Nostradamus: The Last Prophecy Review
|Developer:||Kheops Studio, TOTM Studio and Mzone Studio|
|Release Date:||September 8th, 2008 (UK)|
|Reviewer:||Andy Hemphill (Bandit)|
To be honest, although I’ve heard of Nostradamus, I can't say I've ever studied him. And the very little I know about astronomy could fit neatly into a matchbox, so when a copy of The Last Prophecy arrived on my desk, I have to admit I felt a little out of my depth- and rightly so. At its core, I believe this game sets out with one objective in mind- to make me feel like an idiot.
The basic premise is this: playing as the titular philosopher's daughter, Madeleine, and his slightly odd looking son, César, you have to unravel the mystery surrounding a series of grisly deaths in a little French town and stop your fathers prophecy coming true.
To do this you go from place to place solving riddles, fixing objects, mixing enough strange potions to float the Mary Rose and learning a lot about philosophy, the cosmos and astrophysics.
The strangest thing I encountered was the very first task in the game. For some reason, after Queen Mother Catherine de Médicis to Salon de Provence (wow) comes calling on old-man Nostradamus, your character, Madeleine, has to dress up as your brother and go to meet her.
Five minutes into the game and I’m already trying to find a way to hide my boobs and darken my skin complexion, since when did cross-dressing enter into the adventure genre?
After having hidden your character's obvious female assets, you then set off on your adventure, which, unlike the majority of adventure games I’ve played in recent years- is actually fairly interesting.
Not only is the story quite a twisted tale, but there are a few genuine moments of 'oh that makes sense' or 'so that's where that modern term comes from' - it genuinely seems like the production team actually did some research for this game.
The story is backed up by fairly good visuals and a neat interface that provides a surprising amount of depth for an adventure game. Early on in the game the old man gives Madeleine a case filled with tools, including a magnifying glass, tweezers and scissors, and your inventory- which can carry just about every conceivable item- allows you to examine items in close detail.
For example, while trying to figure out how to disguise myself as a man, I examined a long wig that I had found in Madeleine's mother's room. Upon looking at it with the magnifying glass I discovered that it could be manipulated by the scissors as the scissors symbol was lit- a few click later and I had a shorter wig and a rather nice beard and moustache- not bad. The inventory is combined with a notebook and a diary, so if you need to remember a recipe for glue, or wine, or explosive (you need to remember a lot of recipes) it's easy to track down.
A rather odd addition however is the little window that details what your character is wearing, a fairly pointless addition, but not a major problem.
That isn't to say that the game doesn’t have any major problems. Story-aside, there is a small battalion of little niggles that sully the experience. The voice acting (while ten times better than in Jonathan Danter’s mess of a game) is very much a hit and miss affair.
Nostradamus sounds reasonable enough, and so do the Queen and various other characters. Madeleine and César sounds perfect for the time (renaissance France) if a little clipped and formal, but that could be in relation to the high society that they inhabit. NPC’s aren’t so good, with the voice actors sounding very bored at times.
The graphics are excellent, in fact they’re so good (for an adventure game) that sometimes it’s impossible to tell what is an object that can be manipulated and what is just background- resulting in ludicrous pixel searching- why Lighthouse didn’t include an option to reveal what can be manipulated when you press the space bar (as in Belief and Betrayal) I don’t know.
The camera, which is a 360 degree rotation camera controlled by holding down the right mouse button, allows a view of the immediate area, but sometimes it can be a real pain to control, and I often found myself wanting a single perspective camera, even though this wouldn’t show off the graphics so well.
As usual, the game’s mechanic features all kinds of combining this and that, but Nostradamus takes it a little too far. Madeline’s expertise in alchemy, for example, get’s very tedious after a while, and when you’re faced with basically cooking up a potion out of the 30 or so ingredients on her shelves it is easy to make a mistake, and end up having to tip the mix into the fire.
Other puzzles deal with astronomy and physics, topics that I neither understand nor want to study, and this did not allow me to solve the puzzles without often turning to trial and error- not a good thing if you’re a younger gamer.
Also included is the bonus point system. If, for example, you manage to make the aforementioned potion perfect the first time, you rack up a few bonus points. Get it wrong, and a few are taken away. At the end of the game, after a surprising ending, you get a total of your points, and subsequent play-throughs give you a chance to better your score. Not much incentive to play it again, but there it is.
Overall, Nostradamus is a mix of good and bad. In a genre that features game after game which suffer fatal flaws, it has the story, the graphics and the style to make an entertaining, if a little too complicated and occasionally buggy, murder mystery. One to buy when you have some time on your hands (or a massive interest in astronomy.)
- Excellent story
- Sharp graphics
- Reasonable voice acting
Not so good stuff
- Camera is difficult to control
- Over-complicated puzzles