Diabolik: The Original Sin

Posted by Erik-André Vik Mamen.
First posted on 18 January 2010. Last updated on 18 January 2010.
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Diabolik: The Original Sin
According to his biography, Diabolik is the king of terror.
Diabolik: The Original Sin
Eva is Diabolik's partner in crime and love.
Diabolik: The Original Sin
Cut scenes from the game pay homage to the comic book on which the game is based.
Diabolik: The Original Sin
A laser pointer may not be a tool typically used by a master thief.
Diabolik: The Original Sin
Pick a game: "more action" or "only adventure".

Diabolik is an Italian comic book character created by sisters Angelia and Luciana Guissani in 1962. Unlike most other superheroes, Diabolik has no superpower. Rather, he is a master thief with ambiguous morals—an anti-hero, or even an anti-villain. In the comic, Diabolik was raised as an orphan by criminals, learned every trick in the book, and eventually confronted and killed the boss of the criminal organization in which he was raised. He has since developed a deep-seated hatred against criminal activities like drug smuggling and judges those who perpetuate such crimes based on his own moral code. The earlier comic books portray Diabolik to be more violent who has little compassion for others, whereas the later comic books depicts him to be more like Robin Hood who tries not to hurt the innocent but does not hesitate to take down a criminal who is in his way.

Diabolik: The Original Sin, developed by Artematica Entertainment, is the first video game to be based on the fictional universe of Diabolik. The game features not only Diabolik but also Eva Kant, who is Diabolik's partner in crime as well as his love interest. The game's story begins with the news that Eva has been kidnapped, and Diabolik is blackmailed into stealing a painting called The Original Sin in order to save her. Since Diabolik is known as "the master among thieves", his blackmailer is counting on him to succeed in the theft using all his skills and tricks which he has learned since childhood.

The engine used by the game is really clever. It gives a rather good illusion that the entire game is genuinely 3D. In fact, only the game characters are modeled in real time in 3D. The background scenes are all pre-rendered by contrast. By zooming, panning, and using other cinematic effects like lightning or sparkling, the engine is able to give the impression that the game world is fully 3D.

Whenever Diabolik performs certain key actions, the game transitions into comic book styled interactive cut scenes. In these scenes, all the characters are animated like cardboard cutouts, much like watching an old school cartoon. The gameplay, however stylish, suffers from a singular annoying element: it breaks the 180° rule. In filmmaking, the 180° rule states that when a pair of characters are engaging in a conversation, the camera must never switch between different positions relative to the characters. If a character is on the right and the camera suddenly changes to the opposite side, it will appear as if the character has switched places. In the game, this occurs in a few scenes, where the player character exits to the right side of the screen but reappears on the left side of the screen. The transition is confusing because the player may think that the character is actually walking back by continuing to walk to the right.

Diabolik speaks in a clear British accent. The rather dark and grave voice gives the character a masculine and serious personality, which is well fitted for a comic book hero. The game is originally released in Italian and translated to English only later. Unfortunately, the English translation suffers from a few odd and rather careless spelling errors ("drawer" is spelled out as "draw" and "chapter" is spelled out as "chapitre").

Included in the game package is a printed copy of a short comic, Diabolik: The Origins of the White Rose, which serves as a prologue to the game. The comic is a worthwhile read and even gives a hint to where to locate an object in the later part of the game. There is also an in-game biography accessible from the main menu where the player can learn more about the 3 major characters of the comic series, including their background and their relationship with other characters.

As a master thief, Diabolik has access to many useful tools, including a grappling hook, laser burner, and (most noteworthy) a mask which he can use to disguise himself by looking like any person that he encounters. Strangely, especially at the beginning of the game, there are a lot of fancy inventory gadgets which cannot be used in the game at all. These are probably put there as homage to their comic origin, even though their inclusion can confuse gamers who are not familiar with the original comic.

Right clicking the mouse brings up the different choices of actions. There are usually just a few choices, such as examine, pick up/use, and go through. Left clicking the mouse directs the character where to go. Sometimes, special actions are available, such as press switch and talk to. Clicking the middle mouse button or pressing the spacebar brings up the inventory.

Diabolik is the main playable character in the game, but there are also a few other playable characters in some of the chapters. The gameplay is otherwise identical and is divided over 7 chapters.

The game has 2 playable modes: "more action" and "only adventure". In the "more action" mode, small mini-games are added to certain interactive cut scenes. The mini-games are mostly just simple timed events. Most commonly, the player is told to click the mouse button 5 times rapidly or move the mouse to a particular side quickly. Less commonly, a timer appears and the player must need to finish a few tasks before the time runs out. If the player fails, Diabolik dies or some other fatal events happen, and the game ends. Fortunately, the player is given the option to restore the game to just before the timed challenge. In the "only adventure" mode, the small mini-games are excluded. The player must still complete the same timed tasks, but without the possibility of running out of time.

The game can be enjoyed without any knowledge of the original comic, but reading the prologue and the in-game biography will greatly help to understand the underlying mythos of the comic series. While the game tries to create some levels of tension with its mini-games, in reality it simply does little more than to make the player aware that there is danger lying ahead. Diabolik: The Original Sin is a competent game with a few notable flaws, but ultimately it fails to stand out as a better exemplar for the genre.

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