conspiracy for the Spring? I've got just the game for you. In the first
episode of Shadows on the Vatican, we got botched military action
in Africa, attempted and actual murder in Rome, financial misdeeds in a
bank, a car chase (can't have a good thriller without a decent car
chase), and plenty more crimes and misdemeanours.
four Acts planned for Shadows on the Vatican, but as only Act
I: Greed and Act 2: Wrath are available at this time, those
are what I shall be writing about today.
come across the distribution platform, Zodiac, before I played Act I
- it appears to be Italian in origin, though the English version is just
fine. Zodiac behaves a lot like Steam; a pseudo-web-browser based game
shop, downloader, installation engine and game library. Act II is also
of Shadows on the Vatican
is loosely based upon the book, "In God's Name," by David Yallop, but
how 'loose' this foundation is I cannot say.
protagonist of the game, James Murphy, used to be priest in the Roman
Catholic church. James fell out with the church, and now he's retrained
as a medical doctor. Whilst visiting Rome for unknown purposes (perhaps
on holiday), James receives a phone call from an old friend asking to
meet. James agrees, and from there on in, things start to wander off
course. The plot quickly turns into the investigation of an attempted
murder and, more particularly, into the motive for that attempt.
we only have half the game here, we only have half the story, but each
part so far has introduced a manageable number of characters, some of
whom we see in both Acts. The result, however, is a well focused story
that doesn't require you to wander around Rome wondering what to do...
unless you get stuck, of course. The other side of that coin is that
when you do get stuck (and I did on more than one occasion) you can end
up seeking the tiniest detail in the limited number of options you have,
before realising that you missed the fact that you can interact with the
items already in your inventory. <blush!>
entire game of Shadows on the Vatican is played with the mouse;
this is pure point and click from the third person perspective. The
developers have used the Wintermute Engine; the same engine that was
used in Dark Fall: Lost Souls, J.U.L.I.A., and
Rhiannon: Curse of the Four Branches (amongst others) which results
in a technically solid game because the engine has been widely used and
would probably expect from a mouse-driven game, you move James around
the scenes by clicking where you want him to go - not a novel approach,
but it is well known now - and you click on objects and people to
interact with them. As seems common with modern point and click games,
you can press the spacebar to show all the hotspots in the current scene
for a few seconds. It seems that the joys of pixel hunting have been
justifiably relegated to the trash can. Apart from the spacebar, the 'M'
key (must be a capital in Act I, but either a capital or lowercase in
Act II) will usually bring up the map of Rome. This didn't always work
for me, but that wasn't a problem because it's not hard to leave the
current scene by double-clicking on an exit, and many of the exits lead
directly to the map.
introduces a second playable character, though I'll not go into too much
detail about her, simply to state that there are times when you can swap
between them: co-operation is the name of the game.
graphical appearance of this game is very heavily influenced by comic
strip styles. This is not surprising when you look at the art direction
credit: Lorenzo Ruggiero from Marvel and DC Comics. The scenes are
predominantly 2D (though it is possible to walk behind objects that are
forward in the scene), whilst the people are 3D. The graphics are clear
and detailed. The game installs at a standard definition (1280x720 - an
odd choice of aspect ratio, more of a widescreen format than most PC
screens), or a high definition of 1980x1080 (again, a widescreen
format). Given that I don't have a suitable monitor for that resolution,
I stuck with the standard definition format. But I don't think the
graphics suffered for this restriction.
is advanced through dialog, puzzles and the occasional comic-strip
cut-scene. It is a reasonably linear story, apart from the inevitable
wandering about searching for what's next. Moving around the scenes is
pretty slow if you let James do all the walking, but if you want to jump
to an exit, you can double-click on it to do just that... exit.
include first aid, laptop and website use (fake ones, just in the game,
not real ones), finding text clues, and figuring out physical puzzles
too. Objects in the inventory (found towards the top of the screen) can
be modified or combined by left clicking on them, and a description is
available on a right click.
optional subtitles to all dialogs, though not everyone will enjoy the
developer's choice of capitalised Comic Sans as the font.
following statement is used in the introduction to the game:
references to historical and real people are just quotes from news
stories already published by the Italian and foreign press, and they
serve as background narrative only.
seems to be an attempt to forestall accusations of anti-Roman Catholic
rhetoric in this game. My own experience of the game so far is that this
is a story of fiction in a particular setting. To take this game as an
explicit criticism of that organisation is probably taking things too
far. But quite frankly, the developer might have been better off
changing the setting to a fictional 'mega corporation' just to avoid the
appearance of direct criticism... unless, of course, the criticism of
the specific organisation was exactly what the developer
what I'm getting at here is that, if you have particularly strong views
about the Roman Catholic church, pro- or anti-, you might want to
suspend your disbelief/belief for a few hours to play this game.
from the graphics, which are consistently well drawn and full of detail,
I particularly enjoyed the orchestral/choral soundtrack in Shadows on
the Vatican. The voice acting is convincing and varied, and
some of the character clichés are amusing. In Act I, there was
one problem with the soundtrack, though; the music playing during the
loading screen would frequently glitch and re-start, or simply loop over
a short section of the music. Given the high quality of the sound track
in the rest of the game, this bug was really disappointing. However, in
Act II this issue has gone completely.
Act I of
Shadows on the Vatican is a good start to what has the potential
to be an interesting, and possibly controversial, thriller. Act II
continues in that vein. Of course we won't know whether the developers
can pull off the rest of the game until we've seen Acts III and IV, but
there's enough in Acts I and II to make me want to find out what comes
you need to play it?
disk: 2GB free space
card: 128MB DirectX® 9.0c compatible
card: DirectX® 9.0c compatible
(I used a
custom built 64-bit Vista Home Premium SP2 PC running on an AMD Athlon
64 X2 Dual 5200+, with 6 GB RAM, and a Sapphire Radeon HD4670 512MB
video card with mother-board sound card)
on the Vatican - Act 1: Greed
and Act 2: Wrath
can be purchased via download on
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