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 murder in Rome, financial misdeeds in a bank, a car
chase (can't have a good thriller without a decent car chase), and other
crimes and misdemeanours.
four Acts planned for Shadows on the Vatican, but as only Act
I: Greed is available at this time, that is what I shall be writing
come across the distribution platform, Zodiac, before - 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.
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.
this game is only Act I of a four-act game, there are not a huge number
of characters (I have counted nine, with various levels of involvement),
nor are there masses of locations (about ten in this episode). 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
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
relegated to the trash can. Apart from the spacebar, the 'M' key (must
be a capital) 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.
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 and puzzles. 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. 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.
Act 1 of
Shadows on the Vatican is a good start to what has the potential
to be an interesting, and possibly controversial, thriller. Of course we
won't know whether the developers can pull off the rest of the game
until we've seen Acts 2, 3, and 4, but there's enough in Act 1 to make
me want to find out what comes next.
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
can be purchased via download on
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