Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Game 24: Chamber of the Sci-Mutant Priestess - Final Rating

It's no secret that I'm looking forward to moving onto Codename: ICEMAN, but there's one last thing I need to do before that happens. It's time to rate Chamber of the Sci-Mutant Priestess. The big question is: can the game rate higher than the previous French record of 27 (Captain Blood and Mortville Manor)?

Puzzles and Solvability
I mentioned in one of my early posts that I found the puzzles in Chamber of the Sci-Mutant Priestess to be strangely satisfying. I think I have to reverse that statement after spending more time with the game. What I now realise is that it was the idea behind the puzzles that interested me, but not so much the solutions. Over time I realised that the puzzles were either solved way too easily, or required nothing more than trial and error. The item interaction system is the main cause of the simplicity, as it made the solutions too obvious. Sure, there were lots of options to choose from at times such as “eat”, “pray to”, “smash”, “throw” etc., but when you consider what it is you’re interacting with, it’s not difficult to figure out which one you’re supposed to do. I’m hardly going to eat a statue am I?!


Hmmm...should I climb on the step, smash the step or prostrate myself in front of the step?

When none of the item interaction options available had the desired result, I could resort to sci powers, and then if that failed, I could always get a hint from Gauss. As I mentioned in my posts, the only time the puzzles felt truly right were when the solution required the use of Sci Powers, but this was generally approached as a last resort to save valuable Sci Energy. It makes me wonder whether the game would have been better if sci powers had of been my only form of interaction with the world around me. Finally, the game allowed me to progress through alternate means on occasion, but this meant apparently important puzzles were totally bypassed (Who Will Be Saved? is a perfect example of this). All up, I can’t give the game any more than a 3.
Rating: 3


One of the times where Know Mind proved its potential.

Interface and Inventory
The icon based interface works well enough I guess. I never felt like I wasn’t able to get to what I needed when I needed it. The Sci Powers are pretty unique for an adventure game and without doubt the most enjoyable part of the game. There were some really good ideas that served the adventure game chassis pretty well, such as Zone Scan, which highlights hidden items, and Know Mind, which lets you know what someone is thinking and therefore whether they are friend or foe. I’d be surprised if another game somewhere down the list isn’t influenced by this approach. It did really annoy me that there was only one save game slot, but I got around that by making copies of the game files from time to time.


The interface rarely got in the way of what I wanted to attempt

Probably the biggest annoyance for me was that every time I left DOSBox (to draw a map, write a note or take a screenshot) and then came back to it, the game would act like my mouse button was being clicked a million times per second. This caused me to miss dialogue and select incorrect options from menus over and over again. Given that my character died more times than I could possibly count within the game itself, and that there were two separate game ending time limits, it’s safe to say that I restored or restarted this game more times than in all games on the list so far (possibly combined). While the DOSBox bug shouldn’t count against the game’s rating for obvious reasons, it certainly affected my enjoyment, so should be mentioned. The inventory was a very simple and visual one, which did allow for investigation and utilisation of each independent item, so no complaints there!
Rating: 5


The inventory was crude, but it worked well enough

Story and Setting
What can I possibly say about the story? The manual and background documents had me worried prior to commencing, with their obviously drug induced nonsense and strange sense of humour. I’d hoped that they were merely setting the tone, and that the game itself would make more sense, but it turned out they were a very good representation of what was to come. Chamber of the Sci-Mutant Priestess is completely bizarre from start to finish, and massively over-complicated, particular when you consider how short it is. There were way too many influences and ideas thrown into one pot, and most sections felt underdeveloped or just plain unfinished.


Well then I'm afraid pretty much nothing in this game is going to work!

The only time my interest was really captured was when Normajeen and Ash came into play, but they soon disappeared and played no further role, and the same can be said for the mummy I revived in their presence. It was the climax of the game that really took the cake though. My concept of what was actually happening changed numerous times while I tried desperately to piece it all together. The “twist” at the end was all but incomprehensible, and I still can’t say that I fully understand, despite the one line in the manual that gives a hint. Probably the most telling thing of all though, is that I really didn’t care. I just wanted it to be over!
Rating: 2


I see a...what? Oh, a flying saucer! Sorry, I thought you said something else!

Sound and Graphics
The first thing to say about the graphics is that they are extremely repetitive. I think part of the reason why the past few posts have not been very interesting is that most screenshots look exactly the same (or it could just be my lack of writing talent). It’s as though the designers were used to using CGA and didn’t know how to make the most of EGA, with an overabundance of blue throughout. Of more importance to gameplay though is the lack of onscreen visual change. I was often informed of things that were happening, but could see no representation of that on the screen. In some ways the game acts like an interactive fiction game with static graphics, with only minor forms of animation kicking in occasionally.


Considering it looks pretty much identical to every other wall in the game, how could I be so sure?

There are also some graphical glitches that confuse, including Qriich appearing in two places at once at a time where I was already very confused, and some very ugly characters. There’s less to say about the sound, with the effects limited to gurgles (representing speech) and clicking and grating sounds (for movement). I have to say that the music is actually quite fitting, having an alien ambiance to it that suits the surroundings. That being said, while I appreciated it the first twenty times I heard it, it soon became apparent that the same music was going to loop for the entire game. Technically, Chamber of the Sci-Mutant Priestess is pretty simplistic and this has a negative effect on gameplay, so I’m going with a 3.
Rating: 3


I can only see one thing on the ground, which is the dead guy, so it stands to reason that he must Qriich. Right? Am I right?

Environment and Atmosphere
There’s no doubt that the environment and atmosphere of Chamber of the Sci-Mutant Priestess is unique. Probably the only other game I’ve played that feels like it is Captain Blood, which had an equally bizarre and unpredictable quality. Both games also punish the player for “mistakes” and also apply pretty harsh time limits that are not really beatable on the first attempt. As Ilmari has mentioned a couple of times, the game has taken on more influences than you can poke a stick at, but it simply doesn’t spend enough time really making the most of any of them. Instead of being an intriguing world of gods, aliens, magic and mutations, it’s just a baffling wash of oddities that promising much while fully delivering on very little. Still…its Giger-esque backdrop is at least different to the normal Sierra and LucasArts fare.
Rating: 4


A lot of things in the game feel underdeveloped or really just play no role

Dialogue and Acting
I’m not sure whether to praise or punish the dialogue in the game. On the one hand it’s grammatically all over the place and at times I struggled to make any sense of it at all. On the other hand, it’s presumably intentionally that way to give the player the sense they are dealing with futuristic beings, aliens and a talking foetus. Gauss’ language is a puzzle device that I didn’t mind at all. I think it’s a pretty decent way to give hints to the player without outright telling them the solution, but then it wasn’t utilised anywhere near as well as it could have been, and the actual game mechanics meant the hints were either not needed at all or unsolvable without taking a leap in logic. I could give the designers the benefit of the doubt on the grammar and spelling, but in the end, it’s all about the player experience.
Rating: 3


You're going to remove your guilt and shame by "inseminizing" my girlfriend!?

Let's see what all that works out to be. I calculate a total of 20 points, divided by 60 equals 33.33, which rounded down is 33! That leaves the game just below Shadowgate and above Uninvited. It also means it ranks higher than the two previous French games, which feels right. You know what, I'm happy with 33 and see no reason to add or subtract my personal adjustment point. 33 it is!


So, did anyone pick 33? Yes, they did! Congratulations Mooki! You've won yourself a copy of the Quest for Glory collection. Send me an email to theadventuregamer@gmail.com and I'll reply with the GOG code. Once again I'd like to thank our sponsor Lars-Erik for his amazing contributions to the blog. It's interesting to see that my final rating was right at the bottom of the spectrum of predictions. Does anyone feel I've been too harsh?

Companion Assist Points for Chamber of the Sci-Mutant Priestess
It’s time to dish out (and perhaps deduct) some points for those that predicted things and assisted me along the way.

35 CAPs for Ilmari
* Legend Award - 20 CAPs - For playing along with me, and completing the game without a walkthrough!
* Wingman Award - 10 CAPs - For being there when I needed a hug
* Helping Hand Award - 5 CAPs - For explaining what Who Will Be Saved was all about
* Fear of God Award - 5 CAPs - For scaring Deilos away with a bit of the old extreme violence
* RTFM Award - 5 CAPs - For finding the mention of Qriich in the manual

35 CAPs for Lars-Erik
* Sponsor Award - 20 CAPs - For sponsoring the blog with free games!
* Wingman Award - 10 CAPs - For being there when I needed a hug
* Delegation Award - 5 CAPs - For making me play a game then refusing to play it himself

30 CAPs for Canageek
* Wingman Award - 10 CAPs - For being there when I needed a hug
* Genre Support Award - 5 CAPs - For commenting about a new adventure game sale on GOG
* Genre Support Award - 5 CAPs - For commenting about a new adventure game release on Steam
* Genre Support Award - 5 CAPs - For commenting about a new adventure game release on GOG
* Genre Support Award - 5 CAPs - For commenting about a new adventure game sale on Steam

20 CAPs for Alfred n the Fettuc
* Veteran Award (aka Google Award) - 20 CAPs - For solving my villain riddle

10 CAPs for Bleaghhh
* Wingman Award - 10 CAPs - For being there when I needed a hug

10 CAPs for Charles
* Wingman Award - 10 CAPs - For being there when I needed a hug

10 CAPs for Cush1978
* Wingman Award - 10 CAPs - For being there when I needed a hug

10 CAPs for Jarikith
* Wingman Award - 10 CAPs - For being there when I needed a hug

10 CAPs for Mooki
* Clairvoyant Award - 10 CAPs - For predicting the score I would give the game

10 CAPs for TBD
* Logical Deduction Award - 5 CAPs - For being the first predictor to go real low.
* Bravery Award - 5 CAPs - For suggesting a fight to the death at the edge of a live volcano

10 CAPs for Zenic
* Playing the Numbers Award -5 CAPs - For realising the odds of winning and buying QfG on sale
* Genre Support Award - 5 CAPs - For commenting about a new adventure game sale on GOG

10 CAPs for Xyzzy Magic
* Cynicism appreciation award - 10 CAPs - For liking me when I'm angry

5 CAPs for PrisonerOfRR
* Genre Support Award - 5 CAPs - For commenting about a new adventure game sale on GOG

19 comments:

  1. The CAP leaderboard has been updated.

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    1. We also need to give 10 of my points to unimural from back in Zak's final rating post for correctly guessing my random adventure game trivia question.

      This game really surprised me by being so serious and weird. Based on the name, I expected a silly comedy like Space Quest or Leather Goddesses of Phobos.

      Now bring on Codename: Iceman, which should at least make sense.

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  2. New adventure game on GOG (well, two really). Edna & Harvey: The Breakout + Harvey’s New Eyes

    http://www.gog.com/news/release_edna_harvey_the_breakout_harveys_new_eyes

    Yet another couple of games I haven't played.

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  3. "The Sci Powers are pretty unique for an adventure game and without doubt the most enjoyable part of the game......I’d be surprised if another game somewhere down the list isn’t influenced by this approach".

    It seems as if the programmers were themselves influenced by the spirit skills from Below the Root - particularly Know Mind/Pense.

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    1. I hadn't thought of that. The two games are very different, but you're right that Below the Root was the first to establish magic based skills in an adventure game. It is questionable whether Below the Root should be considered a true adventure game though, but as I mentioned in my posts, it sure feels like one.

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  4. I honestly think you were a bit harsh on the story and setting category. I admire the developers for taking the risk with a world setting that bears very little resemblance to a well known intellectual property.

    King's Quest games all draw on fairy tales.
    Space Quest games all draw on and make light-hearted fun of sci fi.

    It is interesting to note that a 2 is the same score that Captain Blood received in that category. That game was unique as well, but it had a far more simplistic story and a basic gameplay mechanic that reduced any story it did have into a truly incomprehensible mess. Surely CotSMP deserves a better rating than that.

    Maybe you're correct and CotSMP does deserve a 2 for story and setting and maybe I'm just arguing that Captain Blood needed to be rated harder ... lol

    Just my opinion that CotSMP had a better story and setting than CB.

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    1. I agree that Captain Blood could have gotten less, but I'm happy with Psycho being the lone '1' so far.

      As others here have said this game seemed to just throw a bunch of sci-fi ideas together but failed to tie them together into a coherent whole.

      I think if you're going to take a risk with something original you really have to go to the effort to make your world and story make sense.

      Of the games Trickster's played so far, I think Manhunter did a much better job of being different and also mostly making sense (T-Rex with a 2-by-4 being one of its more obvious failures)

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    2. Yes, I was probably a bit too generous when it came to Captain Blood rather than being too harsh on Chamber.

      Still, if you want me to change my score Mooki, I still can. That is, if you don't want to be the winner of the QfG Collection! ;)

      Delete
  5. Hmmm... Not sure if anyone has posted this before but, barring extra points awarded at the end, there are some scores that cannot be achieved.

    A simple calculation will show that if you round...

    20/60 = 33.33% ~ 33%
    21/60 = 35%

    No 34 possible unless you get a point alteration at the end. There are a bunch of examples (approximately 40 of them in fact).

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    1. Yes, I'm aware of that, which is why I brought in the one point adjustment option. I can raise or lower a score by one point depending on whether the result feels right to me.

      Delete
  6. On another note, not looking forward to ICEMAN...

    I remember playing that one as a kid and not getting into it at all!

    One of the few Sierra blunders in my opinion.

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  7. Let's just say I've learned my lesson, no forcing you to play games before checking them out myself first. :p

    I had expected my Delegation Award to be a Desertion Award though along with some minus points though.

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    1. If it helps, the game I made Trickster play is even worse. I'm expecting all my CAPS to be confiscated as a punishment.

      Delete
    2. Considering the amount of CAPs going around I'm kind of thinking it may be too easy to buy games. The leaderboard alone has over 1500 CAPs available on it.

      I guess we'll see how it plays out after a few "bought" games have been run through. If they all end up dangling at the bottom of the rating board it would be interesting.

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    3. I know what you mean Lars-Erik, but I'm not yet concerned about it. As an example of why, I just ran 1998 through a The Year Ahead process and this is what I found.

      Play It: Grim Fandango, Blackstone Chronicles, Journeyman Project 3, Nightlong, Sanitarium and Starship Titanic

      Borderline: Black Dahlia, Dark Side of the Moon, Divi-Dead, Beavis and Butt-Head Do U, Nancy Drew: Secrets Can Kill, Quest for Glory V, The X-Files Game

      Disregarded: King's Quest: Mask of Eternity, Morpheus, Of Light and Darkness: The Prophecy, Pilgrim, Ren-a-Hero, Tender Loving Care

      So, while 1998 is not a year with lots of games (which is why I chose it for this experiment), it would still cost up to 1900 CAPs to make me play every game on the list.

      You guys will definitely have some tought decisions to make down the track. :)

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    4. I too wouldn't be overly worried about the success of bought games - judging from the comments, people didn't particularly like reading about the Chamber, so it will probably be a fair warning to not buy any bad games into the list.

      Personally, I'd say the basic idea behind the whole concept is still valid - to raise to the list some games, which someone knows to be good or otherwise deserving consideration, but which are not famous enough or are not so clearly graphic adventure games. And it's certainly a better filter of bad games than the earlier voting system, which made Trick play Psycho.

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    5. Yeah, I'm going to be extra careful about spending CAPS in future. Tricksters writing style on games he doesn't enjoy isn't nearly as amusing as I was hoping. That said, I'd expect Quest for Glory V to get purchased up, and possibly a few others.

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    6. I guess it's too early in the game to jump to any conclusions, we'll see how it works out in the long run. Looking forward to the next games and next years to see where to spend my CAPs. :)

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