Egyptian Prophecy, The Download (2004 Adventure Game)

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The Egyptian Prophecy: The Fate of Ramses tells a story about Ramses II, a dying Pharaoh promised a longer life by his god, Amon-Ra. However, Ramses has to build a magnificent temple for Amon-Ra, and many obstacles remain. Players take control of a young priestess named Maia and confront sinister events and an unfolding mystery. Fifteen main characters, six locations, and a story full of authentic Egyptian mythology -- gods, supernatural powers, and religious ceremony. An original soundtrack complements the story.

The Egyptian Prophecy is an adventure by French developer Kheops Studios, who, along with Earthlight Productions, developed Crystal Key 2. This is the third in the series originally begun by Cryo/Canal+ Multimedia. Not having played the other two games in the series (you call yourself an adventure gamer!?), I can't offer any sage advice as to which game is the best of the three, nor can I tell you if it would make a difference if you played them in order. So I'll try to make it up to you in other ways.

The Egyptian Prophecy tells the story of Maya - clairvoyant and skilled magician in the employ of Pharaoh Ramses II - as she attempts to uncover the strange goings-on and accidents that plague the construction of an obelisk to Amun-Re. If the obelisk is not completed before the season of shume, then Pharaoh will surely die and Egypt will be plunged into chaos. As the game begins, the chief architect, Paser, has been stricken with a mysterious illness and no one else has the knowledge required to complete the project.

Gameplay is mouse-driven, traditional point and click with 360-degree panning, including up and down. With the exception of cutscenes, players will always view the world in first person, through Maya's eyes. Most actions are accomplished with left-clicks - moving from each node-base scene to the next, picking up and using various inventory objects, chatting up people that you meet - while a right-click will cancel an action and bring up or close the inventory/action bar, where you can save and load games, view the in-game journal and encyclopedia or take a closer look at current inventory items.

Normally, I wouldn't make such a big deal about left and right mouse clicks, except I have a nit to pick with this game. I mouse left-handed. I've also reversed what button does what on my mouse - just like a right-handed mouser, I use my index finger to "left-click." Are you still with me? Every game I've ever played has allowed my mouse set-up to work in-game ... until this one. The Egyptian Prophecy actually reset my mouse buttons in-game so that what is normally a left-click for me became a right-click. You can imagine my annoyance while trying to pick up and use inventory items during a crucial timed sequence.

Oops, did I let the cat out of the bag? Yes, Virginia, there are a couple of timed sequences in The Egyptian Prophecy. One involves locating and mixing the ingredients for a snakebite antidote, which I thought was very well done. Not only do you see a "health" meter for Maya, but the view through Maya's eyes turns red as she runs out of time. I've never been bitten by a snake, but it was a clever way to simulate impending death. Oh no, another dreaded "feature" - death! Not to worry, Virginia, this game is very forgiving. So, not only can you save anywhere, if you should die the game will magically plunk you down at the beginning of said sequence so that you may try again.

Considering that you're in the desert and the main colors are shades of white, brown and grey, The Egyptian Prophecy is a pretty game. The outsides of the houses (huts, actually) are sand-colored, but the interiors are alive with color. Fire torches cast a warm glow, baskets filled with colorful herbs or foods are stacked on low-slung tables and papyrus scrolls litter the floors. Wooden doors appear roughly hewn, while woven mats seem scratchy to the touch.

Osiris's Book of the Dead is ablaze with color. There you'll find the dark night sky filled with stars, vibrantly colored woven mats that depict Egyptian scenes and strange symbols that appear to fall from the sky.

As pretty as the game is, the sad thing is you won't find a lot of people populating this world. The most you'll see at any one time is three workers ceaselessly toiling on the columns in the temple. In view of the fact that the obelisk and temple need to be completed fairly quickly, you'd think that the temple and quarry would be overrun with workers. Alas, this isn't the case, and it made me wonder how the heck they'd complete the work with so few artisans.

The characters that do exist for Maya to question (think of her as the ancient Egyptian version of Nancy Drew) are an interesting lot: Tuya, the famous and self-assured (read: condescending) healer, doesn't think much of Maya as a healer and insists on testing her before offering her help. Ouni, Tuya's husband and assistant to Paser, is whiny and has pretty much given up on finishing the obelisk in time. The bricklayer and Djer, the building foreman, are convinced that the entire project is cursed and Egypt is doomed. Maya will also interact with several gods and goddesses, a snarky basket-maker who'll get his just desserts, an all-knowing little girl and others.

Most of the denizens of The Egyptian Prophecy are fully 3D and somewhat animated. They will strike a specific pose while they answer questions. They may wave an arm or turn their head while they speak but will then revert to their mannequin's pose. As they speak, characters' mouths move, but don't expect any synchronization of the two. Everyone suffers from "talking head" syndrome.

The Egyptian Prophecy's ambient sounds are fairly good. Torches snap, crackle and pop as they burn, wooden doors creak as they open, papyrus rustles as you turn the pages, the wind gently sighs, Tuya's white stone pestle scrapes against the herbs and mortar bowl as she grinds them into powder and frogs sing their night songs. In Ptah's underworld of lava, you'll hear lava "burble" as it bubbles, metal workers banging their anvils as they work the molten lava and giant stones grinding as they move.

I liked the voice work in The Egyptian Prophecy as it was very well done. The woman who voiced Tuya offered up enough honey-sweet compliments to make my teeth hurt, which promptly made me suspicious. Her husband was annoying enough in his pessimism that I wanted to slap him. The goddesses Sakhmet and Isis were warm, soothing and comforting to Maya as she went about her tasks.

Music was appropriate to the time and place, if not overly abundant. Most of the time there isn't any background music until you've accomplished a task, at which point, a full symphony springs into being. The music also increases in tempo, to ratchet up the tension, while you're working on a timed puzzle.

The Egyptian Prophecy's puzzles are varied and not too difficult. The majority of the puzzles are inventory-based and somewhat confined to the location that you're currently visiting. A few items - such as all of the spells - carry over to other sites, but most are used not too far from where they're found. With the exception of the spells, once an item is no longer required it will disappear from Maya's inventory.

I've mentioned it already, but let me reiterate: the game is very forgiving. In some cases, if you should fail to notice a particular inventory item lying on the ground, Maya will remark with a "what's this?" and turn to face the item in question. No pixel hunting allowed here!

Puzzle types range from the simple: locating a bowl for a temple ritual or searching for a cartouche to open a crypt door, to the frantic: finding and mixing the ingredients to cure a snake's bite before time runs out, to the sublime: aligning five disks in order to open a perfume coffer or figuring out a unique slider mechanism on a crypt door. I think my favorite was the double maze - the path is clearly marked, but the kicker is that not only does Maya need to negotiate the path, her ka (ethereal double) must travel a slightly different maze at the same time, and both must exit the maze as one.

All told, The Egyptian Prophecy is a nice little diversion. Even though the game is amazingly short - I clocked about eight hours, maximum - and very linear, the game is still fun. Not even my annoying mouse problem could completely ruin it. If you're looking for something to push the boundaries of adventure gaming, then look elsewhere; however, if you're looking for an afternoon's entertainment, then why not spend it traveling the Nile of a bygone era? Anoint yourself in perfumed oil, don your ankh and linen shift and join Maya in her quest to discover the fate of Ramses II.


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