Cleopatra: Riddle of the Tomb
(released in Europe as Cleopatra: A Queen's Destiny in November 2007)

Review by Old Rooster
April 2008

"Welcome to Alexandria; My Palace Is at Your Disposal" —Cleopatra

Kheops Studios is one of my favorite development houses. Several of its recent games have found a place on my "keeper" list, including Secrets of Da Vinci, Destination Treasure Island, and Return to Mysterious Island. Unfortunately, this latest release, although a decent effort, doesn't quite make it to this special section of my game shelves.

Cleopatra, in one of her brief appearances in the game, welcomes us to a time of civil strife in the ancient kingdom. In this climate of terror, you play as Thomas, a young apprentice to Akkad, Cleopatra's astrologer. The Queen is after special tablets and has promised you that your help will bring about the rescue of your master and his daughter, who have been kidnapped by Ptolemy.

These investigations will lead you to colorful and "historically accurate" locations, such as the Library of Alexandria, the Isle of Pharos, and the Lighthouse of Alexandria.

"My Horoscope Was Right; the Gods Are on My Side Today" —Thomas

The opening scenes and introduction of Riddles of the Tomb are vibrant and really quite stunning. With period-appropriate music, we are in the bedchambers of Her Majesty and guided to menu selections, including your astrological sign. With a first-person perspective, one can't help but be initially very impressed. The approach, as well as the setting, is very different than what we usually find. Picking your avatar and astrological sign leads one to think there might be multiple paths, even endings, in the game. It's commented that your sign "influences events in the game."

This turns out to be rather exaggerated. With more than one playthrough, it would seem there are two—and only two—paths that might develop. In the game, these are referred to as "Good Day" and "Bad Day." Basically, puzzles are easy or hard, uncomplicated or quite involved.

Movement is impressive, with full 360-degree rotation possible. Graphics continue to be clear, detailed, colorful. The occasional, well-done cutscene provides a break from puzzle-solving. The puzzles seem appropriate to the context, involving such tasks as reading papyrus scrolls, naming constellations, making figurines from a mold, cooking up a solvent, preparing a sleeping powder. Of course, we also experience opening tricky locks and deciphering codes. All in all, they are straightforward, rarely requiring a walkthrough or other outside advice.

Let's say a word about the Good Day/Bad Day variation in Riddle. Simply put, picking the "wrong" sign and experiencing a "bad day" typically presents a bit more in the way of a hurdle. An arrow you need may be intact or broken and in need of repair before use. A drain may need unblocking. The papyrus you need to pick up may be close to shore or quite a distance away. The wheel required for your chariot may be intact or bent. You get the idea. Minor extra steps or actions may be needed.

Technically, Riddle installed and ran flawlessly on my Vista system. Inventory management is worthy of a comment. The item descriptions and combining of object with object are more stylistically done than I've ever seen, sometimes making me think the game was designed for a young audience, although it does have a Teen rating. Further, you'll have a dialogue history, two-stage storage system, notebook, and instant-transport map of Alexandria.

"No One Gets Away with Insults to a Goddess!" —Cleopatra

In spite of the potential excitement of starting a game in the boudoir of one of history's sexy ladies, one is left a bit flat as the experience ensues. Of course, we do play as a mere teenager, so I suppose Cleopatra wouldn't be too interested.

Still, as I indicated above, Riddle is a nice little game (much less than 10 hours long) but not at a first-tier level. It's too short, too easy, and too lifeless. Like Secrets of Da Vinci (a better game), it emphasizes puzzles over people contact. I only met three or four residents during the entire time.

So, then, we find Cleopatra: Riddle of the Tomb to be a game of mixed blessings and possible interest to adventure gamers. Its interface, setting, and graphics are nicely done, accompanied by sensible and contextual puzzles. Yet the rather dull story ends quickly without meeting any but a handful of characters. I suspect most, like me, may enjoy a playthrough of Riddle, but, as with me, the game won't make it to your "keeper" shelf.

What I Liked Most About Cleopatra: Riddle of the Tomb

  • Vibrant graphics and cutscenes
  • Technically solid with a fine interface
  • Good ambient sounds
  • Sensible, contextual puzzles
  • Picking your horoscope sign seems interesting ...

What I Didn't Like

  • .... But it really doesn't make that much difference
  • Too short—much less than 10 hours
  • Securom copy protection
  • Where are the people?
  • Weak voice acting
  • Dull story The End

The Verdict

The Lowdown

Developer: Kheops Studios
Publisher: The Adventure Company
Release Date: April 2008

Available for: Windows

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System Requirements

Windows 2000/ME/XP/Vista
800 MHz P3
128 MB RAM
1.8 GB free hard disk space
64 MB video card
DVD-ROM drive

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