by Gordon Aplin
The year is 2012 and some remarkable events are about to unfold. It is the year that the normally accurate Mayans may have predicted for the end of the world, and given that there are plans afoot to turn Stonehenge into a theme park it could be argued that civilisation as we know it is about to come to an end. Yet this economic rationalist-inspired piece of cultural vandalism rivalling that of the wanton destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas may soon be overshadowed by the more immediate threat of a comet hurtling towards the Earth. Could the Mayans have had access to some ancient knowledge that presently eludes us?
In this sequel to Riddle of the Sphinx more riddles are posed and some even answered as you travel the globe seeking clues in and around ancient sites that seem to be linked in some mysterious way. Once again the redoubtable Sir Gil Blythe Geoffreys is on hand to explain the significance of his discoveries and send you on your way to find the stone discs that just may help to save the planet. And even though the game isn't timed, the sense of urgency is conveyed through references in a newspaper and in the notes Gil leaves for you and, most dramatically, in the need for you to commit your own piece of cultural vandalism in order to progress. I must admit that I found this act quite disturbing and wished there was an alternative solution. Though in the context of the impending destruction of everything if you fail in your mission, I suppose the end justifies the means.
As with the first game this is a fascinating journey that allows an up-close exploration of some of the ancient wonders that clearly still inspire and intrigue us. The Omega Stone is an imaginative tale that is more ambitious than its predecessor and manages to weave into the story a shadowy brotherhood that seems to have links to the Templars and hints at further ambiguous, if not sinister motives. Needless to say we will have to wait for the next game to see how this web of intrigue pans out. In the meantime we get to count like the Mayans as we decipher glyphs and puzzles in the labyrinthine tunnels beneath Chitchen Itza; practice a little alchemy in a mysterious Celtic land that seems strangely shifted out of time; explore the ocean depths that is a graveyard for ships and planes; walk amongst the haunting megaliths of Stonehenge and gaze enigmatically alongside the statues of Easter Island ... but not for ever ... there is still a world to be saved.
And there is much work to be done for the past does not yield up its treasures easily. It's up to you to explore and find and interpret the clues that will enable you to move on. You really do need to use your head and a number of others that you will pick up along the way. The puzzles are in context and generally fair as long as you are observant and read everything carefully. Letters, books and journals can provide clues as well as advance the story, though I must admit that I had a little trouble deciphering some handwriting and I was guessing at the numerical value of some crucial Mayan glyphs that became blurred at one extremity.
Snap photos, take notes, collect artefacts
As there is a lot to see and do you might want to use the camera that is part of the interface to take snapshots of significant stone markings or pages of books to save having to travel back and forth to read them. Even with this useful feature Rosemary and I still made copious notes and diagrams on sheets of paper. There are many items to pick up and carry around and for the most part (red herrings aside) they clearly have a specific use either to provide information or to be used in a particular location. The hitch is that your inventory very quickly becomes cluttered and I could find no way to drop items that I knew were no longer needed. If you are stuck you will need to carefully contemplate your inventory, explore some more or think about all that you have learned about the location you are in. The stones themselves could be trying to tell you something.
It is possible to die, though this is not a constant threat. It happened to me only once and it was quite a shock, but it did provide a valuable clue. I should also mention that there is a genuine maze in this game though it is not too arduous to negotiate.
Even though The Omega Stone, like its predecessor, is a game of solitary exploration you will meet some other characters. First there is Gil, of course, who is the Alpha and the Omega in that he delivers the introductory monologue that brings you up to speed and winds up the game by explaining some of what you and he have learned. Then there is 'Hump' who takes you where you need to go but isn't a great conversationalist. You will also meet Gil's eccentric colleague Lord Bathelwaite who will fill you in on some details providing you can find the key to enter his Manor. Oh and there is also a rather bewildered-looking druid lurking around somewhere. Even young Christian Troy who doesnt appear has a decidedly real presence in the writings and detritus of his life that he leaves behind. As there is no text option you will need to listen carefully to what Gil and Bathelwaite tell you. Some captioning would have invited more players to enjoy this trip.
Graphics and navigation
The graphics are generally improved over the first game with smoother integration and only a slight graininess noticeable at certain times such as in Lord Bathelwaites study. Though the screens are largely static water doesnt flow, no breeze ruffles the trees the music and sound effects help to overcome this omission. They blend in well with the game and help immensely to create the atmosphere, especially in the underground tunnels and the eerie nighttime scenes of the Celtic cemetery and surrounds. I had to turn up the brightness of my monitor for underground exploration and I think that the resolution could have been sharper, especially when it came to reading the various texts and deciphering glyphs. I tried the game on two PCs, one with a 32MB video card and one with 64MB, and there was no discernable improvement.
I should point out that this didnt spoil my enjoyment of the game as it was good enough to carry some shortcomings in this department. In fact in the case of the blurry glyphs, they had the effect of enhancing the realism. When deciphering ancient stone glyphs I would expect some deterioration in clarity. Playing on the low end PC (PIII 500Mhz with 128MB RAM) there were some long load times between locations that were completely eliminated on our faster PC (P4 2.4Mhz with 256MB RAM).
Navigation is a breeze and everything is mouse controlled. Some useful options are provided that enable you to set the panning speed, choose fixed or free cursor, or even let the cursor provide more or less help. Occasionally the cursor doesnt indicate a crucial hotspot but in these instances they are fairly obvious. You can also choose the gender of your character and this changes how you are acknowledged in the game. For example if you choose to play as a female then a letter will address you as 'Madame' and Gil refers to you as 'she' and 'her' in a letter to Bathelwaite. Small touches, but very welcome just the same. I was also pleased to see that an explanation of sorts was forthcoming concerning the anachronism of the artefact discovered beneath the Sphinx at the end of the last game. Though I still feel that the significance of a Biblical artefact in relation to monuments and civilisations that largely pre-date Biblical times strikes a discordant note. I'm intrigued as to where this story is leading and I guess I will just have to wait for the next game to find out.
Rosemary and I generally try to play adventure games together and often the measure of a game for us is how quickly we both become engrossed in it. From the very start when we collected some fascinating scrolls and set about working out the clues of the hieroglyphics, we were enthusiastic. Exploring the tunnels of Chitchen Itza and discovering more mysterious writing and many equally mysterious artefacts heightened this enthusiasm. We enjoyed it immensely, particularly solving the alchemy puzzle towards the end. This puzzle took some time as it drew together multiple clues and it gave us a real sense of achievement.
Although it is a sequel to the Riddle of Sphinx you could play this game without having played the first, although it will probably entice you into getting hold if it. The Omega Stone comes on 4 CDs and if you have the room to install the lot to hard disk you can eliminate disk swapping.
Copyright © Gordon Aplin 2003. All rights reserved.
Game Spot Review
by Ron Dulin
The original Riddle of the Sphinx from 2000 was obviously a labor of love. The fact that it was essentially put together by two people was impressive. Equally impressive was the sheer amount of research put into the game and how this knowledge formed the backbone of most of its puzzles. For the sequel, developers Jeffrey and Karen Toler were obviously given a bigger budget. The production values are higher, and the game is bigger, and better, in every way, and has more places to visit and more puzzles to solve. The result is a lengthy and challenging game.
The Omega Stone picks up just moments after Riddle of the Sphinx ends. A colleague has come to the Sphinx with dire news--a scroll has been found that predicts a great calamity. This prediction is echoed, as you'll learn over the course of the game, in the Maya calendar and the mysteries of Stonehenge. The doomsday plot is a bit overdramatic, especially compared to the first game's low-key story, which basically amounted to "Hey, let's check out the Sphinx." Stranger still is the revelation that the game takes place in the year 2012, but the only noticeable change in this vision of the future is that Stonehenge is about to be turned into an amusement park.
Even if the story is a bit silly, it gives you an excuse to visit mysterious locations all over the world, including Chichen Itza, Easter Island, Stonehenge, and others. And though these aren't the most unique settings for an adventure game, the amount of historical and theoretical information provided about each location more than makes up for any unoriginality. The Omega Stone may not be the first game to use Stonehenge, but it's most likely the first to give you a detailed lecture on its inaccuracies as an observatory.
Like Riddle of the Sphinx, The Omega Stone requires a great deal of reading. You'll read research notes, journals, cryptic maps, and even several chapters of a trashy science fiction novel. And, again like in Riddle of the Sphinx, all of the reading is required. You will be tested: Almost every puzzle solution requires you to put together information from various sources. Occasionally, the use of this information seems silly, as you jump through hoops just to open a locked door. But most of the time, simply arriving at a solution is reward enough. The puzzles in The Omega Stone are tough, and there are plenty of them, but they are consistently logical and organically integrated into the story. They are also lengthy and often have several steps--including other puzzles--to their solutions.
If there's a problem with The Omega Stone, it's that you have to do an unrealistic amount of traveling. Flying from Mexico to Egypt to England over and over again may give you flashbacks of Sierra's adventure game Time Zone, another disc-swapping nightmare. (In fact, we recommend you perform a full installation of the game, which removes the need for changing discs.) For the most part, no single location is self-contained: You'll need items from one location to solve a puzzle in another. Occasionally, new clues will appear when you revisit an area, which makes an already lengthy game even lengthier. Not that this is a bad thing in and of itself, but there's so much to explore in The Omega Stone that having to reexplore everything can become overwhelming.
Luckily, the exploration is enjoyable, and the sites are rendered with great attention to detail. Though the graphics are occasionally muddy, making key elements blend into the background, the game generally looks good. The Omega Stone also uses live actors integrated into the rendered backgrounds. It's not state of the art by any means, but it's a pleasant change from the barren locations common to the genre. It would be easy to criticize some of the acting, such as the Scottish archaeologist whose accent flickers on and off like a faulty bulb, but that would be missing the point. Even with its new technical bells and whistles, The Omega Stone retains the homegrown quality of Riddle of the Sphinx. The game was obviously made by people who love the subject matter, and that affection comes across in every element.
This affection also makes the game easy to recommend. The difficulty of the puzzles will undoubtedly limit the game's appeal, but those who enjoy a challenge will find plenty to like about The Omega Stone. And the detailed information about the various locales only serves to make the game that much more enjoyable.
Game Club Central (GCC) Review
Mart 'Smaug' Reinhart
In 2000 we were treated to a unique adventure game simply called Riddle of the Sphinx, which challenged gamers to find out the mysteries of the Sphinx, and led them into the depths of the Great Pyramids themselves. However what set this game apart from others was the obvious dedication to it's development, and above all else, the fact that it came to us from just two people. The Husband/Wife team of Jeffrey and Karen Toler brought the details of ancient Egypt alive with extensive research, and then tied it all up in an adventure game by bringing that knowledge together into a engrossing, and very accurate world. Success deserves a sequel, and the duo were obviously granted a much larger pocketbook to produce The Omega Stone, as the game encompasses a much larger portion of the globe this time around (It spans 4 discs to be precise), and offers the feeling of something bigger and better than it's predecessor.
The Omega Stone picks up right where Riddle of the Sphinx ends, truly adding a favorable flare for continuity. Your archaeological associate, Sir Gil Blythe Geoffreys (played by one of the developers), once again needs your assistance to solve the mystery surrounding the Omega Stone, and the adventure begins with a few hints at your Egyptian base camp and your handy (sometimes irritable) assistant, Hump. As the story opens, you find out there is a dire threat facing mankind.....The end of the world. The Mayans predicted it, the druids at Stonehenge warned us, and now the proof has emerged from within the Sphinx in the form of a mysterious scroll predicting a great world calamity. Another revelation is that the game actually takes place in 2012, which was not revealed in the original game. This storyline sets you off into exotic locations like The Devil's Triangle, Easter Island, and Chichen Itza. The best part of these excursions into the unknown is the sheer amount of real knowledge one can get from the game just by playing. Such a dedication to game research should be applauded, and repeated.
The Omega Stone is indeed a puzzle driven adventure game like many others, but what makes this game truly intense is the attention to detail in each mini-adventure. As such, you will have a lot of reading to do, and objects to inspect. As with Riddle of the Sphinx, ALL reading is required, and you will find everything from journals and maps to a tasty trash science fiction novel to help you in your research. The puzzles within the game will test your knowledge as well, so make sure you actually read the items! Each intricate game puzzle requires different elements from various sources, and although hard at times, the guesswork is quite intuitive if you are actually reading the notes and such. Often you will find yourself unable to complete part of a puzzle until you visit another area, which helps to richly integrate these excursions into the storyline itself.
Speaking of excursions, they are indeed long and many with an assistant like Hump for company, but if you install the full game (all 4 cd's, just over 1 gig) you can avoid the disc swapping nightmare in between travel locations. With such rich locals as Mexico, Stonehenge, and Easter Island, The Omega Stone gives you a genuine feeling of adventure. Lady Grimalkin was heard saying as we started the first levels..."I feel like Indiana Jones going out to find the lost Ark, this is fun!", and I got quite a thrill playing it with her. I decided that since a team effort was put forth to make the game, we would do the same and partner up for our play in this review. I must admit I felt quite like her assistant during our play however, as often while I was good at finding our way around and locating objects, she was quite adept at actually solving the puzzles themselves.
The exploration and research within the game is very involved and detailed. The pure amount of research that went into this game is amazing, and even more astonishing is the fact that most of these locations were actually vacation spots for the couple that developed the game. As a result we get such realism, and a true feeling of being at these spots throughout the globe. Although not a summer blockbuster, the storyline in The Omega Stone is robust and enjoyable with weird twists like Stonehenge about to be turned into an amusement park, and the discovery of forgotten lands. This method of storytelling can bring a gamer closer to feeling the role of the character in my opinion, and this game truly makes you feel the part.
The Omega Stone has some of the most beautiful locations in the world today within it's structure, and the developers brought out great detail to each site which is evident from your first look around the Sphinx. Although not today's top of the line graphics standards, the game holds it's own by concentrating on the overall atmosphere rather than fancy eye-candy. Even with my Radeon 9700 Pro video card the game looks a little blurry in most areas, but I am guessing this is done to add to the effect once more. Objects and environments are blended together so that they don't stand out like a sore thumb. You don't want to solve the puzzles that easily do you?
Don't let me sell the game short however, there are some rather cool effects in the game. Standing below a Moai statue, you can see the sun shining down from above, and glare and sun-rings penetrate the sky in a very nice effect. The underwater environments are also immersive, and bring a further depth to the realism of the Devil's Triangle. The Omega Stone uses live actors blended into rendered backgrounds, and while not high technology, I cannot stress enough how important it is to this type of game to have a level of interaction. Often adventure games are set with great locations, but lack any real interaction with people. Although the acting in the game is rather silly at some points (How can you be serious with a name like Hump?), it addresses a need that most games of this genre ignore.
Sound within the Omega Stone is once again an element to the environments you are in. Eire penetrating music will haunt you as you explore the depths of Chichen Itza, and the moods change as danger approaches or dwindles. The themes of each location's music are quite in-line with what one would expect from the ancient world, and while not the Boston Pops, it is quite enjoyable while playing the game. Some of the voice acting in the game is a tad off-key, and you will laugh at a few of the actor's accents. Other than the location music and ambient sounds, I must also mention the death scene sounds. There are some very cool ways to die in this game, and all come with startling graphics and sound. Be sure to save and play around a bit, I promise you will get a shock to your system on a few of the scenes.
The Omega Stone is a great example of what a determined developer can provide adventure gamers. Although the sequel gets a few added upgrades like a new engine, and enhanced everything, the game still maintains the same great grass roots feeling that Riddle of the Sphinx provided. The rich detail in the game will immerse you, and the attention and love that went into this game are very apparent. Jeffrey and Karen Toler should be praised for their devotion to this game, and to the people that buy this game.
The Omega Stone is truly a tribute to adventure gaming at it's finest. I highly recommend this game to anyone curious, or to those of you whom fancy something a bit different from today's fragging fare.
Just Adventure Review
by Eric Arevalo
A MEMORABLE SEQUEL
The Omega Stone, sequel to Riddle of the Sphinx is a memorable and exhilarating adventure that will amaze you from its enchanting beginning to its climatic end! Taking place right after the events in the first game, The Omega Stone now places the fate of the world in your hands. You must solve the mysteries surrounding many of the worlds ancient sites, such as Stonehenge, Easter Island, and many others. Each holds a key to the puzzle of solving the adventure and stopping the comet that threatens to destroy the earth.
EXPERIENCING THE OMEGA STONE
Before one can truly understand the beauty of this game we must look at those that helped to make it possible. The Adventure Company for one is to be complemented for continuing to support these adventure games and allowing companies like Omni Adventures to continue developing them. Having played and completed both Riddle of the Sphinx and now The Omega Stone I am left with wonder and excitement at the passion, fire and dedication that drives the developers to make these games. Jeffrey S. Tobler and Karen E. Tobler, developers of Riddle of the Sphinx and The Omega Stone are the unique husband and wife team that show the world what can be done if you believe in something so strongly.
When you play The Omega Stone you will be left mesmerized by the realism and attention to detail that goes into the creation of every item in the game as well as to each of the stunning environments that you will explore in. Jeff and Karen based much of what you see on trips they have made themselves to many of these locations, and on exhaustive research that they have done for everything you see in the game, so that you can be given the ultimate playing experience. Just like in Riddle of the Sphinx, The Omega Stone offers the player the rare and special experience to explore many of the worlds ancient sites just like archaeologists that many of us have dreamed of becoming or are inspired to become. Many of us may never have the chance to visit many of these sites which are closed to the public but through Riddle of the Sphinx and The Omega Stone, we have been given a rare and unique opportunity.
The developers first took us to the enigmatic Sphinx and its surrounding pyramids located in Egypt for the first game. Now, be prepared as the adventure undertaken in The Omega Stone is bigger, more colorful and more challenging than ever before. Utilizing a brand new game engine adventure fans will be excited to explore many of the worlds famous sites. Revisit the Giza Plateau from the first game, site of the famous Sphinx, or travel to the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza in the Yucatan jungle. Next, plan to visit the mystical relics of Easter Island, the watery depths of the Devils Triangle or even the mysterious megaliths of Stonehenge. In the end you may discover their vital connection as well as their importance to the legendary fabled city of Atlantis spoken of by Plato, the ancient Greek philosopher.
The Omega Stone is truly a visual splendor as you marvel at the beauty that has gone into the faithful recreation of each of these ancient and wondrous sites. Each object you see or area you visit will amaze you with the vibrancy of colors and detail that has gone into their creation. Wait until you see an area in the underground caverns of Chichen Itza that has shafts of light coming through an opening and illuminating the area below. Then there are the diving scenes in the game which are a welcome addition, as you explore the watery depths of the Devils Triangle in the search of a valuable item. Expect a nice surprise in a cemetery area you explore as you read the names written on certain headstones found there. Special mention must be made here of the exquisitely detailed FMV cutscenes that are included in the game, from the beginning and ending scenes to those in which you talk to the various characters that you meet along the way. You will appreciate these little details as well as others that the developers have included in the game. The Omega Stone is not a game to be rushed but one to be experienced by taking your time to discover all that it has to offer. It was so exciting to be able to visit all of these different sites with their own unique puzzles, challenges and surprises.
Movement and navigation are handled with ease in the game. The game is presented in a 360 degree format, which allows you to look all around you. A cursor in the shape of a triangle will guide you along the way. All you need to do is click on the area that you desire and you will travel to the selected destination if there is a path in that direction. If there is something for you to interact with, the cursor will highlight to indicate this. There is also a magnifying glass icon that indicates that you can get a close-up view of an item. When you collect items in the game a handy knapsack cursor will also show up that will allow you to store these items in your inventory. You can easily access your inventory at any time and select the desired items for use in many of the puzzles you come across. A new feature to this game is that you can use a camera that allows you to take snapshots of anything in the game, from snapshots of a specific location, to snapshots of notes, books and other items that you may find important to your mission.
Now lets get to the gameplay which is just as exciting as anything else in The Omega Stone. One of the things that I enjoyed about Riddle of the Sphinx was that clues were everywhere in the game to aid you in solving the puzzles and challenges that you faced. Of course you needed to know where to look and how to interpret these clues once they were found. The same holds true for The Omega Stone. Sir Gil Blythe Geoffreys (played by Jeffrey Tobler), the famed archaeologist from the first game will once again need your help to solve the mystery and leave you clues scattered about in each area that you will need in order to do so. He could easily tell you what you should know but there is always fear that his information will fall into the wrong hands, into the hands of his enemies. You will literally spend many exciting hours in each environment just reading the many notes, books, letters and other items that were left behind by Sir Gil or his assistants. You do feel as an archaeologist would in exploring these ancient sites and unraveling the mysteries all around you.
In Stonehenge you will be able to read an intriguing journal left by Troy Christian, an assistant that worked for Sir Gil. But what has happened to him and how will his journal play into all of this? In the Devils Triangle, you need to find a specific location in the ocean that holds a special item vital to your mission, buthow will you find the correct spot in the vast ocean below you? In Easter Island, what is the meaning and significance of a mask that you find there? These and many other mysteries await you as you experience a story that is more involving and even more suspenseful than the last game. So many clues will be found in books, some will be found in scrolls, to voiced recordings left by Sir Gil or other items scattered throughout the areas.
Sir Gil trusts and believes in your abilities and will keep you updated throughout the game through letters that he will send to you at certain points. Those abilities will be put to the test as you explore each of these sites. In Stonehenge you will have to work at finding the right code that unlocks a security gate that blocks passage into a special archaeological dig. In the ruins of Chichen Itza you will need to discover the importance of the many skulls that you will find and collect in the vast network of caverns below. In another area you will have to learn alchemy and use that knowledge to solve the complex puzzle that is tied to it. Puzzles will range in complexity and difficulty and you should expect to take more than 30 hours to complete this huge adventure. There are also several ways to die in this game so you must be careful with the decisions and actions that you make in some of these areas. I would strongly advise that you save before attempting any of the complex puzzles in this game.
There are more characters for you to interact with in this game than in the last one. We already mentioned Sir Gil. There is also the sometimes funny but always irritable Hump, the driver that will take you to the different sites and areas that you need to visit. In this game you are not required to complete a certain location to proceed to the next, as the games many areas will be opened up for you to complete in any order you wish. There will also be a situation in the game where an item from one area may help you in figuring out the puzzles of another area. You will also appreciate the impressive detail given to the many vehicles that Hump will take you in to the different sites such as the one in Stonehenge referred to as MARV (Mobile Archaeological Research Vehicle).
No review would be complete without mentioning the finely composed music and sound effects that complement each area and add to the atmosphere and ambiance to be found in each of the games many settings. You will appreciate how the roar of thunder and gloomy conditions in Stonehenge puts you in the right mood for such a mystical area. A few areas could have used improvement in this game. I would haveliked an inventory screen that organized items more neatly instead of the way they appear now. I also could have done without some of the puzzles that required the finding and collecting of many items, such as the many skulls you will need to collect in Chichen Itza. There is also a moderately difficult hedge maze in one section of the game that may frustrate players but with enough patience you should be able to complete it. I also encountered a rare situation with running the game under Windows 2000 where the game would exit to the desktop as I was playing. The developers are aware of this and are currently working on a patch to fix this. Yet, these are only minor flaws in an otherwise exemplary adventure game and I wish the team at Omni Adventures continued success with their future products.
A SHINING EXAMPLE
The Omega Stone is a shining example of an adventure game that distinguishes itself proudly among all the others! Not many developers would take the time and energy needed to recreate these famous sites with the care and attention that they require or conduct the many hours of research that this game calls for. Not many games can claim to give you the feeling of actually being there, of experiencing the history of each of these famous sites. Jeff and Karen Tobler have succeededwith The Omega Stone and in the process created an unforgettable adventure game that clearly demonstrates their passion for archaeology and its many wonders!
Final Grade: A
Link to this review.
[back to top]
At the end of Riddle of The Sphinx, the find of the centuries has been uncovered. Time to rest on our laurels. Or is it? Although we have revealed an ancient artifact and deciphered a cryptic scroll in the process, it appears that the mystery has really only deepened. In fact, there were not one - but two scrolls. We learn at the beginning of The Omega Stone, that our friend Gil has translated this second scroll. The translation reveals more than a record of ancient ways and times. It is more than the typical curse on the heads of wanton tomb raiders. This is much more ominous. A prophetic vision, of the future.. our future.. It details a cataclysmic event due to occur to our world. Not in the future, but perhaps in a few days time. After hearing this story from our friend Gil, We find ourselves alone in Giza with little more than some ID cards issued for various locales and his somber words resonating in our mind. Time to scour the earth, solve ancient riddles and uncover devices and items hidden from human eyes for thousands of years. Our failure may mean nothing less than the end of the world.
The Omega Stone is mouse driven with a smart cursor. You have an option within the game main menu to designate your cursor as "fixed" or "free" focused. For those who like the view to move with the mouse - choose the fixed view. I prefer the screen remain stationary until the mouse hits the edge of the screen. I like to scan each view carefully and sometimes lead with my mouse - so it is better that the screen not jump every time my mouse does. It is great to see this option present within the game. There is also an option to have your character addressed in mail and such as either female or male. Maybe not essential - but it is another nice touch that was built into the game. The screen transitions for the most part are very smooth. The inventory screen is part of the view area and you can conceal it or have it pop up with your right mouse button. Clicking on an item selects it, drop it back in your knapsack to replace it in inventory. One thing I really liked was that moving your mouse over any item, picture or saved game brings the item in your view area in close up. You can also delete any unwanted picture files or saves easily as you play without having to exit the game. The interface was for the most part one of the best around. My one complaint was with the active cursor - sometimes it reacted to areas of interest - sometimes it didnt. But I think that people will find the interface to be a quick learn, almost automatic and not in the way or a hassle during the game.
I like the idea that one of the distinguishing features of adventure games is the dedication to and focus on plot driven gameplay. Some games lay it right out in a narrative others dribble it out in bits and pieces- others leave you guessing, even after its all over. The Toblers do a vast amount of research as a predicate and ongoing development tool with their game construction. I was impressed with the attention to researched detail in ROTS. The location of items and the whys were left somewhat unsettled at the end. For good reason - a sequel was planned and in the works. Those loose ends were to me resolved in Omega. Like any good tale - some new mysteries were hinted at in the end. In this game I would say the plot was advanced in a seamless and realistic manner. Much as you would expect if this these were real events. Some of the story is revealed in sub-plots you uncover in your searches. Some is told outright by characters you encounter. Some is easy to fill in through what you see and hear. What is actually a vast array of theories and hypothesis was neatly joined in this story. I really cant go into more detail than that - why ruin all the fun for you. But I do think that the plot was more richly defined in this game. I believe I felt involved in ROTS, primarily due to my activities and the challenges. In Omega, it was the also the story and its telling that added to my engagement level. If perhaps you have missed a fact or two - all loose ends are tied up in a re-cap by our patron and friend Gil at the end. A nice touch to a well thought out game..
The Big Picture
Omega is one vast game. Although, I realize not everyone reading this review has played Riddle of the Sphinx, and I dont think it is essential to have done so to thoroughly enjoy Omega Stone, the way I approached the game is similar and useful to describe the overall quality of Omega Stone. When I saw the official site for ROTS, I was extremely impressed and became a dedicated visitor over the next several years that passed before ROTS actually released.
Similarly, Omni International once again put together a masterful presentation and pre-saged Omega with detailed accuracy. When I started ROTS - initially I was somewhat disappointed. I am afraid that I am not as sensible as I would like to be about unwarranted expectations. Among those, is this unfortunate human need for instant gratification. We tend to want to be wowed right away or we lose interest. Though I like to pat myself on the back and tell myself I am more patient with games - I too can succumb to my own fondness for the instant hook. The graphics were a bit grainy and no story leapt out to greet me. No people either. Just an isolated camp. Now I am ashamed to admit that after about a day of playing, I walked away from ROTS. Shortly thereafter - I read some ongoing threads and grudgingly picked the game back up where I had left it. I never looked back and never regretted it. As I got deeper into the complexities of the environments and the quest itself - I became totally engrossed. Then I became obsessed with ferreting out everything. At the conclusion - I felt exhilarated. The game interaction, story and detail was so engaging, that I really felt as if I had been to these amazing places. That I had been on an archeological expedition of epic proportions.
So what about ROTS and what does all this have to do with a review of The Omega Stone? I mention my reaction and experience with ROTS because at the start of Omega Stone, I felt the same way. I was a little disappointed in the graphics at the beginning. I was expecting lush environments and details. This time, my engagement with the game took significantly less time. First there is character interaction not present in the first game. Not a large number of characters, Omega is a solitary exploration for the most part. But there was Hump the person who gets us everywhere - as well as three other characters including Gil himself. There was also the constant "sense" of people. By that I mean diary entries, letters and correspondence involving a much larger group than those you meet. I think that the device of creating the "presence of people" by allowing the gamer to visually eavesdrop on their imprints and discards is a great one in a game. You have the focus of a first person exploration and the individual feelings of pride in a successful solve or game advance. But you also avoid the isolation and loneliness that can creep into gameplay that bothers some gamers (myself included) by a desolated game environment devoid of people and characters. I think that Omega Stone did a great job of balancing these concerns. In fact, I got a real kick out of bugging these few characters to get the full range of their scripted responses. There is no doubt that in Omega, the dialogue that exists definitely added to the game experience and was not a waste of anyones efforts.
The Game Look
Now I did say earlier that I was initially disappointed in what I saw? That lasted all of the 30 steps or so it took me to re-enter the Sphinx. The game locales are extremely varied. Some are crisp and so real you will jump at a noise heard off to the side. Others are appropriately dark, moody and somewhat fanciful. The diversity of locales was wonderful. Within the game itself I truly felt like I wasnt only going to a new locale - at times it felt like a whole new game. I believe the Toblers to be some of the most meticulous developers in the business. Not just the story line and back ground research but the nuances of each screen is done so attentively. Little items that you may not even notice the first time around are there. The sun reflects off of things in perfect symmetry. Look back at the transport vehicle and you will see the driver fidget. Perspective changes realistically as you move through tunnels, pathways and rooms. Flawlessly done. I believe these little details can make or break a gamers mood and level of involvement. In this case - I always felt rooted to where I was. Too much so at times. I had to take breaks and go above ground at times in one particular location. Odd choice of words isnt it? If the game had not involved me so much - I think I would have thought "walk away from the screen or leave your office" But this game has a way of taking over your thoughts and imagination. Great games do that.
This discussion of the details and powerful presentation would not be complete without a thumbs up on the sounds. All of these visuals were supported and enhanced at all times by the sound effects used. If someone is upstairs - you hear pacing and sounds. It was hard, hmmm no make that almost impossible, for me to leave one spot in the game. I kept hearing these scraping sounds, crashes, footsteps. It didnt matter that I was really done with that part - I wanted to know what they heck they were doing up there. Omega grabs your curiosity in so many levels - way past the immediate tasks at hand. It is just another piece of the complex fabric of this game. It is this clever and adroit weaving of sounds, graphics and story line with a keen appreciation for all the little things that not only hooked, but ultimately wowed me.
I am starting to prefer the term "enigmas" rather than puzzles for in game challenges. Particularly with newer games where the old paradigm of heres a wheel with numbers - make the sounds match is no longer the norm in adventure games. Have to thank Frogwares for that turn of phrase. In Omega Stone there are devices to interact with as we are looking for items meant to be protectively concealed from humans - so that they will be there when the prophecy is realized. SO, we do have a certain number of traditional looking devices and mechanisms to solve - unlock - or activate. However a greater number of the enigmas are practically related to the game plot and environment. We have to learn and recreate a alchemy ritual, chart our way through a vast underground world and leave no stone uncovered as we search out items. There may be left over inventory - but there are no red herrings. In fact as with ROTS - there are abundant clues to most of the challenges if you dig deep enough or look closely enough. There is a maze - and you just have to work through this one. A map is available later - kind of cheeky doing that. Heh-heh. Myself, I always go with the go to the right always and you will work your way through most any maze -but for those who go crazy at even the mere thought of a maze - youve been warned. You will have to dive, climb, scale, swim and dig. Read charts, maps and sift through messages. This game has a wide variety of puzzles. Some are unique and great fun for being different. Variety with the puzzles - as with the locations is one of the great things about this game. I think most if not all who play this game will find challenges that make them slightly crazy but also plenty more that they will enjoy on many different levels.
The drawback I encountered was the user manual contents or really the lack thereof. It is in itself an odd issue. I have never before discussed the user manual and supporting docs in a game review. Heck I rarely give a second thought to the things. But if you have to troubleshoot or have technical issues, this is where I always look first. I had some difficulty getting Omega to load at first and was surprised at the lack of technical facts available in the manual. For the benefit of those who are about to play Omega Stone heres my user manual updates.
The game prefers software rendered graphics. This is now noted at the tech support page at DC -and it may not have been known at the time of release. You have an option at the load screen for software Vs hardware rendered graphics. Unless you have a real advanced graphics card - I would stick with the software render choice.
If you do the full install ( which I recommend to avoid the ever tedious "disc swapping"). Make sure you have plenty of additional space available after the install. Though the game features unlimited save spots and picture taking - this is illusory if you dont allow for the space requirements the additional pic files will consume. Primarily, my game locked up and I had to manually delete any pic files and saved games that I longer needed, so that the game would continue running. I would add that I believe a 2gig figure is mentioned as the space requirement for a full install of the game. It is actually 2.68 gig plus extra space for the pics and added files.
Now all this being said - none of this would make me give Omega Stone anything but high marks all around. . Once you know about these quirks - the game runs well and is a joy to experience. So I thought I would fore-warn and fore-prepare the gamers out there. No reason for all of us to have these issues arise.
Despite my side issue quibbles at the end of the review - that is really just noise in terms of whether a particular game is worth your hard earned money or not. In truth, The Omega Stone is one of those games that is destined to be a classic. My final thoughts are these: at the end of this game I was thrilled, happy and disappointed. Thrilled to have discovered Omegas mysteries, happy to have seen all of its delights and disappointed that it was all over and done with. For at the end of it all - it is how reluctant we are to see that final end screen that matters the most.
Link to this review.
[back to top]
by Anise Hollingshead
Dreamcatcher, the parent company of The Adventure Company, has managed to tap into a neglected goldmine: the frustrated adventure players who've been abandoned by most other companies. As this particular group of gamers is small compared to fans of other genres, it just made sense for major companies to give up the expensive business of making games that only a small portion of the market would buy and to concentrate on more profitable games. So how does Dreamcatcher manage to make money? By concentrating on the publishing aspect, leaving the risky business of designing and producing the games to others.
This means The Adventure Company can pick and choose from a host of games produced by various companies, and for the most part, they've picked several decent games such as Syberia and Post Mortem over the last several years, to the glee of adventure gamers everywhere. One of their latest releases is The Riddle of the Sphinx II: The Omega Stone, a sequel to the fairly popular Riddle of the Sphinx.
The Omega Stone is designed in the classic Myst manner, with a first-person perspective and a quiet, lonely style of investigation, as the player is for the most part the only human around, except for the largely reticent driver. In the first game, Sir Gil Geoffreys discovered a secret scroll pertaining to the lost Ark of the Covenant of the Jews. In this sequel, a second scroll has been discovered in the Sphinx with disturbing implications for the future of the planet, one that links many ancient civilizations together. Sir Geoffreys needs you to travel to several different sites, searching for the answers that will save the earth from possible disaster. And search you will....
The adventure begins in the Sphinx, with vague instructions from Sir Geoffreys about possible areas of concentration. The player's goals are not expressly voiced, so it's up to the player to explore and figure out just what he or she is supposed to be accomplishing. The main locations to visit at first are Giza, Chichen Itza, the Devil's Triangle, Easter Island, and Stonehenge. By searching diligently, certain items can be picked up for use later, and helpful information can be gleaned by reading various books and letters. Unfortunately, most of the written clues can't be placed in the inventory, but must instead be photographed. For some reason, the photo tool can only focus on part of the picture, so several shots will have to be taken to get the whole picture. This is a major aggravation when trying to decipher picture clues, as players can't study the entire picture at once, but must instead flip back and forth between pieces.
The puzzles are brain teasers, and some time will have to be spent on them. Most times the general sense of the solution is known, but the tools to figure it out are not known and there are no hints given in the course of the game, really, to direct the player of just what to be looking for to help solve the puzzle, except for a fairly easy puzzle on Easter Island involving statues and a mask. Most of the time, players will be blindly searching every inch of the locations for items to possibly use later. As many of the items are extremely difficult to see against the dark backgrounds, often they are missed without the player having any clue about there being anything there to look for, anyway.
Some inventory items are in plain sight, but finding the location itself isn't very obvious. Early on in the game, I became somewhat stuck because I hadn't clicked the directional cursor in the right direction in a few locations, so didn't know that certain areas were accessible, and therefore missed several key items for my inventory. Fortunately, some friends helped me out and I was able to progress.
The atmosphere of the game fits very well with the theme of archaeology and mysterious, ancient civilizations. Historical buffs will enjoy exploring the different sites, which is good because they will definitely be doing a lot of that. The sense of isolation is nicely done, although not very believable, as in reality these are tourist spots, and they would be literally teeming with people, even though the game tries to explain in some instances why certain sites are closed and/or empty. For the most part, a serious, somber mood is evoked, except for certain instances of comedic relief.
There is a slight tongue-in-cheek approach oftentimes to the story and clues, most evident at Stonehenge, which utilizes a fantasy novel with plenty of romance overtones for information to use later. The excerpts from this novel are funny in the extreme for their sly digs at popular fiction. A letter to the former dig assistant from his parents also makes for amusing reading.
The interface offers a wide, panning viewpoint from the player's perspective which works well most of the time, and offers two choices of movement; a movement where every touch on the mouse moves the view, or a more rigid view where the view only shifts when the mouse is either clicked at hot viewpoints, or is moved vertically to the edge of the screen. I found I preferred the second choice of movement, as the other made me seasick.
The inventory, options and main menu selections are accessed easily by simply right-clicking to bring up or down. Several options can be chosen for game configuration, such as mouse movement, music, and cursor options for clues. This interface is generally intuitive and is a pleasure to use when compared to many other similar games. There were a few odd glitches with inventory items, as in when one item just magically appeared (the grappling hook) without me ever clicking on it anywhere, and the disappearance of two items picked up from a shrubbery maze. However, this didn't affect the gameplay any; I simply picked up the missing inventory items again, as they were back where they had originally been found.
The sound is practically non-existent. While loud theme music would have been distracting from the cerebral tone of the game, still, more sound effects would have added to the experience. What voice-acting is included is nicely done, and the actors do a good job. Sir Geoffrey has a nice accent, although his choice of vocabulary is a trifle stilted, as if the designers believe that the upper-class of the U.K. are stuck back a couple of centuries. I had to laugh at his comment on my being thrown back from the Ark of the Covenant at the game's introduction, "It was a sight to behold!" A "sight to behold"? Who says that anymore? But otherwise, the actors and their scripts were a good combination that blended in well and wasn't jarring or intrusive, except for one interaction with a 'friend' of Sir Geoffrey's that just didn't logically fit with the story.
For instance, the player will have to visit this guy at his house. Despite the warm, welcoming tone of his letters, he acts like a consummate jerk and won't even let you in his house, but says that you have to basically figure out how to get in yourself. Now, I understand the constricts and norms of these type of story puzzles, but given the story line up to this point, his crankiness made absolutely no sense.
The graphics are typical for this type game, and while not breathtakingly beautiful, are pleasant to look at and do a good job of adding to the atmosphere of the game as a whole. Each location is faithfully rendered to be as realistic as possible, and players will enjoy exploring just for the fun of seeing all these antiquities.
I found this game somewhat enjoyable, although this particular type of adventure isn't my favorite. I'm a big adventure fan, but I prefer third-person, dialogue driven games where there's always someone to talk to. A Myst fan I'm not, being much more a Monkey Island and Grim Fandango kinda girl. That said, I still enjoyed this program, mainly for the locations and interesting puzzles, rather than the story, which I found uncompelling. Fans of this type of adventure will find much to interest them, though, as this game is fairly well-designed and offers a good mix of esoteric puzzles and clue-hunting. The obligatory maze is present in a few instances, but mercifully is short each time comparatively to the torture many games offer in the name of amusement.
This is a decent offering on the altar of adventure, although a few improvements would have enhanced the gaming experience; namely, some type of directional goals imparted to the player during the course of the game, and the ability to add the written material to the inventory in its entirety, rather than piecemeal photos. Still, a worthwhile effort and one that many first-person adventure fans will appreciate.
Reviewer's Scoring Details
An interesting adventure that is a little short on story, but offers plenty of head-scratching puzzles and problems to work out. It will take several hours of playing to solve everything. Some drawbacks to the gameplay are the fact that advancement may be halted due to missing an important piece of inventory, and as the game doesn't give any direction on finding many things, this missing piece and its whereabouts may be forever a mystery.
Average graphics that do an adequate job of evoking these wonderful locations, but nothing more.
Not much to the sound.
The puzzles range in difficulty from easy to pretty difficult. Finding the inventory items isn't puzzling, so much as just hard to accomplish because of either resting against a dark background, or by being in a non-obvious location.
This type of game has been done many, many times before, but there is still room for more!
A nice adventure to while away the hours with, especially if players are historical buffs. The locations add to the fun, with exotic places like Stonehenge and Easter Island. The story itself is a little weak, but most players of these type games are more interested in the puzzles than the story. Players who enjoyed the first Riddle of the Sphinx are sure to enjoy this sequel.
Link to this review.
[back to top]
The Adrenaline Vault Review
by Bob Mandel
In 2000 a major adventure title, Riddle of the Sphinx, emerged from a tiny husband-and-wife development team (Jeffrey and Karen Tobler). Though by no means perfect, it revitalized the genre in showing a level of attention to detailed elaborate pensive enigmas and a textured storyline that pleased fans and critics alike. Transcending the focus on the Sphinx and Great Pyramid on the Egyptian Giza Plateau, The Adventure Company has released a sequel, The Omega Stone, by the same developers that begins right where its predecessor left off, even using some of the same outside scenery. It promises to combine mystery and adventure into an absorbing virtual treat.
After archaeologist Sir Gil Blythe Geoffreys discovered a secret chamber and an ancient papyrus scroll showing the location of the Ark of the Covenant, another prophetic scroll is found foretelling worldwide disaster. At Geoffreys' request, you try to track down where this scroll comes from and what it means. You find clues that appear to reinforce this dire prediction in a variety of places. So while you do not exactly have to race against time to prevent global annihilation, you do have a rather monumental burden on your shoulders in your quest for the truth. There is nothing exceptionally novel about the story here, but it unravels in such a way as to keep your interest.
Unlike Riddle of the Sphinx, The Omega Stone is truly global in geographical scope. In addition to ancient Egypt, you visit Stonehenge, Easter Island, Devil's Triangle, Mayan pyramids, and even Atlantis. Rather than just meandering randomly all over the place, as is the case in many virtual adventures that just want to show off the versatility of their graphics engine, all the locations in The Omega Stone are interwoven in fascinating and unexpected ways through the intriguing story. So you have many more multifaceted areas to explore, freeing the players of this new release from the confining and almost claustrophobic atmosphere that dominated its predecessor. Exhaustive research on the history of these locales, apparently inspired by personal visits by the co-designers to the current sites, add a level of realism to everything you see. The authenticity of the reproduced locations visited is so high that you feel sometimes as if you are looking at a visual global gazetteer of famous historical sites.
Thus The Omega Stone offers a wide-ranging historically and archaeologically accurate experience, full of realistic data, rituals, and artifacts. With this in mind, it is not surprising that this title is decidedly more into cerebral than visceral thrills. A lot of the clues are presented in text form, through documents and multi-page books; unlike volumes in some virtual adventures, here you can actually flip through many pages in most of the books you find, revealing in the process a ton of useful background information. So you have to be willing to take the time to undertake painstaking research and piece together fragmentary clues without being treated to much accompanying flash and pizzazz.
It is nice that you can visit any of the locations from the start, without approaching them in a predetermined linear sequence. Even though you cannot explore wherever you want to at each location (many areas you can see are not approachable at close range), there are a huge number of places to go at most points, and you do not usually have a fixed sequence of steps to be taken. This flexibility reduces the artificiality of the play experience, as well as freeing you from feeling that you are being led around by the nose. You begin really to feel as if you are discovering and assembling what you find in the same way an expert archaeologist would. Unfortunately, this non-linearity necessitates a bit of backtracking across areas, as you cannot just finish up everything you need to in just one comprehensive visit to each setting. Even worse, sometimes you have to leave a location and then return to it just to make some new clue appear on the scene. This makes the gameplay more extended, but at the same time it can increase player exasperation. This irritating design feature is highly reminiscent of Red Orb's The Journeyman Project 3: Legacy of Time.
As you engage in your intrepid exploration, you pick up a wide variety of items. These include such odd objects as a grappling hook, crowbar, Celtic sword, thorned rope, English manor key, antique map, sacred Celtic skull, sundial, skull crank, and (of course) Omega disk. The hard part here is that frequently you need to use each object in a very different location from where you find it, often halfway around the world. Due to this, if you do not carefully interconnect the fragments of clues you gather, you usually have to try everything in your inventory every chance you get in the hope of finding something which works. It would have been nice if somehow more of what you place in your inventory had a more distinctively identifiable relationship to the locations where you need to use them.
The puzzles are all integrally linked to the story and are seamlessly integrated into the gameplay. The emphasis is on logic puzzles, so most often if you think carefully you can deduce a solution. What is needed more than anything else to solve the puzzles is vigilant scrutiny of everything around you, as many involve multi-step solutions. Showing the creativity of the designers, in one area you need to take a hot shower (a cold shower will not do the trick) so that you can see a message scrawled on the resulting vapor on the stall door. However, an incredibly tortuous English garden maze proves to be so frustrating that my adventure experience almost ended right there, and finding an endless number of skulls in a subterranean cellar proves to be no fun either. So in the end both the quality and the novelty of the puzzles are mixed.
The Omega Stone is a very solitary experience, much like Riddle of the Sphinx and MYST, and thus this recent release stands in direct contrast to highly interactive adventure titles such as Post Mortem and Grim Fandango. The one person you see a lot of is a rather humorous character named Mr. Humphreys (nicknamed Hump), who helps you travel from place to place via a variety of interesting means of transportation. As befits its ESRB "Everyone" rating, there is also no gratuitous sex, violence, or foul language here to break the lonely monotony and spice things up. In some cases it admittedly seems very strange that there are no other people around and no source from which to ask for help.
Graphics: (3.5/5) The visuals are generally beautiful in The Omega Stone, a significant improvement over its predecessor (which was by no means shabby). The use of color is expert, and lighting and shadowing effects are excellent. Rather than using crude renderings, this offering effectively uses live actors inserted into the background settings. It is nice that when you undertake an interactive action, you actually get to see an accompanying satisfying animation. Little niceties abound, such as a working Stonehenge music box.
The camera pans a full 360 degrees, with user controlled panning speed. You may also look up and down, and sometimes you need to climb ropes or ladders or descend into pits. However, while hardware acceleration is used if available, you do not have much ability to customize what you see, as the screen resolution (a paltry 640x480 pixels) and color depth is fixed.
Interface: (3.5/5) As is typical of virtual adventures, the mouse is the input device. The cursor changes discernibly to show different play options, including a knapsack for picking up items, a magnifying glass to see close-ups, and a bright light to signify interactive hotspots. The menu has a warp setting to allow you to move quickly back to places you have already visited.
The play settings all are clustered on the main menu screen. Among the unusual options available, you may choose what gender you are when you play (perhaps a nod to the many female players of adventure titles). You may save and load wherever you wish, although the way your saved games are arrayed horizontally in a scrolling sequence at the bottom of the screen proves not to be particularly convenient. While the default install induces a lot of repeated swapping among the game's four CDs, a full install option is available to avoid this nuisance.
When you look at a document, you can often actually scroll around it. Even better, you are given a camera so that you can take virtual pictures of parts of any document you encounter. But there is a downside here: much of the text and even maps you encounter cannot be picked up but must instead be photographed, and since the camera's snapshot dimensions are relatively small, you may need to take several snapshots to capture an entire document. So this not-very-realistic implementation can artificially force you to look at a diagram in pieces rather than all at once.
Gameplay: (3.5/5) The gameplay in The Omega Stone slowly but surely grabs you and induces you to be totally absorbed in the intense and immense exploration. With a decidedly relaxed pace devoid of time pressure or fast-action sequences, you gradually construct an explanation of what is transpiring. The depth of the mystery here is much greater than in most other virtual adventures, stretching your imagination and mental prowess to the limit.
However, this title could use a few more emotional jolts and discrete points of dramatic tension. While all the stuff you encounter is fascinating, for many players there might need to be more motivation than the subtle mix of intellectual questions provided to continue to the end.
You do, nonetheless, go through an amazing number of twists and turns before unraveling the mystery and the secrets surrounding the Omega disc. The game takes around 30 hours to complete, and it feels satisfyingly lengthy.
Multiplayer: There is no multiplayer component in this game, so this category is not rated.
Sound FX: (2/5) The ambient environmental noises are not varied enough, as frequently you just hear the repeated sounds of one phenomenon - such as rushing wind, thunder, or birds chirping - in the background. Too much silence seems downright eerie in the context of the story here. Nonetheless, sometimes the effect is just right to convey a gloomy and apprehensive mood. Moreover, the vocal effects, including those delivered by Jeffrey Tobler himself, are well delivered and effective.
Musical Score: (2.5/5) The music in The Omega Stone is relatively sparse, like the sound effects, but perfectly suited to the mood of the game. The soundtrack conveys the tone of mystery and exploration. Rich orchestral tones echo occasionally in the background at appropriate times. The audio quality of what you hear is consistently high.
Intelligence & Difficulty: (3/5) For those with the endless patience and meticulous attention to detail of a professional archeologist, playing The Omega Stone would be an utter delight. While fully utilizing their cranial capacities, nothing they encounter will be beyond their capacity to handle. On the other hand, for those with a shorter attention span and an aversion to finding needles in haystacks, the requirements of this virtual adventure may very well be a bit too demanding. While the puzzles vary greatly in their difficulty, there are a number whose solutions may elude all but the most adept and experienced fans of this genre. Aside from deductive powers, what you need most to succeed here is an ability to assimilate a variety of kinds of evidence to determine how and where they need to be used. You also need to have the confidence not to give up even when you appear to have hit a dead end or have run out of different avenues to try.
Overall: (3.5/5) The Omega Stone builds and improves on the excellent foundation provided by Riddle of the Sphinx. Rather than pander to the action addiction of many of today's gamers, this new release intentionally caters to those who eschew cheap thrills and immediate visceral gratification for the more delayed satisfaction coming from true deductive virtual problem solving. As the pieces of the puzzle slowly fall into place, you begin to realize what a complex tapestry you have become part of in your quest. While this title is clearly not for everyone, and has significant shortcomings in some areas, the generally high production values combined with the unending series of coherent brain-stretching enigmas make this worth a serious look.
Published: April 15, 2003
Link to this review.
[back to top]
Mr. Bill's Adventureland Review
Some myths and legends never die: they seem to strike a responsive chord in us, as if they speak to some long forgotten memory of our soul. And once again (as in Riddle of the Sphinx), Jeff and Karen Tobler have addressed one of those ancient unresolved enigmas, combining rock solid research of the available literature on the subject with their own logical reasoning and conclusions. It all makes for a fascinating story ..... and is of course the perfect backdrop for a game.
The questions are ones that have long perplexed both scholars and laymen alike. Why are there such striking similarities in the oral tradition, history and beliefs of so many ancient cultures? And where did they get the knowledge and expertise required to build all of those mammoth structures, and for what purpose were they erected? Is there some connection between them and whatever lies beneath the waves in that deadly area of the ocean known as the Bermuda Triangle: the 'Devil's Triangle'? And perhaps the most important question of them all: why does the phenomenally accurate calendar of the ancient stargazing Mayans, which they meticulously kept to reflect both the past and the future, abruptly stop on a specific day in the year 2012: a day when they said this age would end? What did they know that we don't know? What's going to happen then?
These are the questions that Jeff Tobler, as noted archaeologist Sir Gil Blythe Geoffreys, intends to answer, and his research has led him to believe that he is on the right track. But time grows desperately short: it is already 2012. And if what he suspects is true, our very lives may depend on finding the answer. He needs your help.
This is a 1st person, 3D, point & click game, with 360-degree panning, a large inventory, a smart cursor, and an onboard camera for taking screenshots of pertinent information. The interface is well designed and easy to use, with variable panning speed available and a choice of fixed or free cursor to suit your style of play. Movement is linear but gameplay is not, and you can visit and revisit the various areas in any order that you choose. You begin where you ended in the previous game (the 'Chamber of Ages' in the Sphinx on Egypt's Giza plateau), but familiarity with the first game is not necessary to play this one.
In your search for understanding and a way to stop the impending disaster, you will need to explore selected areas of several ancient civilizations: Easter Island, Chichen Itza, the 'Devil's Triangle', Stonehenge, and (ultimately) Atlantis, as well as visit an English manor and an old Celtic compound. And you are taken to each place in style, by a delightful driver named 'Hump', in everything from a Rolls Royce to a seaplane.
Logically, your search takes you into areas not previously explored by archaeologists, like those beneath the famous monuments and on the ocean floor, or to secret Knights Templar areas under cover of darkness. Nevertheless they have a certain beauty, often startling, as when you unexpectedly come upon a veritable waterfall of emerald light from above, or notice the eerie charm of the full moon in an old Celtic cemetery, or the muted colors beneath the ocean waves. The original soundtrack is sparse and moody, expertly adding to your feeling of isolation. Because basically this is a solitary game, with only a few human encounters (and no two-way conversations), but those few do an excellent job with both acting and character portrayal.
As in the first game, the puzzles are solved with found inventory items and the information gleaned from books, and scrolls, and symbols carved in stone. They are not particularly difficult, but the search for the needed items can become frustrating and even tedious at times: we were very grateful for a walkthrough. And you can die in this game. But thankfully you can save anytime except during a video, and we would strongly recommend that you do so often, and under different names. That way you won't have to retrace all of your steps in case you get lost or miss something, and you won't have to repeat all of the parts of the more complicated puzzles.
We do wish there had been less 'busywork' in the game (like in the underground caves, the hedge maze, and the alchemy measurements), and instead more details about the research and prophecy surrounding this real life situation. But we did enjoy the unusual beauty, and the characters, and we were particularly impressed with Tobler's summation of the known facts, and conclusions about the nature of the threat. As usual, we look forward to their next game.
Link to this review.
[back to top]