Mystery of the Druids, The Download (2001 Adventure Game)

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The Mystery of the Druids' box cover is definitely a contender in the "worst design" category. A wide-eyed man in a hood stares at you with mouth wide-open and top teeth showing -- whether he's trying to scare you, is scared himself, or is preparing to floss, is unclear. The individual strands of his beard are raised in plastic, ensuring you have tactile knowledge of them. As first impressions go, it's bad. Luckily, the game is not nearly so silly.

You play as Brent Halligan, an amiable but socially hopeless Scotland Yard detective. As the story begins, he's been assigned a case previously investigated by his antagonistic colleague, detective Lowry, who apparently got a false conviction of a London butcher for a series of gruesome murders. After the butcher is jailed, another signature murder takes place, apparently bringing the conviction under scrutiny. The chief gives you the case, not so much in desperation, but because he has little confidence in your ability. After all, the Yard's reputation is at stake, and a false conviction won't look good.

Plot-wise, The Mystery of the Druids is decent. You begin by gathering evidence from the most recent crime scene, and the truth of the killings unfolds gradually, taking you all over England, to France, and even a thousand years into the past! Aside from a couple of oddities, the visual aspect is very nice, with plenty of detail in every location, good use of light and shadows, and faces that look fairly human.

One oddity is the overdone emphasis on the characters' distinct eyelashes. While a pursuit of realism and attention to details is certainly laudable, in this case, the result makes everyone look a bit like Betty Boop, with, it can be assumed, unintentional implications for the male characters. Brent blinks as he speaks and these 20 curved lines move up and down over his eyes. It's a bit disconcerting. Also, at the very beginning, the chief puffs on a cigar that looks like it's sewn to the back of his hand, rather than being held by a set of fingers.

These minor distractions don't appreciably compromise the enjoyment of the story, though. A problem that does have the potential to significantly detract is the distinct note of desperation in the solutions of some of the puzzles. For example, at one point, Brent comes upon a cemetery gate with a lock that can be "slipped" using the case file the chief gives you at the beginning. Partially, it's a joke about the uselessness of the file, which Halligan points out several times as containing nothing of worth, in the continuing investigation.

At the end of the story, to keep the druid from completing an evil ritual, the solution is to gut your companion with some broken gardening shears. Why? The evil druid gave you his word earlier that she would not be harmed as a result of the ritual. The convoluted logic is that now that you've stabbed her, his word is broken, and the ritual can't take place. What? These are puzzles that will be solved by scrolling through your inventory and trying every item you're holding, not by intelligence.

Despite this, most players will likely enjoy the meaty plot and the variety of locations and puzzles. Aside from the extremely out-of-place, watered-down, R&B love song set over the closing credits, most players will find the adventure satisfying.

Graphics: Locations are nicely detailed, but the character faces feature unnaturally emphasized eyelashes.

Sound: Aside from the song at the end, the music and sound effects add to the game's ambience.

Enjoyment: Varied locations and an involved plot are somewhat offset by questionable puzzles.

Replay Value: As with most adventure games, the appeal lessens once the puzzles have been solved.


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