Having solved the Secret at Loch Ness earlier this year, private investigator Alan P. Cameron takes on his next adventure as he looks into the kidnapping of an Egyptian archaeologist and the mystery of a missing mummy. The sleuth from Chicago encounters a cast of intriguing people including a clairvoyant, his friend Moira McFarley who has fallen under a hypnotic spell, the enigmatic museum curator and strange archaeologists among others while traveling on a steamboat on the Nile, visiting the Cairo Museum, exploring tombs and solving puzzles.
As the 1930's mystery unfolds in this "step-through" adventure, cinematic cutscenes, accessed through Cameron's diary, tell the story of the Pharaoh's Curse. Inventory management is similar to other graphic adventures from The Adventure Company, with objects and items collected throughout the environments playing an important role in puzzle solving. Cameron's "wallet" also fills with clues in the form of documents found during his investigative journey, and the manual offers a short walkthrough of the first few minutes of gameplay for novice adventurers.
The Cameron Files: Pharaoh's Curse features a "smart cursor" navigation system, point-and-click gameplay, and a "save often" recommendation by the developers. Expressive dialogue, original music by Yan Volsy, and main character voiceovers punctuate this story from French developer Galiléa Multimédia.
Pharaoh's Curse is a followup to Loch Ness (released in North America as The Cameron Files: Secret at Loch Ness), and the events of Pharaoh's Curse follow but are almost completely unrelated to those in Loch Ness.
As the game starts, Our Hero, globetrotting private detective Alan Parker Cameron, is plunked down in 1930s Cairo to keep a date with Moira MacFarley, winsome young thing from Loch Ness. The hotel's deskman sends Our Hero off to a museum of Egyptian antiquities per the Girl's instructions, but when Our Hero arrives there, said Girl is nowhere in evidence. So what does Our Hero do? Why, snoop, of course, and pick up anything that his pixel hunt happens to uncover.
Eventually he unearths a paper-thin plot dealing with Nazis and magical artifacts, evil mummies (mummy, I mean; there's only one), and ... well, that's about it. In a race against time, Our Hero must solve the mystery and ... not stop World War II? Okay, he's really just retracing the footsteps of the Girl and trying to get, shall we say, closer? to her, and meanwhile those pesky Nazis keep getting in his way. The mummy rears his ugly head every once in a while to throw in the obligatory element of danger, with the inevitable Wanadoo-style timed sequences that result in numerous instant deaths for the ever-resilient-courtesy-of-frequent-saves Mr. Cameron.
Puzzles are run-of-the-mill inventory-usage brain teasers. At least there are no mazes this time around. That underwater maze in Loch Ness was a fun-sucker to be sure, and I'm glad the developers paid heed to the plaintive wails of the players and ditched that stupid idea. The puzzles are actually fairly organic to the game and some are pretty creative; others obviously are nothing more than filler, though.
Interface is pure point-and-click. A left click interacts with onscreen things or persons, and a right click brings up the inventory. Inside the inventory, besides the items you pick up, are a wallet where all of the papers you steal end up and another folio of sorts where you can replay the game's cutscenes in case you missed something due to an untimely musical crescendo or a howler monkey in the same room. There are no subtitles, unfortunately. Save game slots are limited to 16 (I think), but the amount proved to be more than sufficient. If you are a Dramamine junkie, be forewarned: this is one of those games where the cursor is affixed to the center of the screen and everything revolves around it.
This is not a difficult game if you are well-versed in adventuring arcana. New players might be put off by some of the nonsensical devices employed, but old hands will find themselves on familiar ground - we've all trodden it enough times in the past that for us this can be viewed as a, well, retread. Sometimes there are far too many locations that must be revisited in order to perform minute cursor-sweeping inspections for that one teeny item you've overlooked, particularly in the museum.
The graphics are passable. They look nice and are clear and well laid out. They are pretty lifeless, though. A big chunk of the game takes place on a Nile riverboat, and while you're outside looking at the water, you hear the gentle waves lapping on the sides of the boat ... but the water doesn't move. You hear birds in the background, but you never see anything in the skies. After you finish talking to the barman, he will go back to what he was doing, and then he will just be there ... moving his arm up and down, up and down, up and down, bobbing his head up and down, up and down ... every time you go back. And that's if you're lucky. Usually there is no one at all in evidence anywhere you go. People always talk about those lonely first-person Myst clones - this is a lonely first-person I-don't-know-what,-maybe-Wanadoo? clone.
Pharaoh's Curse is nothing more than another cookie-cutter game to fill the Cryo vacuum. I could always go off on another rant about how "the genre is ripe for innovation and so why are we continually force-fed this kind of tripe," but I'll let my rotten egg do my talking for me. There is nothing inherently wrong with Pharaoh's Curse, it's just that it's all, and I do mean all, been done before and I was bored the whole time I was playing.
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