Mature gamers enter the dark, erotic world of P. E. Serpieri's Druuna in this adventure from French publisher Microids. Though her body has been trapped in a lifeless, vegetative state, Druuna's brain is linked directly to a computer which provides the only means of interaction with reality. The story is framed by the heroine's own past, as players relive the strange and often disturbing events that led to Druuna's damnation. The only hope of salvation is to journey through these dark memories, interacting with characters, making wise decisions, and seeking the secrets that may release her from eternal confinement in her own body.
Condemned to an eternal vegetative state, the very sexy Druuna is waiting for someone to free her from her sick, claustrophobic and dilapidated world, inhabited by people suffering from a terrible virus that transforms them into bloodthirsty beasts.
A symbiotic computer directly linked to Druuna's brain is the only thing that can help you to capture and to relive the situations that have reduced her to a state of "cold sleep". You must try to avoid the unscrupulous individuals that live in her mind and face the traps hidden along this uncertain road leading finally to salvation.
Beware the Sirens for they will be your doom! Anyone familiar with Greek mythology should know about the semi-human females that lured ancient mariners to destruction with their sweet song. While the actual existence of Sirens may be in doubt, the message remains the same: Even if it sounds (or looks) good, it may be a false front. This can be said of Druuna.
The box shows a posing Druuna that suggests so many things - none of which suggest "good game." It's tried and true, but sex really does sell. One need look no further than the success of Tomb Raider - very popular among the teenage crowd and sold mainly on the basis of Lara Croft's huge boobs. Admittedly, Druuna has sex appeal but it's not enough to carry the game.
While Lara's exploits relied on lots of gun-toting action, Druuna goes the adventure route, with lots of exploring and some puzzle solving. How much of this exploring and puzzle solving you'll actually get done before you start thinking about the reason you actually bought Druuna, depends on how long you can fight the control, interface, and plot. The basic premise is that Druuna, the sexy heroine, has been reduced to a vegetative state for some reason. The scientist that was working on a way to bring her back to consciousness has gone elsewhere so it falls upon you to get into Druuna's mind and sort things out. (Yeah, that's her strapped to the chair in the corner - naked.) You login to Druuna's mind via a computer interface and find yourself in what looks like a close-up section of brain. Where to go? Just hit a direction button and see what happens. A clip of zooming - through - Druuna's - brain later, and you'll be hit with just how crappy the interface is. You can't tell where you're going or what's ahead - it's like taking part in one of those consciousness-sapping art films that critics rave about but have no popular appeal whatsoever. No matter where you end up, you'll have to fight your first foe - the control scheme.
One can use the keyboard or gamepad to control Druuna on-screen, either one will induce a headache in short order. Obviously, Artematica has disdain for anything approaching "ease of use." Druuna movements are hard to control at the best of times. For example, when turning she take little steps, reminiscent of an arthritic duck turning in circles. There is a split-second delay from your button press to Druuna actually performing an action. So the most mundane action -- such as crouching to avoid a big piece of machinery that will take Druuna's head off -- turns out to be near impossible. Later in the game some precision jumping is required. The two aspects of inexact control and precise required actions work against you. (Then there's trying to avoid the weird-ass mutant creatures.) It's maddening! Helping none of this is the often odd choice of camera angles. Sometimes the action is very close, other times, for no particular reason, it's panned way out and you might have problems figuring out where Druuna is. There's also a long list of things that should have been learned from other adventure games, but were ignored: point and click still works (so does keyboard control when done properly - i.e. Escape from Monkey Island), some indication what you're supposed to be doing makes the experience more fun (at the very least it gives you a direction to go), conventional camera angles are still favored over "experimental" angles, being able to see clearly objects you might want to add to your inventory is essential, and high definition character models should be a given.
The environments in Druuna are finely detailed and look very good. The video scenes are a notch below what's available in current adventure titles, but are still well done. So, it boggles my mind as to why Druuna herself is so damn blocky and smeared with color! The heroine is a selling point of the game, so why didn't the developers spend time and a little effort making her look good? Or was this decision based on some kind of artistic theory that no one really understands? There is the option to enter a code that makes her naked (or clothed as Lara Croft) but this option certainly can't distract you from the huge problems with the overall game.
Puzzles are extended bouts of frustration. While the overall difficulty isn't great, you have to contend with the controls making the simple turn into laborious experiences. Fun factor is about zero. Especially when the amount of "sudden death" scenarios is so high - not since Police Quest I have I died so many times.
Audio (THX certified) is quite good. The music and sound effects are moody and fit the gaming world. The voice acting is okay and the lines are delivered well, but with all the other flaws you may just overlook it.
While Druuna is not the worst game I've played (that distinction still belongs to Dream Web) it has so many strikes against it - really awful control, interface, the "story", the blockiness of Druuna - that it's impossible to recommend. Unless of course you think you'd enjoy a game made by a bunch of "artists" who have about as much understanding of game design as the producers of Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within have of making a movie. All flash and no substance - too bad Druuna doesn't even have flash.
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