Genesys

Review by Enigma
January 2002

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 Vikings and Crusader, 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.

The Story

Well, there isn't one, really, at least not in the sense of most adventure games. The game starts with a bang—literally, the Big Bang—and 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.

Gameplay

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 item.

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 well done.

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.

The Verdict

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 for me. The End

The Verdict

The Lowdown

Developer: Index
Publisher: Wanadoo
Release Date: 2001

Available for: Macintosh Windows

Four Fat Chicks Links

Walkthrough
Player Feedback

Screenshots

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System Requirements

PC:
Pentium 166 (200 recommended)
16 MB RAM (32 MB with Windows 98)
Video card—thousands of colors
16-bit sound card
4X CD-ROM drive (8x recommended)
Windows 95/98

Macintosh:
Power PC or G3
16 MB free memory required for the installation
Video card—thousands of colors
4X CD-ROM drive (8X recommended)
System 7 or greater

Where to Find It



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