MOEBIUS

 

Genre:   Adventure

Developer:   Pinkerton Studios

Publisher:   Phoenix Online Studios

Released:  April 2014

PC Requirements:   see review below

Additional screenshots   Walkthrough

 

 

by gremlin

 

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 valuable.

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 read it.

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.

Notable Features

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 like.

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.

Oddities

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.

Conclusions

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. 

Grade:  A-

What do you need to play it?

OS: Windows XP/Vista/7 or Apple Snow Leopard (10.6.X)

Processor: 2.0 GHz*

Memory: 2GB RAM (4GB recommended)

Graphics: ATI or nVidia with 512 MB RAM (1 GB recommended)**

Hard Drive: 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 5200+ processor, 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 Phoenix Store, Steam, GamersGate and GOG.

 

 

GameBoomers Review Guidelines

April 2014

design copyright© 2014 GameBoomers Group

 GB Reviews Index