What is it?
the last time you played an FMV game? Or heard of the prize to a
competition being the opportunity to write a game? And what about
Microsoft Windows games that run on a Linux PC?
Yoomurjak's Ring is
all three of these, and more.
now, one at a time! Firstly FMV (full-motion video) games are rare these
days because it takes a lot of effort to film all the required content,
and they have a reputation for grainy, low-quality video that fits poorly
with the rest of the game content. Have Private Moon Studios overcome this
expectation with this game? I've not played any of their AGON games, so
this is my first contact with their output, but I must say I'm impressed.
second question, the prize to a competition is to write a game?
Normally, a prize would be a copy of a game, or perhaps the opportunity to
take part in the production as an extra. In this case, the Hungarian town
of Eger was looking for unconventional ways of promoting their town as a
tourist destination. They also wanted to make use of Géza Gárdonyi’s
popular book, The Stars of Eger (also known as The Eclipse of
the Crescent Moon), which is studied as part of the Hungarian
national curriculum for school, and won the Hungarian version of the Big
Read competition. I suppose this is like the competitions that are run for
architects to design significant buildings, just in a new medium. Perhaps
we will see more of this as the gaming generations become the political
leaders of the future.
time now I've been meaning to try replacing Microsoft Windows on my PC
with Ubuntu - a particularly user-friendly distribution of the Linux
operating systems. However, the major stumbling block to such a change was
my desire to continue playing modern PC games. Now I cannot report that
I've had complete success with this changeover, but I'd say it's about
95%+, and I can write that Yoomurjak's Ring runs perfectly under
the Ubuntu operating system, with the help of the well-known Wine package.
Is there a plot?
Hunt is a journalist with the New York Times (a fact that doesn't seem to
impress many Hungarians!), whose recently deceased mother was Hungarian.
The Hunt name may be familiar because he is the great-grandson of
Professor Samuel Hunt, the protagonist of the AGON games. The game begins
with Jonathan traveling through Hungary by train, to Eger, in order to
find a new life. What he finds is a historic city that always seems to
bask in fabulous sunshine, full of interesting people and mysteries from
the Turkish era of the town, in the mid 16th Century.
“Yoomurjak” of the game title is an anglicised form of the Turkish
anti-hero of the Stars of Eger, Jumurdzsák. And his ring? Well, I
don't want to give that part away. However, it turns out that Private Moon
Studios have managed to get the same actor to play Jumurdzsák / Yoomurjak
as played him in the 1968 film adaptation of the Stars of Eger,
György Bárdy. You can look him up on IMDB.com if you like – he has quite a
list of credits!
hint we have to begin with is a couple of documents in Jonathan's
possessions, and a name: Pál Ábray. From here it's up to you what you do
with this information. Do you try to track down Ábray, or his relatives,
or do you explore the town? Actually, the real story doesn't begin until
you decide to track down Ábray and discover just how connected the modern
town is to the past. There are some characters that have small parts to
play in the story, but there are others who will be with you throughout.
have mysteries in the past, mysteries in the present, cryptographic
challenges, plenty of treasure hunting, a bit of musicology, an
underground maze, some chemistry, a beautiful city, and some pretty weird
How do you play?
is entirely mouse-based; classic point and click. The locations are full
360 degree bubbles (including floors and ceilings) of real locations in
Eger. These are photographs taken from a
first-person perspective. It's only during the frequent FMV cut-scenes
that we see Jonathan Hunt himself.
seem to be hundreds of locations – many are just stepping stones between
the ones where the action takes place, but they all add to the impression
of really walking through the town. The photographs of the locations are
high quality, even when you scan around the scene (no dropping to low
resolution for fast-pan action here). In some locations, there are small
animations of people and action overlaid seamlessly onto the photographs,
just to give an impression of life within the scene. The first few times I
caught these sequences out of the corner of my eye I thought, “Surely that
girl over there didn't move? Did she?” However, eventually I did cotton on
to what was going on.
of getting around Eger, you can navigate between most of the town's
locations through the streets, but most of the time you can use your map.
When new locations are introduced by Juli (the tourist information
officer) or other characters that Jonathan meets, there is usually a short
scene where Jonathan hands over his map to be marked with the new
location. This becomes something of a repeating motif and I found this one
of the best indicators that I was making progress.
As far as
the user interface is concerned, there's the standard main menu of New
Game, Load, Options, etc, and then, within the game proper, there's a menu
quarter-disc permanently displayed in the top right corner. This has
buttons for your Map, Inventory, Notes,
Internet and Menu (to return to the System Menu). The inventory strip is displayed across the top when required and,
by the way, some inventory items can be combined to create new ones. The
map is a critical part of how you will get around town, as I've already
mentioned. Next we have the Notes button, which gives access to a five day
log that recalls all dialog text you've seen so far. This means you don't
have to remember absolutely everything, but can backtrack through your log
as well. And this is just as well, as there is no way to get a dialog
repeated just by returning to the same character and trying to ask them
the same question again – quite often the game will say that you don't
want to disturb them any further. The last button is an Encyclopedia, but
that's not available in the English version.
of the game play in Yoomurjak's Ring is exploration and dialog.
There is a lot of information imparted through dialog, and much of the
puzzle element of the game is figuring out who you need to talk to next.
You will also spend plenty of time searching for items and clues, then
finding and decoding texts. There are a few more complex tasks, such as
discovering a family crest or triangulating clues on a map, and some of
the puzzles require inventory items to be combined to make new items.
features a cast of professional Hungarian actors, all of whom have plenty
of entries on the IMDB, and who seem to know what they're doing acting in
an FMV game. They all seem fluent... however I'm not really in much of a
position to judge the dialog beyond very general impressions. Still, the
dialog flows, the acting is expressive and watchable, even if I had to
maintain full concentration at all times to keep up with the subtitles.
Thank goodness for the notes section in the menu.
It is at
this point that I have to admit to having tested the Alt-Tab friendliness
of Yoomurjak's Ring (in both operating systems) to quite an
extent... whilst referring to MaG's walkthrough, especially for the latter
half of the game. This is not an easy game, as the puzzles are involved
and widely spread around the town. It is quite easy to miss a hint in what
someone says and not realise to whom Jonathan needs to speak next, or
where he should be going. Also, some of the objects you need to find are
quite obscure. This becomes particularly challenging late in the game when
searching for five special books. As it happens, Private Moon Studios have
published what they call a walkthrough on the
Yoomurjak website, but it's actually an extensive hints page, rather
than a step-by-step walkthrough.
for the sound-recognition combination lock and the maze. However, the
audio puzzle is not a game stopper as the game will let you through
eventually, and the maze has a map – you just have to find it.
already been mentioned, this game has Hungarian dialog throughout. This is
hardly surprising for a game set in Hungary, filmed in a Hungarian town,
with Hungarian actors, and as the result of a competition to promote said
Hungarian town -- but it does mean that the subtitles are absolutely
indispensable for a non-Hungarian speaker. So much of the game is about
the dialog, that I could not manage any other way.
belongs to the very narrow linguistic group of Finno-Ugric languages that
otherwise just includes Finnish, Estonian and a few highly localised
languages in Southern Russia. So it's no surprise that a fluency in
English, and a slight knowledge of French, German, and Welsh got me
nowhere other than to spot that surnames and personal names are reversed
in Hungarian, relative to most European languages.
we're on languages, I'm not sure who did the translations from Hungarian
into English for the subtitles, but whoever it was didn't have their spell
checker switched on, because there are a couple of dozen spelling mistakes
that seemed obvious to me, and several occasions where the use of English
is quite clumsy. One does have to ask where the publisher’s Quality
Assurance department was on this one, because the overall quality of the
rest of the game is exemplary.
although there is a map that shows lots of the locations in this game,
there are times when a local 'zip-mode' would have been very useful. There
were many times when I knew exactly where I wanted to be within a
particular map location, but it still took me five to ten navigational
steps to get from the location entry to the required destination within
that location. And with locations like the Bishop's Library, which you
have to visit quite a few times, this got somewhat irritating. Having said
that, compared to the things Private Moon Studios could have got
wrong with this game, missing this feature is small fry.
all, I enjoyed Yoomurjak's Ring because there is an engaging story
with some enjoyable characters, and it's well told in a technically solid
package. The acting, music, graphics and film direction (if that's the
right term in this context) are all professional and well-polished. There
are over 90 minutes of video footage in this game, and whilst that might
not sound like much if played straight through, in the context of the game
as a whole, there is little repetition (with the exception of the arrival
scenes at various map locations). The whole game took me many hours to
wonder, however, if a localised version with English dialog (even if
dubbed by English actors) might sell better in the regions of the world
where Hungarian is less well known. On the other hand, I now think Hungary
might be a very interesting and beautiful place to spend a summer
What do you need to play it?
Operating System : Windows 2000 / Windows
XP / Windows Vista
CPU : Pentium
IV or equivalent
Memory : 512 MB
Video : 256 MB
Hard disk space :
5 GB free
Audio: 16 bit
(I used a
custom built 64-bit Vista Home Premium SP1 PC running on an AMD Athlon 64
X2 Dual 5200+, with 6 GB RAM, and an XFX nVidia GeForce 8600GT 256MB video
card with mother-board sound card, and the same PC but running Ubuntu 9.04
(Jaunty Jackalope), with Wine 1.1.22)
Yoomurjak’s Ring can
be purchased via download at
The Adventure Shop.