I don’t know how they do it, but Dreamcatcher always seems to find a new puzzle/adventure game just to keep me from being bored. Publishers of some of the best games in this genre ever (Traitors Gate, Cydonia, Safecracker – hey, while I have your attention, guys, where the heck is game two of The Forgotten series? I’ve been waiting on that one for almost two years) they never cease to surprise me in their ability to find the next one.
In this case the game is called Schizm: Mysterious Journey. It takes place in 2083, ten months after humans first landed on a planet called Argilus. The whole planet was like the way they found the Mary Celeste, with everything in place and working, but no people anywhere. The planet was sealed off and science teams sent in, but after a couple of weeks, there was no contact.
You are among the crew of the ship Angel, the first follow-up contact and resupply for the science teams. Something happens to the ship, and you are forced to land on the surface via escape pods. The game begins as you take in your surroundings and try to figure out what is going on.
The gameplay is standard, 360-degree bubbles between slide show-type motions between them. But Schizm has an aspect that is little used in puzzle/adventure games – having two characters who are separated, and must each solve their own puzzles. Switching between characters is easy enough, but all too often this will require a disk change. Actually, that’s a good time to require disk switching, because that should mean less while you are sticking with a single character.
The graphics are very pixelated and a bit choppy. I have been told that is because the game was made for their 2-DVD version (which equates to about three fifths of a gazillion CDs), and then they reduced the CD-ROM version it to fit onto 5 CDs. I wouldn’t mind so much if they weren’t so obvious about putting graphics from the DVD version on the box and disk case. That is just a little deceptive in my opinion.
The puzzles themselves are very Myst-like in their execution, where you have to figure out the rules of a certain puzzle as you are trying to solve it. This, in my opinion, is the best way to present a puzzle. I mean, it’s not like an alien civilization on another planet would leave around English crossword puzzles to solve. The problems are very language-independent, and are often broken down into some of the more basic and universal concepts, this works very well in the context of this game.
One problem I kept having was with occasional freeze-ups within the game. These would only happen occasionally, but there was no pattern to them. Sometimes it would be when a disk change was required, other times I would just be walking along and – BAM! – it freezes up. I downloaded the latest patch (there’s always a patch, isn’t there?), and that seemed to lessen the number of freeze-ups, but not eliminate them entirely.
Now, I’m willing to believe it’s my machine configuration, as I’ve occasionally had problems running unpatched games before. But really, I don’t think my machine is really that exotic a configuration, so I expect games that have system requirements below my machine’s level (such as Schizm) to run without a major hitch.
I’d like to take the time now to get back on my personal soapbox and say, once again: People, please. If the game can not run properly, then fix it before it comes out. If this means delaying release dates, so be it – marketing shouldn’t have set them so early. I realize that you can’t win with the public either way, but if I hear a company is pushing back a release date because they are fixing errors, I will support them 100 percent.
Overall, Schizm is an entertaining and challenging puzzle game with so-so graphics (for the CD-ROM version anyway) and a pretty good soundtrack. This earns a respectable 3 and a half GiN Gems in my book, and it could have been more if there were less runtime problems.