Sethi and the Crown of Egypt is one of those rare gems that lets parents and children play together and have fun, while both the child and the parent are entertained. And if you want to teach your child about life in ancient Egypt, you would be hard pressed to find a better method.
The player takes on the role of Sethi, an Egyptian farmer child who leads a simple life. He has a remarkable lemur pet named Pepi, who is his constant companion throughout the game. Pepi often provides comic relief. And since he can talk, he also gives advice on how to best approach a difficult situation. Trust in your lemur.
The plot of the game revolves around a stolen crown. The Pharaoh needs to wear the crown in a few days time at a ceremony designed to please the people and scare away the locusts that have been eating up the food supply. Without the crown, the Pharaoh may appear weak and that could lead to a total disruption of Egyptian society.
Sethi is given a small fragment of pottery at the beginning of the game by a mysterious peasant. The pottery fragment, called an ostraca, is the first clue to the mystery. And you learn later that everyone in ancient Egypt is not who they appear to be. Sethi, being intrepid, decides to try and find the missing crown and begins his quest.
On the surface, this looks a lot like your standard adventure game. You can move around the screen by clicking and you can touch and control objects the same way. A few screens are scrolling, meaning that you don’t see the entire viewable area in one shot. You have to walk to the edges of the screen to get at some of the locations. There are also quite a few hidden areas that can only be entered if you have the right type of key. There are 25 locations that can be visited in all.
There is a very smart overhead map that you can click on as well to navigate the Egyptian landscape. Locations that Sethi has learned about will appear on the map. A click on the map will send Sethi to that area without further user intervention. This is a good feature for younger players.
The graphics in Sethi are quite amazing for a game with such low-end system requirements. The look and feel of an Egyptian city and the workers and residents within are all recreated and authentic-looking. When playing you will really feel like you are walking around an Egyptian landscape. The graphics look hand drawn and the illustrator, Florent Silloray, keeps a consistent style throughout. It’s a great job graphically.
The story is quite engaging. It does not take too long to discover that this case is no simple theft. There are in fact a group of conspirators working against the Pharaoh for their own ends. The plot thickens as you learn more about the world.
Had the interesting story been all this title had to offer, it would have been given an above average rating. However, Sethi is more than just a pretty interface and impressive graphics. You actually learn a lot while playing. There are four workshops integrated into the game where you can experiment and learn about Egyptian culture. For example, in one workshop you have to plan an appropriate disguise that will give you access to the temple. So you have to research and find out what different people in ancient Egypt wear. Once you know, you can dress Sethi and gain access to new areas.
In another workshop, the Egyptian god of the dead, Anubis, explains the secrets of mummification.
As you continue onward you learn so much about the culture that the game really elevates itself to the level of an educational tool. Like learning a foreign language, you are basically immersed in the culture. For example, the crown you are looking for is called a Pschent, or a double crown, because it represents the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt. This game is far more advanced in certain ways than any basic school lesson about ancient Egypt, and makes for a wonderful companion for children learning about this era.
I have two minor complaints about the title. The first is gameplay issues. The game says it is appropriate for children ages six to nine. I’m not sure that is quite right as some of the puzzles may be too advanced. A better bet would be ages eight to 10. Six year olds could solve the game, but they will likely require a lot of parental help, which I am always an advocate of anyway, but just know that you are getting into a joint experience.
The second complaint is that for all the historical accuracy, there is a good deal of fantasy mixed into the game. To cross the Nile River for example, you have to click on the arm of the statue Khnoum, which causes the waters to recede enough that your little boat can get across. I doubt the real ancient Egyptians had a button for doing this. This is slightly dangerous to have inside a game that is educational, because children may believe in non-factual events as a result. Again, parental guidance can eliminate this problem in short order.
Sethi and the Crown of Egypt is one of the most entertaining children’s games I have come across in a long time that also has a high educational value. It earns 4 1/2 GiN Gems for being one of the best in its category.