May 7, 2002
Ruske and Pühretmaier Edutainment
Release Date: 2001
Germany is well known for its commitment to high quality products, whether it is in the automotive, electrical, or electronic industries and Bioscopia is another product that can proudly wear the German badge. It was developed by the Ruske and Pühretmaier Edutainment team, responsible for Physicus and the less well-known Chemicus. After playing Physicus last year, I was looking forward to continuing the "edutainment" experience, especially when I found out the inspiration for Bioscopia was biology, my strongest science at school. So, after playing it through to the very end, was it a game I could recommend? Read on…
STORYThe game begins with a grainy video sequence showing a scientist discovering the abandoned Bioscopia complex (which she was apparently looking for). The Bioscopia complex was designed to research artificial intelligence with robot design. The five nodes of the Bioscopia complex are human biology, cell biology, genetics, zoology, and botany. Somehow, the complex has become abandoned and the robots run amok releasing poison gas. Foolishly (or luckily for us adventurers!), the scientist enters the complex and becomes trapped inside. A short while later, you arrive at the complex with the intention of exploring and freeing the trapped scientist. It's not exactly the most novel storyline but enough to hold interest. The game is best compared to a slide show game (a la Riven) with few full videos. It's a nice distraction with very limited character development or any real storyline other than to rescue the damsel in distress. I did like the ending, though-it really appealed to my sense of (black) humor! I give the story a B.
LOGICThe puzzles in this game almost all involve collection of inventory items and using them in the right places. There are some of Myst-type puzzles that involve reading documentation and using the information (such as codes) to open a sealed lock. There are other puzzles that also make sense in the respective nodes of the complex. These involve using information relating to the stream of biology (such as making a flower bloom) and other contextual puzzles. Every puzzle in the game makes sense. They all relate to biology and are NEVER obscure. Look around and all the information is there ready to be used. The one thing that isn't logical is the security in the system. Unfortunately, this is an all-encompassing one. You have to ask the question: why would scientists build a complex with locks that can be opened by anyone with basic biological knowledge? Surely every scientist would have been able to access all areas. The locks could have only been a nuisance at worst. I realize this dispensation of logic had to occur to ensure a player was exposed to a fair amount of learning but I feel it is worth mentioning for those players who expect all-encompassing logic. The logic deserves a B+.
GRAPHICSThis game is a WIN/MAC hybrid, so makes extensive use of QuickTime technology. As observed earlier, the graphic quality of the video sequences (one at the beginning and one at the end) leaves a bit to be desired. They are grainy and of low resolution, even when compared with the norm for QuickTime videos. It is in the game's favor that it holds few video sequences because the quality of the backgrounds is superb. The backgrounds are, for the most part, static, but occasional have a small overlaid QuickTime video that is far clearer than the opening and closing movies. The graphics throughout the game are photorealistic and breathtaking. They are some of the best background graphics I have seen. If eye candy is your game, Bioscopia has your name on it. On the negative side, though, the graphics only use half the total area of the screen. The graphics get a rating of A (static backgrounds) and B (dynamic QuickTime graphics).
SOUNDThe sound is limited to ambient noise and occasional voices in transmissions. There is very little musical score. The sound effects set the scene well but never build up tension or give a player the total immersion other games have demonstrated. There are no great complaints in this area but I was not left with any feeling of being affected by the sound. It has been said numerous times before and I will say it again: please can more developers consider those who are hearing-impaired (or more visually oriented in learning) and provide the options of subtitles. Many a time the difference between a good game and a great one has been an inclusion of subtitles that allows the player to understand the speech better and become more of a participant than a player. I give the sound a B.
GAMEPLAYThis is a typical first-person mouse-driven point-and-click adventure: just what all the forums have been asking for! For those who rue the recent return to keyboard use or the incorporation of other game styles (such as action/adventure), this game is a godsend. It harks back to the classic style of games. You have a smart cursor that changes when you can interact with something in the view window. There is a contraption at the bottom of the screen that opens to store your inventory items. There was some confusion on occasion, when the "down" icon represented move back or go down. I found myself having to perform some actions a couple of times to get them right. Be warned that use of items is sensitive to a very small area on the screen (i.e. a key has to be used on the keyhole, NOT the door). Maybe I'm lazy or just too used to other more forgiving games, but I had to use the walkthrough at one stage because I didn't realize there was a limited activation area. Lastly, something that is good for many but not so for my fellow walkthrough writers and me, is that the game comes with a walkthrough on the disk. Come on guys: give us a chance to write a walkthrough! This game deserves anA- for gameplay.
DOCUMENTATIONThe game comes with a highly detailed 12-page booklet that is some of the best documentation that I have seen for a game (outside of the 200 page flight simulator manuals!). It explains the gameplay clearly with full illustrations that fully support Tivola's claim that this game can be played by everyone from 10-102. The documentation deserves an A+.
EDUTAINMENT VALUEThis is one title that really deserves to wear the "edutainment" badge. Every time you need to recharge your access card, you are required to answer up to five biology questions, specifically relating to whichever node of the complex you are in. Right next to the question machine is a database (the "Big Brain") that features all the answers to the questions and is a superb presentation of hundreds of fascinating facts and concepts of biology. If I knew any biology teachers, I would advise them to consider this tool for teaching basic fundamentals of biology. For the educational value at the cost, it ought to be considered in the budget for new resources at schools, as well as Physicus. As an edutainment title, this deserves A+.
GAME ISSUESI played this on an Athlon 600 (using a 64 MB Voodoo 5) under Windows 98SE and experienced absolutely no problems. The game installed without a hitch. The game is completely stable and I do not expect it will need a patch. As there are many QuickTime videos, it is very dependent on the CD-ROM drive for streaming these. It would have been good for an option to do a larger install that placed more on the hard drive (frankly, it's a very small install) to allow for smoother video sequences. Most games aim to rely less on the CD-ROM and more on the hard drive capabilities these days for smooth gameplay. This is a minor complaint, more a suggestion really. The game issues deserve an A.
OVERALLThis game deserves an A-. It is a flawed gem, quite an achievement considering it's an edutainment title. The people at Tivola have produced another wonderful title. I hope they continue to receive the support to provide us with more quality titles, although they must be running out of sciences to consider… In summary, here's a brief ditty:
A lost world, recently found, biology over and undergroundA mystery superbly rendered, quality engendered, As you move from room to room, silent as any tombEncounter technology radical, creatures robotic and mechanicalYou come to a realization, this is no hallucination Not some twisted Utopia, this is Bioscopia…
Final Grade: A-
PC: WIN 95, 98, ME, NT, 2000, XPPentium PC 166 MHz, 64 MB RAM, SVGA-graphics card (16-bit)sound card, CD-ROM drive (8x speed), 120 MB free hard disc space
MAC: MAC OS 8.1, Power PC, 64 MB RAM, graphics card (32.768 colors)sound card, CD-ROM drive (8x speed), 120 MB free hard disc space