Thursday, August 5, 2010

Kheops Studio

Kheops Studio is a France based independent adventure game developer. They have created many great PC games since their formation in 2003. I have played several and plan to continue playing any of their games I can get my hands on, as I have enjoyed every one.

Many of their games share some defining characteristics. They all have good conventional graphics and have a first person point of view. But the truly innovative and unique attributes that are included in many of their games are many ways to solve puzzles and the large amount of items you will have in your inventory at any time (possibly even to such an extent as to require inventory management). These characteristics are linked, as the most common way used to create multiple solutions are to allow multiple different items to solve the same puzzle. For example, creating a fire might require wooden logs or you could use charcoal.

One reason that so many items are used in the game, and a staple of the studio, are the many repeatable mundane tasks. These repeatable tasks are solvable using many different items, some unique and others common (sometimes infinite) resources. These common resources will be used often and as such you will be able to carry multiple of them in your inventory at one time. But this in my opinion is not bad or boring, the puzzles since they are recognizable are more intuitive; their is no staring at the monitor in confusion wondering what this new puzzles might want you to do or blindly trying items because you have no idea what you would use to make some exotic contraption.

SafeCracker: The Ultimate Puzzle Adventure:
SaveCracker is a puzzle game and spiritual sequel to the 1999 game SafeCracker. The plot is sparse and does not get in the way of the gameplay at all. The basic premise, you are in an eccentric millionaire's mansion and it is filled to the rafters with unique and challenging safes and you must unlock them all. This lack of plot leaves lots of room for puzzles, and SafeCracker does not disappoint. It is full of interesting and diverse mind benders.

Voyage: Inspired by Jules Verne:
Voyage (aka Journey to the Moon) is a adventure game inspired by the novels From the Earth to the Moon and Around the Moon by Jules Verne. Unlike the books the protagonist actually makes it to the moon's surface and finds life; Unfortunately, his two partners in adventure are killed during the journey and he does not remember how they came to die as he suffers from amnesia. The plot and challenges revolve around finding out what happened during the trip to the moon and returning to earth.

This game follows the Kheops formula. It has interesting puzzles, environments, plot, and a great sounds track. A very memorable game and a personal favorite.

Return to Mysterious Island & Return to Mysterious Island 2: Mina's Fate:
Another series of adventure games based off of a Jules Verne novel. This game, and its sequel, are based in the universe laid out in The Mysterious Island. Both games follow the Kheops formula quite strictly and have interesting environments to explore, intriguing multi path puzzles, and an interesting plot.

In the first game, the best one in the series in my opinion, Mina is stranded on a uninhabited island. She explores the island finding ruined buildings and technology. She learns that these were left by Captain Nemo and even visits the Nautilus in her quest for escape from the island.

In the second game Mini is back on the island. She is still trying to escape but a sickness has come to the island killing plants and animals, so she is also out to save the island if she can. In this game you also get to play as Jep the monkey, her constant companion.

Dracula 3: The Path Of The Dragon:
In Dracula 3 you play as Father Arno Moriani. Who in the 1920s has been sent by the Vatican to investigate a recently deceased potential candidate for sainthood. The candidate resides in a small village, still recovering from the devastation of WWI, in Transylvania. Just outside of the town is Vlad The Impaler's (Dracula's) Castle.

The investigation takes a unexpected (or I guess expected given the local) turn when the body of the saint is found to have the "Mark of Dracula" on it. But the church has already decided that vampires do not exist and are just a peasant superstition. What follows is Father Arno Moriani investigation into strange blood disorders, Vampire myths, and the strange happening surrounding the death of the potential saint, as he struggles with his belief that vampires do not exist.

While the game does have it faults, it has been criticized for a lack of vampires in the game and too many mundane puzzles, I really did enjoyed the game. It has a very good horror/vampiric atmosphere; I found the puzzles quite enjoyable overall; and I liked the scientific and rational way Father Arno goes about his investigation.

The Secrets of Da Vinci:
In The Secrets of Da Vinci Valdo, a young apprentice scholar, is exploring the late Leonardo's mansion. He is looking for a secrete hidden manuscript of Leonardo's. Along the way Valdo will have to decipher messages and puzzles left behind by Leonardo and repair some of his inventions.

Overall I really enjoyed this game: the graphics are good, the plot is interesting, and the puzzles are enjoyable if somewhat simple.

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