Druuna: Morbus Gravis

Posted by Davide Tomei.
First posted on 01 May 2014. Last updated on 01 May 2014.
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Druuna: Morbus Gravis
Drunna lies unconscious in cold sleep.
Druuna: Morbus Gravis
Drunna's memories can be accessed to relive her life.
Druuna: Morbus Gravis
Gruesome deaths are not uncommon.
Druuna: Morbus Gravis
Desolation is common in Druuna's world.
Druuna: Morbus Gravis
Like the original comic, some nudity is inevitable in the game.

The game is available at GamersGate.

Druuna: Morbus Gravis is an adventure game from Italian developer Artematica, based on a cult comic book character of the same name created by Italian cartoonist Paolo Eleuteri Serpieri. Both the comic book and the game are set in the same dystopian, post-apocalyptic future in which most humans have been infected by a terrible and deadly plague. The original comic is controversial for its depiction of explicit sex and violence. While the game features some scenes of nudity, fans of Serpieri will not find the same imageries in the game as those in featured in his original work.

As the game starts, you find Druuna on an operating table or chair (naked, of course) in cold sleep. You are then shown a console with which you can tap into Druuna's memories in order to find out what has happened to her. Interestingly, the old man in the monitor recounting the story to you is none other than Serpieri himself. Druuna's memories are divided into blocks, which you have to relive in order to progress further into the depths of her mind to retrieve what she knows about Morbus Gravis, the plague that is turning humans into flesh eating monsters. The disease is not curable, and those who have been infected must get a shot of medicine regularly to survive. In Drunna's world, civility has all but disappeared, and only the strongest lives on.

In the original comic book, Druuna is a voluptuous and sensual woman with long black hair and dark skin, and her adventure is little more than just an excuse to her next sexual escapade. In the game, Druuna is still a half naked buxom character (and you will see a lot more of her), though she now actually serves an important role in trying to eradicate the disease. This is also why you are in her brain—that is, connected to her with the help of BrainHolder, a computer that allows you to relive Druuna's memories and the events that have led to her current predicament.

The graphics are possibly the best part of the game. The animated cut scenes are frequent and well scripted. All of the characters are fully modeled, though they lack much of the details. The main character, Druuna, look too pixelated. While the 2D backgrounds are vividly recreated with the decadence of the comic book, the 3D models are not of the same quality, possibly because of the game's low native resolution. Sound effects are minimal. The music is little more than a repetitive and anxiety inducing tune. Voice acting is variable, ranging from good to barely passable.

Where the game is truly abysmal is its gameplay. Upon starting the game, you will be struck immediately by the myriads of questions that you will be asking yourself on what you need to accomplish: Where am I? Where do I go? How can I move? What am I supposed to do? The game abandons you completely in revealing the immediate reasons for your presence (to access Drunna's memories) and your goal (to retrieve a lifesaving serum for Druuna's friend).

For most of the game, you control Druuna in a large labyrinth, through which you navigate from a fixed perspective that changes with every new scene. Navigation is made difficult by the unresponsive, slow, and clumsy controls. It is frequently difficult to fine tune a jump or to guess the right time to make it through a door. There are no onscreen indicators to aid you. The inventory is nearly nonexistent, serving merely as a repository for items you pick up in the game. Selecting which items to pick up and keep is difficult, however, since you have no clue in advance as to which is useful and which is junk.

The premise of the game is admittedly interesting. You are actually not playing as Drunna. Rather, you are playing her persona to relive her own memories. Your interaction with Druuna's mind is monitored by a number of meters that measure her current health (Cognitive Effort, Nervous Tension, Cardiac Activity) as well as your current progress (Mnemonic Reconstruction Percentage). All of Druuna's health meters must be kept low, otherwise Druuna will die. This means that you must limit all strenuous activities, such as sprinting or running. Even frequent game saving and loading are discouraged, as they can adversely affect Druuna's health. Moreover, most sequences in the game are timed, further adding to the difficulty of the game.

While the puzzles themselves may not be overly difficult to solve, they rarely serve any purpose other than leading you down the right hallway or door. Further, a false step will likely cause you to die of a sudden, gross, and bloody death from an attack by some strange or mutated creature. Some action puzzles require you to perform the right action in the correct moment, as failure to do so will also likely result in an instant death.

The dystopian world of Druuna: Morbus Gravis bears some distanced resemblance to the worlds in other generic cyberbunk sci-fi fictions, though the similarities quickly end beyond some rundown buildings and dark alleyways. The game is unlikely to attract fans of the original comic, despite featuring plenty of eye candy. Even for gamers who are also comic book fans, the game fails to deliver an enjoyable experience.

Druuna: Morbus Gravis is an overly frustrating game that fails to reach the audience which it is trying to target. The game may be faithful to the original comic materials, but the unintuitive gameplay makes it difficult for any gamer to appreciate this adaptation. As such, Druuna: Morbus Gravis is a game suitable only for the most patient and diehard fans of the sensual heroine, who want to see Druuna's heavenly curves and all of her lustful pixels come to life on screen.

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