As the adventure genre has evolved, so has the tendency of designers to provide easier and more intuitive puzzles that focus more on the overall story experience than simple puzzle-solving gameplay. Schizm: Mysterious Journey is somewhat of a throwback to the early days of the genre, with the emphasis more on solving extremely challenging puzzles than following a deep storyline.
The premise is rather cliché. You're stranded on an uninhabited planet full of alien technology and must determine the purpose and operation of strange devices. The planet, Argilus, contains cities and relics indicating the presence of an advanced civilization, but signs seem to indicate a hasty exodus by the aliens. You play as Sam Mainey and Hannah Grant, a pair of interstellar pilots sent to re-supply a scientific team on the planet. The ship malfunctions and they use escape pods to reach the surface, where they discover the scientists have disappeared just like the alien civilization. Isolated and alone, you must find out what happened to the aliens and scientists, and find a means of escaping the planet before you suffer the same fate.
While you can switch between the two characters at any time, few puzzles are designed to take advantage of the situation; thus the somewhat novel concept doesn't affect gameplay. The puzzles are extremely difficult and often seem to require a college level math or engineering background to solve. Some require extensive experimentation and note taking, some are based on pattern recognition and manipulation, and others call for complex math using the aliens' math and numbering system.
Despite the difficulty, the puzzles are logical, clever and original. When you finally work through them after a few hours or even days, you get a great sense of achievement not found in easier games. For hardcore mathematical and mechanical puzzle fans, Schizm: Mysterious Journey is a terrific challenge, but casual gamers may feel the puzzles are more akin to mental torture.
From a distance, the variety of exotic locations is brought to life by imaginative alien décor and effective use of vivid coloring, but viewed up close, the graphics reveal a major flaw. Whether by design or a technical consideration to fit the graphics data onto a CD, the graphics suffer badly from compression. Areas with a high level of intricate detail appear as a blurry mess, while jarring solid blocks of color mar other parts that require smooth color transitions. Literally, no place in the game offers a view free of the compression effects, which significantly hurts the visual appeal.
Schizm: Mysterious Journey is designed for experienced adventure gamers and hardcore math and engineering puzzle fans, who still may find the game occasionally frustrating, but will be ultimately rewarded. For casual gamers with less experience or those not puzzle-oriented, gameplay could be a source of mental anguish.
Graphics: The graphics are gorgeous from a distance, but suffer badly from compression effects when viewed close up.
Sound: The rich sound effects and moody space-like music contribute greatly to the game's overall atmosphere. A few of the voice actors seem overly dramatic, which gives their performances an unintended humorous tone.
Enjoyment: The experience can be immensely frustrating or highly rewarding, depending on the level of the player's expertise. Complex math and engineering puzzles may not appeal to everyone.
Replay Value: Plot is essentially linear with little replay value after the puzzles are solved.
People who downloaded Schizm: Mysterious Journey have also downloaded:
Mysterious Journey 2: Chameleon (a.k.a. Schizm 2), Myst IV: Revelation, RHEM, Riddle of the Sphinx: An Egyptian Adventure, Sanitarium, Myst 3: Exile, Ripper, Rhem 2: The Cave
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