or 7 Games Of The Soul
While growing up, most of us have heard of the seven deadly sins: pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed, and sloth. Supposedly if we avoid these, and follow the Ten Commandments, we will be allowed to enter Heaven after our deaths. What if you were able to conquer six of the deadly sins, but one was just too difficult to overcome for you? What if, say, your pride kept getting in the way? And if pride came to define you, to where it was important above all else, what would you do if you were offered a way to maintain your proud stance in the world against all odds? Would you sell your soul to the devil to achieve your goal?
Goethe’s Faust is the inspiration for this interesting game, but a great deal of poetic license is taken, thankfully. We have Marcellus Faust as our protagonist, who is assigned by Mephistopheles (Mephisto), as agent of the devil, to investigate the lives of seven Dreamland employees, to see if their pact with the devil is indeed a valid one. The setting of a circus-like amusement park to display the characters in their homes, work, and interactions with others is a clever way to allow for the intermingling and intertwining of lives and purposes. The seven segments of the game loosely correspond to the seven deadly sins, but each segment is woven into a tapestry of Dreamland, the sine qua non. It is possible to enjoy this game without taking the time to unravel all the threads, but for me, untangling them was part of the fun.
We begin each segment by taking a tour through the homes of each individual, seeing how they lived, and what was important to them. We are shown brief flashbacks of each person, to get a feel for how they behaved, spoke, and interacted with others. Once we get to know them a bit, and learn what is important to them, we see them being tempted by Mephisto, and seeing their response to this temptation. We then follow them via flashbacks for a while, seeing the results of this, whether they took the temptation or not. At the end we receive a confirmation or negation of the pact with the devil, to give to Mephisto. Each person has secrets to be uncovered, by examining their work or by their environment, such as hidden passages to explore. Each is quite different, and yet bound to this same Dreamland microcosm that both hinders and exposes them. Each is an individual with his/her own values, likes/dislikes, past history, and approach to life. Each is both likable and detestable in varying degrees. Each has a distinct personality. Many kudos to Arxel Tribes to take the time and effort to build individual profiles for each person, as it added to the personal touch and involvement for the gamer. For a game that is based on a religious premise, the exceedingly fine balance that was maintained here is commendable: no preaching, no proselytizing, no Theology - just a story built on common Christian beliefs.
The game is played in the first person perspective, with frequent, well-edited cutscenes that enhanced the intrigue of the plot. Mephisto, whom we deal with the most, is probably the best looking and maybe even the most likable character, even though he is the agent of the devil. I suppose he must be a charmer to adequately tempt others to their eternal fate. There is a tiny caged imp named Homunculus, who assists in a few spots, and can be used to give hints when you get stuck, but if used too much, will need to be “charged up” by playing a difficult arcade-like sequence. The scenery graphics were excellent, the people less so, but still very good for the year 1999. Maneuvering was a bit clunky, but not really difficult to learn, with node to node movement, but allowing for panning to see the lovely environment. The music was superb in this game and set the stage for a post-depression era scene with just the right amount of nostalgia and mood. The control panel enables you to play this music at will. Sound effects were executed exactly as you would expect live sound to be.
Puzzles ranged from quite simple to moderately complex, and did not distract from the gameplay. It was only on retrospect that I realized just how many there were, since they were so seamlessly integrated into the game. Many of the puzzles are just the mechanics of getting to know each person, and the exploration of their world, while others lead you to new areas of information. The puzzles are mostly well-cued, with some actually being fed to you, while others require some deduction. One of my favorites was a treasure hunt in the second segment, where you receive clues to help you find what you need to complete the puzzle. The game evolves in a fairly linear fashion, and you are not allowed to progress to the next stage until the previous one is completed. During the poker game, if you don’t win, you are recycled back to begin it again until you do win. Games saves are unlimited, but the game does an automatic save between each segment. Twice during cutscenes, it crashed to the desktop on me, but since they were between segments, I lost no progress, loaded back to the same spot and continued without further problems. The game is on four CD’s, and there is a minimal amount of disc changing between segments, but none that interrupts gameplay.
Summary – while this game is far from perfect, it does so many things so well, that I’m forgiving of all but the game crashes. Did I like it? Well, The Longest Journey is no longer my all-time favorite game! Yes, it truly is that good. The extremely well-written plot, gorgeous period music, interesting true-to-life characters, beautiful graphics, and well-designed puzzles make this a game you’ll not soon forget, yet want to play again.
Minimum System Requirements:
Direct X 6 Compatible
Pentium 200 MMX
32 MB RAM
16 bit Color
12 X CD ROM
2 NB VRAM
With grateful thanks to my personal editor, BJ.
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