I remember sitting back in my college dorm with about 10 people gathered around my 386 PC. We were all moving a man in a trench coat around the screen and trying to solve a mystery. The man was Tex Murphy, and I believe the Tex Murphy adventures inspired the developers of the world’s newest adventure game, Conspiracies.
Conspiracies is set in the future, in a very dark future. You play a down on his luck private investigator named Nick Delios. I am not sure why all the detectives in these games are down-on-their-luck loser types, but Nick fits the bill nicely. You start out the game in his apartment, which is littered in liquor bottles and other bachelor-like items of filth. It is here that you encounter your first puzzle. You have to make coffee, which is a bit of a chore actually, and also solve a really odd cupboard puzzle.
At different times in the game you will run into overt puzzles, like the code-solving variety. The developers say there are 230 puzzles in the game and depending on how you count them, this is probably true, though many are just the "insert the correct inventory item in the correct slot" type. A few are down right impossible without a lot of really detailed thinking. You may want to take notes, especially when talking with people in the game. The point is that there are enough puzzles in Conspiracies to appeal to a lot of different types of gamers, be it story-driven adventure types or pure puzzle lovers.
Graphically the game is a bit of a mixed bag. The environments are all very interesting, increasingly so as you progress through the game, but the people seem to stand out a bit too much against some of the backgrounds, which dispels the illusion. In a lot of ways it is like some of the older full-motion video games of the past, which featured live actors – over 30 of them in this case – standing in front of what is essentially a blue screen background with an interesting image thrown up on the screen. If you like FMV, you will like Conspiracies.
The acting is very well done. I like the actors and actresses and all look appropriate for their role in the game. I especially like the maid in one scene, though I have never been to a real hotel where the staff dresses like that. The one problem is that the game was created and filmed in Greece, or at least using Greek-speaking actors. The dubbing into English is not exactly spot-on. You get a lot of times where it kind of looks like an old Kung-fu movie, only without any of the fighting.
The gameplay is pretty good. It can be tough to manipulate items sometimes in your inventory, especially when you don’t know how to combine items. You have to combine the items exactly the right way, or they don’t work. The aforementioned coffee making puzzle attempts to show this to players, but I think it makes the game a bit too artificially difficult. Free thinkers will also hate having to do things exactly the way the developers intended. Putting a paper with a pen won’t work. You have to put a pen on a paper. I’m not sure how much I like this aspect of the game. I want to solve puzzles, not be puzzled about how the interface works.
Also, there are some conversations you have with people that will end your game if you say the wrong thing. Other conversations don’t really seem to matter at all, but there is no way to tell the difference. So save your game often. If you are a real diehard adventure gamer, you will like these features, though most casual gamers will find it makes the game really difficult.
Moving your character is pretty easy at least. Just use the arrow keys to move around. The mouse controls your view when appropriate. This makes solving most inventory-type puzzles a breeze. The game will even automatically remove useless items from your pack, so you won’t end up carrying that key from chapter one around for the rest of the game.
The game ships on both DVD and on CD, though the CD version has the Greek game and the DVD version has both Greek and English. The addition of subtitles for the Greek version would make that game more playable I think and eliminate the bad dubbing problems, but both the CD and DVD are essentially the same.
As an adventure game, Conspiracies is pretty good. I liked the characters, and you certainly get a lot of value for this game considering the low price of $30 and the fact that there is about 30 hours of gameplay inside this title, and that is if you are really good at solving puzzles. So it’s about $1 an hour, which is great. Some gamers may not like all the FMV sequences, but there are also guys like me who like a little bit of nostalgia in their gaming, especially these types of adventure games. If you can get around some minor flaws, there is a lot of impressive material just waiting to be found just under the surface of Conspiracies and a really engaging and deadly plot to unravel.
That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.