Schizm II: Chameleon
First posted on 01 December 2011. Last updated on 30 January 2013.
The game is available at GamersGate.
Schizm II: Chameleon (also known as Mysterious Journey II: Cameleon) is the second game in the Schizm (or Mysterious Journey) series from Polish game developer Detalion. Although the game is marketed as a sequel to the original Schizm: Mysterious Journey, these games are unrelated to each other except for a few trivial references. Further, unlike the original game, this game is built on Touchdown Entertainment's acclaimed Jupiter engine, best known as the engine used (oddly enough) in the first-person shooter No One Lives Forever 2. While Schizm II: Chameleon is undeniably yet another Myst clone, gamers who dare to try this game will still find it to be amongst the best exemplars in this subgenre.
Schizm II: Chameleon is a game that is clearly aimed for a selected audience. The game is best enjoyed by the quintessential adventure gamer who excels in absorbing, fascinating, and diabolical puzzles. Solving some of the 28 puzzles in this game requires a high level of patience, problem solving skills, and an impervious temperament to frustration and despair. Only "the crème de la crème" of adventure gamers will succeed to completion in this game. Novice or inexperienced gamers will likely find this game literally unplayable. Lead designer Roland Pantola must be credited for the design of these extremely challenging puzzles.
The game begins with a cinematic cut scene inside a derelict space station. You play the protagonist role of Sen Geder, a Transai astrophysicist from the planet Sarpedon below. Sen is awakened by a hologram message from a supposed friend named Tensa, after having been in a cryogenic sleep for 214 years. Sen has no recollection of any event from those years ago or any history about himself. He does not even know why he is on the space station. Tensa goes on to tell Sen that, because of him, Sarpedon has been totally destroyed, except for a small fertile valley shared by the Transai and Ansala tribes who are warring with each other. Although Sen is considered a hero by some of the tribal inhabitants, he is also regarded as a traitor by the others. The cryogenic freezing (from which he has just been awaken) is actually the first part of his punishment for his crimes. As Sen is further informed of his second punishment (falling to Sarpedon from a decaying orbit in 16 days' time), a laser beam destroys the hologram.
With the help of Talen, a damaged Companion (an alien machine aided by the Transai) aboard the space station, Sen finds a way to escape to Sarpedon and decides to go on a quest to understand the events that has led to Sarpedon's destruction. Before escaping, Talen gives Sen the chameleon technology—which he can use to disguise himself and integrate with both tribes so that he will not be recognized as an intruder. Once on Sarpedon, Sen interacts with the local inhabitants, the Oracles, and the other Companions. Like a jigsaw puzzle, Sen is eventually able to piece together the events of his past and discover the truth about the aliens as well as the purpose of the space station, the Transai, the Ansala, and his home planet.
Unlike most other Myst clones marred by weak storylines, the storyline in Schizm II: Chameleon is deep. It is original, well written, and evolving. Both the story and the dialog in the game are penned by renowned Australian science fiction author Terry Dowling. The story features some 32 characters (including 9 Companions and 2 Amblates) and is told through a series of long cinematic cut scenes as well as monologues (as spoken thoughts) from Sen. A nice feature in this game is that hitting the F1 key brings up a complete transcript of all of the past dialog. I have found this feature to be extremely useful in discovering hints to solve some of the puzzles in the game.
Schizm II: Chameleon is a first-person, point-and-click adventure game. The 3D rendered models of the humanoid characters are very well done, including those characters from both the Transai and the Ansala tribes. The dress of each tribe is quite artistic and colorful. With few exceptions (such as some of the characters appearing at the very end of the game), body movement of the characters is very natural. Lip sync is good, albeit the thinness of the lips diminishes the effect of their movement. Facial expression, on the other hand, is virtually nonexistent. The voiceovers are excellent and professional sounding.
The game installs and plays without any glitches. The system settings can be altered from the main menu to accommodate different hardware configurations. The game is quite hardware demanding for the time of its release. In addition, setting the appropriate gamma correction is particularly important in this game—if the setting is too low, the screen will be too dark and the natural vibrant colors in some of the scenes will not be appreciated; if the setting is too high, the daylight scenes will be bleached out and the wonderful night scenes will be ruined. Subtitling is available though redundant given the transcript functionality.
Navigation throughout the game is straightforward. There are only 3 cursors. A cursor in the shape of a white ring appears when searching through the various scenes and when no action needs to be done. A cursor in the shape of a white ring enclosing a solid white ball signifies that some item has to be taken or used. A cursor in the shape of many concentric rings with a solid white inverted arrow emanating from the center denotes a quick exit to another location. Each scene can be panned up and down as well as 360° around. All of the controls can be done using the mouse. However, keyboard shortcuts are also available to quickly navigate between locations.
The ambient music and sound effects evoke an atmosphere of serenity, tranquility, and mystery that complements well the landscape of an alien world. Alas, the music becomes repetitive after just a short while. What music is there, however, is really great. The sound effects are all very realistic: the vibrant native wild life, the creaking machinery, wind blowing through the valley, electricity arcing in the air, steam passing through the pipes, a river flowing downstream, and water lapping from the ocean.
The 40 or so distinctive environments are all rendered in very high quality. The indoor details inside the space station and the Gelleas are remarkable. The outdoor details in the Transai and the Ansala homes complement the technology of each tribe.
The game makes use of a very small inventory. Only 8 items are ever found and used. Once used, the items are automatically deleted.
By far, Schizm II: Chameleon is most notable for its diabolically difficult puzzles. All of the puzzles require logic thinking but also loads of patience and a little bit of luck. The types of puzzles include those that are based on mathematics, mazes, alignment, matching colors, matching symbols, sounds, and others. My only complaint is that there are too many bridge puzzles making some of the puzzle solving too repetitive. The puzzles that are based on mathematics (there are lots of them) are especially challenging. This is because many of these puzzles require knowledge of obscure numeral systems, such as those based on the quaternary (base 4) and the duodecimal (base 12) numeral systems. As an added challenge, these puzzles also require numbers in those numerals systems be converted back to the decimal numeral system. Gamers who lack a good understanding of these types of mathematics are well advised to stay away from this game. As in all puzzle orientated games, pen and paper are handy tools to use to record down the clues you will see and hear.
In sum, Schizm II: Chameleon is not a game for novice adventure game fans. It is a game I can unreservedly recommend to gamers who love a challenge and who master the use of logic in problem solving. The plot of the story is familiar but still interesting. The graphics are pleasing. This is a game in which any gamer who can finish it will definitely derive a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment. Any gamer with lesser skills, however, may meet a frustrating end.