The Mystery of the Nautilus


Genre:   Adventure

Developer:   T-Bot

Publisher:     Cryo Interactive, Dreamcatcher Interactive

Released:   2001, 2002

PC Requirements:   Windows 95 or above, PIII 350, 32 MB RAM, 8x CD ROM, DirectX 8.0a (on CD), 16 bit color, SoundBlaster compatible sound card.

Walkthrough  Walkthrough




by Rick36

This is a standard first person point and click adventure, set aboard Captain Nemo’s infamous submarine, The Nautilus, from Jules Verne’s classic sci-fi offering, “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea”. I shall not go into detail on the required specifications, as I do not currently have the case, however, it played perfectly well on my P2, 750, W98 with graphics accelerator.

It is the present and you are a keen young scientist aboard a prototype submarine conducting deep water oceanic exploration and research. Whilst investigating a deep trench in the ocean floor your radar picks up a huge metallic object. Obviously, as an inquisitive scientist you want to go and investigate immediately, however, your bureaucratic skipper overrules you and orders the object to be ignored. Not to be deterred in your keenness to investigate this discovery you steal a mini-sub and head for the Nautilus. You approach the enormous underwater craft, dock and then enter. This is where the adventure gamer takes over.

The general story is, that as the explorer of the ship, you rapidly discover that it is deserted, abandoned by her crew many years ago and now run by a mechanical AI, which has gone a bit doo-lally (very much along the lines of 2001’s HAL or System Shock). So, after risking all to get into the Nautilus, you soon realize that your primary objective is to stay alive and get out!

The adventure is split into several stages, where a key objective has to be achieved before moving on to the next stage. For example, one of your main objectives in one of the early stages is to return electrical and mechanical power to the ship in order to steer, gain access to other areas, maintain life support systems and so on.

As the game progresses you learn more about what happened on board the Nautilus those many years ago and why she was abandoned. Your primary nemesis throughout the game is the central AI and much of the gameplay is taken up with self-preservation against the travails visited on you by the AI, which incidentally has a female character. The story is simple and provides a reasonable and logical plot line to the game, though it does not lend itself to any degree of game complexity or longevity.

The graphics are nice, not breathtaking, not inspiring, not drop-dead gorgeous (such as the Myst games, Syberia etc), but they are well drawn, evocative and in-keeping with the game’s storyline. Perhaps the nearest analogy for the style of the graphics would be Amerzone, Cameron files, Dracula etc. though their scope is perhaps more limited and not perhaps as beautiful nor diverse as these comparisons. In some instances I found the graphics lacked a little definition and appeared blurry. But on the whole the graphics lent themselves to the game’s ‘general immersion factor’ (GIF).

Movement is reasonably slick, there is 360 deg panning and movement between locations is reasonably fluid and quick.

I do not know if I am peculiar in this regard, however, I prefer to play my adventure games without background music. Although much game music is quite pleasant and very much enhances the mood and immersion factor, I prefer not to be accompanied on my quest by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, preferring to wander about ‘au naturel’ so to speak, as you would if you were actually there, experiencing just the environmental sounds (the cooing of unseen birds high in the jungle canopy, the buzz of insects, the trickle of a fountain, the mesmeric hum of a generator). So no comment on music, but the sound effects are sufficient and add to the sense of you being trapped in this stricken, mechanical behemoth several thousand leagues under the ocean, hearing the heaving and mechanical groaning of the hull, feeling the eeriness and solitude of the empty ship.

The puzzles are, on the whole, practical, mechanical and logical and based primarily on inventory management (fix something, build something etc.). There are some spatial/logic problems, but nothing too taxing on the grey cells and there are plenty of clues scattered throughout the game, so you are never left with the sense that the developer has abandoned you to figure out what was on their mind with no in-game nudges, suggestions or plot threads (I find this a common problem with many games, where the developer seems to think that in giving you a seemingly illogical puzzle that does not really fit in with what is expected of you and not giving you any clues or guidance, no matter how cryptic, is in itself part of the puzzle – frankly, I think this is just idleness in thought, development and process).

There is plenty to do and you are kept fairly active, there is some ‘toing’ and ‘froing’ between locations, however, on the whole you progress to new areas and experience new surroundings. For the later stages of the game you end-up having to work your way back through the levels you have previously passed through, but they have changed quite dramatically with new things to see and do (I shall not explain why as this forms part of the storyline).

The game departs from the path of logic on one occasion and gets a bit silly, but not too much so as to detract seriously from the game. Maybe this is the author’s fault as I skipped “How To Detach a Giant Squid From The Prow Of Your Submarine 101.” at university.

There is a good deal of pixel hunting and at times finding things can be a frustrating and long-winded process. This is compounded by a slight misalignment of the cursor and the ‘hotspot’. The general cursor is a small circle with cross hairs, however, to pick up an object, or to use an inventory item the cursor changes to a ‘hand’ or ‘hand plus lever’ respectively. The problem is that the focal point for the interaction icon is at the top left of the icon image and this is transferred to the general cursor, i.e. if you place the general cursor directly over a small hotspot, nothing registers, it is only when the position of the focal point of the action icon passes over the hotspot that it changes to that particular icon, which means that your general cursor is slightly to the left and below the hotspot before it is detected. This can be frustrating when trying to scan for objects and hotspots, especially in dark, shadowy environments. It is also particularly annoying when a time limit is imposed on you. This caused me some problems at the beginning as I would position my general cursor over something I was convinced was a hotspot, but would receive no reaction, it was only after moving the cursor slightly southeast of the hotspot, to a position where the interactive icon focal point should be, that the icon then changed.

From the review so far, you might already have gathered that certain puzzles are timed, and yes you can die (in some instances, almost immediately) so plenty of saves are in order, especially before entering a room or about to perform a major task. I know many gamers loathe timed puzzles, and I myself am not particularly keen on them, however, in this instance it was in-keeping with the ‘reality factor’ of the game. There was one particular puzzle (composed of several individual subtasks) which was timed and I discovered that to do it properly I had to die several times, before I had built up a full realization and understanding of what I had to do, how, where and with what, and had effectively constructed a step by step procedure, which I then performed all at once and managed to complete the puzzle before my oxygen ran out.

On the whole the quantity and quality of puzzles was above average and were similar to the previously mentioned Dracula, Amerzone etc.

Game interface
I have previously described the slightly annoying glitch with the cursor – hotspot interaction. In addition to this you have the omnipresent adventure gamers trusty rucksack (inventory) and a PDA with a variety of functions.

There are a few problems with the interface, which can tend to make the frustration levels rise at some points in the game. Specifically:-

1) Quite often a dialogue box will pop-up either with a holographic diary of Nemo, or you thinking to yourself or the AI warning you of your impending disembowelment. When this happens you are unable to interact with the game environment, however, the time still ticks by, so in some instances where you are on a timed puzzle and your fate is dependent on your quick thinking and actions, time rolls on but you cannot do anything until you close down the dialogue boxes.

2) In some instances this can be true of the inventory as well.

Not a long, nor particularly demanding game, however, I enjoyed it. The action rattled along, if not at break-neck speed, certainly at a reasonable canter, there was always something to do and a fair degree of thought required. What I did like about the game was that there was an overall objective to finish a phase, but in order to achieve this there were several tasks, subtasks and processes that had to be performed, and you had to think “logically how do I achieve my objective from where I am now and how do I use the items I am finding”. Spurred on by reasonable clues, plot threads and suggestions from the game you could plan ahead and determine strategy, which I feel is a critical success factor for any game to be good, successful and absorbing. There were occasions when you were reduced to trawling through the inventory and trying everything on a particular hotspot, but once something worked you could see the thought process behind the puzzle and where the developer was coming from and could then proceed.

A warning here, the game was buggy and I experienced quite a few crashes whilst playing (another reason for plenty of saving!).

So, overall I enjoyed the game, it is not a classic but there again neither it is a dud (could have been better – could have been worse). There were a few moments of abject frustration primarily with the cursor misalignment, excessive pixel hunting, dialogue box and occasional crashes and these did detract from the game, but on balance I quite enjoyed the experience.

Graphics: B-
Gameplay/story: B
Puzzles: B
Game interface: C
Overall: B-

design copyright © 2003 GameBoomers Group

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