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Review by: Bob Mandel
Published: November 26, 2001
Although the adventure genre was proclaimed dead by naysayers, the last few years have seen a steady stream of releases in this category. Nonetheless, I have reviewed a series of decidedly mediocre titles lately, including Adventure at the Chateau d’Or, Road to India, and Mystery of the Druids. Now Polish developer LK Avalon has entered the fray with a new title in this same niche — Schizm: Mysterious Journey. While available for CD-ROM, this product was designed for DVD (the version reviewed here), and takes advantage of the large capacity and improved speed of this new technology. The game takes up both sides of a single DVD, facilitating a gargantuan total of over 10 gigabytes of data. Can this mega-release restore the vitality of the genre?
The background story was developed in collaboration with award-winning Australian science fiction writer Terry Dowling. After a space mission commences to the planet Argilus in the year 2083, there is a breakdown in communication, and two intrepid investigators named Hannah Grant and Sam Mainey — whose responsibilities normally focus on dropping off supplies to the research teams on the planet — are sent down to figure out what is going on with the scientific team stationed there. They immediately see bizarre signs of an advanced civilization combined with a complete absence of inhabitants. They also encounter a series of ghostly projections of characters, giving players clues about what is transpiring. The plot unfolds in an intriguing way, with distinct science fiction overtones and a complete absence of violence.
A key innovation in this offering is that you simultaneously control two people, Sam and Hannah, who communicate and coordinate with one another. If you cannot figure out how to resolve one predicament, you can switch characters and deal with a different one. Both can address most dilemmas by themselves, but occasionally they must work together. At the beginning of the game, when Sam and Hannah descend to the planet to begin their investigation, they are forced to leave their ship in separate emergency pods due to weather conditions, so one of their first tasks is to find each other. As it turns out, the two-character format adds an extra dimension and provides additional richness and flexibility to the quest. It is also nice that the process of exploration is not the usual solitary experience.
In addition, Sam and Hannah have a chance to interact with a significant number of odd characters during Schizm. Unlike Presto’s MYST III: Exile, where the specter of a crazy man screams and rants at you throughout the game, the apparitions in Schizm are interesting characters who actually communicate in varied ways and provide you with useful information. Due to a dimensional barrier, Sam and Hannah rarely see each other and they never respond to these characters, although they sometimes make comments after a conversation is over. Thus, without violating the tacit rule of all MYST-like adventures banning extensive character interaction with lots of dialog options — lest the emphasis move away from puzzle solving — Schizm makes just the right choices in this facet of the play experience.
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