I was of those unfortunate people who were unable to obtain the DVD version of Schizm, so I was "forced" to play the CD version. Even though I make references to the DVD version, I have never seen it at all, so any comments I make about the DVD are obviously of questionable accuracy.
Instead of a graphical movie introduction, Schizm starts with a long narrative sequence being read aloud by someone. This isn't a bad thing, and may in fact be a useful cost-saving measure that other adventure game companies could emulate. I admit that I would much prefer an introductory movie, but I can certainly accept what I got; the opening narrative was sufficient to set the scene for the game very nicely.
Graphics (quality, animations, cut scenes)
I have read that the CD version is a "chopped" version of the DVD, and it appears that the graphics compression methods used were less than successful. The graphics were beautiful, but there was noticeably "pixelation" effect throughout the game. I wish I could describe it better than that, but I can assert that Schizm graphical quality does not measure up to some other games released recently. As an example, I would consider Beyond Atlantis 2 to be much better quality than Schizm, and Myst 3 was in a class of its own. That being said, the graphics in Schizm were certainly acceptable, and I would really like to see how much better the DVD version really is.
The animations and cutscenes were all done very well, although I got very, very tired of watching some of the more frequent ones. Schizm provided no mechanism to "abort" or shortcut a cutscene; you had to watch it all the way through, even if it was the tenth time you had seen it.
Sound (music, voices, special effects)
If there was any music, I didn't notice it. In other words, the music neither bothered me nor excited me.
The sound effects were extremely good; rushing water, creaking machinery and other environmental sounds all seemed natural and helped the immersion effect of the game.
The voice acting was mixed, but quite acceptable in general. I did have a problem where the voices were mixed at a very low level compared to the rest of the sounds, so I ended up with the volume cranked up pretty high most of the time. I found that having subtitles turned on was very helpful, since many of the dialog sequences were intentionally interrupted by noise and static.
Story (plot, theme, depth)
The story got off to a pretty good start with the narrative beginning, but that's about as far as it went. The remaining part of the game seemed to be pretty well story-free. There were a few minimal cutscenes where a character blathered on about things, but the result was more confusing than cohesive. I would have to say that Schizm is a beautiful world filled with puzzles, but not much story. Even the ending cutscence seemed to be something just bolted on after the fact. Definitely a poor job of storytelling in this game.
After reading the walkthrough for this game, it is immediately obvious that the CD version of the game is missing many cutscenes that were present on the DVD. Since many of these missing scenes were characters providing some amount of the narrative, the DVD version of the game may have a much more cohesive story. Personally, I have doubts that the missing bits could make all that much of a difference.
Characters (depth, development, interaction)
There were people in this game, and some of them spoke periodically, but there were no characters in this game. There were no more than a few complete sentences spoken by the two characters that you played, and the remaining actors were just performing "bit" parts at best. It was an interesting twist to be playing two completely separate characters, with the ability to switch between them with a single click of the mouse.
Puzzles (difficulty, uniqueness, suitability, ugliness, linearity)
Most of the puzzles in Schizm were extremely difficult, but they were difficult for all the wrong reasons. Here are some examples of what I consider to be very poorly designed puzzles:
- A sound puzzle(s) from hell -- you had to recognize and repeat sound sequences from an alien language.
- Some of the puzzles had you using a control, with the resulting action happening out of sight and hearing.
- Puzzles where the best possible solution had you clicking the mouse over a hundred times.
- Puzzles in which you couldn't find the solution to until much later in the game. I kept thinking I had missed something needed to solve a puzzle, when it was just that I needed to wait.
- An amazing amount of travel was required -- sometimes you had to move both of your characters to a different islamd, solve a single puzzle, and then move them both back to where you came from. Without any "zap" mode or cut-scene abort, this took a long, long time.
- A game which you had to beat twice in a row, without any save allowed between. Truly an idiotic bit of puzzle design.
In general, I found the puzzles to be more frustrating than challenging, with a feeling that they were just pasted onto the world -- call it a lack of integration.
On the good side, some of the puzzles are truly unique, especially those where you could take advantage of both main characters at once.
Controls (user interface, save/restore, sound/video adjustments)
The CD version of the game allowed horizontal panning only, though a few spots allowed vertical changes of view. The panning was also strange: you could only stop panning in a few fixed angles -- more like a "jump scroll" than a "smooth scroll". Overall this really wasn't much of a bother to me, and I found the viewing abilities to be quite acceptable. I must say that it is a disappointment in comparison to the much-better graphics control available in other adventure games -- it seems like they could have managed much better results when reducing the game down to CD.
There were only 16 save slots available -- far too few.
Bugs or problems
I downloaded and installed the relevant patches, and the game was crash free and bug free on my system.
The game gives you the option of a full install, which I took advantage of; I really hate waiting for my CD drive to spin up every time I move. Nobody should release a game (even on DVD) without giving you the option of loading as much as possible onto your hard drive.
- Very pretty world(s) to explore
- Some really unique puzzles
- No cutscene "abort"
- No "zap mode" to travel around
- Very little story, and that bit was confusing as well
- Only 16 save slots
- Sound-based puzzle from hell
- Must solve same puzzle twice in a row without save between
- A large amount of very slow travelling over old ground
Other than the one sound puzzle, this game doesn't have anything that annoyed me excessively, but there just wasn't any feeling of joy while playing it. This was one of those games that looked beautiful, but I wasn'y unhappy when it was over. Perhaps the DVD version is better, but I won't be buying it to find out; it would be too much work for me to slog through this game a second time.
Regretfully, I cannot recommend this game -- it's not horrible by any means, but it just wasn't fun to play.
This article copyright © 2002, Murray Peterson