location. No questions to answer about whether you are sure and no having to name the save. Simplicity itself. Double click to load a game.

The game comes on three CDs, but once loaded there is no disc-swapping. I did have a minor palpitation when I first started the game. For 30 seconds everything froze on the desktop and I thought I was in for some trouble. But it started fine, and ran without trouble and took that long to load each and every time I started. So donít panic if that happens to you Ė just be more patient than I was!

Another small point (or a big one depending upon your predilections). There is one slider puzzle.

All in all, I had fun with the murderous monks in their mountain abbey. Murder in the Abbey is a little linear (a lot really, but you can pretty much wander around to your heartís content from the get-go), a bit un-game like, and not terribly puzzling, but its strengths lift it up and make it worth the investment. It is a respectable length, suitable for all ages, and will especially suit less experienced players. If Leonardo really does go back to the Court of the Emperor, I will likely go with him.

B

September 2008

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