Riddle of the Tomb
Publisher: The Adventure Company
Developer: Kheops Studio
Release Date: 3/31/2008
I’d never heard of Riddle of the Tomb when I learned it was on the way to review. After doing some investigation I learned the game had been previously released in Europe under the name CLEOPATRA – A Queen’s Destinyand was made by the same development team currently putting the finishing touches on Dracula 3 – Path of the Dragon for Microids. The fact Kheops was doing the third game to THE adventure game series that brought me back to this genre of gaming filled me with a great deal of optimism, even thought I greatly miss France Telecom Multimedia (the original dev team for Dracula: Resurrection and Dracula: The Final Santuary.)
However I’m not so fond of some of the other games I learned they developed, such as Safecracker or Return to Mysterious Island. Still, this game received decent reviews in England and I was just coming off a great adventure game like The Lost Crown so I was more than happy to play another game that was sure to be steeped in folklore and legend.
What I experienced was well, not at all what I expected.
Okay, here’s the plot. There’s civil war in Egypt as Cleopatra’s brother is trying to take the throne. You are Thomas, an assistant astrologer whose name is about as un-Egyptian as it gets. You set out one day to find your mentor and his daughter Iris, who also happens to be your main squeeze. Unfortunately, both appear to have been accosted and Iris, who is also your lady love, has left little clues for you to track her down. Along the way you befriend Cleopatra, a hunchback and a Priest of Sobek who keeps a lot of crocodiles. Eventually you find Iris, and together you hook up Cleopatra with Julius Caesar, and we all know how well that turned out.
Although the game’s plot is simple enough, there are some pretty big issues with the plot. First of all, your main character of Thomas is unlikeable and an idiot. The dialogue is stilted and hackneyed. The characters has no substance to them and indeed, the characters and even the story itself are secondary to the puzzles. Even worse there are simple every day errors with this game that drove someone like me, who is used to writing folkloric essays for a living, insane. For some reason Egyptians are using Greek letters and writing instead of what the ancient Egyptians actually used. There are mis-references to gods too. Somehow Eros, the Greek god of Love is being worshiped by Egyptians. Worst of al the story constantly refers to Julius and his countrymen as GREEKS. They were ROMANS. This is not a hard check to do. All the way through the game it is “GREEKS THIS” or “GRECIANS THAT.” By the end I just wanted to scream. How stupid were the writers of this script? Even worse, howdid this game get to shelves without a single fact check on this? Holy crap!
Most ot the script in the game is Thomas talking to himself and rambling about how much he loves Iris (another non-Egyptian name BTW), but when she arrives in the game, she is pretty cold and aloof to him. Way to humanize her the Kheops!
The game had an inkling of being interesting and intelligent, but seriously – most people that will play this game will be DUMBER for having done so. For the love of god, the writers need to go back and take a basic classical history lesson. For this alone, the game fails, and it fails hard. Don’t write historical fiction if you don’t know the basics of your characters and time period!
Story Rating: Worthless
Riddle of the Tomb is a very pretty game. Although Thomas and Cleopatra are quite underwhelming in design, Iris and a hunchbacked character you meet in the game are nicely done. The background designs and eye for detail is where this game really shines. There’s a scene in the latter part of the game where you are on a ladder, and when you look down, it honestly has the right depth and camera angle to feel as if you the player, are up on a high precarious surface.
RotT is a panoramic game, meaning you have a full 360 motion for viewing. You can look directly up, directly down, all around – it doesn’t matter. Everything is nicely rendered and realistic in design.
One thing that wasn’t well done however was any time where the characters were animated. This is very rare, but the game is very jerky and stiff with its movements, especially the numerous crocodiles in the game. It’s obvious Kheops is good at doing static pictures, but not moving ones.
There’s also a great deal of slowdown and sometimes outright stalling with the cut scenes. I had worried at first is was my laptop, but as it plays Neverwinter Nights without a problem, and Riddle of the Tomb has requires so low, even an Apple 2e could play it, it had to be the game.
Riddle of the Tomb is a pretty game to be sure, but only when you are standing still and taking it all in.
Graphics Rating: Good
I love the background noises and music in this game. From the crashing of waves to the cries of birds flying overhead, there is a lot of attention to the aural aspects of this game. Although there is little to no music in the game, the few tracks there are fit the game perfect and have a regal, magnanimous feel to them.
The voice acting however, is awful. Both Iris and Cleopatra are like female Ben Steins. Thomas however makes the voice acting in Resident Evil 1 look brilliant. The guy can’t act to save his life and worst of all he can’t correctly pronounce the name of several of the gods in the game. Theseus is pronounced thee’-see-uhs, not Seth-us guy. Again, how did this pass?
I’m probably being anal here but if you’re doing a game on Ancient Egypt, fans of that time period are the ones who will be buying this game and making little errors like that are going to completely irritate the hell out of said target audience.
Incredible sound effects and music, but the voice acting is some of the worst I’ve heard in a looooong time.
Sound Rating: Mediocre
4. Control and Gameplay
I’m just going to say it right here – Riddle of the Tomb is one of the buggiest pieces of crap I’ve ever had to play. It is glitchy, it has severe lag between button clicks and the action being performed, and worst of all, there are control detection issues the likes of which I have never seen in an adventure game before.
Look, the game only uses a mouse and the buttons on the mouse. It should be easy as pie to play. Yet for some reason, the game has trouble recognizing when a mouse is clicked. I tried multiple mice and yet the same problem occurred. Click. Nothing. Click. Nothing. Click. Nothing. Click. OH! Did you click the mouse? Here’s the action you requested. Inexcusable.
Cut scenes have severe issues too. Let’s say the following is a line of spoken script during a cut scene”
“Hello. My name is Cleopatra.”
Here is how the verbiage is delivered:
“Hello. Hello. My. Hello. My na. Hello. My name is. Hello. My name is Cleo. Hello. My name is Cleopatra.”
This is for ever line in every cgi cut scene by the way. Again, this is insane.
There’s also a bunch of sliding puzzles in this game, where you use your mouse to slide a wheel to the appropriate place or letter. Well guess what, the game doesn’t ever want you to spin the wheel fully. The speed seems to differs with each spin, even if you move the mouse the same distance with the same force each time. It also locks up after the second or third mouse swipe, so you have to take your finger of the mouse, and then start again from where you left off. This is far more annoying than just words make it sound.
As I said earlier, I really wanted to believe it was my gaming laptop. Then I compare the system requirements for Riddle of the Tomb with The Lost Crown. Not only can my computer play both easily, TLC has 2-3 times the requirements of RotT and it played PERFECTLY. Anytime a game’s requirements are a mere 128K ram and I have 2 GIGS and the game still isn’t working right, there is a problem, and it is not with the computer. I could run down my computer stats compared to what RotT requires, but needless to say, I had the stats to play RotT with the desktop I had in 2000.
An adventure game where the game can’t tell when or if you are clicking the mouse is like a copy of Street Fighter 2 that refuses to recognize any punch commands. Playing as Balrog? Well, I guess you’re screwed
Honestly the worst adventure game playing experience I have ever had.
Control and Gameplay Rating: Worthless
5. Replayability Rating
Adventure games are notorious for having little to no replay value, Although this game is a complete mess that gets historical facts consistently wrong and is a nightmare to play, they did make the gane varied enough to keep you coming back for more if you somehow choose to boot is up again.
When you start the game you are given an Astrological sign. Depending on what your sign is on each of the four days the game takes place over, good or bad things will happen. Good things are basically streamlined puzzles, while bad things are generally puzzles where you have to find a piece to the puzzle in a far off location or you have to do the puzzle twice or even a third time to get it to work. After beating the game you can play again with a new sign, or use one of the two new new options – one that gives you only good events, and another that gives you only bad, Although I loathed playing this game, the ability to change your signh each time you play does provide a different experience and also brings new twists to puzzles.
The horrible nature of everything else is the game still means I can’t imagine anyone wanting to play through this a second time. At least the option is there for the insane people out there.
Replayability Rating: Mediocre
The puzzles in RotT are interesting, although there are less than a dozen in the entire game. Many of them involve spinning something and hitting letters. The other puzzles generally involve identifying compounds and then mixing them together for sleeping potions or fragrances to hide the sleeping potion. None of the puzzles are super hard taken on their own, but with the click detection issues, you might have had the right idea all along, only to learn the game just didn’t recognize it the first time, leaving you to try countless other possibilities. Then when you come back to your original idea that actually works this time, well you are understandably angry.
I did enjoy puzzles like the lowering of Iris’ cage or the working of a catapult. Most of the puzzles though were variations on the same puzzle you did several times throughout the game.
The game itself is neither too hard, nor too easy. It’s just simply buggy and nigh unplayable at times, rendering a good judge of balance impossible.
Balance Rating: Mediocre
I liked the use of one’s astrological sign and also the “Good Day/Bad day” motif. It really added something new to the genre. Everything else about the game was pretty lackluster. When the game forces you to do not only the same type of puzzles, but the same EXACT puzzle multiple times in the game, it shows a distinct lack of creativity.
For a game this short to double on itself repeatedly, well there is just no excuse. Hopefully we’ll see the idea of a diverging adventure game be used more often after this attempt at it.
Originality Rating: Mediocre
I have played some pretty crappy adventure games before. Hell, I’ve reviewed a lot of bad adventure games. Never before after I truly loathed an adventure game as much as this one. Factual, historical and religious inaccuracies. Click detection issues. Lag and jerky cut scenes. Horrible voice acting. Riddle of the Tomb is up there as one of the worst adventure games I have ever played.
I had co-workers and friends telling me to stop when I was only one-third done with the game because they could see my level of annoyance. Instead I finished the game sheerly out of spite so I could hunt down the development team and know that I could look them in the eye and complain about every single error with the game if I had to.
This game is up there with Turok for my “Worst Game of the Year” award.
9. Appeal Factor
I have no idea who is going to enjoy this game. People who have bailed basic history or have never cracked open a book about Egyptian culture/religion? People who enjoy a buggy repetitive mess? People who write for Gamespot?
The target audience for this game are Egypt-philes and Adventure gamers. The former are going to hate the game for all the errors, and the latter will be bored with the reuse of multiple puzzles through the short playthrough of the game. I can not honestly think of any gamer that could truly have fun with this game. I simply can’t. I should put some of the footage of this thing on YouTube so you can all see the hell I went through.
Appeal Factor: Worthless
10 . Miscellaneous
There was a really nice hint of potential here with some new ideas and puzzles. Then it was all quickly flushed down the toilet. I’m really worried for Dracula 3 now. This makes Kheops 0 for 3 in my book, and it surprises me Microids would hand one of their biggest franchises over to a company this bad. I’m going to be nice and give it an extra point for the “Good Day/Bad Day” option. Otherwise this was about as bad as I can imagine an Adventure game being.
Miscellaneous Rating: Bad
Control and Gameplay: Worthless
Appeal Factor: Worthless
FINAL SCORE: Pretty Poor
Short Attention Span Summary
Riddle of the Tomb is not a game I can recommend to anyone. I’d like to think I just recieved a buggy or flawed copy of the game, but I have to go on what I played. As such, I have to urge everyone who reads this to stay away from this game. It was practically unplayable in my experience.