Chronicles of Mystery: The Scorpio Ritual
First posted on 17 December 2008. Last updated on 23 February 2010.
Originally titled Testament of Sin, City Interactive's Chronicles of Mystery: The Scorpio Ritual is a high quality point-and-click adventure game that all fans of the genre will likely enjoy. The story is good, the graphics are great, and the characters are fun. The only gripe is that the game ends rather abruptly, making it feel more like an episode or a prologue than an epic adventure.
The player assumes the role of a young and attractive archaeologist named Sylvie Leroux, whose uncle (also an archaeologist) has recently stumbled upon a terrific but mysterious discovery. Sylvie arrives at her old hometown of Malta to assist her uncle, only to learn that the old man has disappeared along with some treasures from his dig. The police seem to think he has stolen the artifacts himself in anger after being replaced at the dig site by a rival archaeologist, but Sylvie believes her uncle is innocent. Thus, Sylvie sets out to find her uncle, locate the missing artifacts, and uncover the nature of the crime, which ultimately involves ancient orders of the Knights Hospitaller and even Armageddon. Admittedly, these are themes and circumstances that have been explored in many other adventure games, but they are handled very well in this game and make for some interesting scenarios.
Besides Sylvie, other important characters include James Anderson, a linguist who helps Sylvie to decipher ancient scripts, and Henri Simon, a rival archaeologist who has his own shady agenda. Villains abound as well, ranging from a cardinal to a dishonest artifact collector. There is even a talking parrot and a cynical sea captain for comic relief, though the majority of the game is quite serious in tone.
Perhaps the best aspects of the game (which is built on the 3DVIA Virtools engine) are the highly polished audiovisuals that are superb throughout. The backgrounds are detailed and often animated, with nice little touches such as a distant sailing ship to provide visual interest. The characters are also nicely animated and look realistic. The music, sound effects, and voice acting are likewise excellent, with good English localization and translation from the Polish original.
Most of the game's puzzles involve clever applications of items, such as combining multiple items to make a new tool. Thankfully, Sylvie never has too many items in her inventory, so it is easy enough to discover the correct combinations by trial and error if the player is stumped. The item applications are logical and usually intuitive. There are also a few visual puzzles, such as the classic sliding puzzle and moving block puzzle. The few logic puzzles are almost instantly apparent for experienced gamers, but Sylvie provides enough clues to help out novice gamers as well. While the game has its share of challenges, they are more fun than frustrating. Diehard fans of the adventure genre who prefer games with lots of difficult puzzle solving may want to pass on this game, since it focuses more on plot and characters than puzzles.
That said, while the puzzles in this game are not exceptionally original or dynamic, they are logical and often interconnected. For example, when Sylvie needs to distract some guards, she realizes that she needs to put a shop owner's car into neutral gear and let it roll downhill. However, there is a violent cat to deal with first, and she needs to be well away from the car when it starts to roll so she will not be blamed for the wreck. The solution to this puzzle requires several items and some real ingenuity, but the resolution is quite satisfying.
Unfortunately, an ongoing annoyance I experienced in this game was the sound. The dialog would stop before the character had finished speaking the lines. Rebooting the system to start a new game session temporarily fixed the odd sound glitch, but stopping and restarting the game brought it back. Another annoyance was the darkness of the graphics, particularly when dealing with interior scenes. There was no options to control gamma or brightness, so I frequently had to stare very closely at the screen to make out details in dark rooms. Thankfully, I could always reveal all the hotspots in a scene by clicking the built-in hint button, so this issue did not seriously affect my playing.
Overall, I really enjoyed Chronicles of Mystery: The Scorpio Ritual, but I was shocked by how quickly it ended. Indeed, I felt that I was only halfway or less through the game when the credits rolled. The game should have been at least a few hours longer so to bring the ambitious story to a more satisfying conclusion. Nevertheless, I would still recommend this game to adventure game fans, especially fans of ancient mystery and history.