Paris 2023. Alcide Nikopol
maintains his existence in a dilapidated apartment by painting pictures
for rent money. Fly spotted beams, peeling wall paper, a grime encrusted
bathroom and a crumbling ceiling held up by unsteady poles – not much to
speak of, but that apartment contains precious memories of Nikopol’s
father too, now incarcerated for insubordination by the totalitarian
regime. The holes in the walls readily allow the passage of broadcast
propaganda from the State, demanding that everyone must vote for
Choublanc in the upcoming election. Choublanc, the dictator – prophet in
this government of combined church and state is the only one running for
office. Who else would dare? Anyone opposing him is terminated.
The news of the day - curiously, a floating pyramid has
appeared over the city, and Choublanc has met with the occupants. A space
capsule has crashed, and the military is very interested in locating
whoever escaped from it prior to their arrival at the scene. Hockey games
are of great importance, where a player will even commit suicide to make a
Nikopol dreams of a better life, and is also willing to
make a difference. He has joined a secret resistance group and is eager to
finish his initiation. He finds an invitation under his door that tells
him to meet with them. Why are they requiring him to bring a picture of
his father to the meeting?
Nikopol leaves the apartment and is confronted by a
hideous beast that wants to arrest or kill him. Has his affiliation with
the resistance been discovered, or is there another reason that the State
is intent on his death?
Little does Nikopol know how his life will be changed by
the appearance of the strange pyramid, nor can he imagine the drama that
will enfold of humans as pawns of ancient deities. For now, Nikopol just
has to stay alive.
“The mortal seems pure – surely lost in this
city.” Horus (Nikopol)
This first person perspective adventure may quite
possibly be different in style from any other game you’ve played. It does
utilize the mouse for movement and action with a 360 degree view at each
node, and it’s extremely linear. But where it has a different feel is that
there’s little dialogue aside from Nikopol’s comments, and the action
takes you from puzzle to puzzle, quite a few of which are timed and in
which you can die. This is as close to an action game that I have seen in
the adventure realm, where there can still be no doubt that it is a
genuine adventure game and not an action-adventure hybrid. It is
intriguing to ponder if this is the game that will entice action gamers to
explore the adventure genre. But I digress.
There is an allure to this game, an intoxicating sense
of trying something different, like ordering chateaubriand when hamburgers
have been your daily fare. Yes, there are the dreaded timed puzzles, but
there are no twitch reflexes required. Most of the decisions you must make
in these instances are straightforward, such as: don’t walk through the
deadly laser beams, don’t feel invisible and walk where the guard can see
you, don’t press the alarm button that announces “Here I am!” The time
allowed is generous. And if you make a mistake that results in your
untimely game death, the game brings you almost immediately back to the
point where you can have another try (or several tries) without waiting on
a long load time. Often when you fail, Nikopol will make a comment as to
where you made your mistake or give a hint to successfully navigate the
problem. In addition, you can save at will for most of the game, although
there are, curiously, at least one or two places where you cannot until a
sequence is completed. There are nine save slots, and an automatic save.
The timed puzzles are interspersed amidst logic and
inventory puzzles. There are numerous puzzles that require foiling alarm
systems and evading or incapacitating the enemy. Although the killing of
other beings is completed without blood, it may be repugnant to some.
I very much enjoyed one of the earliest puzzles where
you gather objects and place them according to a secret ritual. This was
no timed affair, and one could actually look at all the graphic goodness
from room to room. But the feeling of contentment didn’t continue. The old
chestnut of a puzzle actually appeared where you have to open a locked
door that has the key in the other side of the lock. Then there was the
puzzle where you have to get through a bricked up doorway with so many
hammer blows. Not that I demand that puzzles be logical, but it seems the
developers were trying to follow that path in a straightforward manner,
given the science fiction setting. I don’t know about you, but if I’m
trying to escape through bricks, I’m going to smack them until there’s a
hole big enough to accommodate my exit, rather than go for the pristine
removal of the entire doorway. The developers liked this puzzle so much
that it’s in the game twice.
“There is no proper definition for it in your
terrestrial vocabulary”. Horus (Nikopol)
I think it may take a second playing of the game to
really appreciate that it is well executed. It’s just a curious game – in
one instance you are drawn into the game by the excellent graphics and
ambient sound, and in the next moment you’re stopped in your tracks with
yet another puzzle, which brings the game to a crashing halt. Not that the
game is buggy – I only encountered one crash while in the middle of the
aforementioned puzzle I liked so much (flashing back and forth between
notes and location). What I mean is that you go from puzzle to puzzle to
puzzle, never smelling a rose. I longed to see the streets of Paris, but
even the transition between scenes was accomplished through cut scenes.
Every time I was free to explore without ramification I applauded the game
to a ridiculous point where I found myself even happily playing with the
There are no slider puzzles or mazes, although the room
setup in the later part of the game is rather maze-like. There is one
puzzle that requires shade of color discrimination, and a few where
hearing tones to describe movement of the guard is beneficial.
Perhaps because the game is not lengthy, the developers
opted to not include a bypass for puzzles. I’m a bit surly on this
because, when interviewed prior to the release of the game, a developer
indicated this feature was going to be included. I want to point out that
the “Tex Murphy” games and even a more contemporary offering such as
“Keepsake” had this feature, and were all the better for it. Those players
who wish to not avail themselves of the bypass don’t have to, and those
who spend an inordinate amount of precious time in their lives trying to
solve a re-coding of the pass card can elect the magic bypass instead.
“You’re just playing with me. You’re egocentric,
totalitarian and inhuman” – Alcide
“Of course. I’m a celestial being, bound by rules
you cannot comprehend.”- Horus (Nikopol)
This game is based on the graphic novels of Enki Bilal,
and bits and pieces explaining the background story are occasionally
glimpsed here and there. The game comes vividly alive when the immortals
make an appearance, outstandingly rendered with their Darth Vaderish
voices. When the developers have dialogue, it is very good, and why I
regretted not seeing more of it. I’d been longing to play this game
because I loved “Immortal”, a movie directed by Bilal that was loosely
adapted from his books. In the movie, there was enough character
interaction to show the humanism of the gods, and how man can rise above
being a mere mortal through courage and love. The game fails to make any
attempt to impart any such ideal. It may not make any difference to some
players, but it did to me.
perspective point and click adventure game. Fixed center node, 360 degree
character interaction or story.
of playing from puzzle to puzzle. Several are timed, and you can die.
However, quick restoration to a point before the end game. Character often
gives hints to help success on the next try. Some logical and inventory
puzzles – most straightforward, a couple more difficult.
One color puzzle
where it is necessary to see shades of paint.
At least one
sound puzzle where tones assist in success, but the puzzle can be solved
by trial and error.
Nine save slots,
and an automatic save. The game can be saved almost anywhere with a couple
background music of the techno-pop variety.
graphics and ambient sound.
The game ran
smoothly with the exception of one crash during a puzzle which required
going back and forth between scenes.
design copyright ©