Voyeur II

Posted by Philip Jong.
First posted on 20 October 1997. Last updated on 07 August 2009.
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Voyeur II
Plenty of cheesy love scenes may keep the player's interest in an otherwise unbearable game.
Voyeur II
Each member of the Cusslers family hides a dark secret.
Voyeur II
Caught in the act!
Voyeur II
No drama can save this title from being forgettable.

Philips Media obviously attempts to cash in on the success in the sales of Voyeur in the CD-I market despite its lackluster sale on the PC. For better or worst, the Voyeur series of games has raised the question of what constitutes appropriate content in family entertainment. The sequel, Voyeur II, is no different from its predecessor. The player plays the role of a voyeur who spies on a rich and powerful family that has a dark and deadly secret. Just like the soaps on television, there are plenty of cheesy dialogs and suggestive adult scenes. Still, it is the total lack of gameplay that makes Voyeur II utterly an unbearable experience.

You are a photographer who has just moved into a cabin in the woods left behind by your grandfather. The news soon arrives of a rich and powerful family named the Cusslers who will be moving in opposite to you on the ridge. Your preoccupation with the Cusslers leads you to discover that the head of the family, who is also the chairman of an established scientific research company named Eradicus, has been killed. Your curiosity strikes you to raise suspicions on four suspects—the son Peter Cussler, the daughter Rachel Kessler, the family lawyer Colin, and the business partner Sylvio Donato. You also discover that there is a plot to kill Cussler's live-in lover and colleague, Dr Elizabeth Duran, who is the soul inheritor of Cussler's fortune. Each of the suspects has a hidden agenda and motive to commit the crime. You must stake out their new home with a video camera and videotape the evidence to capture the killer before it is too late.

Clearly, the production quality of Voyeur II has risen significantly compared to its predecessor. All the Full Motion Video clips are now in SVGA. Several Hollywood celebrities have joined the cast for this game sequel. They include Jennifer O'Neill, David Groh, and Dennis Weaver. O'Neill is a veteran television soap opera star. Both Groh and Weaver are members of the cast of Rhoda. The game contains over 80 minutes of video. Due to the mature contents in this game including several love scenes and scenes of violence, a password feature is available for paternal lockout.

Despite the more polished look of Voyeur II, the game design has not changed at all compared to its predecessor. Gameplay is carried out in a first person perspective in your cabin, looking through the lens of a video camera. There are 8 rooms in the Cussler home available for spying and videotaping. During various times, different rooms will be active with video playing. The player can switch instantaneously between rooms during the stakeout. Once play begins, all actions occur in real time. This means several scenes will be acted simultaneously at any given time, forcing the player to rapidly alternate between these locations to determine which key sequences are needed to be filmed for the arrest. The game unfolds over a single night at the Cussler home but only lasts less than half an hour in real time.

To win the game, the player must catch the optimal sequence of events on film by playing the game over many times. Several small puzzles also exist in the cabin that must be solved before play can begin. Success in videotaping the evidence requires the documentation of three events—the knowledge by the killer of the weapon, the killer's motive, and the killer's procession of the weapon. At the end, the player also needs to fire a gunshot using a rifle into the Cussler home for distraction before the killer can be arrested to finish the game.

It is difficult to find any good quality in this game. Perhaps the story, with its mature subject matters and twists, is comparable in the level of sophistication to most television soap operas, but that is not saying much! The Hollywood casts have all played their part competently. The game can make subtle alternations in certain film sequences, and these changes will affect who the murderer is at the end.

This game fundamentally violates an important principle in game design. The game suffers horribly from the "resurrection" fallacy—the need for the player to fail in the game in order to gain information that is subsequently needed during the replay to complete it. The short duration of this game necessitates the player to replay it many times over in order to discover which film clips are vital in solving the case. It requires the knowledge that certain scenes are unnecessary for the capture of the murderer—a knowledge that can only be gained by previous failures to complete the game. It may be argued that this style of gameplay is inherited in the design of such a title, but this argument just further demonstrates that such design should never be used in computer adventure games in the first place. Moreover, there is an absence of a central puzzle that ties the entire game together. Perhaps the designer regards that the main puzzle of this game lies in the decision of which film clips to videotape. It is appalling for the designer to call this title interactive if the only control of this game is to turn on the video camera and push the record button to spy at a distance. There is no save feature, so the game must be played in its entirety in a single sitting.

In the end, Voyeur II is simply a forgettable sequel—the same trashy design yielding the same trashy game that has little play value.

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