This is the second of a series of games
based on famous literary works (to see a review of the first game, Les
click here). Enter The Story: The Divine Comedy is an
Dante Alighieri’s epic poem about Hell, Purgatory and Heaven (Inferno,
Purgatorio, Paradiso). Dante’s vision of the Afterlife is
based on Greek and Roman mythology, Bible stories, medieval history, and
local politics. The game follows the structure of Dante’s epic, while
adding post-modern twists.
Independent developer Chris Tolworthy weaves intriguing combinations of
classic and modern artwork and music into large interactive gameworlds.
Tolworthy peoples these worlds with multiple characters, and then
challenges the gamer to overcome puzzle obstacles in order to follow their
“I’m trapped here in this hellish forest.” Dante
As the game opens, Dante is an outcast from his beloved city of
Florence. He finds himself in a forest with a lion barring his passage on
one side, and a steep mountain on the other. The only way to proceed is
through a cave with a warning at the entrance: “Abandon Hope All Ye Who
Enter Here.” Fortunately, Dante finds a guide – a spirit who Dante, in his
confusion, misidentifies as the Roman poet Virgil.
“Who knows what could be lurking in those shadows?” Homer, Greek
The cave passage leads into the depths. It then climbs back to the
surface and up Mount Purgatory, level by level, past the earth’s
The levels are constructed of images from drawings, paintings,
photographs and illustrations (many by Gustave Doré, known for his
nineteenth-century illustrations of an edition of The Divine Comedy).
These are layered together and finished with washes of color, resulting in
a series of integrated panoramic vistas. My favorites were the
light-infused sweep of Mercurial Heaven and the Empyrean with its colorful
nebulae. Hell is a stark contrast, with caverns, blood-red pools of lava
and human shapes that wander endlessly or merge with the rocks, trees, and
Graphical improvements since Les Misérables include more
detailed characters, greater variety in the artwork and color palette,
non-pixelated fonts, and more animation, which still varies widely in
“God sees me as hostile to his interests.” Dis, Ruler of Hell
The Divine Comedy is a game of exploration, but even more it is
a game about character. Each level contains new characters who are willing
to chat at length. (You can click through the dialogs.) From the original
poem come mythological monsters, ancient Romans, saints, troublemakers,
and Florentine politicians. One memorable conversation takes place at the
Center of the Earth, where Julius Caesar and Brutus wax nostalgic while
Dis (Dante’s name for Satan) snacks on Brutus’ soul.
As for Dante, he is a medieval Stephen Colbert -- passionate and
opinionated and refusing to abandon his traditional mindset. He really
needs a guide, not just because he doesn’t know where he’s going, but to
keep him from provoking the locals.
Dante to the Minotaur: “Never have I seen
such a grotesquely misshapen horror. When I think of all the innocent
blood that’s been shed to satisfy your unholy savagery…it’s more than I
The Minotaur to Dante: “May I remind you
that this is my city and you are my guest? Please try to be civil.”
Dante to Pluto: “Wretched fiend! I defy
you, vile incubus of Gehenna!
Pluto to Dante: “Steady on old boy. Have
I done something to offend you? I’m terribly sorry if I did.”
Virgil (Dante’s guide through Hell and Purgatory) and Beatrice (his
muse and guide through Heaven) -- are more than they seem. Both struggle
to open Dante’s eyes to what is really unfolding around him – not an easy
“We’re used to being misquoted.” The Angels in Heaven
The angels who Dante encounters once Beatrice is his guide are less
entertaining than the defiant rule-breakers in Hell (not a surprise).
For eons the angels have pondered “love, purpose, creation, theology”
in concert with one another. They are all focused on “The Plan,” a kind of
Philosophy of Everything. Though they think deeply, they also think alike,
and they shut out anything that conflicts with this vision.
The only inhabitants of Heaven who acknowledge that Dis is malevolently
plotting something disastrous are the ragtag youths in the Martian Heaven.
I expect to find, at some later point in an Enter the Story game,
that the angels’ vision has serious flaws. Mortals will then be called on
to somehow fix it while the angels reconfigure “The Plan” midstream.
“I told him he was playing the Devil’s own game.” Peter Damien,
Gameplay in The Divine Comedy is more varied than in
Les Misérables. There are still plenty of association puzzles, for
which you must remember certain objects or people, and make the right
combinations. In addition, you’ll be clicking to move figures into certain
patterns, and convincing characters to talk about the right things. Other
challenges require you to recall characters in the game that are from the
same time period or location on earth.
My favorite conundrum was the smoke puzzle in the Terrace of the
Wrathful in Purgatory. Here Dante identifies figures obscured in the smoke
(the Pharaoh Ramses, for instance, and George Carlin) and places them in a
historical chain. This was one of the more difficult puzzles, as was the
challenge in the Second Circle of Hell, where you try to control the path
of whirling spirits. Most difficult of all, I thought, were some of the
more obscure association puzzles, especially the couple that required
actually leaving The Divine Comedy and going into the Les
Misérables game to find things. (The two games share a forest passage
near the opening scene in The Divine Comedy, so you can
leave one game and walk right into the other.)
If you don’t mind taking notes, you may benefit from writing down each
character Dante meets with a brief description so you can locate people
easily. If you don’t like taking notes (I don’t), you can go back through
the game’s levels and reacquaint yourself with the characters.
“PLEASE right click on me then right click on yourself.” Archangel
The Divine Comedy is a third person, point-and-click adventure,
though you can also move back through previously accessed levels using
first person perspective.
Hitting the F1 key allows you to chat with the Archangel Michael, who
gives a brief tutorial and functions as a graduated hint system. Michael
is handsome, encouraging, and helpful. I found myself resorting to the F1
key frequently. (If you ignore Michael at the beginning of the tutorial,
you will see how an archangel deals with frustration.)
Clicking on the “Help” ribbon at the top right of the screen brings up
a brief game manual. Learning to use the “Recent” and map screens is
essential. The “Recent” screen takes some getting used to, but once
mastered eliminates a goodly portion of back-and-forthing. The spacebar
key highlights exits and stops crowds from milling about so you can click
“These nails…are just to stop me sliding off the rock while I
sunbathe.” Caiaphas, Former High Priest
My computer had issues with the menus in this game, particularly at the
start, where the music stuttered and the cursor frequently disappeared.
The Enter The Story website mentions this problem and suggests
Alt/Tabbing out of the game, then returning to try again. I pressed
Alt/Tab whenever the cursor did a bunk, but this brought it back only
occasionally. So I had to be fast when saving and loading and had trouble
loading early saves because the cursor disappeared before I could scroll
down to them.
On a few occasions the map wouldn’t work to move Dante through the game
until I clicked away, clicked within the game environment, and then
returned to the map. Sometimes when using the “Recent” feature, Dante
would be transported to a level that had nothing to do with his original
location, or with the intended association. In these cases, I simply sent
him back using the map. Twice Dante was caught in a loop where he paced
back and forth and wouldn’t respond – both times, hitting the “Esc” key
“Are you even listening?” Archangel Michael
The Divine Comedy lacks voiced dialogs and features only a few
ambient sounds. This makes the background music especially important. Most
of the music is well suited to the environments, including excerpts from
the works of Verdi, Grieg, and Mussorgsky. You’ll also hear contemporary
instrumental pieces. My favorite musical interludes include the novel
choral piece in the Second Circle -- “Shadows of Faith – a Dark Alleluia”
by Hamilton Cleverdon. Also intriguing are the eerie instrumentals in
Purgatory, particularly “Heaven” by Jonathan Slatter and “Citadel Ascent”
by Iain Moreland.
“You will try and give both sides of the story, won’t you?” Lovers
in the Whirlwind
This game is an ambitious attempt to bring a classic story back to life
for the post-modern audience. Gamers who enjoy reading good books and
observing character development will find it intensely rewarding. Gamers
who admire cutting-edge graphics, highly varied gameplay and fast-paced
progress, may find it frustrating. The current glitches can be worked
around by the gamer, though they are a distraction.
The Divine Comedy plus Les Misérables and the upcoming
Genesis of the Gods can be purchased from the
developer’s website for $14.99, making the cost of each game about $5
-- an excellent value.
Quick List for Enter The Story: The Divine Comedy
This is the second offering in
the Enter the Story series. Third person perspective with a first
person option. Point-and-click. Lots of character interaction. You can’t
die (though you visit a lot of people who have). About twenty hours of
The spacebar reveals exits. No
voiceovers. Unlimited save slots. A few odd, minor glitches. Installation
Association puzzles, challenges
using precise mouse movement, tests of historical knowledge. No sliders,
no mazes, no color or sound based puzzles, no timed challenges. A
graduated hint system.
Aimed at gamers who appreciate
an epic story with surprising humor, innovatively rendered.
As an adventure game: B
As an interactive story: B+
My Laptop Computer Specs:
Microsoft Windows XP Home
Intel Celeron M Processor, 1.60
512 MB RAM
128 MB Video RAM
SigmaTel C-Major Audio Card