PC adventure-game developers usually set their stories against grand, larger-than-life backdrops, and French developer Kheops Studio is certainly no exception. In Cleopatra: Riddle of the Tomb, the fabled Egyptian temptress doesn’t play a leading role - the game’s protagonist is an apprentice astrologer named Thomas - but you work on her behalf throughout the entire narrative.
As a civil war between Cleo and her brother Ptolemy rages through the city of Alexandria, you must find out who abducted your mentor and his daughter (your girlfriend). Most of Thomas’ efforts entail picking up stray papyrus notes, discarded tools, broken sticks, and any other piece of crap you find lying around as you progress through each scene via a static Myst-like point-and-click interface.
The bulk of the gameplay entails combining the correct inventory bits, deciphering the game’s varied puzzles (which, appropriately for Hellenistic Egypt, often use Greek characters), fixing antiquated machinery, and mastering complex alchemy tests. With so many clever and intuitive conundrums to decode, Riddle of the Tomb is rarely boring or repetitive.
The game exhibits some cracks with its atrocious voice acting and truncated, sometimes corny plot. Vista owners may also encounter game-killing framerate slowdowns while navigating the inventory screen (I eventually had to install it into XP to bypass this). This Cleopatra is no legendary beauty, but it is an adventure that will appeal to genre fans.
Jul 3, 2008