Schizm: Mysterious Journey

 
 

 

Genre:   Adventure

Developer:   L.K.Avalon

Publisher:    Project 3 Interactive, The Adventure Company

Released:  2001

PC Requirements:   Windows 95/98/Me/XP: Pentium II 300 MHz, 32 MB RAM, 12x CD-ROM drive/DVD player, DirectX compatible Video and Sound Cards.

Walkthrough  Walkthrough  Walkthrough  Walkthrough

 

 

 

by Jenny100

Mysterious Journey  DVD (aka Schizm DVD)

Quicklist of game characteristics  

  • First person point of view

  • Node-based movement with incremental panning

  • 16 save slots

  • No dying

  • No timed sequences or puzzles where success is based on quick reflexes

  • Very challenging puzzles

  • Gameplay emphasis on puzzles and exploration

  • Non-linear gameplay - not story-driven

  • DVD version on double-sided DVD, CD version on 5 CD's

Introduction

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 it's shorter.

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 living organisms.

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.

Puzzles

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.

Installation

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.

Controls

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.

Game Options

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.

Graphics

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.

Minimum specs

For the DVD version, the listed minimum specs are

Windows 95/98/ME/XP

Pentium II 333 MHz

32 MB RAM

2X DVD drive

DirectX compatible video and sound cards

DirectX 7a

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" section below.

Tested computers

1. Windows 98 FE

PII 400

256 MB RAM

SBLive Value 4.1

ATI Rage Fury with 32 MB video RAM

DirectX 7a

Toshiba SD-M1402 DVD drive  12X/40X

2. Windows 98 SE

PIII 750

512 MB RAM

Hercules Fortissimo II

Geforce 2 TI with 64 MB video RAM

DirectX 8a

Toshiba SD-M1712  DVD drive  16X/48X

3. Windows 2000 SP2

Athlon XP 1800+ (ca. 1533 MHz)

SBLive Value 5.1

Matrox G550 with 32 MB video RAM

DirectX 8.1

Toshiba SD-R1202 combo drive  16x/10x/12x/40x

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.

Comments

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 

Recommendations

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-

design copyright 2004 GameBoomers Group

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