Just when I thought that I was becoming a curmudgeon and a hater of all adventure games, I find a game like Egypt II. This game has restored my faith in the genre -- it is possible to make an adventure game which is fun to play. Readers of this review should probably take any glowing praise with a small grain of salt: It's hard for me to be very objective when my depression suddenly gets transformed into delight. I could be suffering from some amount of overshoot here (but I don't think I am).
Graphics (quality, animations, cut scenes)
The graphics and cut scenes were superb througout. I definitely enjoyed the fact that the characters motions (especially walking) seemed much more natural than I have come to expect. It's nice to see characters walking and running without looking as if a fencepost had been firmly placed where the sun doesn't shine. Egypt II got everything right, from the wonderful opening cut scene, to the final cut scene.
Sound (music, voices, special effects)
The music and sound effects were very good in this game, but the voice acting really makes this game shine. The voice of the main character, Tifet, was so utterly natural that I felt I actually knew her as a person by the end of the game. I honestly don't think there has been a better job of voice acting done in an adventure game.
Story (plot, theme, depth)
The story was a solid mainstay of the game. If Egypt II were a novel, then I could easily describe it as a page turner: It kept me playing late at night just to see what was going to happen next. The story had challenges for the main character at the personal level, instead of just the usual "save the world" plot.
Characters (depth, development, interaction)
The main character, Tifet, was very completely drawn, and a few other characters were shown as more than mere props to hold up the story. On the other hand, there were some characters that literally had nothing of interest to say after the first conversation.
Puzzles (difficulty, uniqueness, suitability, ugliness, linearity)
Egypt II is an extremely linear game, with most of the puzzles involving nothing more than talking to the right people and gathering the right inventory items. I don't mind linear games, but sometimes I found myself wishing for meatier puzzles.
There were a few timed sequences, but they could almost always be solved in a logical manner without having to rush around.
This game contains one of the nastiest, ugliest sound-based puzzles ever invented. You are expected to beat a pair of drums (using the keyboard) in time to a piece of music. If you fail once, it "nicely" lights up each drum on the expected beats. I have no sense of rhythm, so had no luck whatsoever. I turned the task over to a musician, who also failed dismally. If you actually beat the drums in time to the music, the puzzle doesn't work -- you have to hit each one when the light comes on. Effectively, the designers went and inserted a nasty arcade sequence into an otherwise wonderful game. Do yourself a big favour -- get a friend to send you a save from a point just after this puzzle.
Controls (user interface, save/restore, sound/video adjustments)
Movement was node-based, with full 360 degree view at every node.
The game options allowed you the choice of "Cursor stays centered and screen moves", or "cursor moves around freely in the center third of the screen, and then the view moves".
I just got a brand new machine (XP1600+ CPU, GeForce2 video), and the screen movement was way too fast. The game options had speed settings for the view rotation (very slow, slow, normal, fast, very fast), and I found that I had to choose between the slow or very slow settings. Very slow had me moving my mouse to the point of tiring out my arm, and slow was still too fast -- I could spin the view into a blur by moving my mouse an inch too far.
An associated problem arose when moving around from one node to another. If I moved the mouse while the cutscene was in progress, then the view would spin like a top the instant the cutscene was over. Basically, I had to be very careful about when and where I moved my mouse.
The save game system was great: unlimited saves, and a saved game was shown with a small picture, a date and time, and a title which the game automatically produced for you. The titles were at least as good as any I would have invented.
Bugs or problems
The game didn't handle a very fast machine with aplomb.
I had severe sound problems until I backed off two notches on the acceleration setting. This may be due to my new machine, which uses a C-Media sound chip instead of my old Soundblaster Live sound card.
There is a patch (I have no idea what it fixes), but I had real trouble getting it. Dreamcatcher (the publisher/distributor) didn't have it on their web site, and the Cryo website is unusable. This is worthy of a complaint to Dreamcatcher.
No problems with install, except for obtaining the patch.
Superb voice acting, story, graphics, cutscenes
Sound/arcade puzzle from hell
Very touchy controls on a fast machine
Buy it. Play it. Enjoy it.
This game gets a spot on my "top ten" list.
This article copyright © 2002, Murray Peterson