Review: Nostradamus: the Last Prophecy (PC)

Nostradamus: The Last Prophecy
Developer: Kheops Studios
Publisher: Microids
Genre: Adventure
Release Date: 09/23/2008


As the fella says, “Nostra damus cum falsa damus, nam fallere nostrum est; Et cum falsa damus, nil nisi nostra damus.”

Nostradamus: The Last Prophecy take place in the year of the author’s death, 1566. Let’s get up to speed on some of historical background of the real Nostradamus before we start this thing. While Michel de Notredame was on a tour of Provence, the plague up and killed his wife and two children in Agen. Being a trained physician, this tragedy inspired Nostradamus to travel throughout Italy and France combating the plague. He wound up back in Provence where he met a rich widow named Anna Ponce Gemelle and married her. The couple made some new kids, three boys and three girls. The oldest child Cesar was born in 1555. 1555 was also the year in which Nostradamus was first published. His initial offering was a cookbook entitled Excellent et Moult utile Opuscule à touts necessaire qui desirent auoir cognoissance de plusiers exquises Receptes. (In English this means Excellent and Most useful Tract of everything needed, for those who wish to become familiar with many choice Recipes.)

You don’t get many titles like that anymore.

Back to the game: Catherine de’ Medici, mother of King Charles IX, shows up at Nostradamus’s door asking for help. It seems she is afflicted with some sort of curse based around one of Nostradamus’s quatrains. Basically, there have been a series of mysterious deaths among her entourage.

Nostradamus is at death’s door (bad gout), but when the regent of France asks for your help, you’d better help her. So, Nostradamus offers to send his son Cesar in his place. Problem is Cesar is away. For some reason, Nostradamus’s wife and most of his kids are away. Madeleine is the only able-bodied Nostradamus around, so she is forced to cross-dress and catch a serial killer.

He is such a good dad.

Now those of you who can do math should note that in 1566, Cesar should only be about 11 years old. Despite this thing, Cesar has a fairly impressive mustache/ soul patch combo. It is also worth noting that this year would also make our heroine Madeleine 10 years old or younger.


They grew up so fast back then.

So we play as Madeleine. Our first mission, in what is ostensible a murder/mystery game, is to steal our Cesar’s clothes, bind our breasts (quite voluptuous for a 10 year old), find some shoulder pads, swipe Cesar’s glasses and hat, create a short wig and facial hair our of a longer wig, and so on.

We get to leave the house and solve murders now right?

No, now we got to brew up a special cream to darken our skin so that we can look more like Cesar. Being that this is a point-and-click game, the well needs to be repaired before we can get the water to make the cream.

Done, now we can go solve murders right?

Nope, now it is time to make some jam to give to Catherine de’ Medici.

Jam? JAM?!

Yeah jam! You know they sell Nostradamus jam to this very day!

But after the jam we get to solve murders right?

Sure thing. . . right after we make Catherine de’ Medici’s birth chart.

And after that. . .murder mystery?

Well THEN we talk to Nostradamus. We have to answer trivia questions and learn how to speak like a boy.

Then murder mystery?

After that, Nostradamus finally puts the darkening cream on our face and. . .

AND. . .

We go to bed.

All right, so we wake up and we’re ready to solve a mystery right?

Yup! For a little bit, but then you got to go back home and make some wine and medicine to help your father’s memory. You give it to him, solve a puzzle to open a door , find a rock then go to bed.

I’m already asleep again?

Don’t worry; you wake up soon enough.

Then what do I do? Bake bread?

No! First you have to fix the bread kneader. You find a replacement part, repair it at the blacksmith’s shop, and then you get to make bread.

People are being murdered! Doesn’t anybody care?

People need bread!

Our character doesn’t even get to eat any of this bread and jam! What a rip off!

At this point the game is about half over.

Seriously.

The graphics are a mixed bag. The backgrounds are richly detailed, and locations are credible as real places. There are even birds flying in the air during the daytime and rats on the road at night. The objects in our inventory look nice. The problem arise when people show up. Don’t get me wrong; Nostradamus looks a lot like de Chevigny described. It’s just that the NPCs really don’t move their bodies. They don’t move like people, but rather sway slightly like trees in the wind. Their mouths go through hysterical spasms when they speak, but they generally don’t turn or tilt their heads. The instances of character movement are so rare that they become noteworthy. Constance, a lady in waiting, will occasionally move her left hand up to her head as though she were fixing her hair. On one occasion Jeane Aime de Chavigny will peculiarly turn his back to Madeleine upon answering any question she asks. (You are supposed to take a clay mold of his key when he does this thing. Apparently he won”Ëœt notice.)

This human problem comes into play even with Madeleine, even though the entire game is first person. For some reason, there is a mirror in the game in which Madeleine can see her reflection. Now moving the cursor around changes the direction we look. Sometimes Madeleine’s reflection moves with this thing, and sometimes it doesn’t. When it does move, it generally moves in the wrong direction (I.e. Madeleine will point her head down in order to look up; this is not a sound strategy to see thing above oneself). Furthermore, this movement is limited to about 3 frames.

Oy.

In terms of the aural aspects of the game, the music is a highlight. That is to say that the music is okay, but can be a little chopping when moving from one screen to the next. The voice acting ranges from the passable (Madeleine) to the pretty crappy (almost everybody else) to the ludicrously bad (Constance). There are some weird word choices in this game. For instance, Nostradamus uses “deduct” in lieu of “deduce”. This isn’t an error, but it seems odd. The terms “pottier” and “foment“ are used . Early on in the game Madeleine can’t get into the observatory and laments this fact as the observatory is “definitely the place in the house that I prefer.” In at least one instance there were word in the sub-titles that weren’t spoken. At one point the dialog skips like a record.

Although the main problems of the game are in its control and gameplay. As is the case with some point-and-clicks, moving from one place to another has no transitional backgrounds. Once we click ahead, boom, we are instantly ahead. We have no way to gauge how far the character has traveled, and it’s easy to lose orientation. This can be a problem in a game without a useful map. Thankfully there aren’t that many places to go.


In 2008, it’s weird to be able to look in any direction and not be able to walk. The movement here is like standing on a lazy Susan and being able to teleport to any adjacent lazy Susan. You must never step off the lazy Susan. The floor is lava!

As noted previously, the backgrounds are richly detailed. Unfortunately, you can’t click on hardly any of it. There is an abundance of chests and books and doors that serve no purpose. You don’t even get a description when you click on these things. You can’t click on them.

The game is ridiculously linear. I’ve always felt that this style of games lent itself to a sort of interactive fiction. You should be able to solve the murders at different points in the story. At one point in the game I had the case all but solved and could have saved a life, but Madeleine refused to open a box. I clicked on it, hoping for a clue. She tells me that she doesn’t think we should look at that now. (When she lets me open it up the next day, guess what? Case solved.)

No matter what your character does, the story is going to stay the same. There are only two places in the game in which you can die! Your interaction with the story is basically limited to the order in which you find mundane items. There are some “optional” parts of the game, but all they do is give additional points. POINTS? Who cares about points? My best guess, upon completing this game you will have a minimum of 320 points and a maximum of 350 points. There isn’t much wiggle room.


We are even limited in solving the individual puzzles. In lieu of fixing the well, I tried to get water from a bowl in the bedroom. For some reason that water doesn’t work. When I couldn’t find the lighter to light my stove, I tried grabbing the pot and holding it over the fireplace. Madeleine decided to just dump the contents of the pot into the fireplace. Why would she do that thing? For vengeance, I decided to fill the pot up with sulfur, iron filings and gunpowder. Dump that into the fire you French tart! Apparently, that wasn’t a very dangerous thing to do. Nothing happened.

GAH!

Most of the puzzles in this game range from the illogical to the counter-intuitive. To get into the observatory, you need Nostradamus to give you a medallion and then you need to solve a puzzle.

I just got the key! Why do I need to solve a puzzle? It’s just an observatory, not a treasure trove.

To get a minor recipe from Cesar’s trunk you have to fiddle around with the lock until you knock a pin loose. I think I knocked the dang thing loose by randomly poking at the thing with my compass. Anyway, this just allows the cover to the combination lock to be revealed. The winning combination of this lock in the selfsame room in a portrait of Cesar. You see, the combination is made up of the constellations behind Cesar. In the portrait they are made of stars, so you have to go to the observatory to match the star patterns to the appropriate symbol.

Why would Cesar have this system in place? Why did he think that that was a good idea? Mind you, we’re doing all this to get a recipe to make an aphrodisiac for the least important character in the game!

These puzzles make less sense than Resident Evil puzzles.

Another weird aspect of this game is the inventory. When you grab something, it stays in this interstitial inventory. From there it has to be placed in the inventory proper. I don’t know why this is. It’s not like the proper inventory is small. There are 48(!) empty slots in the regular inventory. In addition to this, there are six tools that Madeleine carries with her everywhere.
And a diary.
And a useless map.
And a separate notebook on the murder victims.
And a recipe book.
She doesn’t even carry a bag, but somehow she can manage to carry around nearly 60 items! Furthermore, since she can change back and forth between her Cesar guise and her Madeleine clothes, she has to carry these things around. The entire outfit of either of these identities only takes up 1 inventory slot. ONE! As Madeleine, she doesn’t even have room to carry Cesar’s boots, let alone his boots and 60 other random things.

The inventory is so big, probably, because this is one of those games in which it is in your best interest to pick up whatever you can. Some aloe hanging from a neighbor’s threshold? Might need that later, The large golden rod you removed in order to open Cesar’s trunk? Might as well keep that in the inventory all game.

I will give Nostradamus: The Last Prophecy credit for one thing: Infinite save. You can save the game as many times as you want, whenever you want. This is especially useful during the final sequence of the game, a twice timered frustrating mess of stupid puzzles, culminating in a ridiculous scenario right out of Indiana Jones fanfic.

All in all, this game is a let down. The book lists this thing as a co-production of Elextrogames, MC2, Totem Studio, Kheops Studio, Mzone Studio. That’s five companies working on this game. I could create a more in-depth, more interactive, more immersive gaming experience by myself in a week on a 1998 iMac with Hypercard.2.2.

The Scores:
Story/Modes: Poor
Graphics: Poor
Sound: Poor
Control/Gameplay: Bad
Replayability: Dreadful
Balance: Poor
Originality: Bad
Addictiveness: Pretty Poor
Appeal: Mediocre
Miscellaneous: Mediocre
Final Score: Poor Game

Short Attention Span Summary

Nostradamus lacks a level of interactivity which would properly allow it to be called a game. It features bad acting, questionable history, and ludicrous puzzles. It is never offensively bad, per se, but one will probably wonder why our heroine spends as much time baking as she does sleuthing.

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