Sunday, June 29, 2008

Mammoth Hunter Meets Early Egyptians

Review by Mary Harrsch

Well, I finally had a chance to watch 10,000 B.C. on DVD. I must admit, I was a little thrown by the combination of a story about very early man and Mammoths and Saber-toothed cats mixed with people of an Egyptian-like culture complete with paper, advanced metallurgy and pyramid building. It kept me watching if for no other reason than to try to figure out the plot amidst total confusion. Roland Emmerich has an apparent obsession with ancient Egypt and keeps injecting references to it in his work. The "tribes" attacking the pyramid-shaped temple in the climax seemed like just a bunch of actors in different costumes recreating the climatic scene in "Stargate". The young boy with the dread locks even seemed to imitate the role of Skaara in Star Gate, insisting on trying to be grown up but stumbling into trouble.

The makeup and character of the 'wise mother" figure reminded me of the little sorceress Galen (Pauline Lynch) in the TV miniseries Attila who, through mysterious means, took the deadly effects of the poison arrows shot at Attila (Gerard Butler) by his rival Bleda (Tommy Flanagan) upon herself thereby sacrificing her life to save Attila. However, I would hate to draw too many comparisons as both "Stargate" and "Attila" far outshine Emmerich's latest film and both are personal favorites (although Attila scores higher - probably because I am a passionate fan of stories about the Roman Empire and I must also be honest - Gerard Butler is very pleasant to watch - leather speedos not withstanding!)

Perhaps if Emmerich had included a time portal the film would have at least made a bit more sense rather than juxtaposing wildly disparate historical and geographical elements without any apparent rationale. This would have at least placed the film in the realm of science fiction or fantasy rather than leave it dangling precariously above the category of historical fiction.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Cleopatra Riddle Of The Tomb

By: John Breeden

Game Industry News Editor

There has recently been quite a few puzzle adventure type games that start out in Europe and eventually get ported over to the U.S. market. Cleopatra Riddle Of The Tomb is one of them. However, unlike most of these efforts, this title actually does not do anything wrong. It offers about ten hours of mostly enjoyable gameplay.

The game is set in Ancient Egypt and surprisingly, is historically accurate. Most games figure everything set in Egypt should have hieroglyphics when in fact at the time of Cleopatra, Egypt had long-since been conquered by Alexander The Great. As such, puzzles here use the Greek alphabet. This little twist, positioned right near the start of the game, lets players who know figure out that Cleopatra is going for realism as well as enjoyment.

You play an astrologer working under a master named Akkad, who in turn works directly for Cleopatra. You also happen to be in love with Akkad’s daughter Iris. The game begins when you show up for work and both Akkad and Iris are missing. Given that Cleopatra has launched a civil war against her brother/husband Ptolemy which is tearing up Alexandria at the moment, this is not too surprising. (Although I did not know that Ptolemy was both brother and husband to that crazy Cleo, so that was a bit of a shock.)

At its heart, Riddle Of The Tomb is a puzzle game, more so than an adventure game. You basically can walk around with impunity (in other words not worrying about getting killed) until you hit a puzzle that needs to be solved. Unlike a really difficult puzzle game where you have to figure out what a puzzle is, here it’s pretty easy. When you hit a wall, sometimes literally, you have found a puzzle.

Let your light (beam) shine on!

The game does a good job of easing you into the whole puzzle solving adventure. The first puzzles involve trying to find out where you master and girlfriend have gone (or were taken).

The puzzles themselves are fairly diverse and range from combining objects in your inventory to conducting basic research on Egyptian culture to discover, for example, what order to place statues for the ceremony to weigh the soul of a dead person. Almost all the puzzles are connected to Egyptian lore in some way, which adds a nice touch to the atmosphere.