What is it?
Jane Jensen seems to
be held in awe by GameBoomers regulars as a queen of adventure gaming,
in particular for her characters and stories. She is particularly
associated with the Gabriel Knight games, but has a number of
other significant titles on her CV.
Back in early April
2012, Jane and her husband, Robert Holmes, launched Pinkerton Studios
and a Kickstarter campaign for funding two adventure games. This
campaign had exceeded its funding goals by the middle of May 2012, which
is pretty good going, even for a popular funding project. The first of
those games, MoŽbius Empire Rising, is now available on Steam,
GOG.com, GamersGate and the publisher's own store (Phoenix Online).
We've probably all
heard of the MoŽbius Strip (a surface that loops to look like a figure
of eight, but with a twist in it, such that there's only one face and
one edge in the object, in knitted form, it makes tremendous scarves).
When I first looked at the pre-release demo last year, I did wonder what
it was about the game that gave rise to the MoŽbius link, but now it's
clear... but that would be a spoiler.
Is there a plot?
MoŽbius Empire Rising
is a point and click adventure with only one keyboard shortcut - the
space bar for showing all hotspots. You take the part of Malachi Rector,
antiques dealer and assessor, with a very keen analytical eye for the
diagnostic details of a person or an artifact. This skill appears to be
his main weapon in this game - the ability to extract and correlate
information. He also has a remarkably detailed knowledge of history.
Rector is a very tall,
slim man who's almost always seen in a sharp suit; he dresses down later
in the game, but still in that very controlled, black polo-shirted way
of the modern high-flyer. His base is an antiques shop on Manhattan
island in New York, just as you'd expect from the best of
crime-fighting, antiques experts. His shop is actually run by Gretchen
Stern, his shop manager, so Malachi doesn't always have to be there. The
shop isn't large, but the objects therein are clearly extremely
The game opens with a
cut-scene of Malachi diagnosing a supposed antique as a restoration
piece -- and getting beaten up for his troubles. We begin the game after
he leaves hospital, from whence we eventually meet the client for
Malachi's next consulting job -- a job which takes him to Venice, Italy.
And Malachi is quite the member of the jet set, as we'll also see him in
Cairo, Paris, Qatar, Washington D.C., and Zurich (in no particular
order). Each of the seven chapters of the story revolves around
Malachi's search for information about a particular person; he then has
to analyze that information to put the person in an historical context.
Sounds riveting doesn't it.
Actually, the plot
does make for a good thriller, with duplicity, murder (attempted and
otherwise), kidnapping, paranoia, hallucinations, cryptography, nose
bleeds, and outstanding loyalty. And a good chunk of spelunking (or
'caving', to us Europeans) to go with it.
How do you play?
The story of
MoŽbius Empire Rising is linear, whilst the game play is more
flexible. In other words, the story won't move on until you complete a
specific set of tasks, but the completion of those tasks may happen in a
variety of orders.
The user interface is
slick and electric blue, but nicely unobtrusive. Being a modern young
business man, Malachi loves his mobile phone. It's clearly a very smart
one, as its functions go well beyond those of phones I've used, though
who knows what the next generation of smarter phone will bring. The
phone houses the map of game locations, Malachi's contacts list, the
ability to phone, text and email people, and a form of web-search. But
the real stand out 'app' is that it also allows you to perform Malachi's
signature kind of analysis. More on this later.
Movement around the
world is simple: point and click, and you can double-click if you don't
want to wait for Malachi (or the second character who's playable for a
couple of small parts of the story) to walk across the scene. Some
scenes are just the size of your screen, others will scroll to the left
and/or right as well.
As already mentioned,
all hotspots in a location can be highlighted (either with an icon on
the pull-out menu in the top-left corner, or with the space-bar) with
nice clear labels. The same clear font is used to handle dialogue and
subtitles. Whilst the font size is adjustable in the Settings menu, and
thus is very easy to read, some of the web search results and in the
analysis tools on Malachi's phone are very small, and not
adjustable. As most of this information is important to the plot, it's
disappointing to have to halve the distance between me and my screen to
The rest of the
graphics are nicely detailed and of a high quality; they're aiming for a
reasonably realistic look, although the people are rather more
ectomorphic than in reality. The same positive things can also be said
of the quality of the music and the voice acting.
The most important
part of the game mechanics of MoŽbius Empire Rising are Malachi's
analytical skills; these are presented in three principal forms in the
game. Firstly when Malachi looks at objects or pictures or documents,
his descriptions often ring a chime that indicates the facts discovered
contribute to his knowledge of the subject he's searching for in the
current chapter of the game. For example, he might pick up the knowledge
of the names of a character's family from family photographs or the
Secondly, Malachi can
examine an individual person in more detail than a first impression. In
this mode, you have three to five hotspots on the person that Malachi
can investigate, each hotspot having three possible interpretations.
When you have all the correct interpretations selected, you gain extra
information about the individual. You can use a brute-force approach to
the ones with three hotspots as these only have 27 possible
combinations; a bit laborious, but do-able. However, there are 81
combinations for four hotspots and 243 combinations of five hotspots;
you probably need to apply your own analytical skills rather than spend
all day on those ones!
Some occurrences of
this second form of analysis use pictures to express the options, but
the principal is the same: find the correct combination of options.
The third and most
elaborate analysis mechanic is on Malachi's phone. Malachi builds up a
dossier on each of his subjects as a chapter progresses, and these
contain so-called 'data points'; facts that Malachi knows about the
individual. Their background, their connections, their character, and so
on. When you have all the data points on a given individual, you will be
prompted to subject them to a more detailed analysis, particularly with
reference to other notable individuals in history. For each data point,
you're given a selection of individuals about whom a small snippet of
relevant information is given, and you can choose whether to keep them
as a possible match, or to eliminate the from consideration. Once you've
narrowed it down to three candidates (you start with about ten in each
case) you're presented with a summary of all the points ranged for and
against each candidate, and you chose the final match. If you eliminate
the matching historical figure during the initial narrowing down, then
the analysis will reset.
A warning to those who
hate mazes, however. There is a significant maze of tunnels in a late
chapter in the game, and whilst it's not 'a maze of twisty little
passages all alike' (Oh Lord! How long have I been gaming!), it's
still not trivial, even once you gain a specific aid to navigation.
There were two issues
that bothered me in MoŽbius Empire Rising. One was Malachi's
peculiar gait. His legs sometimes appear to have a mind of their own and
to have an odd non-human geometry. Given the quality of the rest of the
presentation of this game, and the fact that Malachi is on screen for
the vast majority of the game, I would have hoped this would have been
fixed by now.
The other distraction
is probably more important, that of the font size on Malachi's phone,
which I've already covered.
It seems that Jane
Jensen has still got 'it' when it comes to writing a decent thriller.
MoŽbius Empire Rising tells a good story, with engaging characters
(even if you don't actually like all of them immediately... or even
ever!). I found myself able to overcome my technical reservations about
Malachi Rector's funny walk and enjoy working people out. Plus, I'm a
sucker for historical stories. And the MoŽbius Theory? Well you'll just
have to figure that one out for yourself, and Malachi of course.
What do you need to
Windows XP/Vista/7 or Apple Snow Leopard (10.6.X)
2GB RAM (4GB recommended)
ATI or nVidia with 512 MB RAM (1 GB recommended)**
4 GB available space
* For Mac systems, an
Intel-based processor is required
** Not recommended for
play on Intel systems with integrated/shared video memory
(I used a home-built
64-bit Windows 7 Home Premium (SP1) PC running on an AMD
Athlon 64 X2 Dual
with 6 GB RAM, and a Sapphire Radeon HD4670 512MB video card, with
on-mother-board, built-in sound card)
Moebius can be obtained from
GameBoomers Review Guidelines