Egypt II: The Heliopolis Prophecy

Developer:  Cryo
Publisher:  Reunion des Musees Nationaux
Year Released:  2000

Review by Rosemary Young (July, 2001)
Although this game is entitled Egypt II it doesn't continue the story of Ramose and the looting of royal tombs that was told in the original game. This episode is set in a different time and in a different place: the ancient city of Heliopolis. The main character is Tifet who is a Priestess of The Goddess, Sakhmet, and scholar of the healing arts.

Recreating the past
Despite having a different story this game is still very familiar in that it is an edutainment title similar to Egypt: 1156 BC and to other titles such as Aztec. Once again the Reunion des Musees Nationaux is involved so that a range of specialist scholars in Egyptology have been consulted to recreate the city and the characters. A short introduction in the manual explains how Heliopolis was conceived by taking as examples other Egyptian ruins from the same period. Attention has also been paid to such things as the jewellery and clothing of the characters that were inspired by archaeological finds in appropriate tombs.

All this means that there is certainly some fascinating places to explore: markets, houses, gardens and a temple and library though I it did cross my mind that the library was short on reading matter. I found the exploration very enjoyable but there just wasn't enough of it. After having recreated such an interesting place I was hoping that there would be a lot more to do to make it come alive.

The day breaks
The game opens with a spectacular cinematic dream sequence. The sun rises over the Temple of Re dismissing the shadows and bathing it in light. From behind a statue of Sakhmet a black cat darts and slinks out of the Temple grounds. It prowls the streets of Heliopolis headed directly for an encounter with Tifet who is about to enter the house of her adoptive father, Djehouty. Then a rap at the door and the dream ends. Tifet awakens, not in Heliopolis visiting her father, but that is exactly what she is about to do. When she answers the door she takes delivery of a message informing her that he is seriously ill.

On arrival in HeliopolisTifet learns that Djehouty has a mysterious illness and after examining him and noting his symptoms she must visit the temple library and research the cure. There she meets more citizens of Heliopolis stricken with the same symptoms and instead of finding a cure she finds a mysterious prophecy that throws light on what is happening. Heliopolis is in terrible danger and she is destined to save it.

Thus the object of this game is for you to help Tifet find the source of the scourge that is threatening Heliopolis and to bring the perpetrator to justice. Of course, at the same time you will learn a little about ancient Egypt.

The learning
The learning component of the game consists of the usual short reference encyclopaedia that can be accessed from within the game or from the opening menu. Here you can find concise information about various aspects of Egyptian life during the time period including religion, medicine, the role of women, urbanisation, etc.

As with other similar historical titles there is also an exploration mode so you can simply enter the gameworld and look around by selecting the 'visit' button from the opening menu. In this mode you can choose tagged objects to jump to their encyclopaedia entry and learn as you go, or you can simply explore and soak up the atmosphere without being distracted by the story or problem solving.

The gameplay
Speaking of distractions I would say that the puzzles and problems that you face in Egypt II are rarely distracting. Except for one that drove me mad they are quite simple and don't interrupt the story at all. In this respect Egypt II is hardly an adventure, it is more of an interactive book. By this I mean that apart from a few simple puzzles there are not really any challenges for the player to ponder over, you are simply guided through the story. You are told to do a particular thing and there's no question about it, no decision to make, that's the way forward.

This type of gameplay, generally following obvious cues or explicit instructions, isn't essentially adventuring in my book. For example in this kind of game if you have to fetch a feather pen for someone it will likely be exactly where they tell you. In a true adventure game you'll get to the place only to catch sight of a bird flying away, pen-in-beak. Now I do appreciate that some players prefer just ambling along, following a story without having to trouble with brain-crunching complications, and this is certainly that type of game. Sometimes, however, the walking does get a bit pedestrian J. Ask person X about something and you are sent to person Y. Y's servant will intercept you and ask for authorisation. So back to person X for authorisation, and back to Y again.

As noted above, along with leading you through the story there are a handful of familiar abstract puzzles including a simple sliding tile puzzle and one with cups of different sizes where you must measure out a particular amount of liquid. As well as these there is the puzzle that drove me to distraction, one where you are challenged to beat out a rhythm on some drums. I tried a zillion times and failed. Fortunately I heard a whisper that persistence in pressing the esc key would get you out of it. I persisted and it did.

The interface
Egypt II is mouse controlled with smooth 360 degree scrolling and a cursor that changes shape for various actions. A right mouse click brings up the inventory where items are tagged for easy identification. You can also click some of them on an eye icon for a closer look. There is an option menu where you can tweak the game and enable subtitles. The game also has a diary that keeps track of your progress. You can always refer to this document if you have had a break from play and forgotten exactly where you are.

The music in Egypt II: The Heliopolis Prophecy is exceptionally good and so are the graphics. Together they build up quite a superb atmosphere that transports you back to the past and makes exploration a pleasure. It won't suit 'hard core' adventurers because it doesn't throw out any real challenges, but it may be a good choice for players who are simply after a bit of relaxation with the chance to learn something of the past.

And I mustn't forget ... three cheers for Tifet, a feisty female protagonist. But minus one cheer because she solves a problem by fluttering her eyelashes and making false promises. I thought she was smart enough not to have to offer her body as temptation to get things done. rating:  

Copyright © Rosemary Young 2001. All rights reserved.

System Requirements:
Windows 95/98 or 2000, P 200MMX (PII 233 recommended), 32MB RAM min, 30MB free hard disk space (250MB recommended), 8x CD-ROM (16X recommended), Mouse, keyboard.
Microsoft DirectX 7.a (included on the CD-ROM)