The Count of Monte Cristo

Genre:   Adventure

Developer & Publisher:    Chris Tolworthy & Enter the Story

Released:  August 2011

PC Requirements:  

20 MB free RAM 
1 GHz CPU (1.6 GHz recommended)
200 MB free hard disk space (for the first game, additional games will add about 120 MB each)
16 bit color or higher.
No special graphics card is needed.




by Becky


Based on the classic tale by Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo is the fifth game in the Enter the Story series of adventure games by Independent developer Chris Tolworthy. If you've been following the series, you'll find improvements in this fifth offering. If you're new to the series, you might want to start with this game and work your way backwards through the previous games: A Tale of Two Cities, Genesis of the Gods, The Divine Comedy, and Les Misérables.

The Count of Monte Cristo opens in early 19th century France in a dark cell where Edmond Dantès has been imprisoned without a trial. A fellow prisoner -- Abbe Faria -- tunnels into Dantès' cell. The Abbe is a cultured man who also has a secret -- he knows the location of a fabulous treasure.

Abbe Faria dies and Dantès manages to escape. He is picked up at sea by a smuggling boat, and convinces the smugglers to drop him for the night on the island of Monte Cristo where, to his amazement, he locates the buried treasure. Fabulous wealth (along with the refinements the Abbe taught him), equip Dantès to return to polite society as the Count of Monte Cristo. When he returns, he expects to find out why he was sent to prison, and then take vengeance upon those who destroyed his life.

How will I Hurt Thee? Let me Count the Ways

This game's emphasis is story, and what a story it is! Years of confinement and near starvation have transformed the Count so much that only one of his former associates recognizes him. He targets five individuals from his past -- one who was kind to him, and four who were responsible in varying degrees for his one-way ticket to prison. The Count spares no expense or ingenious manipulation to rescue Morrel, his generous former employer who has fallen on bad times. With one rescue assuaging his malleable conscience, he then sets out to ruin the three villains -- Danglars, Morcerf, Villefort -- and to test the villains' sidekick -- Caderousse.

The Count isn't satisfied with mere slaughter. He wants suffering first -- ruined reputations, impoverishment, insanity. Part of the game's fascination is observing such creative vengeance served with utmost politeness. Locating and isolating the Count's victims -- and then enacting these schemes -- constitutes the bulk of the puzzles the gamer encounters.

Environments in The Count of Monte Cristo contain many hotspots, each of which reveals a comment. (Comments elicited from clicking on the hotspots range from the clever to the mundane.) A few of these hotspots become important later in the game, as the Count uses them for the next story event. Some puzzles require you to talk to a specific character; others involve researching a specific historical event or technique (if you're stuck, it's usually a good idea to visit the Library or Archives). I thought the telegraph puzzle, used to influence the news, was particularly well done. Hints may be obtained by clicking on passers-by, on the Count himself, or by pressing the F1 key.

There are Three Kinds of Adventure Gamers -- Those who can Count, and Those who Can't

Many characters inhabit the game (none are voiced). Family members of the various villains are drawn into the Count's plans -- some of these he intentionally hurts, some he helps, and some become collateral damage. The game consistently reveals the twists, turns, and paces through which the Count forces all these people. But the sheer number of characters can become confusing. As more dark secrets are revealed about the villains and their families, I sometimes found myself saying, for instance: "Okay that character X is really character Y, whose adoptive father is character Z, and whose birth father is character A. How did the Count meet character Y again, and is character Y good, bad, or neutral?"

The characters in this game are portrayed as animated black-and-white sketches. Some of the character models are reused from previous games -- so that, for instance, the model that was used for Lucie Manette in A Tale of Two Cities is also used for Valentine de Villefort in The Count of Monte Cristo. Tolworthy likens the character models to a repertory theater company, which uses the same actors to play various roles. This is an intriguing concept -- thinking of a character model as an "actor" in its own right, or as an archetype. It gives each character model a standard identity -- one "plays" the innocent ingénue, and another the angry rebel, for instance. This may expedite the creation and portrayal of future Enter the Story characters, though I haven't quite wrapped my mind around it yet. Seeing Lucy Manette walk onto the screen as Valentine de Villefort at first surprised me, and then made me compare the two closely (which reflected better on Lucy than it did on Valentine).

The People who Count the Most couldn't Change the Count

One shortcoming with this game is its omission of the events leading up to young Edmond Dantès' imprisonment. Since (in the game) we don't see the early part of the story where he is betrayed, it's harder to share his thirst for vengeance. About halfway through the game I stepped back from the Count's dastardly schemes and read the first seven chapters of the original text. This provided a much better understanding of the depravity of the Count's antagonists and the selfish reasons for their original actions. If you are unfamiliar with the story -- or if it's been several years since you read it -- before starting the game, I recommend reading the book (available in-game by pressing the "B" key) up until the point at which young Dantès finds himself in prison.

Another issue is the proliferation of in-game links to different Enter the Story games. This is the third game where substantial parts of the story take place Paris, so that it's possible to encounter a location where six of the thirteen directional arrows are bookmarks for other Enter the Story games. It would have been helpful if the space bar, which shows all exits, showed only the functional exits -- or perhaps distinguished the "other game" exits from those that actually move you to the next screen in the game you're currently playing.

I Could be Bounded in an Adventure Game, and Count myself King of Infinite Space

This is a point-and-click adventure viewed from the third person perspective. For the first time in this series, most of the game can be played using the left mouse button instead of clicking twice on the right mouse button, which speeds up the pace. Another helpful feature is the Map screen that allows you to revisit major locations, plus all of the recently visited locations.

Graphics in The Count of Monte Cristo consist of drawings and sketches layered upon one another, with color applied in certain places, and finished with a misty gloss. The environments give a sense of detail and vast space, but also an aura of ethereality. Some exteriors appear as though drawn and tinted in a cloud.

The background music in the large exterior locations is mostly traditional and orchestral. Some smaller spaces have more unusual music. "Dark Dance" by Kevin MacLeod adds an odd, provocative flavor to the room where the Count's father died. "Random gods" by likantropika is creepy and disturbing, just like the dark garden that hides one of the game's poignant secrets. "Lamento" by Paco Santiago adds a wistful quality to the Morcerf's abandoned salon.

Foolproof Systems don't Take into Account those Unexpected Clicks

One theme that sets the Enter the Story games apart: though they follow the story of the classic books closely, all display glimpses (sometimes substantially more than glimpses) of "out of the box" writing, where the characters indulge in contemporary remarks or philosophical asides. Fewer occur in The Count of Monte Cristo, but fortunately they haven't been eliminated.

For instance, if you choose to talk to her at length, the pharmacist in Paris will tell you how to succeed in business in the 19th century. Also, as the Count's celebrity grows, people start to recognize him on the street, and there are some amusing comments that fall into the "goggling paparazzi" category. The Library and the Archives are important, not just for puzzle solving, but also for background history and for notes from the developer -- particularly the "entomology" (bug) section in the Library and the "asylum" (you have to be crazy to be an Indie developer) records in the Archives.

Quick List for Enter the Story: The Count of Monte Cristo

This is the fifth offering in the Enter the Story series. Detailed, delicate graphics illustrate a dastardly tale of revenge. Characters are animated line drawings; none are voiced. Music varies from traditional orchestral to contemporary instrumentals, with the latter particularly intriguing.

Point-and-click interface, third person perspective. Multiple levels of Hints are available. The spacebar shows all exits. The Map feature is extremely helpful. The full text of the book is available within the game if you want to supplement the game experience. About eight hours of gameplay.

Puzzles consist of grasping the Count's plan for revenge, researching or preparing for it, and locating the item(s) and person(s) necessary to put the plan into action. No sliders, no timed challenges, no mazes, no sound based puzzles, no color based puzzles. You can't die. Overall, the gameplay feels more integrated into the story than in previous games in the series.

No problems with installation, one minor glitch that occurred due to a missed invisible trigger. Unlimited save slots.

Aimed at gamers who like a good old-fashioned tale of revenge at the hands of a memorable anti-hero.

Final Grade: B+

What I played it on: 

Dell Studio XPS 8000

Windows 7 Home Premium

Intel Core i5-750 processor


1024MB NVIDIA GeForce GT 220

Soundblaster X-Fi

Enter the Story: The Count of Monte Cristo can be purchased from the Enter the Story website here.

Before I modified them, the section title quotations were taken from

GameBoomers Review Guidelines

September 2011

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