Nightfall

Review by Orb

Well, I seem to be in a "trapped in a pyramid" scheme. First Secrets of the Luxor and now Nightfall. Both games, however, are wildly different.

The closest thing I can liken Nightfall to would be the wonderful and popular Mac shareware game Giza, which I admit to putting in more than a few hours on. The graphics of Nightfall, however, are much more highly advanced than Giza's (of course—this isn't shareware, it's a full-course meal).

Nightfall begins in a Egyptian tomb and plays in Realtime 3D. You are an Egyptologist who has sneaked into the tomb only to be trapped by loose rocks; now you must explore deeper and deeper into the pyramid to find your way out. You are pulled forward and given clues through scraps of messages left by a previous archeologist. The story is pleasant but minimal, always a favorite with me—I puff up and explode if confronted with too many details to track. It's based on a legitimate Egyptian legend, which offers an air of authenticity to the story.

One of the most interesting things about Nightfall is the gameplay itself. This has to be one of the most highly original adventure games to make it out of the "hey, wouldn't it be cool to ..." stage in a long time.

Let me try to explain this without giving away any of the puzzles. You must do certain specific activities in a sequence in order to complete the game and get through all the levels, but this is done in a very subtle and original manner. In other words, you must use your head and pay attention to your environment to spot what the puzzles are and where the puzzles are located. Still with me?

Gameplay also uses an unusual and highly innovative (for an adventure game) mapping system of which I've only seen the likes in such action/shooter games as Pathways into Darkness. The maps only show as far as you've traveled and are extremely necessary to get through the game (in my personal experience). Also, the game is written in a series of levels, something unheard of in adventure gaming, and gameplay from the combo of mouse and keyboard to the levels and degree of exploration needed and mapping system is built like one of the myriad levels-based shooters out on the market now.

I don't know about you, but shooters have always been very disconcerting to me. I always want to walk around and explore and look at all the rooms and the stuff, and I am always taken aback to be accosted by a warrior/mutant/soldier/giant bug with a big fat gun, and I invariably pause too long and get shot and killed. Then, of course, I have to go back and do everything I've just done and remember to shoot him first, etc., ad nauseam. (Of course I was the kid that was always chosen last in gym class because I would invariably duck when the ball came at me.)

For this reason and no other you should go out and try Nightfall. You get all the best elements of the shooters you've seen great screenshots of but couldn't stand playing, rolled into an adventure sandwich. The incomparable freedom of movement makes Nightfall the most innovative adventure game to hit the Mac in a good long time.

Now, in the interest of fairness, what I didn't care for: there are 14 levels. I felt that after about the fourth or fifth level, these became a bit redundant as all were very similar, at least until the last few, where they did begin to change in their style. The look is of a very realistic tomb. There are no flashy colors here; the game is designed to be a very accurate depiction of the inside of a pyramid, and it does pull this off. But I am a lover of the flashy in-your-face neon surrealism of Shivers 1 and 2 and their ilk. The graphics were flawless in execution but not my cup of tea.

Ambient and well-designed music is prevalent at each level and thoroughly enjoyable. The sound effects are great, but they could be louder and in greater quantity.

Puzzles are clever, some easy, some more difficult, running the gamut, but I found they began to get old in some instances as, after a while, there were the same or similar puzzles on different levels. Puzzles requiring inventory became tedious, as the inventory only stores one item at a time, causing long trips back and forth to get items moved around. The puzzles were designed specially for 3D, a pretty whiz-bang feat.

Nightfall was designed using a first-person engine, and it was designed from scratch, involving writing two million lines of code, which should get a gold star even though we don't give scores for programming!

Altor, the publisher, has accommodatingly packaged Nightfall with saves for levels 2 through 13, which makes it possible to play levels in any order (pretty unheard of for adventure gaming), as well as editing tools and some source code, including code for AI, 2D, and a bit of 3D for the public to use at their will.

Overall, Nightfall only misses the gold star for what I felt was a redundancy on the design of the levels and some puzzles. The End

The Verdict

The Lowdown

Developer: Altor Systems
Publisher: Altor Systems
Release Date: February 1999

Available for: Macintosh

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Screenshots

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System Requirements

100 MHz or faster power Mac (150 MHz and up recommended)
640x480 screen in thousands of colors
System 7.5.3 or better (8.1 recommended)
9 MB or more free RAM
3 MB of free hard disk space
4x CD-ROM drive

Where to Find It



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