Chronicles of Mystery: The Scorpio Ritual


Genre:   Adventure

Developer & Publisher:    City Interactive

Released:  November 2008

PC Requirements:   Windows XP/Vista, DirectX 9.0, CPU 1.5 GHz, 512 RAM, Nvidia GeForce or ATI Radeon 64 MB RAM DirectX 9 compatible, 1GB HDD space, DVD-ROM drive


Additional Screenshots




by flotsam


Kate Walker, Nicole Bonnet, and Victoria McPherson. April Ryan and Nina Kalenkov, Morgan Sinclair and Phoenix Wallis. And who could forget Nico Collard? To the list of strong females sweeping all before them, you can now add Sylvie Leroux.

Some we saw only once. Who knows what became of them. Others came back for more. Adrenalin junkie or driven personality? Either way, some of them achieved on a grand scale. Kate carried a train to the ends of the earth, and April literally spanned worlds. All were undaunted.

Sylvie’s tribulations are not quite as grand and who knows if we will see her again. The ending was suitably ambiguous. What was once hidden is now in the open – perhaps Sylvie will have to hide it again.

Sylvie is 23, reads Neil Gaiman and Dan Simmons, enjoys Asterix movies and good wine, drives her scooter fast and sails more sedately. She spent her early years on Malta with her archaeologist uncle, while her ethnographer parents did field work in the Pacific Islands. Graduating in archaeology from the Sorbonne, she now finds herself back where she began but without her uncle.  

There is a lot to like about The Scorpio Ritual. It’s well acted, and has some good characterisation, with Sylvie being the standout. The plot is suitably extravagant, involving the Knights Hospitaller and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and bowls along between Malta and Istanbul and then on to Rome. It ends somewhat flatly, although I liked that it wasn’t neatly wrapped up.

Looking good

The game looks great, the detail in the settings being realistically elaborate. Light and shadow are top-notch, and some scenes in particular are very impressive. Water seems to be among the more difficult things to do well graphically (or perhaps it’s just that water in some games is poorly done). But looking down on the sea from the top of the archaeological site, especially at night, sticks in my mind as one of the highlights.

The cutscenes by contrast are a little less impressive, and there is a “plasticness” about the characters, most notably in their fingers and face. Their mouths waggle up and down like ventriloquists’ dummies, but I confess I was paying close attention. Were I not reviewing the game, I might have been less critical; the scenes by themselves are perfectly fine.

Ambient sound is excellent and lifelike, and the musical score is never intrusive. I do tend to turn it down when I have that option, as I did here, but it helped build the atmosphere as a musical score should.

Sounding silly

Sylvie very occasionally engages in some girly banter, which is all the more grating because it’s so limited. Do 23-year-old women really ask if they can feel men’s biceps to try and get what they want? Are men really that gullible? Have I not been out in the real world enough? Editor’s note: yes, yes and no.

Game play is straightforward, and novice and more experienced players alike will be able to leap right in. It's third person point and click, double click to run. Sylvie will run across every scene, rather than “jump” to the next scene -- but each part of the game world is relatively small, so it’s not an issue. Hotspot icons will indicate something to look at or interact with, usually dealt with by the appropriate inventory item. The inventory is displayed across the bottom of the screen and items can be combined or further examined. I constantly kept forgetting the latter with seemingly simple items, which was ultimately responsible for a number of my holdups in the game.

The puzzles, whilst predominantly inventory based, are generally logical and well integrated into the game. As with all such games there are some slightly odd solves, and on occasion some of the solutions seemed overly contrived. Why, for instance, when I have a broom would I need to find another cleaning implement, and then why would I need another stick entirely to reach where the broom reaches?

The Scorpio Ritual is not a difficult game. In fact, experienced gamers may well make their way through it in six or so hours. However, I like a game where getting frustratingly stuck is not likely to occur. Sylvie won’t leave an area if there are things to do, a little “question mark” icon will reveal all the hotspots, and the dialogue itself generally suggests what to do next. Which doesn’t mean it’s a doddle -- rather it goes out of its way to provide sufficient clues and assistance to keep things moving along. It’s not as cerebral as, say, Rhem or Riven, but it’s not trying to be.

Running smoothly

I didn’t experience any glitches or hiccups from installation to uninstall. I can’t tell you if saves are unlimited, but there are plenty more than you will need. Loads are quick. You don’t get asked “are you sure” if you want to exit or load a game, which I like a lot, given that I just chose that option so am pretty sure it’s what I want to do.

A pop-up bar at the top of the screen gives access to the menus, as well as a notes menu which keeps track of dialogue and other material. Sylvie keeps a journal, which may offer some insights or broader context, and documents are also stored there. I was a little confused by this at first, as some documents are in inventory and some aren’t, and at first I thought I needed to jot down the details of documents I wasn’t taking with me. However, having found them later in the notes menu, the need for a pencil disappeared.

There is no dying, no mazes, no timed puzzles, no musical conundrums. For many players, those things will all be big plusses.

I haven’t yet played City Interactive’s other recent game, Art of Murder, but on the strength of this I certainly intend to. There is nothing startlingly different in The Scorpio Ritual, but it does everything pretty well and provides a solid (if perhaps a little brief for some players) gaming investment.


December 2008

design copyright © 2008 GameBoomers Group

 GB Reviews Index