Nostradamus predicted a fair few things in his time. The Great Fire of London, Napoleon’s empire and the rise of the Third Reich. What he probably didn’t predict was that he would be commemorated in a point-and-click adventure for the PC. Still, in this medieval puzzle-solving affair, you play the famous seer’s daughter, Madeleine, who gets roped in to stop her dad’s last, and most disastrous, prophecy from coming true. With no obvious option to buy dad a copy of the Racing Post and leave well enough alone, it’s up to you to go around, picking up stuff, mashing it together, and using the slightly tacked-on device of your father’s astronomy charts to get things to happen.
Seeing as there’s a constant dripfeed of adventure games passing through our office, mostly hovering between tolerable and passable, it seems pertinent here to point out that Nostradamus is not awful. In fact it’s pretty good. The game’s approach to point-and-clicking is pitched somewhere between the static backgrounds of Myst and the first-person stylings of the Sherlock Holmes Adventures. You can turn through 360°, but you’re stuck in the centre of each scene, like a giant puzzle-solving pole, clicking between doorways to move around. At first this is frustrating and can cause a peculiar sense of dizziness, but after a while it becomes fluid.
Each room and scene is painted beautifully, with an impressive attention to detail. Character models are believable and unique, enabling the game to really evoke its 16th century setting. However, the flaws are a cliche of the genre. An average script is voiced by actors who must actually be trying to be bad. Also, some puzzles are willfully obtuse, with a few leading to that adventure game no-no: instant death. That said the inventory system has some good ideas, with scope to manipulate, cut and tweak objects you pick up. Only a slight sense of over-complication and a lack of tutorial hinders your progress. But that shouldn’t deter you, if you’ve slogged your way through some of the less well-made examples of the genre.
Sep 30, 2008