"The Cameron Files:
Pharaoh's Curse" is the second game in the Cameron Files series. The first
Cameron game was originally published in Europe by Wanadoo Edition as
"Loch Ness." A few months later Dreamcatcher Interactive Inc. published it
for the North American market under the title "The Cameron Files: Secret
at Loch Ness" in one of the ugliest game boxes I've ever seen. (Since that
time, Dreamcatcher has produced a more attractive game box for "Loch
Ness," though some stores may still be selling the ugly one.) As far as I
can tell, Dreamcatcher is still the only publisher for "Pharaoh's Curse."
"Pharaoh's Curse" continues the adventures of detective Alan Parker
Cameron. Moira McFarley, the daughter of Cameron's employer in the first
Cameron game, has been occupying herself by going on an archeological dig
in Egypt and assisting the curator of an Egyptian museum. She has asked
for Cameron's help with investigating suspicious goings-on at her place of
Unfortunately we don't see too much of Moira. Perhaps in future Cameron
games she will take on a more active role, similar to that of Grace in the
Gabriel Knight games or Nico in the Broken Sword games. Moira must be a
pretty adventurous and capable girl if she's going on an archeological dig
in a country far away from her native Scotland at a time when Nazi spies
are everywhere. But in "Pharaoh's Curse" she is pretty much a damsel in
distress who is totally dependent on the intrepid Alan P. Cameron to
rescue her from the clutches of evil. She had a better role in "Loch
Ness," when she appeared as a feisty young woman who at first wasn't sure
whether to trust Cameron or not. In "Pharaoh's Curse" she only appears
toward the end of the game and is apparently under some sort of spell
which makes her helpless to act.
"Pharaoh's Curse" is not a very difficult game. The interface is pretty
much the same as in "Loch Ness." Movement is accomplished with the mouse
and is node based, with 360° panning capability. A similar system of
navigation can be found in the two Dracula games and the three Atlantis
games which were also published by Dreamcatcher.
The inventory looks the same as in "Loch Ness" with one screen displaying
most of your inventory items. Clicking on an item will produce an enlarged
picture of it in the upper left corner of the screen. There is a wallet
you can click on to read things like letters, messages, and other
informative papers you find during the course of the game. There is also a
"diary" from which you can replay cut scenes by clicking on a photo of the
scene that's been pasted into the diary.
Clicking the Escape key during the game will bring up the save/load/exit
menu. The save/load screen contains 16 spaces for saves. When you go to
load a game, the saves will show up as small screenshots of what you were
looking at just before you saved the game. You aren't given the
opportunity to name your saves.
Since the game has some timed sequences which can surprise you and
precipitate your demise, it is best to make frequent use of the save slots
(unless you use a walkthrough).
MY OVERALL IMPRESSIONS
In the most-used-locations-in-games department, only Atlantis beats Egypt.
How many games have I bought where I had to go to Egypt? "Egypt 1156 B.C.:
Tomb of the Pharaoh," "Egypt 2: The Heliopolis Prophecy," "Timelapse,"
"Atlantis III: The New World," "Indiana Jones: Fate of Atlanits,"... I'm
sure there were more - or maybe it only seems like there were so many
more. "Loch Ness" had a much more interesting game environment - a
Scottish castle near a misty loch, an old brewery nearby, etc. I would
have hoped Cameron would be visiting somewhere more original than Egypt on
his second outing.
If anyone is hoping for an edutainment game, look elsewhere. Although
there is an Egyptian museum in the game, you don't have an opportunity to
see much in the way of Egyptian artifacts there. The nodes are very wide
apart. One step will take you halfway down a very long hall. And aside
from a few items that are used in the game, there is no opportunity to
examine the contents of the museum in close up. Even the artifacts you
take into inventory aren't really seen in any great detail. In fact, the
museum seemed so empty that I got the impression that it was new and they
still only had a few items to display.
There weren't a whole lot of things to interact with in the game. Nearly
everything you could look at or interact with seemed to have some purpose.
This lack of interactivity made the game easier than it would otherwise
have been. You couldn't pick up a lot of inventory that wouldn't be used.
And there wasn't much to do that wasn't necessary to do at some point.
On the other hand, the triggers could be a nuisance. Clicking on an object
could trigger the appearance of objects in areas you've already explored.
Having triggers like this doesn't really make the game more difficult so
much as more tedious. Anyone can re-explore an area screen by screen to
see if new inventory items have appeared. But it isn't fun and it isn't a
Like "Loch Ness," there were some timed sequences that could cause Cameron
to go belly up (sometimes way up). But once you knew what you had to do
(either from a walkthrough or from figuring it out yourself), it wasn't
physically too difficult to complete them within the allotted time. There
were a lot of timed sequences clustered near the end of the game. Two of
them were consecutive. But they still weren't too hard - nothing like the
notorious inn sequence in "Atlantis: The Lost Tales." And there were no
horrible timed mazes or mazelike areas like "Loch Ness" had. However there
is no autosave from just before the timed sequences. So the player who has
not saved recently may land squarely in manure city. If the developers of
the Cameron Files series insist on putting these timed sequences of doom
in their next Cameron game, I hope they don't neglect to add an autosave.
At one point in the game, you can find a hat and bullwhip which may look
familiar. If you've played a certain LucasArts game you may feel a wave of
One of my complaints about the game is that loose ends were not tied up.
For example, Cameron meets a strange woman who apparently can read minds
and speak telepathically. Perhaps she will appear in another Cameron game
and you will learn more about her. But in "Pharaoh's Curse," you never
find out who she really is or why she happens to be there at a propitious
time to give Cameron advice. You also never learn about what happens to
the people who were "cursed." Presumably they get better once Cameron
succeeds, but it might have been nice to see it.
None of the characters you meet in the game were really developed and you
only learn superficial facts about them. Consequently, they weren't as
interesting as they could have been. With neither a plot nor characters
that could intrigue me and without a gameworld that could set my
imagination on fire, I'm afraid I found myself rather bored.
I'll say this for "Pharaoh's Curse" - the developers seem to have listened
to one common gamer complaint. "Pharaoh's Curse" offers a full install to
the hard drive as well as a smaller install. But even if you choose the
smaller install, you can start the game from either CD1 or CD2. So you
never have to start the game from CD1 and immediately have to swap to CD2
once you've reached the second half of the game.
MUSIC AND BACKGROUND SOUNDS
The music is possibly the best thing about "Pharaoh's Curse." You could
even say it's movie quality. There isn't a whole lot of it and you hear it
mainly when you're loading and exiting the game. But it also appears
between scenes and when you walk into certain areas of the game it will
emphasize a sense of foreboding. If you enjoy the music and want to save
it, you may discover it on your hard drive if you've done the full
install. Explore the game folder and you'll discover that the larger wav
files are the music files.
There are a couple of places in the game where the music overwhelms the
voices you're trying to listen to. Since there are no subtitles, this is
pretty annoying. If you are REALLY interested in what was said and have
done the full install, you can browse the folder for that part of the game
and listen to all the wav files with WinAmp or your wav player of choice.
Eventually you will find the conversation that was overwhelmed by music
and can hear it without obfuscation.
The background sounds are mostly good quality. But there are some that
should have been on a longer loop. For example, in the hotel area you can
hear the background sounds repeat their loop every few seconds.
Why oh why did they have a fly buzzing around in the museum? Did they
think it would add ambiance? It was the most annoying thing having to
listen to that fly with its looped buzzing and no opportunity to swat it.
The voice of Cameron is one of the best I've heard in a game. He manages
to sound real and not like he's just reading lines. My opinion of the
voices of the other characters is mixed. I admit that my familiarity with
what an Egyptian accent sounds like consists only of what I've heard in
old movies. But some of the characters sound downright goofy.
The graphics in "Pharaoh's Curse" are OK. They look sharper in hardware
mode, but many people have had problems with running the game in hardware
mode. Some people aren't able to get the game going at all. Others (like
myself) experienced an extreme slowdown in areas near where there was (or
would be at some time) interaction with another character. These problems
don't appear in software mode.
One of these troublesome areas is the hotel desk, one of the first places
you go after starting the game. The cursor moved extremely slowly and
tended to hop past the place I wanted to put it. Since people with
entirely different video cards from mine have also experienced this
problem, it is obviously a problem with the game and not a particular
video card or driver build. Perhaps a patch will eventually be released,
but there is none as of the time I'm writing this review. And since
running the game in software mode eliminates this problem, the game's
developers may not feel the need to produce a patch.
The game's default is to run in hardware mode. To run it in software mode,
you have to run the game's configuration file outside the game. This isn't
difficult, but it may confuse those who are looking for an options screen
within the game. The configuration file can be accessed through the
shortcut the game's installation puts in the Windows menu. In Win 98:
The Cameron Files
Configure Pharaoh's Curse
Or you can browse to the "Pharaoh's Curse" folder and run Configure.exe
directly. In Win 98 the default install location is
There is a silly lens flare effect when Cameron is onboard the yacht.
Cameron does not wear glasses and is not using a telescope. So why the
lens flare? It would have looked cooler (and more realistic) to have water
movement instead. The frozen waves of water looked weird.
The listed requirements for "Pharaoh's Curse" are
Pentium II 233 MHz or Equivalent Processor
64 MB RAM
DirectX Compatible Sound and Video Cards
16X CD-ROM drive
Pentium III 500 MHz or Equivalent Processor
64 MB RAM
DirectX Compatible Sound Card
16 MB DirectX Compatible 3D Accelerated Video Card
16x CD-ROM Drive
I played about half the game in hardware mode on a computer with the
1.2 GHz Athlon computer
512 MB RAM
Hercules Fortissimo II sound card
Radeon 8500 video card with 128 MB video RAM
The biggest glitch I ran into was the previously mentioned slowdown around
areas where there would be interaction with a game character. It also took
a surprisingly long time to exit the game - so long in fact, that I
started to wonder if my game had frozen. It seemed to me that the longer
I'd been playing the game, the longer it took to exit.
I played from the beginning and finished "Pharaoh's Curse" in software
mode on a computer that wasn't too far above the minimum specs (aside from
having a great deal more system RAM than 64 MB).
PII 266 MHz
320 MB RAM
Soundblaster AWE 32 sound card
Matrox Mystique video card with 8 MB video RAM
There were no appreciable problems running in software mode on this
computer. It ran a little slower than on the 1.2 GHz computer, but I was
surprised at how well it ran.
Although it didn't really thrill me and is not Top Ten material,
"Pharaoh's Curse" did have some technical improvements over the first game
in the series, "Loch Ness." I only wish they'd made similar improvements
in the plot and character depth. A beginning adventure gamer might be more
apt to enjoy "Pharaoh's Curse," since it is not a difficult game and the
music and graphics are reasonably good. But a more experienced gamer will
likely find the plot and location very been-there-done-that. Re-exploring
areas looking for newly triggered hotspots and inventory items could
put anyone off. And if you're going to have another Egypt game, the plot and
characters had better be something special.
So how do I rate this?
For a beginning gamer, I give it 3 baags out of 5.
It has an intuitive interface and isn't really difficult, though it can be
frustrating to have to re-examine areas looking for newly triggered
For an experienced gamer who wants more plot, more originality, more
challenging puzzles, or more interactivity in a game, I'd give it 2 baags
out of 5.
I think the Cameron Files series has potential, but they really need to
give more attention to story and characters to make a detective series
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