(aka Schizm DVD)
Quicklist of game characteristics
First person point of view
Node-based movement with
16 save slots
No timed sequences or puzzles
where success is based on quick reflexes
Very challenging puzzles
Gameplay emphasis on puzzles
Non-linear gameplay - not
DVD version on double-sided
DVD, CD version on 5 CD's
Mysterious Journey was originally published under the name Schizm.
When Dreamcatcher (The Adventure Company) first published it for the
North American audience, the box said Schizm in big letters, with
the subtitle Mysterious Journey in small letters underneath. As part
of their marketing strategy, Dreamcatcher later changed the box to
have Mysterious Journey in big letters and Schizm in small letters.
For purposes of this review, I'm going to call it Schizm because
Story and Characters
Schizm takes place on the planet Argilus. Human explorers have
landed on Argilus and found it deserted. There is evidence of recent
habitation - machines working, dinners half-eaten. Where did the
people vanish to so suddenly? A team of scientists is sent to
investigate. When a supply ship manned by your characters, Sam
Mainey and Hannah Grant, arrives at Argilus four months later, they
find the science team has also vanished. They also find their
communications with Earth are cut off. They are forced to crash land
on Argilus and are separated in the process. The player gets control
of Hannah as she finds herself on a walkway that extends towards
mysterious towering ships that appear curiously as if they may be
The original European version of Schizm began with a cut scene
showing Sam being interviewed about his adventures on Argilus on a
television talk show. Dreamcatcher (The Adventure Company)
substituted voice-over text for the cut scene when they published
the US version. Why? I don't know. Perhaps they thought it would be
too confusing if the game began with an event that occurred after
the game ends. But it still seems strange to me, since beginning a
story with one person telling the story to listeners is a fairly
common way to begin a story.
What does Schizm mean? As far as I know, it doesn't mean anything in
English. But it resembles the English word "schism," which can mean
a division, disunion, or rift. And the "rift" definition suits it
pretty well. The two main characters are separated from each other
by a dimensional shift early on in the game. Although they are able
to communicate aurally using their radio headsets, they aren't able
to see each other, even though they appear to be in the same
location. They are also separated from other characters in the game
by similar dimensional shifts. Occasionally these characters appear
as ghostlike images to offer hints, or warnings. Some of them seem
to contradict one another, and it is up to the gamer to decide which
of them, if any, are trustworthy.
The gameplay in Schizm is very similar to that in the earlier game
Riven. Much of it involves exploration, discovery of mechanical
puzzles, and experimentation to discover how to make the puzzles
work and allow the player to access new areas. Both games have clues
and puzzles that are part of the game environment. Both have some
puzzles that involve numeric systems other than base 10. In Riven
you find books that give you a history of what has happened in Riven.
In Schizm you find mission logs and occasionally trigger cut scenes
of "ghosts" who give you clues and occasionally make requests of
you. One of the problems with the CD version is that almost all of
the mission log cut scenes are omitted, which makes the story a
little harder to follow. There are also two puzzles that were
omitted from the CD version.
The lack of a "zap mode" means there is sometimes a lot of trekking
around the gameworld. Sometimes both characters are needed to solve
a puzzle. When you have to move both of them from one place to
another, you can't move them both at once. You have to move one of
them and then go back and move the other. Patience is required.
There are a couple of puzzles in Schizm that seem to go beyond
difficult. One involves a sound puzzle where you have to match
sounds that are scarcely intelligible. Another involves recognizing
a sequence of numbers where it takes a leap of faith to guess
something might be missing. (I hope that is a vague enough
description not to be a spoiler for anyone).
There is also a mini-game in Schizm that many gamers have had
trouble with. You must win the mini-game twice in a row in order to
raise a bridge. Later on in Schizm you have to play the mini-game
again, again winning twice in a row, in order to raise another
bridge. The mini-game seemed to be a combination of strategy and
luck (the luck part being that I didn't make a dumb move that I
really knew better than to do). I'm not a big fan of mini-games
within adventure games. Even though I would have enjoyed playing the
mini-game as a desktop game, I was glad to get it over with. For
some gamers, this mini-game brought gameplay to a halt until they
were able to get a saved game from somewhere.
The DVD version of Schizm comes on one double-sided DVD and installs
from Side A. Once installed, the game plays from both Side A and
Side B and the player will be required to flip the DVD at certain
points in the game. The CD version offers different install sizes.
I've read that it is possible to do a full install of the DVD
version, provided your hard drive is big enough, but it isn't one of
the installation options. It would probably involve copying files
from the DVD to the hard drive and editing a configuration file in
the install folder. There is no copy protection on the DVD version
of Schizm, but some older DVD drives had trouble reading it at the
time it first came out. This was correctable with a firmware update
for the drive and should not occur with new drives.
Movement and nearly everything else is mouse-controlled. The
interface is fairly simple and it's possible to figure it out by
experimentation without even looking at the manual. Movement is
node-based, with transitions playing as you move between nodes. You
click and drag the mouse to pan around. Panning is incremental. By
that I mean the pan has stopping places that are 45° apart as you
pan around a full 360° circle. So every node has eight directions
where you can stop and look around. Some nodes allow you to look up
and down as well, but most don't.
Moving the cursor to the top of the screen causes the toolbar to
appear, from which you can Save, Load, access Help, adjust Settings,
and Quit the game. Help will list hotkeys, such as F2 to save, F3 to
load a save, F5 to toggle music on and off, etc.
At some locations, you have the option of switching control from one
character to the other. When this option is available, you will see
pictures of both characters at the lower right part of the screen,
with the one you're currently playing in front. You click your mouse
on the other character to switch.
There are 16 save slots. When you save, the game saves a small
screenshot of your location along with a date and time description.
The game plays at 640x480 resolution. Since it uses prerendered
graphics, this cannot be changed. There is an option to turn
subtitles on and off. You can adjust the volume of the music
separately from the volume of other sounds.
The graphics in the DVD version are some of the most beautiful
graphics I've seen in a game. They were very sharp and full of
animations such as water movement and banners drifting in the wind.
They were also very imaginative, with fantastic ships that appeared
to be living organisms and strange floating balloons, some of which
may have been alive - or once alive.
Music and Background Sound
The music was non-intrusive and had an atmospheric sci-fi feel to it
that suited the game. Background sounds and sound effects were
believable and contributed to the atmosphere of the game.
Voice Acting and Cut Scenes
Voice acting was mostly good, though not great. Although you don't
meet many other characters in the game, you do see them in mission
logs or as "ghosts." Most of the actors had a slight accent, but I
didn't find them difficult to understand and they managed to express
some degree of emotion even though English was not their native
language. Besides the videos of the actors, there are also cut
scenes showing movement from one place to another. The most
memorable were the ones showing the giant Galleas ships detaching
from one location and setting out across the ocean. The cut scenes
showing the balloon ship moving from one location to another were
also nicely done.
For the DVD version, the listed minimum specs are
Pentium II 333 MHz
32 MB RAM
2X DVD drive
DirectX compatible video and
The CD version is the same except it only requires a Pentium II 300
and doesn't require a DVD drive.
And even though the specs don't list Windows 2000 as a supported
operating system, the game played fine for me in Windows 2000 aside
from the problems with the voices which I've mentioned in the "Bugs"
Windows 98 FE
256 MB RAM
SBLive Value 4.1
ATI Rage Fury with 32 MB video
Toshiba SD-M1402 DVD drive
Windows 98 SE
512 MB RAM
Hercules Fortissimo II
Geforce 2 TI with 64 MB video RAM
Toshiba SD-M1712 DVD drive
Windows 2000 SP2
Athlon XP 1800+ (ca. 1533 MHz)
SBLive Value 5.1
Matrox G550 with 32 MB video RAM
Toshiba SD-R1202 combo drive
Bugs and Potential Problems
Reducing audio acceleration was necessary to prevent occasional
freezes on the PII 400. I found that reducing my audio acceleration
to one notch above none was sufficient. Overall the game played the
smoothest on the PII 400. Stuttering was almost nonexistent, and by
that I mean I had maybe two sound hiccups in the whole game.
The PIII 750 had moderate to severe problems with stuttering and
distortion of the voices of the characters, both in comments from
Sam and Hannah and in the cut scenes. Other sounds and music played
fine. Changing the audio acceleration had no effect. Maybe the game
didn't like the Hercules Fortissimo II sound card. The game didn't
seem to play as smoothly on this computer video-wise as on the other
two computers. Maybe that 16X Toshiba DVD drive is to blame. The
other computers had slower drives, with a DVD read speed of 12X.
The Athlon XP 1800+ had some problems with stuttering and distortion
in the characters' speech, but not as severe as on the PIII. At
least the speech was intelligible, and it often wasn't on the PIII.
Also, music and non-speech sound was fine. As with the PIII,
adjusting audio acceleration had no effect on the stutters. The
problem with speech may be to do with the drivers, and I had the
latest. I wasn't even sure the game would run on this computer,
since Windows 2000 isn't one of the operating systems the game is
listed as working on. But it turned out to be a better computer to
play the game on than the PIII that had Windows 98 SE.
If possible, I recommend playing the DVD version rather than the CD
version. As I mentioned back in the Puzzles section, two puzzles
were removed from the game to help conserve disk space so the game
would fit on 5 CD's. Another space-conserving measure was to
eliminate almost all the mission logs from the CD version. Worst of
all (in my opinion) was that the CD version is blurrier due to the
graphics being compressed. The game is much more beautiful to look
at in the DVD version. Schizm was originally designed as a DVD game,
but the developers weren't able to find a publisher unless they
produced a CD version as well. It's unfortunate that the inferior CD
version is what is usually found in retail stores in the US
Even though I think that Schizm is very well done in many ways, I
wouldn't recommend it to everyone. Gamers who are looking for a
story-driven game with a lot of character interaction and
conversations are not going to enjoy it. Also, the puzzles are very
difficult, more so than in either Riven or RHEM, in my opinion. So
unless a gamer enjoys solving really tough puzzles, or doesn't mind
consulting a walkthrough often, they may be less than enthusiastic
about the game.
Overall grade: A-
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