The Cameron Files: Pharaoh's Curse

 

Genre:     Adventure

Developer:    Galilea

Publisher:    Dreamcatcher Interactive

Released:   2002

PC Requirements:   WINDOWS 95/98/ME/XP, Pentium 166 MHz, 16 Mb RAM, 4 x CD-ROM Drive, 3D Accelerator Video Card.

Walkthrough

 

 

 

by Jenny100

"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."


INTRODUCTION

"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 employ.

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.


GAME INTERFACE

"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 logical puzzle.

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 nostalgia.

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.


CONVENIENCE

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.


VOICES

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.

GRAPHICS

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:

Start button
Programs
The Cameron Files
Pharaoh's Curse
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
C:\Program Files\Dreamcatcher\Pharaohs\Configure.exe

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.


SYSTEM SPECS

The listed requirements for "Pharaoh's Curse" are

Minimum:

Windows 98/2000/ME/XP
Pentium II 233 MHz or Equivalent Processor
64 MB RAM
DirectX Compatible Sound and Video Cards
16X CD-ROM drive
Mouse

Recommended:

Windows 98/2000/ME/XP
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
Mouse

I played about half the game in hardware mode on a computer with the following specs:

Win 98SE
1.2 GHz Athlon computer
512 MB RAM
DirectX 8.1
Hercules Fortissimo II sound card
Radeon 8500 video card with 128 MB video RAM
full install

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).

Win 98SE
PII 266 MHz
320 MB RAM
DirectX 7a
Soundblaster AWE 32 sound card
Matrox Mystique video card with 8 MB video RAM
full install

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.


CONCLUSIONS

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 hotspots.

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 work.

Overall Grade:    C+

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