Morpheus

Review by MW
March 2003

Just One Chick's Opinion

Sitting down, eagerly anticipating what is in store, I open the game box with a feeling of awe. I notice some of the screenshots on the back of the box and note that the game appears to take place in an Arctic region. Looking outside my own window I see falling snow gracing me with the lure of ambient playing conditions. Those who have read my reviews of the past can surmise what is already going through my corrupt little brain. I love ambient conditions that match the virtual reality of my gaming.

I slide open the glass door just enough to hear the wind eerily whistling its way through the crack while I am loading the game. Goosebumps abound as the cold wind rushes past my bare arms, and my warm breath begins forming wisps of vapor as the heat from my room dissipates. I start the game; it begins with Mathew Holmes, an Arctic explorer on a journey to investigate the disappearance of his father 30 years earlier. Mathew somehow finds himself separated from his crew and wanders, lost, around the frozen landscape. Succumbing to the cold, he prepares to die in the vast wasteland of ice, giving way to the inexorable push of unconsciousness that is overtaking him.

With that, I decided that if I was to continue my own journey, I would be better off without hypothermia, and without reservation I closed the door and quickly flipped on my space heater.

In limbo, between life and death, dream and reality, Mathew finds himself before the very ship that his father had once tried to track down ... the Herculania. Within this veil of dreams and hallucinations I find now that I have become the explorer. Seeing the ship before me I know I must solve the mystery of why my father had lost his own life in his quest to locate this ship, and I know that by getting on the ship I ultimately could meet the same fate.

Enveloped by the eerie mystique of the Herculania, I cannot tell in this twisted place what is existent or what is false, but the ghosts aboard the ship tell a story of evil, treachery, and deceit ... will I survive this voyage or will I become yet another soul forever entrapped in its mysteries?

All Aboard!

An engrossing storyline is what will pull you into this ghost ship. The story starts out slowly, but, as with the game, not everything is as it seems. As the tale unfolds, the lure and temptation will draw you in before you'll realize what has happened.

I have come to understand that the allure of ambient playing conditions is considerably heightened by a game that gives its players emotional feedback. Morpheus has invoked trepidation, curiosity, and the ever-present question, "what is going to happen next," feeding into that need for a realistic experience in a manner not unlike The Blackstone Chronicles. And in other ways it also evokes a Myst-like experience.

Are you starting to feel that creepy sensation of someone watching you from a dark forest? While Morpheus is not an outright horror title, it aptly put me in a state of unease and heightened awareness at certain points. Credit must be given to the creators of the game for being able to pull this off with such style and grace since it is not an easy feat either in games or in films.

The game is linear. There is no dying and no chance of using inventory in the wrong places. Much of the directional movement is dictated by the game, as are some of the actions. Morpheus incorporates live-action video in many of its scenes, and this gives you a good glimpse into past occurrences aboard the Herculania.

The graphics are a tad dated by today's standards, but nonetheless they are still quite impressive. Movement from scene to scene is seamless, flowing flawlessly. There is 360-degree panning at each node, which at times turned into a spinfest of such huge proportions that it made me feel like I was participating in NASA's anti-gravitational training program—only to leave me splayed out on the floor with the gut wrench. "Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore ..."

Puzzles are placed throughout the game, and clues vary from the subtle to overt. Throughout the game, players will find that the story never gets lost within a sea of puzzles, but quite the contrary—the puzzles only help to piece together the bigger picture. There is no inventory to get bogged down with, other than a few specific items that can only be picked up one at a time and will remain visible until used. Puzzle varieties include the standard seek-and-find, operating mechanisms, and logical deductions.

The sound effects and musical score are of high quality and original to the game. Most of the music is aimed at "mood setting," so you won't hear big-name bands or orchestras. Although there are a lot of ambient sound effects, I would have liked a few more added here and there, but what there are are used effectively.

There is a combination of live actors and voice acting. While I don't have many negative things to report about the game, I will admit that I have a mixed review of the acting abilities. Some of the actors are very good in both their visual performances and their voice-acting abilities, and yet others are downright B-grade actors who look and sound as if they are reading from a script—including the protagonist of the story. I guess you can't win them all! Fortunately, none of the acting is bad enough to interrupt the story, and there are no awkward lips moving without words.

This Is Your Captain Speaking ...

I found playing the game on Windows ME gave way to quite a few technical glitches, which was frustrating. Zooming in on puzzles would cause the screen to "green out," leaving visible only the elements that I could click on. This would also occur when I wanted to save a game or quit. A combination of zooming in an out, in and out, eventually gave me a clear screen, but this proved to be an aggravation. I have not heard of this problem occurring on any other platform, so if you are lucky enough not to be playing on ME, and this includes Mac players since this is a hybrid game, you have a good chance of playing the game problem-free.

The inevitable disk swapping is a big part of this game. While I don't mind disk swapping as much as others, I do understand why it is a nuisance. Speaking of nuisances, one big one is the fact that in order to load a saved game you must start with disk 1 each and every time. This gave me a major case of heat rash, so I managed to find a way around this little problem. I located my saved game—players are given multiple saves, but I recommend using one (yep, just one)—and copied the file to my desktop and was able to start where I left off by clicking on that.

There is one known error that occurs in Belle Swan's dream sequence, in that clicking on the drum will cause your system to crash or will kick you out of the game faster than you can say "what the hey?" This occurs on any platform. The bad news is that there is no patch for this since Soap Bubble and Piranha don't exist anymore. The good news is that it doesn't affect gameplay—simply avoid the action that gives rise to the bug.

Other than these technical side issues, I believe a majority of gamers will have almost 100% error-free gaming, and that in and of itself is quite an accomplishment.

Morpheus's end came as suddenly as did Mathew's unconsciousness and left me a bit bewildered if not a little disappointed. Others may like the type of ending that Morpheus offers, but I don't, either in games or in movies. But don't let this keep you from playing the game—inevitably you will meet a host of characters, listen to tales, and observe actions from long ago that make up a terrific story and make for a really good game. Had I not experienced the technical glitches, I would have given Morpheus a Gold Star. The End

The Verdict

The Lowdown

Developer: Soap Bubble Productions
Publisher: Piranha Interactive Publishing
Release Date: October 1998

Available for: Macintosh Windows

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System Requirements

PC:
Windows 95
Pentium
640 x 480 Display (256 Color or Higher)
8 MB RAM
4X CD-ROM
Windows compatible sound card

Macintosh:
Power Mac
8 MB RAM
640 x 480 Display
(256 Color or Higher)
4X CD-ROM
System 7.5 or higher

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