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The Mystery of the Nautilus (Windows)

100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Jeanne (75591)
Written on  :  Nov 25, 2003
Rating  :  1.67 Stars1.67 Stars1.67 Stars1.67 Stars1.67 Stars

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A Pixel-Hunting, Lonely Experience

The Good

Imagine finding Nemo's legendary Nautilus after it has been at the bottom of the ocean for decades. What a monumental discovery that would be! Exploring the interior, it is not surprising that many of the ship's operations are non-functioning and that the mechanical parts look like they were made at the turn of the 20th century. It's also no surprise that no other living soul besides yourself is here. Nemo is not here in person, but appears to you in hologram form to give you more background on what happened to this ship. Nemo abandoned this "prototype" vessel because the on-board computer was killing members of the crew! Similar in concept to the "Star Trek" computer, it was designed to warn the Captain and Crew of problems or dangers and then take necessary actions to fix them. Somehow the computer's programming became corrupted and it was misconstruing normal activity as threats to the ship ... seeking out and destroying the culprits. Nemo couldn't fix it, so he abandoned ship, leaving behind warnings for anyone who happened to come aboard.

The game installed seamlessly from its one CD-Rom disc and took up very little space on my hard drive (only 1MB for Minimum; 550MB for Full), at least in comparison to quite a few other games. The 24 save game slots were plenty for my needs, and I liked having the option to turn the subtitles on or off. Also, the game never crashed ... a good thing.

The interface, although point-and-click, is a little different. Although you have the traditional arrow, hand, and action icons, the inventory system is handled somewhat unconventionally and took a little getting used to. I didn't necessary like it or dislike it, but it could have been improved. I'll explain ... Constantly on-screen is your PDA, from which you can access various functions including saving and loading games, and your inventory "backpack". When the inventory is open, it appears as a vertical bar almost in the middle of the play screen. This, in my opinion, would have been handled much better as a horizontal area at the bottom of the screen. With the inventory bar exposed, you can select objects to use, but had no access to the PDA until closing it. And, when you find an object, you had to click it on the pack (or on an empty block if the bar was open). A simple right-click to add an item to the inventory would have been much easier.

You explore in full 3-D motion so you can look in all directions to see everything. Panning too quickly made me a little dizzy at times, though.

The graphics are atmospheric and true to the overall theme of the game ... an old ship. There are bedrooms, a kitchen, dining room, library, museum, the bridge as well as the engine room and other rooms for the mechanical workings of the Nautilus ... plus all of the corridors and stairways that lead to and from them. All of the architectural aspects were nicely rendered and pleasing to the eye, albeit dark in some areas. (Adjusting the gamma on my monitor worked wonders in that department!)

Interior animations were done fairly well ... electricity, steam, fire ... but there could have been more of them. Nemo's holographic actions were repetitive and his lip-sync was horrible, although those things didn't bother me. The video cut-scenes, while good in content, loaded a bit slower than I expected.

The music was there for background and added little to help you get "immersed" in the game. The sound effects were pretty good, though ... doors creak, water drips, steam hisses etc.

Are the puzzles hard, you ask? Well ... yes and no. The linearity of the game itself has something to do with that. The puzzle types and methods used to solve them are simple enough. But, there are roadblocks put in your way that make solving them more complicated.

The Bad

I didn't like this game ... but I didn't hate it either. I just didn't think it was particularly good. In fact, I had to use a walkthrough to get through it (something I don't usually do). Some of the irritating things about it ...

FINDING & USING ITEMS - Not only are the objects hard to find, they're hard to pick up ... and they're hard to use! It's a constant pixel-hunt ... moving the mouse around to locate the proper cursor!

PUZZLES - Very little clues are provided, and as I said above, finding and using the proper item (in the proper spot) is tedious. Timed segments include ... getting out of a noxious fume-filled room in time ... running out of air before drowning ... running away from a mechanical robot before you're killed etc. While they were pretty necessary to advance the story, I still didn't like them!

LINEAR GAMEPLAY - Can't go through the door you just entered? That's because you didn't pick up all the items in the room ... or you failed to pull a lever.

INVENTORY STORAGE - The inventory bar gets in the way of navigation. And, you can't access the PDA (to save your game) while the bar is open.

IT'S LONELY - There's not a single person (or thing) to converse with. You can't even hear your own voice! Reading on screen is one thing ... but hearing it would have made it more "real" and lifelike.

TIMED SEQUENCES! - You can die ... and quite often. Save, Save, Save! And if you didn't foresee your demise, replay, replay, replay.

EXTRA CLICK - Saving your game is easy enough. Click on "Back" afterwards and you're always sent to the Main Menu where you must click -again- to continue. Why the necessary step?

The Bottom Line

Mystery of the Nautilus is only a mediocre adventure game. Not to say it's really that bad ... some parts were really rather entertaining. So much could have been added to make it even better (more animation, voices, more puzzle clues, more intense music). Most of your obstacles involve getting to new rooms within the old sea vessel ... besides figuring out how to disable the menacing computer!

It's a decent diversion if you have nothing else better to play. It might be worth its $20 price tag new ... but if I were you, I'd wait until it's in the bargain bin.