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Encore shows entry points into murder-mystery genre

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Encore shows entry points into murder-mystery genre
By Michael Lafferty

Teleconference gives looks into three titles making North American debuts

Encore held a press teleconference Wednesday to show off three titles that will be published in North America in the coming months.

The teleconference, which featured brief game demonstrations by Encore’s Christopher Wingood, focused on three titles originally released by Microids in Europe. The games – Nostradamus: The Last Prophecy, Dracula 3: The Path of the Dragon and Sinking Island – are all point-and-click adventure games that will plant Encore firmly in the genre of murder-mystery puzzle-solving adventure titles. The three titles will hit retailers with a price point of $29.99.

There is a general format, indicative to most titles in the category, followed there in that there are puzzles to solve, clues to collect and a mystery to unravel. The interfaces for all three titles seemed to follow what is standard for the genre, meaning that the emphasis is placed on the story themselves and the tale that should certainly draw players into these well-designed worlds.

Sinking Island and Nostradamus were released in September 2007 in Europe, while Dracula 3 was released this past April.

 

Sinking Island

The first title shown, Sinking Island is the story of an investigator sent to an island to look over what was first thought to be an accidental death. When he gets there, armed only with his PPA (Personal Police Assistant), he comes to realize that the death was not accidental, but rather a murder. Compounding the situation is that a storm is hitting the island and it will sink within three days. That leads to one of the two game modes available – Race Against Time. Because the island is starting to sink, players will be tasked with ciphering the clues to the mystery and doing so as economically (time-wise) as possible before the island is gone. Because of that pressure, the island’s various characters (NPCs, or non-playable characters) might become a little short if you take too long questioning them. They are getting nervous about the island sinking, and the environment will show evidence of that as the time progresses.

Of course, there is also another game mode that removes that timed element, and players can work through the game at their own leisure, collecting clues and revisiting evidence locations.

Because the hero of the story was unprepared with a crime lab, he will have to improvise to collect clues. For example, using a pencil sharpener to get graphite from a pencil so that you can dust for fingerprints will be part of the whole evidence-collection process.

 

Nostradamus

This game keys in on the prophecy from the legendary icon that stated that the Royal family would be murdered. It seems that someone has decided to help the prophecy along and is starting a string of killings. As the niece of Nostradamus, players will be tasked with unraveling the clues to pinpoint who is doing the killing. Everyone is suspect. Even the person who was tasked as the original lead investigator seems to be either incompetent or perhaps a suspect as well.

Because the story takes place in the 16th century, having a woman as the lead seems an odd choice. Women, because of social status, were not permitted to undertake such roles. However, that does not stop our heroine, who disguises herself as her brother in order to aid her ailing uncle.

The game makes use of real-world physics as players move toward the solution to the mystery. Early on, players will have to determine exactly what killed the librarian. It was thought that a falling bookcase was the cause of death, so players will have to use a pulley system to lift up and reset the bookcase to look at what is underneath.

 

Dracula 3

This is an intriguing tale of a priest sent by the Vatican to investigate a woman who is considered for sainthood. What he discovers is that she has a strange belief in vampires and because the Vatican won’t accept that, the priest is then asked to disprove the existence of vampires. He goes to meet with a woman at a library in Budapest, who is said to be an expert on the subject, but when he arrives, he finds her dead, impaled with several arrows.

He also discovers that her death seems to be a bit ritualistic and part of the Path of the Dragon, the steps that one takes to become a vampire. As the priest follows the Path, with the intent to destroy whatever lays at the end, he begins to – at time inadvertently – follow rather than track the path, and is beginning to become the very thing he is hunting.

Overall

All three of the titles sported solid graphics. The teleconference did use an Adobe program that allowed attendees to view the games played on the host machine and at times the frame rates stuttered, but the three-dimensional look was very nice and the games portrayed the settings with dynamic lighting elements that while not exactly creepy, still managed to give the attitude that will draw gamers into the titles.

This is Encore’s foray into the genre and the company picked three solid story-driven tales as an entry point.

Gw
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