Although its popularity continues to confound gaming veterans due to its thin gameplay, the stylistic and anti-climatic adventure game Myst still manages to loom over the gaming landscape, gaining countless fans around the world. The Japanese developers at Caravan Interactive obviously fell under Myst's spell when creating their bizarre adventure game, Zeddas: Servants of Sheol, which has just enough quirky vision to keep it interesting for about five minutes longer than the rest of the Myst clones.
But just like a "high-concept" movie clone (Speed is Die Hard on a bus, Under Siege is Die Hard on a boat, etc.), the gaggle of Myst wannabes never quite capture those elusive elements of style or substance that made the original a success -- and Zeddas is no exception.
The basics are imitated well enough: Zeddas has the familiar Myst/7th Guest structure, with beautiful, pre-rendered static backgrounds and a mouse-driven interface. You wander around this environment, looking at books for clues, occasionally gathering things and solving Myst-style logic puzzles and more traditional adventure game puzzles. In this particular instance, the convoluted story has something to do with a evil being named Zeddas, who takes over a castle and its surrounding kingdom and makes it disappear. You soon have access to a magical mirror that allows you to enter the castle, where you must free the trapped good guys and defeat Zeddas.
As in similar games, a good portion of the screen is taken up with a largely useless framework. Navigation is one scene at a time, with directional arrows that let you go forward or turn left and right. There are a few inventory slots and some other doodads that let you interact with the environment, but you'll find yourself doing relatively little of that.
What you will find yourself doing is wandering. You'll wander through castle halls, secret passageways, and countless rooms. The graphics are O.K. and occasionally evocative, but not as good as they could be. More to the point, they're pretty boring most of the time -- dark and decidedly repetitive. "Hot-spots" that allow some degree of interactivity are scarce, and the wandering is made needlessly frustrating by the lack of an automap utility.
When you do strike a little vein of interaction, it's a mixed bag. There are some Myst-type puzzles (dropping rocks, moving things, etc.), some Yes/No-type character interaction, and some fetch-and-return quests which involve far too much looking around overly familiar screens. There are some distinctive touches, namely the plethora of nicely rendered women in scanty clothes, but without an interesting story or mix of puzzles to keep you interested, Zeddas drags to a halt very quickly.
Which brings us to the final problem: the die-and-load factor. Simply picking up a scroll on a table -- something every adventure gamer is trained to do -- can get you killed. You wander into deaths with numbing regularity, and there are no clues to warn you of them. If the puzzles made sense and the environment were more thoughtfully designed, Zeddas might have been able to add a little something to the Myst-style puzzler. Unfortunately, the designers lacked either the vision or the desire to make it anything more than a hollow clone filled with a few eye-popping visuals and a handful of lame puzzles.
Long ago, Rodvydel Castle fell into the evil grasp of Zeddas, who worked his foul spells upon the place to hide it from mortal eyes. Now you must walk these same haunted halls, trying to undo the harm this demon has wrought. Can you restore the castle? You must pit your own cunning against the fiend's treachery to unravel the sinister mysteries of this place. But beware - the King of Demons keeps a warm place ready for those who would meddle in his affairs!
Zeddas: Servant of Sheol is a first-person adventure game with pre-rendered backgrounds. The game is set entirely in the castle, which is a maze-like location that must be explored as the player searches for clues. The game's puzzles are predominantly logic-based; reading books in the library is often required to receive clues for their solutions.
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