MIAZMA

or The Devil's Stone

 

Genre:    Adventure 

Developer:   Private Moon Studios

Publisher:    Microids Indie  

Released:   May 2, 2018              

Requirements (minimum):

  • OS: Windows XP or higher 
  • Processor: Core2 Duo / Athlon 64 x2
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM
  • Graphics: 512 MB video RAM
  • Storage: 7 GB available space
  • DirectX: Version 9.0c
  • DirectX compatible sound card

 

 

 

By flotsam

 

MIAZMA or The Devil's Stone

Private Moon

I have always had a soft spot for full motion video (FMV) games, and a few of them remain among my all-time favourites (insert relevant Gabriel Knight and Tex Murphy games here). I liked Yoormujakís Ring when it came it out, and while this ďsequelĒ suffers a bit under the weight of some overly convoluted puzzle construction and a few other foibles, it did deliver a good degree of B-Grade enjoyment.

I put ď Ē round the word sequel for a reason. Itís another Jonathan Hunt mystery, but apart from that and a few references to the earlier game, this is a new and stand-alone adventure. Which is a good thing, whether you played the earlier game or not. Just get stuck in.

Set in Hungary, you donít get to hear Hungarian, which is a shame. I canít imagine getting a whole new cast to record the dialogue, all of which is subtitled in English in any event, is easier or more cost effective than releasing in Hungarian. Presumably though it isnít about that, and I assume that sale statistics indicate English language sells better in English speaking locations. It would have been nice though to have the option to play in Hungarian Ė the actors clearly arenít speaking English, so the dialogue must exist. And the game makes a point of telling us that Jonathan speaks the language, so they arenít all speaking English for his benefit.

And if I am wrong about any of that, mea culpa.

Jonathan is an investigative journalist, paying a friendly visit to the Atomki Research Facility, when a young man called Balazs goes missing. He agrees of course to look into it, and spends the rest of the game moving back and forth between various locations and laboratories, talking to a range of characters while collecting items and information, and solving puzzles and conundrums.

Throughout his poking about, there are times where you switch to playing Balazs. He spends his time trying to get out of a labyrinthine set of cellars, applying what he gleans from a childrenís physics book to MacGyver his way from one room to the next.

Whichever character you are playing, make sure to ask everything, revisit the non-playing characters to see whether they can tell you more about something you might have learned or found, and revisit hotspots. There are places (a shelf for instance) where items donít show up as being able to be taken until you have found a related hotspot or discovered a particular piece of information.

Conversation topics might also not be available if you havenít come across a related piece of information, be it from another conversation or identified in an inventory item. So be prepared to backtrack, and to talk a lot.

There are quite a few conversations, and while much of it isnít critical, important information will be provided, including about what to do next. Helpfully, your journal records all conversations, and you can go back over them all at any time. This is also helpful when you are trying to e.g. recall which lab a particular researcher is in so you can return a book or deliver an invitation. Key characters pretty much stay put, and you will generally find them where you left them.

The game builds towards a multi-part puzzle that I had some mixed feelings about. It involves a safe with six separate combinations, and a serious of items in a box which are the path to identifying each combination. You will have to show numerous objects to an array of people, solve six separate puzzles along the way, revisit items and various displays, and then take what you learn to winkle out each code. I donít have a problem with any of that as a concept, but to me it was overly convoluted and unnecessarily complicated.

A simple example of the first involves a clue about a wise man in the garden. I was convinced I knew where I needed to go, and I was right, but until I had raised the issue with a seemingly unrelated person, the capacity to move ahead would not trigger. Perhaps I missed the key point, but more than once I simply went back to characters in the hope of triggering a way forward.

An example of the second is a puzzle in which you have to reconstruct an image you havenít seen. It involves about 20 tiles, delivered one at a time, and which must be place to construct said image. Put all the pieces on the board and you can form a general impression about the relevant image. Tiles might then need to be manipulated in terms of their orientation, and placed to complete the image. Nothing about that is unique.

In this puzzle however, once you place a tile that is that. You canít move it, or further manipulate it. Any manipulation has to happen before it is placed. Put it in the wrong place and the puzzle is doomed. The next shuffling of the tiles will be different as well, further compounding the challenge.

You might find this particular puzzle delightfully diabolic, and you might discover a relevant image that I didnít find through the wiki feature on your in-game phone. It isnít an unfair image, but I did find it frustratingly contrived. I was therefore pleased I could choose the skip option.

At the start of the game you can choose a difficulty level. Easy Mode gives you the capacity to reveal hotspots, skip puzzles, and (apparently) get more clues through the narration. I played on this level and canít imagine why you wouldnít do likewise. You canít skip conversation conundrums, but the type of puzzle I referred to above can be avoided.

I thought the brainpower required to discern each combination once you had all the relevant information was sufficiently challenging to have eased up a little on some of the bits along the way. But perhaps I just am getting soft. Having said that, it was an ambitious endgame, and deserved my attention and perseverance (and the occasional skip!). I also confess to being rather pleased when I conquered a combination, and quite enjoyed a few of the related puzzles.

I showed a lot of items to a lot of people, going back and forth and back again, further required by people telling you to come back later, and when you do, telling you that they need more time. I was never sure whether there was a trigger that worked on those occasions, or whether just doing some other things sufficed, but there were certainly plenty of other things to do. In that regard, all the items relevant to the combinations are available from the box, so you can solve them together, or one at a time. If you do take all the items from the box at once, be warned that there are a lot, however the inventory identifies which compartment in the box they came from (so therefore the combination to which they relate). It also enables you to show all those things that you think might be relevant to each character during a single visit. It wonít mean you wonít have to come back, but it assisted my ponderings and meanderings.

Maps help you get around, and choosing your desired destination will take you straight there, accompanied by a short video clip of you arriving at said destination. Just click if you want to skip the video. You will then be in a static view of the room or wherever you are, that you explore with your mouse. You donít pilot your character around the scene, with hotspots and icons indicting something can be done Ė a speech bubble for talking, a gear for an action for example. There is almost no other movement in the scene (the characters do wobble about a bit) although short FMV sequences punctuate events from time to time.

You can highlight all hotspots (at least in Easy), and when nothing more can be done at that spot, it will no longer be active. Inventory items also disappear when no longer needed, and while locations open up as you move through the first half of the game, they close down later on. All this assists in managing the conundrums.

If you click on a conversation bubble, you get a large close-up of the character with whom you are conversing. As you chat, the character is animated via a series of changing still photos. She might lean forward, lean back, furrow the brow when thinking deeply, laugh at a joke etc. Its isnít video, but it frames the chosen conversation topic. If there are multiple topics, you have to choose the speech bubble again to engage with that character Ė there is no having the list remain open. They disappear when used up, new ones can pop up as you converse, and when all have been exhausted the speech bubble icon will no longer show up. Of course, learning something new elsewhere can lead to people having something more to say, so as I said earlier check back regularly.

You can click to end a conversation and still read about it in your journal, but it kind of defeats the purpose of having the conversation at all. I did it on occasion, but generally because the particular response seemed unimportantly chatty.

The inventory ribbon is top of screen and can scroll left and right as you collect more items. Click and drag to use an item in the game world, or on another item. Right click to look at or read an item. Be sure to do this, and with items in display cabinets etc, as there are triggers dependent on you doing so.

The plot befits the B-Grade tone but ends in a bit of a rush. The dubbed English voices vary from not too bad to not that good. You can save at will, and there are plenty of save slots, but starting a new game will erase the previous saves. I donít know whether loading an earlier save will do the same to the saves from later in the game; I only ever had one save point at a time. There is a musical score but I generally turn them way down, so didnít really notice it. You can fiddle with the volume of effects, music and dialogue, and turn subtitles off if you wish.

It clocks in at a goodly length and there really was a lot of puzzling to enjoy. If Mr Hunt goes round again, I will go with him.

 

I played on:

OS: Windows 10, 64 Bit

Processor: Intel i7-6700 4GHz

RAM: 32GB GDDR5

Video card: AMD Radeon RX 470 8192MB

 

GameBoomers Review Guidelines

October 2018

design copyright© 2018 GameBoomers Group

 GB Reviews Index