A mystery game steeped in history with the classic feeling of the FMV games of the past.
September 16, 2009
Don’t even bother reading this review, just go out and get this game. If you yearn for the classic FMV games, go out and get this game. If you love a good mystery steeped in history the likes of National Treasure or The DaVinci Code, go out and get this game.
I was a bit disappointed when I decided to review this game without knowing anything about it. Randy put out his list of games that needed to be reviewed and I randomly picked the title. After having it assigned to me, I went ahead and looked it up and the first thing I thought was, “Oh crap. It’s like one of those Anacapri games…” I don’t mean to down that game because some people loved it. I, for one, did not. I instantly thought of the endless clicking to get around, with very little in the way of a compelling story that draws you in. The poor English voice translations would only add to the frustrations.
So here we go with a game that on the surface appears to be just like Anacapri and was made in Hungary to boot. Now before I start getting hate mail from Hungarians, let me just say that I meant this to mean that there would probably be some bad English voice acting and nothing against Hungary at all. It’s a beautiful country and the people are wonderful – and judging from this game, the women are absolutely gorgeous.As you can see from the picture I’m painting here, Yoomurjak’s Ring had a bit to overcome. It may be unfair, but that’s the reality and where my mind was at when I first started the opening credits.So what happened? A brilliantly put together adventure game is what happened. Right from the outset, any earlier comparisons I might have unconsciously or consciously made to Anacapri were thrown out the window. The navigation, the interface, the voice acting, etc. were all top notch.The City of EgerThe entire game takes place in the historic medieval city of Eger located east of Budapest Hungary. The city is absolutely amazing, with locations that just beg to be explored. Private Moons Studios of Agon fame have done an exceptional job of bringing the city to life. The navigation is easy to use with the familiar 360-degree viewing with point and click navigation. There is even a map that allows you to jump around town and the surrounding suburbs quickly. The city is richly populated with the sounds of people chatting away, the hum of vehicles, and the clatter of dishes being used by the patrons of the many outdoor cafes.
There are no empty streets here. People are all around, and the developers have done an amazing job of making it believable. In no place was there a person who was frozen in mid-stride walking. They were either sitting on park benches, standing in front of shop windows, sitting at the cafes, etc. In many places they would occasionally move while you stared at them. A woman might move her hair to the side, a man might shift his step, etc. I would often find myself just enjoying the walk around town while people-watching. If that isn’t immersion and a true testament in bringing a game to life, then I don’t know what is.
From a developer’s standpoint, you can really appreciate just how much thought and attention to detail was given in putting this all together. This was not some rough idea that was hastily made into a game that is full of rough edges. This is a game that was well planned and thoroughly thought out. Nothing ever felt hurried or rushed. On several occasions I found myself in awe as to just how far they took things with Yoomurjak’s Ring. This was definitely not some cookie-cutter assembly line adventure game that got pushed out the door that we see all too often nowadays.
I tried hard to find some flaw in their work, and eventually found one spot where you could see the legs of the tripod in the scene when you look down. I’ll leave it up to you adventure gamers to see if you can find it. Call it a bonus challenge. They might have even unknowingly caught some woman changing in one the windows, but you didn’t hear that from me…Eger is rich in history and you will find yourself pulled into the local folklore. The game itself hooks you in and you’ll find yourself exploring libraries, museums, old parks, a castle, churches, cemeteries, ancient tunnels, an old Turkish bathhouse, historical landmarks, and so many more locations that I have no room to write about.The adventure has you looking for clues buried in time and putting the many pieces together. It’s National Treasure and The DaVinci Code all rolled into one. If there were other games I had to compare it to, I’d have to go with The Beast Within and Temujin – this game gave me those same feelings.The StoryYou play the part of Jonathan Hunt, a New Yorker, who is Hungarian on his mother’s side. You have some letters from a professor in Eger who had written your great grandfather long ago. In your possession is a book, the Star of Eger, a gift from him. The desire to explore the sites and get in touch with your heritage is what has brought you here.I always try my best not to get into details about stories in my reviews. I feel those are things meant to be discovered by the player. This review will be no exception. I can tell you that the pacing of this game is perfect. The clues unravel a rich and deep story with an ending that leaves you satisfied. It plays with your emotions. It sparks your adventuring vein. It compels you to go forward and explore. So many places to see, so many people to meet. The game truly delivers on the things that make this genre so great.If you are a note taker, Yoomurjak’s Ring will have you loving life. I took 14 pages of copious notes ranging from Latin inscriptions, strange symbols, locations, and various other things that I felt would be important. I’m glad I did too, because even the most innocent of details turned out to be important for challenges that came up later.The Voice Acting – NOT!
How can you call it voice acting when there are real live actors in full motion video?
So in that case lets call them exceptional actors. Of course being that they are all speaking in Hungarian, it makes it a bit tough to tell if they were overacting or not. However, that was one of the best parts of the game. Seeing live actors playing their roles. You become emotionally attached them. The fact that they spoke in their native tongue really drove home the point of being in a foreign land and greatly added to the flavor of the game.The dialogs are all subtitled in English, so you won’t miss anything. If you are a slow reader, no problem, all dialogs are put in your notes so you can easily go back and read through the full conversations. Prepare for some flirtatious advances from some very attractive women, being sized up by a cunning antique dealer, a rude bathhouse owner…the list goes on and on. You will speak with dozens of different people having all sorts of personalities that come shining through.For someone who doesn’t like a lot of dialog in my games, I found myself hanging on to their every word and loving it. In one instance I was getting thoroughly ripped apart by some woman with a broom. I enjoyed the scene so much I just had to go back and annoy her some more – that is until she threatened to call the police on me!I’m leaving the best for last – Juli. Ahhhh, what’s a story without a love interest? Juli fit the bill perfectly. Intelligent, witty, and attractive. The FMV aspects made her character so real - like no 3d rendered model could ever be. I found myself constantly worrying about her safety in the game and frequently stopping by to check up on her. Her character alone took the game to a whole other level. If I ever travel to Eger in real life, I’ll probably run straight to the information center, just to see…The Challenges
The puzzles range anywhere from straightforward to pretty darned tough to one that fell into the unfair category. Yes, while this game was outstanding on almost every level, there were some bumps in the road.
One puzzle in particular had me stumped. So stumped in fact that after 4 hours of getting nowhere I had to do it. The one thing that I despise having to do - Yes, I had to look at a walkthrough. Nothing is worse though than going to the point you are at in a walkthrough, and STILL being stuck. Now had I been a beta-tester on this game, I would have been raising a red flag and waving it like a madman over this one.
It involved “looking” at an object. I don’t mind triggers in games if they make sense. Now if you know what objects were involved in something, but they are not an object hat you need to hold and use, what is the point in having to find it and look at it first, then you can unlock the ability to solve the puzzle?It’s like reading a riddle that says a blue dish was once positioned by a secret door in the corner of the kitchen. What is the point of having to find the blue dish, look at it, and then you can find the secret door in the corner of the kitchen? There is no point. You already know there’s a secret door in the corner. It’s just annoying and frustrating. So frustrating in fact that I had to step away from the game for an extended period.Once I had calmed down and got back into it, that frustration was a thing of the past as the game continued to impress and suck me in deeper. For the very challenging puzzles, the clues and logic are all there as long as you pay attention to the details. They are well integrated into the story and the landscape.A Few Funny Glitches and a Major Oops!I really need to be clear about something first. This game is HUGE. Expect to easily put in 20+ hours on it, the vast majority of it being extremely enjoyable. As such, I think a few glitches are to be expected and can easily be overlooked in the grand scheme of things.There are a couple of typos in the written dialogs. In one instance when you meet Juli at the café, you greet her with “Bye Juli” and she responds with “Bye”. Again, this wasn’t annoying, just sort of funny. Since English isn’t the developer’s native language, I’m greatly impressed at just how seemingly accurate the translations were considering just how much dialog there is.
There was also one scene where you were walking up the street and some pedestrians came around the corner. When the man saw the camera he grabbed his girlfriend’s arm and pulled her to the side. Again, I found it amusing and funny. People being people.
The Major Oops comes in on the dreaded save game slots! As I said, the game is huge and I think the developer made a major mistake in only giving us 8 slots! Please, any developers reading this make sure you give us players lots of slots to save your games! Some of us like going back to certain points and replaying them.
The other thing is that the menu seems a bit weird. When you go back into the game you have a “Continue” option. Fair enough since the game takes you back to the point you last left. But if you want to go to a saved game, you have to click continue, go into the game, then click the menu button, then you have the option to load a saved game. Just seemed a bit strange. It wasn’t a big deal, but it could have been a bit smoother.
On the plus side, the game loads on to your system and you can put the DVD back in the box. You don’t need it to play.
All Good Things Come to An End
As I’m sure you can probably tell at this point, I really had a blast with this game and enjoyed 99% of it. Private Moons has done an outstanding job with this game. I fully expected to find a light indie game, but was pleasantly surprised to find a major title with high production values. The ending credits showed images of the cast and crew at work on this game. There were so many people involved in bringing this game to life.
While I didn’t expect to play another game that would blow me away like The Lost Crown did for at least a couple of years, Private Moons came out of nowhere to deliver a near masterpiece.
Despite the very few rough spots, I have to give this game a solid A.
So what are you waiting for? Go out and get this game!