Conspiracies

 

Genre:   Adventure

Developer:   Anima-PpD

Publisher:     GotGames

Released:   4th Q 2003

PC Requirements:   minimum - Pentium II 400 Μhz - Celeron 433 Mhz, 64 MB Ram, 1.5 - 3 GB Hard Disk Space, 16 MB DX 8.1 accelerated Graphics Card

Walkthrough

 

 

Additional Screenshots

 

 

by Jenny100

Conspiracies

Quicklist

  • DVD and CD game, a Greek version is currently available on CD. GotGame Interactive has decided to release the DVD and CD versions packaged together in the same box when they publish Conspiracies for the North American audience.

  • Inventory manipulation is mouse-controlled:  point-and-click (or point-and-drag)

  • 3D Movement is controlled with the arrow keys

  •  First person viewpoint

  • Cut scenes are FMV

  • It's possible to die in the game

  • Unlimited saves

Introduction

Conspiracies was developed by a Greek company, Anima Ppd / Interactive, and is available in both Greek and English versions. It seems to have taken some inspiration from the Tex Murphy games. Both Conspiracies and the Tex games take place in a dystopic future, yet neither are depressing games. Both feature a "hero" with a somewhat wry sense of humor. Like the Tex games, Conspiracies gives conversation choices which are not fully spelled out and which sometimes produce unexpected dialog from the protagonist. But there are differences too and Conspiracies has its own style.

The future as depicted in the world of Conspiracies is a troubled time. The game takes place sometime around the mid 21st century and most of mankind's current problems still exist. Overpopulation, environmental degradation, unemployment, and crime are worse than ever.  The Earth is a united federation of city states, but the system is corrupted and the world is essentially controlled by political lobbies, organized crime, and big companies. Humanity has become ever more dependent on drugs, both legal and otherwise, to cope with its problems.

Your character, Nick Delios, once had a promising career ahead of him in the field of medical technology. That was before Dimitris Argiriou, head of Nick's research team, stole Nick's work and took credit for Nick's invention. When Nick complained, Argiriou promptly threw him off the research team and cancelled Nick's upcoming wedding to Annita, Argiriou's sister. The disheartened Nick descended into a life of drinking and gambling. Ultimately he started earning a living as a detective, specializing in industrial espionage.

Story

The game opens with a black screen. Ominous music plays as a text description of the unhappy state of the world in the 21st century scrolls upwards. The music changes and you find yourself flying over a grassy field and through an open tunnel into a 21st century city. Flying over the futuristic city was one of my favorite moments in the game and I wish I could have seen more aerial views of this fantastic city.

After the opening video, there is a short, introductory, semi-interactive part of the game which is mostly FMV. You can't really explore, but you are occasionally given the option of different conversational moods or topics. There is not much variation in what happens in this part of the game, regardless of what topics you choose. Those who are sensitive to spoilers may wish to skip the rest of this section.

Initially we find Nick busy gambling. He has had too much to drink and is having a hot streak of luck - or thinks he is. An attractive woman of questionable virtue hangs on his arm. Nick's luck does not hold out. He gambles everything on a pair of dice and they come up snake eyes. The woman immediately loses interest, leaving Nick alone with his debts. Nick laments the situation and orders a drink. The unsympathetic bartender has the bouncer throw him out. Then a tough guy shows up to forceably escort Nick to a man with an offer Nick cannot refuse. The offer comes from Argiriou, Nick's old nemesis and the author of his fall from grace. Argiriou has bought all Nick's debts and can have him thrown in some deep dark jail, never to be seen again, unless Nick cooperates. What choice does Nick have? He agrees to work for Argiriou.

Nick somehow finds his way home and sleeps it off. He gets a message from his old friend, Police Inspector Thanos Pekas. A small-time crook, Mikes, has been murdered and Pekas seems to think there's more to the case than meets the eye. He asks Nick to investigate the murder unofficially and offers to pay him handsomely for his trouble. What choice does Nick have? He agrees to take the case for Pekas.

Once Nick wakes up in his apartment, you gain control and can explore the 3D environment. This part of the game introduces you to the interface in a safe location.  But not much can be done until you discover how to get Nick to leave his apartment. He needs his morning coffee first, but his water has been shut off because he couldn't afford to pay his water bill. Eventually he figures out a way to get his caffeine fix, but remind me never to have coffee at Nick's place.

During the course of the game Nick visits offices, warehouses, nightclubs, various private residences, a sewer, a space station, and even goes back in time on an errand for Argiriou.

Installation

My review copy, which came on a DVDR disc, included installation options both for Greek and English. When choosing what version to install, I was presented with a screen that showed a folder with two subfolders - one for Greek and one for English. It's a bit unusual to see a language choice presented in this manner, but not hard to figure out.

The default installation requires about 4 GB according to the listed minimum specs. But this must include plenty of space for saved games. I made 74 saved games, the largest of which was 426K, and the total space taken up by the installation was about 1.7 GB. Perhaps extra space is needed simply to install the game, but I think they're being cautious.

The game took about 10 minutes to install using my 4X DVD drive. I assume it would take less time with a faster drive and faster computer (mine was 1.2 GHz). Most of the game is stored in .cab files on the DVD so some decompression is done during the install. I assume the 30 GB that is listed under the "Recommended" specs is to copy the entire game to the hard drive so it doesn't have to read off the DVD at all. I used the default 4 GB installation and didn't notice any lags during play other than at load screens.

Documentation

My review copy came with a text printout in which references are made to pictures that aren't there. I assume the retail version of the manual will include the pictures.

For the most part, the game is intuitive. Arrow keys move you around. The spacebar brings up the inventory. But there are some manipulations that are not so obvious, such as how to examine certain inventory items in detail. In one puzzle you have to reassemble a torn up letter, which involves both moving the pieces around the screen and turning them over. For these manipulations, it's easier to consult the documentation than to figure it out on your own.

One thing that was missing in the printout I received was the fact that you can move around considerably faster if you hold down the Shift key while using the arrow keys. Being able to "run" is crucial for a couple of puzzles.

Graphics

From a technical point of view, graphics were mixed. Overall they were very good and the game offers several display options (see the Game Options Menu section below). But they weren't perfect. The FMV sequences tended to be a bit fuzzy, especially in background areas. When there were FMV people inserted into the game environment, and you approached them from the side, they appeared flattened.

Artistically, the design of the gameworld was very good. Some areas had animations, such as a passing subway car and an aircar slowly moving across the sky. Many of the buildings have a sort of Art Deco look. Others look very "industrial."

The 3D environments were very clean-looking and looked a bit surrealistic. The gameworld isn't depressing and gritty, as you might expect a dystopic future world to look. This may have been because of the limits of the game engine and the time it would take to render a lot of dirt and grime. But I think I prefer the gameworld looking clean on the surface, with the real dirt and corruption festering beneath.

Voices and Acting

I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the acting in Conspiracies. Some of the characters seemed a bit stereotyped. For example, Argiriou seemed a lot like a mafia boss. But that didn't really detract from the game and sometimes added to the humor.

Your character, Nick, comments on the things you right-click on. I enjoyed his comments. He has a pleasant voice and a sense of humor about what he is commenting on.

Some of the voice actors are better than others. I have no idea whether the actors you see on the screen  are the same actors you hear. The original actors spoke Greek and the English version of the game has speech in English. The lip synch is matched up well enough that the lips move while the words are being spoken. But no one who reads lips would be fooled. In general, the male voice actors were better than the female ones.

Sound Effects and Music

Sound effects were good. Things sounded like what they were supposed to sound like. Some puzzles had audio feedback, such as the sound of a lock opening, to let you know you'd accomplished something.

The music is not bad, though it can get repetitive if you're in the same location for a while. In one part of the game you hear Nick's favorite band play and get an autographed CD from the lead singer. It also contains a clue, so be sure to examine your prize.

Interface

You move around the game using the arrow keys. Forward and back arrow keys move you forward and back. Side arrows allow you to sidestep. You can steer, look up, and look down with the mouse. But you can't squat or stand on your tippytoes, which makes collecting a couple of the inventory items a bit tricky. Movement is continuous 3D movement. There is no "bobbing" as you move around - good news for those who are prone to motion sickness. Holding down the Shift key while moving will cause Nick to "run."

Movement between game locations is accomplished via a game map. The map sometimes appears when you click on the proper door to exit. At other times clicking on an elevator control panel will summon the map. The escape key backs you away from the map if you access it by mistake. Available locations show up as red spots on the map. Hovering your cursor over one of these spots will open a tool-tip style description of the location. The map is shaped like a cube, with all sides except the top and bottom available for viewing. You hold down the left mouse button and drag to rotate the cube and access the other three sides.

The spacebar opens your inventory. You can close the inventory either by clicking the spacebar again or by moving the cursor outside the inventory area.

Left-clicking on an accessible object will allow you to pick it up or interact with it. Objects can be combined in inventory by clicking first on one, then the other. Right-clicking on something will cause Nick to make a comment about it, if a comment is available. Right-clicking an object in inventory will display an enlarged view of the object as well as invoking a comment from Nick. This can be useful when you are rooting through drawers and closets and find things you aren't sure if you want or not. And some of Nick's comments are pretty funny.

Conspiracies has a few methods of allowing you to get rid of unwanted items in inventory. You can drop them on the floor. Or you can drop them in the trash can in your apartment and set fire to them. If you can't get them to fall in the trash, chances are you will need them at some point in the future. You also have a pet plant, Nionios, which will sometimes eat things you feed it, though Nionios turned out to be a fussier eater than Nick had led me to believe. It's a good thing you can get rid of inventory because you only have 27 slots in your inventory and the game allows you to pick up stuff you don't need. The inventory is a 3 row 9 column grid and appears when you use the spacebar.

To save a game you use the F4 key. This is actually pretty easy, but I was confused at first because I was expecting a save screen to appear, which would allow me to choose a saved slot or name my save. When no save screen came up, I wondered if something wasn't working, even though the game was displaying "save complete" at the bottom of the page. But all was fine. It just works like a "Quick Save" in action/adventure games.

Loading a game is nowhere near as convenient as saving. To load a game, you first hit the Escape key to bring up the main menu. Next you click on the name of your player. Then you highlight your saved game of choice and click the Load button.

The saved games appeared as small screenshots labeled in Greek with a date and time. I expect the Greek labeling will be corrected in the retail version. If it isn't, you can still read the numbers. The documentation I got referred to the small screenshots as "icons," which is something else they could correct in the manual that comes with the retail version. One problem with the load system, besides the fact that it takes several clicks to load a game, is that there is a delete button right next to the load button. It is too easy to click the delete button by not watching what you're doing closely enough. It is also possible to delete your Player name with a delete button over toward the right, and that would be an even bigger catastrophe. An "are you sure" button would have been helpful.

Conspiracies allows multiple players and unlimited saves - provided you have the hard drive space. You can delete old saves from the load screen if they're taking up too much room. The game saves are unusual in that for each save, the game creates a folder with a bunch of files in it. When you delete a save, the folder remains, but is empty of files.

Some inventory objects can be flipped and turned over. These items don't just return to inventory when you're done examining them and you must use the Escape key in order to put them back in inventory. For example, in one case you're required to turn over a photograph in your inventory in order to read what is on the back. For this, you must click and drag the left mouse button while holding down the Control key. I was not able to maneuver this puzzle very well. The best I could do was get the photo turned over and upside down. I never could figure out how to get it turned over and right side up for easy reading. In another part of the game, I had to piece together torn bits of paper. This required dragging the pieces away from each other by using the Control key and dragging them with the right mouse button held down, then orienting them with the left mouse button, then dragging them into place. Fortunately you aren't required to manipulate very many inventory items in this manner. I've played games with similar puzzles where it was much easier to maneuver the pieces.

Left-clicking the mouse during FMV sequences will pause them. Another left-click causes them to continue.

Right-click the mouse to skip videos. This is useful for skipping the introduction that plays when you start the game. It would have been more convenient if it were possible to skip the introduction before having to wait for it to load. It's a nice introduction, but I don't want to see it every single time I start the game. I enjoyed the part where you fly over the city every time I saw it. But the scrolling letters on the black screen got a bit old by the 10th time I restarted the game, and it isn't possible to skip only the first part of the video. Loading the game took about 55 seconds on my computer and I kept wondering how much of that time was spent loading the introductory video.

Game Options Menu

The menu screen allows you to change graphics, display, and sound options.

"Graphics" settings include resolution, color depth (16-bit or 32-bit), "(W-Z) buffer" (16-bit or 24-bit), graphics detail (low, medium, or high), and antialias (none, x2, or x4). Possible resolutions include 640x480, 704x480, 720x480, 800x600, 848x480, and 856x480. I chose 800x600 resolution, 32-bit color depth, 16-bit (W-Z) buffer, high graphics detail, and no antialias.

"Display" settings include gamma, brightness, and contrast settings. I noticed that after quitting the game my desktop settings would revert to their original default instead of the custom gamma settings I'd set up for my desktop long before I ever installed the game. As soon as I clicked on the Color tab in my desktop's Advanced Display Properties (Start\Settings\Control Panel\Display\Settings\Advanced\Color tab) the gamma returned to my custom setting. OKing it brought my desktop back to normal. I assume a reboot would have done the same thing. But apparently the game interfaces with the video card's gamma settings directly instead of affecting only the game. At least that's how it seemed with my ATI Radeon.

"Sound" settings include separate volume controls for Music and Sound Effects. Unfortunately none for Voice.  There are also  Reverse Left/Right and Reverse Front/Back options in case your speakers are confused.

Whenever I clicked "Apply" to save the settings - even if my only change was to the sound settings - my screen would go black for a few seconds. If this happens to you, just wait and it should right itself soon.

The Escape key backs you out of the Options menu.

Unfortunately there was no option for subtitles in the Options menu - bad news for the hearing-impaired and those who speak English as a second language and don't speak Greek at all.

Puzzles

Some of the puzzles are inventory based. Some involve combining items. Some involve manipulating inventory - flipping it or moving it around. Picking up inventory is not usually that difficult, but you do have to be close enough to it, yet not too close. I did have difficulty getting one item out of a cabinet that was close to the floor. Too near the cabinet and I couldn't see the item. Too far back and I was out of range. Being able to squat would have helped a lot here. I also had trouble getting a necessary inventory item out of a trunk. At first I completely missed the object. After getting stuck and checking a walkthrough to find out what was necessary, I still had trouble acquiring the item. Instead of picking up the object, I'd end up closing the trunk. So I'd have to open it again. After many many tries, I eventually succeeded. But I could not even see what I was supposed to be aiming at clearly. I had a similar problem later on with a piece of paper that was in a box with a lot of other papers. At least with the paper, I eventually noticed it highlighted. I never noticed the object in the trunk highlighting. An adjustable zoom feature would have helped.

Some puzzles involve choosing the correct conversation topic or mood. It's best to save before entering conversations, because the wrong choice may make the game unwinnable. In some cases you are allowed another chance and can correct your mistakes. And in others it doesn't matter what you choose. But it's best to save, just in case.

There was one maze - a hedge maze in a space station, of all places. This maze was the only part of the game where I had real trouble with motion sickness. I had a similar problem in Pandora Directive when I was exploring the pyramid near the end. It's due to some sort of relationship between the narrowness of the walls and the speed at which they pass as you move along. Mapping mazes is hard enough for me to do with node-based movement. With the continuous movement in Conspiracies it was impossible for me to map the hedge maze. But I eventually found my way to where I needed to go using the right-hand rule and its converse, the left-hand rule.

For the reflex-impaired (some spoilers)

There are a few places in the game where you have to be quick. In one place you have to throw a rubber ducky full of swimming pool water onto a robotic dog before the dog chews you up. The trick here is to be close enough to the dog to throw the ducky on it and quick enough to throw the ducky before the dog takes a bite out of you. My trouble here was not the speed so much as throwing the ducky in the right place. You only get one try and don't have time to retreat after throwing it.

In another place you have to run from an explosion before it blasts you. This is actually pretty easy once you remember the Shift key that gets the lead out of your britches. But you'll never escape the explosion unless you run.

In yet another part of the game, you have to time the movement of homicidal robots that patrol the halls and make a dash for it when it's "safe." This is the part of the game that held me up the longest and I had to get outside advice on getting past it from more than one source. It actually isn't so hard once you've figured out which direction to run to. But you do have to be quick. Once you've found Prokopiou and gotten into his cell, your problems are over. And his cell is right at the end of a hall where you can see him stretched out. Getting into the cell next to his is trivial by comparison. And once you do that, you can find a way to disarm the remaining robots without having to race them. You can reach Prokopiou's cell from the elevator in two runs, making one stop at a station with a bunch of computer displays where the robots will not attack you. But discovering which way to run takes trial and error, and the load screens get very long.

Bugs

Once I managed to get stuck between a chair and the wall and was not able to extricate myself. I had to return to a saved game. So watch out for narrow areas.

The weirdness with my desktop gamma setting is described above under Game Options Menu. Ideally, the game would have returned the settings to the way I had them set before starting the game, and not to the manufacturer's defaults.

I encountered a bug where I was not able to pick up a necessary inventory item. This bug is apparently only in the English version, not the Greek, and has been corrected in a patch which can currently be downloaded from http://www.drama.gr/kteo/anima/items.zip

The North American release of the game will incorporate the patch, but if by some chance you get the same edition of the game that I did, and play in English, you may need the patch.

Minimum System Specs

Pentium II 400 or Celeron 466

64 MB RAM

Video card with 16 MB video RAM

DVD drive

4 GB hard drive space

Windows 98 and higher (must support DirectX 8.1)

DirectX 8.1

Recommended System Specs

Pentium III 1 GHz or AMD with 1 GHz processor

256 MB RAM

Video card with 64 MB video RAM

DVD drive

30 GB hard drive space

Windows 98 and higher (must support DirectX 8.1)

DirectX 8.1

I don't really understand why they list "30 GB hard drive space" here. I assume the 30 GB of hard drive space is for copying the entire DVD to the hard drive. But I don't see how the game would take up that much space unless you made a gazillion saves.

Tested Computer

AMD Athlon 1.2 GHz

512 MB RAM

ATI Radeon 8500 128 MB

Hercules Fortissimo II sound card

4X/4X/4X/24X Toshiba DVD combo drive (DVD read speed = 4X)

Windows 98SE

DirectX 8.1

My Unsolicited Opinion

Overall the game was a lot of fun. My biggest gripes are with the inconvenient method of loading the game and the slow loading time. I thought my relatively slow 4X DVD drive might be partially responsible. But when loading saves, the game didn't seem to be accessing the drive. I wouldn't have minded the loading so much if it only took place in the beginning of the game or at the beginning of chapters. But in areas where you can die a lot, like the halls with the evil robots, it's necessary to do some experimenting before you can progress. And those load screens start to get really tiresome. In future games I hope Anima provides a "Quick Load" as well as a "Quick Save," especially if they continue to have puzzles like the robot puzzle in their games.

Another problem I had with the game was with thinking an object was not collectible when in fact I was simply standing too close to it or too far away from it to pick it up. In the case with the ring in the trunk, it was a pixel hunt for something I couldn't see clearly in the first place. And I would never have found it if I hadn't cheated with a walkthrough.

But overall the game did many things right. It was refreshing to see real people in the cut scenes instead of 3D dolls.  The acting was mostly good and the main character was enjoyable to play. The plot was good, though it seemed a bit rushed towards the end.

I would have preferred to have more views of the city. It isn't essential for the game, but I enjoyed that view in the opening video so much that I was hoping to see more. But there were never any transition videos when Nick moved around the city via the map. His car looks like it could fly, but you never get to go for a ride in it along with Nick and see more of the city. This is one time where I'd have enjoyed doing a bit more exploring instead of always using the map to instantly appear in other locations.

Recommendations

I'd recommend Conspiracies to almost anyone who enjoys adventure games, particularly if they enjoy detective-type games. Overall I'd give the game a "B" rating. It did many things well. But problems with slow load screens and an occasionally awkward interface keep it from being an "A" game.

design copyright 2003 GameBoomers Group

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