Cameron Files: Secret at Loch Ness
The Cameron Files: The Secret at Loch Ness is a mystery/adventure game in a first person point & click slideshow format, with 3rd person perspective used for the cutscenes. It has a handsome adventurer, a kidnapped fair maiden, a medieval castle, a plot to rule the world, and a bit of the local magic of Scotland thrown in for good measure: a recipe for an enchanting romp of an adventure game.
The game begins as our hero, Alan P. Cameron, is summoned to a distant relative’s castle on the bleak shores of Loch Ness. (I rather doubt that the real Loch Ness region is this barren, but it does serve the purpose for this story.) The master of the castle has been absconded with, so his wife greets our hero, and with histrionic flair, swoons soon after and must be led to her room. Our fearless investigator must therefore begin his search with little assistance. The castle is large, ornate, and full of passageways to navigate, though not all of it is immediately available to you. Trap doors, hidden rooms, and private staircases abound. In other words, a perfectly delightful place to wander, and get lost in! Ah, but evil is afoot, and someone doesn’t want Cameron to find out all the secrets of the place, and follows him, locking him into some strange areas. But his devious mind concocts some wondrous escapes – no one will contain him for long!
Under this castle is a large cave-like passageway of tunnels connecting several areas, and requiring the use of codes, keys and puzzle solving for entry. And the eponymous Loch Ness! We can’t forget this mysterious and deep dark lake, rich in local lore! Of course a trip underwater is in order, though its reason seems obscure, since we learn little from this timed maze-like excursion. And of course we have to meet “Nessie”, denizen of the lake, or is it?
If you discerned a note of melodrama in my description, forgive me, the game just begs for it. The story, though not terribly well-fleshed out, did carry on with some sense of direction, but more characterization and plot development would have been welcomed. The graphics were, well, interesting…hmmm… The people looked like they had been made in claymation, then caricaturized with large heads and little body detail, and movement was clunky and awkward. The scenery was dismal in coloring, but otherwise well-done. During the cut scenes there was some effort made to lip-sync the voices to the mouth movements; unfortunately there wasn’t quite enough effort made – they were not in sync at all, that I saw.
The puzzles were not too difficult, and many clues were given to assist the player. The main issues with the gameplay were the number of maze-like areas to navigate, the number of times you could die, and the timed sequences. These things greatly diminished the enjoyment of the game for me, though I realize that others may be more forgiving of these things. There was one place near the end, where you must find your way to an area under a maze-like building, find an item needed, locate an obscure control panel, add the item you found, work the controls to save the fair maiden, and do this while in a timed mode in an area you haven’t seen before. Needless to say, saving frequently was pure necessity in this game. There were no pixel hunts, and no deviously difficult puzzles. But if you’re not good at mazes, I’d give this game a bye. The underwater timed maze was especially difficult to achieve. Another irritant was the use of only the items that the game allowed you to use: the wheelbarrel by the greenhouse was the only one you could use for the scuba equipment.
The music, what there was of it, had a Scottish flavor, but I would have like more of the mournful bagpipe music in several places. The sound effects were appropriate, and not too loud, which I appreciated. Some of the conversation was difficult to understand during the cutscenes, especially the female voices, and there was no option for subtitles. Voice acting was good for the men, but not well done by the women. In a scene where Cameron rouses the master of the castle from his captivity, the subtlety and gentleness of his approach with the elderly man was exceptionally well done.
Overall, the game was fun, in a campy, noir sort of way, but it struggled a bit at times to be convincing. I enjoyed exploring the castle, though I did get lost often. Outside the castle, navigating the nodes with the point & click interface was not always intuitive. The in-game map helped a bit, after you were able to use it, but not in all cases. The puzzles were fun; the mazes were not. Even though it was a less than stellar experience, this game did have enough good points to recommend it, at least as an in-between game.
Pentium 166 MHz (200MHz recommended)
16 MB RAM (32 MB RAM required for Win98)
4X CD-ROM Drive (8X recommended)
DirectX 8.0 Compatible Video and Sound Cards
With thanks to Bacardi Jim for his expert advice and editing prowess.
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