Review by Enigma
What is the greatest possible adventure? The story of a heroic
strongman, or woman, involved in intrigue, mystery or combat, perhaps?
An ordinary, unsuspecting commoner trapped in a haunted house? How
about, simply, the advancement of civilization? That's the premise
behind Genesys. Its only storyline is the technological progress
of mankind from the stone age to the modern day. As a self-confessed
history nut, that indeed is the kind of stuff that gets me excited,
but Genesys isn't going to have that effect on everyone.
Genesys boasts lavish production qualities. Index+'s Wanadoo
Edition obtained a grant from the European Community to develop
the game, and that money shows all over. It stars the great French
actress Jeanne Moreau as the narrator, has the most entrancing original
music I've ever heard in a game, and will dazzle you with its movie
cutscenes. As an "edutainment" game it heavily emphases
the "edu" rather than the "tainment," and, like
the gameplay occurs through inventory-based "riddles."
I liked it fine, although not as much as Vikings and Crusader,
which follow distinct and highly adventurous stories yet manage
to focus on history at the same time.
Well, there isn't one, really, at least not in the sense of most
adventure games. The game starts with a bangliterally, the
Big Bangand lands you in the time of Homo Erectus. From there
you'll move into ancient Mesopotamia, with side trips to Egypt and
China. After quite a bit of time there, the game skips the Roman
Empire completely and moves you into the Middle Ages for a brief
stop. Then you'll skip the Renaissance and jump to the Industrial
Revolution and finally to the modern age.
Of course, with such a vast timeline it would have been quite jarring
to superimpose a single character over all of human history in order
to have a more conventional adventure game storyline. That would
have moved the game into the fantasy realm. Genesys remains
resolutely realistic from start to finish. The idea is to get the
player to participate in building the major innovations of history,
thereby learning about how we achieved our present technological
success. I came away with the distinct impression that it's intended
for schoolchildren. Indeed, classroom teachers or homeschooling
families might find the game quite useful. For those who don't already
enjoy history, however, the game might look more like a glitzy,
interactive textbook than entertainment.
The game's entertainment comes in the form of puzzles, called "enigmas,"
in which you find objects and characters and place them, usually
in strict order, onto the Enigma Screen, just as in Vikings and
Crusader. You've got a beautifully done in-game encyclopedia
for clues, inventory items, and learning, always available to you.
You'll visit one or more playing screens, where you can click on
characters to hear what they have to say and pick up objects for
solving the riddles. Your major problem will be to figure out what
you need to do in each puzzle and especially to find that last elusive
Finding those missing items can be one tough job. Enigma number
five nearly stopped me. It involves learning about ancient metallurgy
by firing up a furnace and smelting ore to produce various objects.
The problem is that your furnace goes out every time you finish
an object, and you can only use one certain pile of fuel to fire
it up again each time. I could not find that one missing pile of
fuel. I was convinced that I'd encountered some kind of terrible
bug, even though I'd played the same copy of the game about a year
earlier. Yes, the fuel was there all right, and I finally found
it, but on my final attempt. I very nearly quit.
Most of the riddles involve technological advancements such as
building stone tools, or connecting a town to electricity, or assembling
a computer. A few focus on trading routes, and several have you
find characters and objects and put them in order in a timeline.
Genesys's enigmas, while often challenging, actually are
much easier than those in Vikings and Crusader. In
Genesys, you'll find almost all of the necessary objects
on the playing screens and on just a few encyclopedia pages to which
the game guides you. Just click on the highlighted words in the
instructions that pop up with each enigma and you'll find everything
you need. With only one exception late in the game, you don't have
to surf the whole encyclopedia looking for elusive items.
I looked around the web for a walkthrough and found several links
to the official one at www.genesysgame.com,
but the link didn't work for me. In case it doesn't work for you
either, I made a new walkthrough
for you. If you enjoy the game it would be a shame to get stopped
over something simple.
Lights, Camera, Action!
With absolutely superb production qualities, Genesys will
have you glued to its cutscenes. These all star Jeanne Moreau, who
narrates the successive civilization advances over a backdrop of
ever-changing photos from the relevant time periods. The music,
created for the game by Yan Volsey, kept me enthralled, especially
the catchy little jingle in the Modern Age.
Yet, how I wish I could speak French. While we see Jeanne Moreau
on the screen, her voice is dubbed by a British actress. It's a
good acting job, but it just isn't Jeanne Moreau (unless I'm wrong
and Jeanne Moreau speaks English with a British accent). Of course,
that makes the movie like, well, a dubbed movie. Still, it's wonderfully
Now for the really bad news. At least in the English version the
voice acting of the characters on the playing screens is just plain
awful. These can't be professional actors. I don't recall hearing
one speech from one of those characters that didn't make me grimace
mentally, sometimes physically. The voice acting quality declined
drastically from the at least adequate voice acting of Vikings
and Crusader, and it seriously lessened my enjoyment
of the game.
In fact, I give you fair warning. Wait until the third riddle before
you click on a speaking character. The figures in the first two
riddles don't have language yet, so their "speech" sounds
like a child imitating a gorilla. It had me cringing.
Back on the bright side, another bonus in the game are the panels
about religious beliefs that are accessible for each time period.
These are very well narrated by a male actor. The game doesn't focus
on religion, so these panels and some beautiful encyclopedia pages
are accessible for people who have an interest in the subject. The
panels feature symbolic items from the different beliefs that light
up when your cursor passes over them. It's a very nice effect.
Genesys can be involving, frustrating, fascinating, embarrassing,
or, for some players, boring. It was possibly my most eagerly anticipated
game. I liked it but was disappointed in the lack of plot and especially
in the bad voice acting. I wanted to hear Jeanne Moreau as well
as see her. Yet, I found it satisfying to complete the puzzles and
would have bought the game for the gorgeous cutscenes alone. So
for me, a "thumbs up" is in order.
Is Genesys really an adventure game? Maybe not. Certainly
it's a puzzle game. It might even be an interactive encyclopedia.
If you love history it's probably worth the money for you. It was
Release Date: 2001
Four Fat Chicks Links
Pentium 166 (200 recommended)
16 MB RAM (32 MB with Windows 98)
Video cardthousands of colors
16-bit sound card
4X CD-ROM drive (8x recommended)
Power PC or G3
16 MB free memory required for the installation
Video cardthousands of colors
4X CD-ROM drive (8X recommended)
System 7 or greater
Where to Find It
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