Written by  :  vicrabb (7299)
Written on  :  Dec 21, 2008
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars

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The Tale of Mephistopheles

The Good

It was a long time ago since the events of DeFoe Manor, as depicted in 5 Days A Stranger. Nobody can't remember the name of Trilby, the famous cat burglar, or Simone Taylor, or Jim Fowler. The tale of DeFoe Manor has been forgotten and nobody can't tell to their kids or grandkids its legend. After all, we're in 2385, nearly 400 years after the destruction of the youngest Roderick DeFoe's son.

Time is spent in space, with a powerful Earth Federation. The leaders decided to recycle old spaceships and the first one to be launched in our universe after being renovated is the Mephistopheles, whose crew had the mission to map the Caracus Galaxy. You find the soon-retired Captain Barry Chahal, the too logical Lieutenant-Commander Angela Garret, the funny engineer Lieutenant Adam Gilkennie, the rule follower Ensign Serena Kyle, the rookie physician William Taylor and the famous counsellor Jonathan Somerset.

One day, they found a strange object floating in space and despite the recommendation to let a research ship take it for examination, Barry decided to bring it aboard. An inscription dated from 1997 asked to not disturb John DeFoe's eternal sleep. With the night coming, the crew is going to bed. They don't know that they've sealed their fates and that it will be up to Jonathan Somerset to solve the mystery...

7 Days A Skeptic is the sequel to 5 Days A Stranger and the second "chapter" in the Chzo Mythos Quadrilogy, even if in terms of chronology, the events depicted here are the last to happen.It's still a free game made with the AGS Engine, released in 2003 and made by Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw, the developer behind the Rob Blanc Trilogy and the Trials of Odysseus Kent. As for the AGS Engine, it's also the engine behind Yahtzee's games but also the Ben Jordan series, Larry Vales or Barn Runner.

When you say sequel, generally, it's picking up the story nearly after the end of the first game (like Ben Jordan series for example) or a couple of years after (see Half-Life and Half-Life 2 even if it's a matter of ten/twenty years in this case). 7 Days A Skeptic belongs to this category of sequels, even if well, 400 years have passed since the first opus. So, Yahtzee placed his characters in an advanced-technology world, where mankind is exploring universe.

So, the storyline is taking place in space, where fear can be really present and where nobody can hear you screaming. You're in an old scoutship with strange events like bloody nightmares, missing crew members and dismantled body. Anyway, with the name DeFoe and the hat as a signature, you can easily guess that John DeFoe is the wraith of DeFoe Manor, Roderick's unwanted son, Matthew's twin brother and that the hat is Trilby, apparently having send something which couldn't be destroyed like that and containing the spirit or the sound of the poor kid and which could be a plague on Earth at the time. So, you do know that bringing the object aboard was a very bad idea and that you'll live 7 days of complete horror and death. But the idea of making a plot twist at the end of the story is one of the strong points of the game. Nobody could have seen that. Nobody could have predicted that. Unless you've taken the Chzo Mythos in the wrong sense and played 6 Days A Sacrifice.

The gameplay is nearly the same. Players take control of Jonathan Somerset. For moving him, you can click anywhere you want. For using, talking, looking or use your inventory, you have to put your cursor on the desired object/character (the cursor will become a square) and to right-click for opening the menu action and choose what you wanted to do with it/him/her. There is also a passage where you'll have to type for accessing some documents: if you're playing with an AZERTY keyboard, don't forget that the game was set for QWERTY. This fact is only a complaint coming from an AZERTY user.

The puzzles are good. Even when you have to do an action quickly for avoiding death, you can use your good sense or the clues dropped by characters. Like for example at the end of the game, William speaking about the radios masts. As you already had entered the captain's console, you can remember the first action allowed. It's not really a difficult game.

Graphics are simple and sober. It's not really as detailed as in 5 Days A Stranger but it's efficient... even if I find that the ship has too more blue corridors or a sort of brown yellow that isn't appealing. Don't expect graphics like in Half-Life or in The Longest Journey, remember that the AGS engine is in the direct line of the LucasArt or Sierra old-school adventure game. If you can't stand that kind of graphics, you will not be pleased by games made with it. Anyway, it's more shocking than the previous opus but I still maintain that 18+ is a too high setting for it. It's not really a realistic horror game, so, I think that 15+ is a more reasonable rating.

Soundtrack is also good. It's again a pity that the music isn't playing always but the sudden silence on Monday (engines not working) and the only sound when having a EVA Suit for going out (it's your breathing) is strengthening the suspicious and horror ambiance. What will happen now that I can't hear anything except my walking or my breathing?

The replay value is good. If you have missed a dialog or easter eggs, you can play it again and again. Lifetime is perhaps a little longer than 5 Days A Stranger but the days are never long. Saturday was very short for example.

The Bad

As I've hinted it, when the name on the locker is revealed, you do know that the crew will be murdered. You don't know who will survive or who will be the next one to die but you know that the trip will be bloody. It's perhaps a weakness but even with this knowledge, you want to know the story.

And if you remember correctly, I have a complaint that can only apply to AZERTY keyboards. Well, as I own an AZERTY one, mainly because I'm living in Europe, I find it somewhat frustrating to type while looking my keyboard. Being used to type without thinking where my key is, it's kind of boring to do so. Well, fortunately, it's only for a few seconds. That'll be hell for the next chapter of the Chzo Mythos, Trilby's Notes, as the gameplay is only typing. But I can't really blame Yahtzee for it, as it's probably a feature of the AGS Engine.

Another boring thing is the clipping/unclipping you when outside. I know that it's more secure to be clipped to a safety rail when going outside of space but why the character doesn't do it automatically when going from a safety rail to another? I know, you have to do it only between the two first rails but you have always to do it.

The Bottom Line

Anyway, 7 Days A Skeptic isn't full of surprise: you do know how DeFoe works and it's not a shock to see the crew being killed. But it's also refreshing to see a sequel set in a future, in a new place and with new characters even if William Taylor is Simone Taylor's descendant and somewhere connected to 5 Days A Stranger. 7 Days A Skeptic is a good game, free and downloadable that I recommend. It's only a pity that after that, the quality in some areas will drop.

After all, if you beat DeFoe Manor, you can board the Mephistopheles for a happy and bloody trip in space.