Enter the Story: The Divine Comedy

Genre:   Adventure

Developer & Publisher:    Chris Tolworthy & Enter the Story

Released:  September 2009

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


This is the second of a series of games based on famous literary works (to see a review of the first game, Les Misérables, click here). Enter The Story: The Divine Comedy is an adaptation of 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 stories.

 “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 Poet

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 atmosphere.

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 shadows.

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 quality.

“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 can bear.”

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 task.

“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, Extreme Penitent

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 Michael

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 on individuals.

“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 stopped him.

“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 gameplay.

The spacebar reveals exits. No voiceovers. Unlimited save slots. A few odd, minor glitches. Installation was smooth.

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.

Final Grade:

As an adventure game: B

As an interactive story: B+

My Laptop Computer Specs:

Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition

Intel Celeron M Processor, 1.60 GHz

512 MB RAM

128 MB Video RAM

SigmaTel C-Major Audio Card

November, 2009

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