Schizm 2 Review

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Graphics: 8.0
Sound : 7.0
Gameplay : 7.0
Multiplayer : N/A
Overall : 7.5
Review by Dave Geguzinskis

Almost two years ago, in 2001, an adventure game under the name of Schizm: Mysterious Journey was released. As time passed the Polish-based producers of the game were not idle, instead they have been working on a sequel... Mysterious Journey 2: Chameleon. Much like its predecessor, Mysterious Journey will submerge you into another voyage through beautifully rendered environments, similar to those of the game Myst, in the search of the hidden truth.



Gameplay:

As the story starts to unfold, you wake up in a space ship after a very long cryogenic sleep. Immediately after, an old holographic recording that has been left for you more than 200 years ago is played; it says that you are being punished for a terrible crime... that of ruining an entire planet, the only remaining thing on it being a single valley. The hologram continues and tells you that the punishment consists of two parts: the first one is that the station will fall in 16 days and the other... I am sure that you do not want to know about it at this time. The problem with all of this is that you do not remember a thing! Even your name has been erased from your mind. Your thoughts are: why am I being punished if I do not know of my crime? When the recording starts saying what the second part of your punishment is, it immediately gets destroyed. After this short intro movie, you end up in the game.

Now let’s observe the controls first. You control your character from the first person perspective, which I found very comfortable. To be honest the controls are very simple. You have WASD keys for moving, space for jumping and enter for action/use. Of course, if you don’t like them you can always remap them. Naturally, you can use the mouse as well and if you are more of a first person shooter player, then you can use both of these devices combined to obtain maximum control of the character. Now in game there are a few types of configurations that the cursor can have: small circle means that there is no action, circle with dot in the middle means you can use the object and last one is a warp arrow meaning you can go to another level. As you see, the controls are extremely easy even for a person who has never played computer games before. Pity I can’t say the same about the puzzles in the game.



When the introduction finishes you end up in a room. Right after you leave the room, you will meet your first companion, Talon. During the game, you will meet a lot of companions, which are some sorts of computers. They will be helping you a lot during the game and you will find out why they will be doing it. After you land in the valley (as I told before, after the war broke out only one single valley remained intact on the whole planet), you will find there two tribes: one who believes in technological advances (probably didn’t learn enough from Terminator ;) ), and another one who believes in the ways of the nature. As you will soon find out, the planet has been wasted primarily because of their conflict. Moreover, they are still fighting today. Do not worry though; there will not be any gun battles. Their fight happens on the level of stealing energy from each other (I am wondering now why the nature sorshipping people needed it so much). You will be walking through the territory of those tribes using chameleon technology that was given to you by one of the companions you found on the landsite (i.e. you will be pretending to be one of the missing persons from the tribes). And so your objective is to find out what has happened on the planet more than 200 years ago; something that resulted in such severe punishment. Everything you will find out will be from the characters you will encounter. Companions will not be telling much, or will be prevented from telling some things (yes, there is some kind of conspiracy going on). When you meet other inhabitants or companions your view will turn from 1st person to a 3rd person cut scene view. This is how the story will be told. I would like to say that this game is a bit lacking in what regards involvement with your character, Sen. This impression is due to the mundane and trivial dialogues, which just tell you what happened in the game, but which don’t make you feel more acquainted and closer to your character as it happens in other games, such as Syberia. At the same time, interactions with other characters are just a small portion of the game, because puzzles is what will take most of your play time..



The game play – like of an any adventure game – of Mysterious Journey 2 is deeply related to puzzles. Not ordinary puzzles, but believe me, some of the toughest ones I have ever seen. In fact, this game is more of a puzzle game than an adventure game, speaking literally. All of the puzzles are associated with getting through certain places like bridges, closed paths or doors. As I’ve mentioned above the puzzles are very difficult, so random clicking won’t help you despite the fact that it helped me quite a few times once I lost my nerves. The first and toughest thing you will have to do is find out how the puzzles operate. Once you figure it out, it becomes pretty easy solving them. Finding the logics behind them is definitely not a rest for the brain! Many puzzles are based on math, like decoding symbols from 4th numerical or 12th numerical system into 10th or vice versa and many more math operations. What makes it even harder is randomness in quite a few puzzles. For example in various puzzles, the AI of the game will add up random numbers to the puzzles, thus spoiling your life. I would like to say that the puzzles are quite original, which is a good thing for adventure games. Each of those tribes has their own specific types of puzzles. For example in tech world you will be more likely to find configurations of keys, while in natural world you'll be pressing some weird plugs in the plants. Luckily, puzzles are not inventory related. As a matter of fact, all items you will find will be used automatically, so you won’t have to trouble yourself with mixing inventory items and finding perfect use for them.

This game is probably the most challenging game I have played this year. As you know, the more challenging a game is, the more rewarding experience you get after completing it. It is unbelievable how good you feel after solving puzzles on which you've worked for more then 4 hours. Well, you will definitely experience that if you will have enough patience to beat this baby. Something I didn’t like was that game doesn’t explain most of the weird structures you will encounter during your journey. During the game you will encounter a lot of weird flying and spinning umbrella like structures as well as other components which will be left unexplained, and it would have been more interesting and fun if I had understood how they functioned, why where they designed that way, etc.



Graphics:

The game features extraordinary beautiful 360-degree surroundings; the beauty of the environments is almost as nice as the ones from Myst. The world is extremely well detailed featuring very crisp textures. MJ2 is using the Jupiter engine, the same engine used in No One Lives Forver 2 and AVP2 among other games. If there’s something that took a long time for the developers to create, it must be the graphics. The water effects are beautiful as well, but nothing special in our days. The only downside is that you will need is a good PC to handle all the beauty. Of course, even a PIII 700 MHz will handle it, but it is better not to experience that. You will need at least 1 GHz and decent 64mb video card to play it without interruptions. The characters are quite detailed as well, except for the movement of their lips... that are actually a bit rough and unpolished. It is a pity that they have a kind of cold and indifferent faces when they are speaking to you. The other little fault I found is that sometimes edges seem a little uneven; however it doesn’t spoil the overall picture. Even if you are afraid to play this game because of the puzzles, it is definitely worth completing it just to see the astonishing surroundings you'll find in the different levels alone.



Sound:

The game features a quiet and ambient musical score. I found it quite suitable for this type of game. However, it gets a little repetitive if you will be stuck in one place for a longer period. The other weakness in game is that same tunes constantly get to be repeated during the game. They don’t have much variation. Nevertheless, because the music fits the atmosphere so perfectly, you might even not notice this lack of variation. The sound in the game is quite good as well, it features everything you need to hear: from chirping birds, to squeaky sound from towers, to really nice ocean sound, which is really pleasant to listen to. Voice acting is also very good. It might happen that character lips / voices coordination will get desynchronized if playing on lower end machines, but that is not a big deal. Overall these are the things which will set you in the game's mood, but won’t overfill with emotion.


Conclusion:

This game is definitely meant for hardcore adventure players, and anyone who has good experience solving puzzles. It offers both an attractive if not overly compelling storyline, great-looking graphics and good (although as I've stated above, very hard) puzzle elements. If you are determined to break your mind for countless hours over puzzles, it is definitely the game for you.