Genre: Fantasy Adventure
Release Date: December 2003
Note: Originally published 5 January 2004; this is the first of two reviews
In 2001 Detalion and L.K. Avalon developed Schizm: The Mysterious Journey. Thinking of Schizm I remember the great storyline, the amazing graphics, sounds and, not in the least, the difficult logic-based puzzles. No wonder I was thrilled to hear Detalion was developing a sequel: Chameleon.
November 2003: the mailman finally delivers my review copy of Mysterious Journey II. I quickly install the game and am immediately enthralled by the music emitting from my speakers. You should really wait a moment here before selecting an item from the start menu, as the accompanying atmospheric composition will certainly sway you in the correct mood to experience this game to its fullest.
Overall, the sounds of this game are excellent. Many music chords of its predecessor are duplicated in the sequel, but now surround effects have been added to give them more depth. Birds and sea waves are very realistic and even voice-overs – more often than not a major source of annoyance in many games – are rewarding. It is obvious that the developers paid much attention to the ambient sounds of this game.
The same can be said for another important factor as well - graphics! While the graphics of the cd-version of Schizmwere considered a bit ‘coarse ‘ (though the hard-to-get DVD version was a huge improvement), Mysterious Journey IIsports top-notch, high-quality graphics and animations. Besides attention to minute details such as leaves, grass and flowers, impressive skies and wavy seas are set in full 3D landscapes. Many scenes are bright and colorful and achieve the necessary surrealistic atmosphere.
The graphics are balanced between organic (or natural) and mechanical (or technical) environments and devices throughout the game. In fact the essence of this game is entirely based on either a perfect harmony or constant battle between the two.
Mysterious Journey II begins aboard a small space station as Sen, our hero, awakens from a 200 years sleep in cryogenic device. We soon learn that he has no recollection of the crime for which he faces punishment. Finally, he commanders a shuttle to escape from his floating prison and return to the planet Sarpedon. Utilizing chameleon technology to disguise himself as different members of the planet’s tribes, Sen undertakes to infiltrate the tribes, uncover the truth and clear his name.
In short, that’s the entire story. While naturalist and technocrat visions are always an interesting contrast in the philosophy of our global environment, Sarpedon seems to need a much thinner story-line to solve the matter in dispute. So, while the story elements might seem a tad thin, the real focus of Mysterious Journey II is on the puzzles.
The puzzles of this game are a diverse lot. As in the previous game, many clues are comprised of symbols, numbers, colors and sounds necessary to solve the numerous puzzles. But maybe there are a bit too many as you often seem to be hopping from puzzle to puzzle. Every passage, every bridge, every door is a puzzle and it soon becomes an annoyance rather than a challenge. I filled nine pages with notes while playing.
Just like the first game most puzzles are logic-based so be sure to have a calculator close at hand. Fortunately, with some hard thought, most of the puzzles are doable and it is only towards the last fifth of the game that the proceedings become more complex. Most clues can be handily found nearby and the game is completely linear so you needn’t be worried that you overlooked an important piece of evidence in another part of the game.
Dialogs can be viewed during cut-scenes. A big help is the ‘transcript’ feature that allows the option to re-read all dialogs. In case you don’t know what to do, you probably must search for a clue in the transcript. The characters are very colorful and fanciful and, while not to my taste, fit in well with the story. Sen seems to be wearing red boxer shorts on his head and other characters are even weirder and have sprigs sprouting on their heads.
The gameplay of Mysterious Journey II is intuitive. With the exception of some puzzle screens that zoom-in for a close-up, it is not a point-and-click interface. Similar to some other recent adventure games (Broken Sword Sleeping Dragonand Uru), it allows for a 360 degree view, and navigation is done with the keyboard. Though I can’t remember using it, you can even jump using the spacebar. Still Mysterious Journey II has a first-person viewpoint that, in my case, was a relief since boxer shorts on Sen’s head would have distracted me for sure in third person.
In conclusion, Mysterious Journey II is one big graphical and phonetic experience. If you like to solve logic-based puzzles and didn’t play hooky during your math lessons, then this game really is a must. But be aware: besides your own calculation skills, this game requires quite some capacity from your computer and video card as well.
It is also difficult to identify with the characters, and though the graphics are breathtaking, the story of Mysterious Journey II is not. Even an unexpected twist failed to remedy this situation. But most of all, I would have preferred less but more complex puzzles. I too often found myself asking, ‘why on earth is this puzzle needed? Just to keep me busy?’ Or… was it to keep me from finishing this review in time for the deadline… who knows?
Final Grade: B-