Release Date: Europe/November 2002 - North America/February 2003
Note: Originally published December 23, 2002
Ed. note - The following review is of the European version of Post-Mortem. There may be minor changes in gameplay for the North American version to be released in North America by The Adventure Company in February of 2003. We will indicate any such changes during that time.
Microids' Syberia, released earlier this year, was the best traditional adventure game since Myst 3: Exile and The Longest Journey. It was such an accomplished game that it has forced the adventure gaming community to recognize the Canadian publisher as a key force to be reckoned with when it comes the ever-beleaguered genre of adventure.
Microids newest adventure, Post Mortem, is a dark, moody tale of conspiracy and ritualistic murder set in the exotic art world of Paris in the 1920s. The bad news is not surprising: It’s no Syberia. The good news is: It’s still pretty darned good.
After the eerie opening credits suggest the game’s unsettling mood, the game begins with an absolutely beautiful long reverse tracking shot of Paris. You then meet the game’s protagonist, an American ex-private detective-turned artist named McPherson. In classic film noir style, a beautiful woman unexpectedly enters his life and demands that he return to detective work.
She describes a grisly murder scene in a Paris hotel in which her sister and brother-in-law were literally cut to pieces by an unknown assailant. Though at first he’s reluctant, McPherson ultimately agrees to pursue the case.
The game is in classic first person point-and-click format, with 360-degree panning in all scenes except for close-ups.
There are many things in this game to like. Graphically, the game is pleasing, especially the cutscenes. The character models look pretty good, though their movements during conversation are often arbitrary and silly. The graphics are certainly not in the league with Syberia, but they’re much better than the muddy, low-resolution images seen in recent adventure games such as The Mystery of the Nautilus. I would compare them favorably with another excellent Microids title, Road to India.
The story is excellent as well. True, it deals with oft-visited adventure game subject of the Knights Templar, but more interestingly, it delves into the bohemian artsy-druggy underworld of Paris. McPherson comes across (and hears about) some pretty dicey and colorful characters during his Post Mortem journey.
Traveling to the various locations in the story is accomplished with a map of Paris, and the deeper you get into the game, the more locations become available. This is a tried-and-true adventure game technique I’m still quite fond of, and it’s used well here.
To solve the mystery of Post Mortem, McPherson has to use both his detective and artistic talents. The latter are engaged in a couple of very interesting puzzles. He also has a third ability, a sort of psychic memory, which could have been used very interestingly in the game but unfortunately isn’t. It’s simply used to provide the excuse for a couple of gruesome flashback cutscenes and nothing more. This is a shame, because the idea of a psychic private eye is a very good one.
It is, however, a terrific idea to have McPherson combine his detective’s ear for witness descriptions with his artistic skill in drawing in a puzzle that creates a sketch of a murder suspect. Like several of the game’s puzzles, it isn’t easy, but it’s fair and satisfying. There’s also an alchemy puzzle, a lock pick puzzle, and other entertaining challenges. The observant player will generally find all the clues necessary to get the riddles solved.
There’s also a very entertaining interlude in which the player actually switches characters during a long flashback. This was a clever device that I’d like to see in more adventures. During this sequence not only the inventory, but the map itself changes for the new character – it’s nicely done.
The programming in the conversation trees can be a bit shaky at times, as characters will mention subjects that really haven’t yet been covered. Also, while the story is solid, the English dialog translation is wooden and flat. Considering the heady and exotic setting of the story, the dialog could have used more zip.
The worst problem with the dialog, however, is that the voiceover performance by the actor playing the game’s lead character is absolutely dreadful. Most of the characters around him are perfectly fine, but McPherson is the most deadly-sounding character since Faust in Jazz and Faust. Okay, he’s not quite that bad – it’s almost impossible to be that bad – but it seriously hurts the game. I’m baffled that Microids would have signed off on such a lame, game-damaging flaw. It would be a relatively easy element to correct, and I heartily recommend they do so before the game’s North American release.
Fortunately for the player, however, this flaw, significant as it is, does not ruin the experience. Post Mortem is a creepy, challenging, intelligent and atmospheric thriller that will be a welcome end-of-the-year treat for adventure game lovers everywhere. Let’s keep our eyes on Microids, kids – they’re really watching our back.
Final Grade: B
Pentium II 550 MHz
64 Mb RAM
3D graphic Card - 16Mb