Friday, February 18, 2011

The Name of the Rose

The boardgame based on The Name of the Rose
The Name of the Rose was originally a novel written by Umberto Eco. It tells of a historical murder mystery set in a Italian abbey in 1327 and of William of Baskerville's search for the truth accompanied by his novice Adso of Melk. In addition to the book their are many other works that have been based on the story. One of the best adaptations in my opinion is the 1986 film by the same name; This film is one of my all time favourite films and very accurately portrays the original story. Another adaption considered to be very good is called The Abbey of Crime and was originally released for the Amstrad CPC 6128 but has since received many ports to both old and new hardware. Less illustriously their are also numerous plays, a boardgame, and a 2008 graphical adventure game titled The Abbey.

What started my love affair with The Name of the Rose was the film; Which I liked so much that I searched out the other media. So in addition to the film I have read the book and played both of the video games. In this article I plan on discussing these adaptions and the original work.

So where else to start but at the beginning with the novel. It is 1327 and Europe is clouded with superstition and filled with the poor and religion and the inquisition rain supreme. William of Baskerville, a Franciscan friar, and his young novice Adso of Melk are travelling to a remote abbey to take part in a debate between representatives of the pope and of the Franciscans; The Franciscans are arguing that Jesus advocated poverty and so the church should not horde wealth, an opinion that that pope feels is heretical (as the church has one of the biggest concentration of wealth in the world).

Arriving at the abbey they learn that a monk has just died under suspicious circumstances and that the devil is suspected. Because William is renowned as a investigative genius he is soon asked to investigate this death. William approaches the investigation, and all of life it seems, with an unusual logic and an almost omnipotent gaze that seems to pick up on the details other men miss. In this he is very much like Sherlock Holmes, with Adso taking the place of Watson. William soon uncovers the circumstances of the death but that only leads him to a larger more sinister mystery as more people start dieing.

The movie is by far the most accurate adaptation of the plot, and also simply a great movie. It stars Sean Connery as William who portrays his part very well, along with the other less famous actors. I am a pretty big movie fan but The Name of the Rose (1986) is actually my favourite film of all time. Their do not seem to be any noticeable differences from the novel, other then the absence of some of the less important scenes. And everything in the film just looks right, I completely believe that that place could of existed, their is not a single element that did not seem right. And in its visuals I think their is even an improvement over the novel, as a description can only go so far; Actually seeing the dirty and squalid conditions that was the everyday life of the peasants in scene after scene really adds to the stories' impact.

The Abbey, or Murder in the Abbey in north America, is a third-person point and click graphical adventure game based on the plot of The Name of the Rose. But in this case loosely based, and it really does not even follow any of the basic themes, it simply has some very specific similarities. So it is not really an adaption so much as that it steals some chunks of plot from the original story. I have never been a fan of unnecessary changing adaptions, and would always prefer a completely new idea to a completely changed old idea, but in this case it actually makes sense (they wanted to mitigate the possibility of getting sued for copying Umberto Eco's work).

Compared to the original work The Abbey really seemed uninspired and simple, but held up on its own it really is not a bad game; Actually, I would say it is a decent game. One of the best parts of the game is its nice cartoon graphics that really make the game look like a children's movie, which I have not seen done before quite so well in game. The problem is that it also emulates some of the less appealing parts of some children's stories, which is to say the absence of some common sense and realism. While some parts of the game stick to the realistic importance and strictness of religion in this medieval world, huge parts of it completely ignore this with the protagonist often committing sins without batting an eye and with sometimes no one else even batting an eye. But one of my biggest problems with the game is the novice. In The Abbey the novice is portrayed as someone with obvious and extreme mental disabilities, or retardation; It seems like they made him like this to add a few laughs the the game, but personally I thought they went far too overboard and it was not funny in the least. Additionally, he is treated very strictly by his master, the protagonist and named Brother Leonardo in this game, and often forced to go against his conscience to preform sinful actions and constantly and harshly berated. All of this really makes Leonardo look like a egotistical bully, and I do not even think that it was intended by the developers.

Unfortunately, the flaws in the game are not limited to the script. Their is also a very annoying issue with the camera/visuals in some situations. For one, when you are trying to open the Hospital door the keyhole is completely invisible, even though you have to find it to open the door; And earlier in the Abbott's office the camera does not swing to show you the inside of a cupboard even though you must take items from it.

The Abbey of Crime, originally La Abadía del Crimen, is an isometric graphical adventure made for the Amstrad CPC 6128 in 1987 but was ultimately ported to the ZX Spectrum, MSX, MSX2, Amstrad CPC 464, Game Boy Advance, Java, Dreamcast, Spectrum, Linux-X86, Linux-PowerPC(PS3), PS2, WindowsXP , Mac_OSX, and PC Windows. The game is apparently considered one of the best of its era and for the most part the game seems to follow the general plot of the novel, but does not seems to get too involved in the details.

But to be honest it seems to be too old of a game for me to be able to play and enjoy it. For one even though the environment is moderately small and the game is played through a third-person perspective the screen changes its orientation for every area making orienting ones-self nearly impossible. Additionally, it seems that the most challenging parts of the film are mundane tasks that are only made challenging because of lack of instructions. Throughout the game you have to watch your obedience meter which depletes whenever you do not imitatively follow the rules and orders of the abbot, and when this reaches zero you have lost the game, but their are some rules that when broken will immediately land you a game-over. Right off the bat, seconds into the game, you must follow the abbot; The only problem is that the abbot walks at full speed and the controls are rather clunky so any mistakes, which you will make, will cause the abbot to turn around and scold you (taking some of your obedience bar for good measure). After this, and repeatedly throughout the entire game, you must attend mass and meals which require you to stand at very specific locations that are not told to you before hand. Which leads me to my other complaint, far too much time is spent at masses and meals; Every 5 to 10 minutes real time you much rush to the imminent mass/meal and if you miss it, guess what, you instantly lose the game. This is far too much time dedicated to a completely useless activity. And when not attending or walking to a mass their is absolutely no direction given to the player. Even with a walkthrough I was not able to make it far into the game, how anyone is supposed to play (let alone enjoy it) it is beyond me.


  1. I've been wanting to seriously play L' Abadia del Crimen for quite some time now, but guess I'd better simply admit that I love Eco's book. I think it's his best -by far- and always thought that the way every argument -political or not- had to be dressed up in a christian way was done brilliantly.

  2. I have Murder in the Abbey but your write up kind of scares me a bit... I'll put it at the bottom of my priority list for point n clicks.

  3. Well it is not that bad, overall I rather like it.