First posted on 21 March 2012. Last updated on 06 October 2012.
In fantasy fiction, a common plotline involves a mysterious magical book that can yield incredible power to seekers who dare to venture inside its pages. For these adventurous seekers, however, there are nearly always unintended consequences as a result of accessing the secrets of such a tome. In the adventure genre, many games have also used the same premise when crafting their stories. While some games have failed to make good use of this plotline, other games have successfully drawn from such premise to create a challenging, immersing, and cerebrally stimulating experience. Pahelika: Revelations, from indie game company IronCode Gaming, is an example of the successful application of this fantasy fiction plotline.
Pahelika: Revelations is the second game in the Pahelika series. Pahelika: Secret Legends, the first game, introduces the player to an ancient magical book, known as the Pahelika, that can transport the player to different magical lands. For gamers who may not be familiar with the series, this sequel provides a quick recap of the previous game's back story at the beginning of the game.
The game begins with the player character, whose name is Sudesh Budkoti, traveling to another magical land using the Pahelika. There, Sudesh is tasked to use his puzzle solving skills to stop an evil wizard named Krur Jalaal from gaining control of all of the world's magic. The plot of stopping an evil wizard is not new, but the game presents this plot with its own unique twist that encourages the player to think outside the obvious puzzle solving box.
The puzzles in this game are among some of the most challenging puzzles I have ever encountered. The puzzles themselves vary and include inventory based puzzles, wiring circuit puzzles, metal lock puzzles that need to be deciphered, and other mechanical puzzles. Some gamers may find many of these puzzles somewhat frustrating to solve, especially since the developer has decided to not include any in-game hints. Instead, the developer has provided an official strategy guide to the game which can be downloaded for free from the developer's website. I actually applaud IronCode Gaming for doing this. By eliminating any built-in hint system so common in other adventure games, the designer has forced the player to meet the game's challenges head on. Indeed, I have found the game to be frustrating at first, but as I let my mind wander into it, I become more immerse and derive much satisfaction as I solve each challenging puzzle. There is a "casual" mode that the player can enable to simplify some of the game's puzzles, somewhat; however, the challenges are not entirely mitigated by switching to this mode. Whenever the player places the cursor over an object of importance, the object sparkles. This is a nice feedback mechanism, except sometimes I have found that I cannot manipulate the object immediately. This is because some objects only need attention much later after the player first discovers them.
The game's story moves along via cut scenes in the style of a graphic novel. The voiceover is a bit lacking in narrating the story. Fortunately, the player will find plenty of books and documents in the game that can help to add to the back story, in addition to offering clues to solve many of the game's puzzles.
An interesting element of this game is the player's ability to cast spells. The player becomes, in essence, a practitioner of alchemy. This practice involves discovering spells hidden in books or slips of paper that the player may find when investigating a new location. The spells need to be put together in special labs. To do this, the player has to go to nearby storerooms to find the ingredients for the spells. Fortunately, the player can stock up on the ingredients, thus avoiding the need to make multiple trips to the storerooms. This is recommended since it may take several trials to get a particular spell mixed just right for use. The spells cannot use cast indiscriminately but can only be used on specific objects and in specific locations. Spells can be used for raising and lowering objects, removing enchantments, and making invisible objects visible. For some spells, parchment papers must first be prepared in a dish wherein the collected ingredients are mixed. A pen can then be used to write a spell on the parchment paper once the ingredients are properly mixed. It may take a few tries at first to get the preparations just right, but it eventually becomes easier with practice.
The controls in this game are similar to those used in other first-person point-and-click adventure games. Arrows indicate the directions that the player can take. The game auto saves itself whenever it exits. I have found this to be a useful feature whenever I need to take a break from the game to contemplate on a puzzle. There is no option to create manual saves, however.
The game runs only in windowed mode and does not support widescreen resolution. The game features a nice and varied score of background music, with a distinct style for each location. Further, dramatic moments in the game are appropriately accentuated by sweeping orchestral music. The musical scores are even enjoyable to listen on their own.
The game offers about 15 hours of gameplay. For the more contemplative gamer, the game can last much longer. This is a game that will not disappoint gamers who enjoy challenging puzzles.
Overall, Pahelika: Revelations is far more than a mere casual adventure. It is a puzzle adventure game worthy of the detective skills of Edgar Allan Poe's Auguste Dupin, Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, and Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot. In fact, this game may prove to be far too challenging for casual gamers. Novice adventure gamers is also advised to consult the developer's official strategy guide to help to get through the more difficult parts of the game.