Bioscopia: Where Science Conquers Evil

Review by Orb
April 2002

They've done it again. Bioscopia is the second in a series of science adventures in the Quest for Knowledge series published by Tivola and developed by the talented creators of Physicus. As with its predecessor, Bioscopia is an edutainment title where the production values so far exceed the standard edutainment fare as to make it required playing for anyone who enjoys a good adventure game with challenging puzzles. It is an old-fashioned, slide-show, point-and-click, first-person delight.

The world of Bioscopia is a laboratory in which artificial intelligence experiments are being performed. Scientists there have created experiments in robotics, giving intelligent robots human characteristics, intending to make them into slave labor. Control over the experiment was lost, and the robots took over. The last scientist disabled the power generator, the robots' power source. Time passes, and a researcher has stumbled upon Bioscopia. Not understanding what she had encountered, she has awakened the robots and trapped herself. It is the player's job to save the researcher and solve the mystery of Bioscopia.

In the game, the player is given information in five areas of science: zoology, cellular biology, human biology, botany, and genetics. These subjects and the information on them contained in the game are used to solve puzzles and complete the game goal of discovery and rescue.

The puzzles are all mechanical. And these, in most cases, have their basis in the five sciences studied in the game, thus giving them an air of heightened realism. They are fun, very challenging, and all sequitur to the forwarding of the game and its story and goal.

Inventory is stowed in a metal contraption at the bottom right of the screen that makes a satisfyingly metallic clang when opened and shut. There is also no redundant or unnecessary inventory, so the gameplay is not at all held up by some awful inventory shuffle—no player time is taken up organizing inventory or trying a million false lead combinations of items as a result of some lame ploy to extend gameplay length. Another plus with the inventory system is that the items are automatically rearranged for the player to that the most used item is in front and easy to access and similar items that go with each other are stowed together. A very clever idea.

The voice acting, what bits of it are in the game, is surprisingly good. Not a wooden voice in the lot. There are just a few ambient sounds and in-game noises, and these are very brief. In an unusual design move, the game is lacking any real soundtrack throughout. It's hard to decide if this increases the absorption of the environment or not. Realistically it would not have any music playing with no one around (unless, of course, it were set in a mall, but that would be silly, wouldn't it?). However, the omission is noticeable to this player, coddled with many symphonic gaming moments over the years. There are a couple of areas in the game where there are really brief loops played, and the music serves to alert the player to an important gameplay area.

The graphics are all well-done and very detailed. As with Physicus, the game really creates its own world and draws the player in. Everything has been cleverly designed to evoke the feeling that one is in an odd and new place. The texturing is quite remarkable and realistic in some areas, stylized in others. These are very Myst-like games, and I say this not in some sort of derogatory clone-ish way. It's simply a well-designed game in that style of gameplay, and it works very well within that category. It's not overly ambitious, there are relatively few animations, and there is little acting. Transitions are brief and not complex. But the game is charming in its simplicity and design.

One drawback with the game is that the player is kept on a fairly tight leash exploration-wise. Quite often there's no looking side to side or digging into an interesting-looking screen unless the area directly forwards the game. So there are quite a few screens that are merely environmental window dressing, allowing a certain degree of immersion in the world but with limited exploration.

The game has a smart cursor that changes depending on which game areas are open to exploration. There is a bit of throwing the cursor about to see what directions can be traveled in, as some of the directions cannot be accessed. The cursor also does not change when an object is held over a useable location, and this causes some redundant try-and-miss stuff as the right spot is hunted down.

A standout of the game is that it is really all business. The player is not given a bunch of goofy, time-consuming design filler, such as a maze or some horrible-to-find hotspot. It also does not give the player dead ends or misleading clues.

One of the most pleasant things about Bioscopia, and all of the Tivola titles for that matter, is just how low-maintenance it is. It is simple to install, load, and run. The sound does not cut out; the game does not freeze or quit to the desktop. What a pleasure! The game comes on two CDs; however, the first CD is only for install, and the game is played entirely from the second one, so there is no disk swapping.

Tivola has gotten its hands on another well-put together and classy game that is fun to play and educates in an almost inadvertent fashion. Bioscopia has been designed to a standard that all adventure games should aspire to. It's clever, original, and just a plain old good time. The End

The Verdict

The Lowdown

Developer: Ruske & Puhretmaier Multimedia
Publisher: Tivola
Release Date: March 2002

Available for: Macintosh Windows

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System Requirements

Windows 95/98/ME/NT/2000/XP
Pentium 166 MHz
SVGA graphics card (16-bit)
Sound card
8X CD-ROM drive
120 MB free hard drive space

OS 8.1
Power PC
Graphics and sound cards
8X CD-ROM drive
120 MB free hard drive space

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