Paris 1313: The Mystery of Notre Dame Cathedral
Review by Enigma
Ah, the Middle Ages! Loud, dancing flutes and lutes and crashing
tambourines! Colorful costumes, stained glass, soaring cathedrals!
Villains, friars, and lords and ladies! Intrigue and romance! Yes,
here's another game from France for those of us who love medieval
Will we also love the game? It's short, coming on only one CD,
but Paris 1313 gives us some lovely shots of medieval Paris.
Golly, but the French are good at computer art. It has some fresh
ideas about gameplay and a few nifty puzzles and, wonder of wonders,
some excellent voice acting. For all that I'm giving it a thumb
If it didn't force all but the most clever, or lucky, player to
watch the same scenes over and over again, however, I'd be more
enthusiastic about that choice. I don't mind when a short game is
stretched out by ingenious, difficult puzzles, but stretching out
the hours through repetition isn't my idea of immersive gameplay.
Alas, for all its innovation, Paris 1313 descends into tedium
far too often. For that I almost gave it a rotten egg.
Paris 1313 has an interesting, strong storyline, but despite
the game's subtitle it doesn't seem to have much to do with Notre
Dame Cathedral. A character named Adam has invented the first mechanical
clock at the behest of Phillippe, the King of France. In the opening
cutscene, Adam falls from the cathedral. Did somebody push him?
Adam's brother Jacques, an actress named Rosemonde who's Jacques's
fiancée, and Pierre, an impoverished young nobleman, will
try to find out what's going on. Also in the mix of characters are
Agnes, Pierre's wealthy fiancée, Pierre's uncle Nogaret,
who's a high official, and Brother Jean, a scheming friar who serves
as the villain of the piece.
Brother Jean hatches plenty of plots, the real thrust of the storyline.
What's he up to? We learn in one of the first scenes that in the
past he accused Rosemonde's mother of witchcraft, and the woman was
burned at the stake. Jean threatens Rosemonde with the same fate
if she doesn't steal incriminating letters for him. Meanwhile, Pierre
focuses on his up-and-down relationship with Agnes, until he too
becomes entangled in Brother Jean's schemes.
As the game advances through puzzles, so does the story. On several
levels you'll see the same scene through different characters' eyes.
For example, Pierre competes in the archery contest while Rosemonde
tries to steal a letter he's carrying. Brother Jean questions Rosemonde
while Pierre listens at the door and Jacques eavesdrops on the same
scene. Although we get even more repetition from these different
angles, I still thought it added to the realism and intrigue of
In Paris 1313, you play three characters, each with quite
different personalities, which is a nifty idea. As either Pierre,
Jacques, or Rosemonde, you'll have one puzzle to solve for seven
of the nine levels. The game is so short that you'll want to solve
all the puzzles for each character. Ideally, you'll do all three
of the puzzles on each level before advancing to the next. The game
forgives you if you can't solve absolutely everything, however,
by allowing you to advance if you've solved only two of the three
puzzles on a level. If you want to go back to an earlier level and
tackle something you missed, however, you'll lose all of your subsequent
advances. At the end of each puzzle you'll be transported to a graph
that marks your progress. You can click on any of its icons to gain
access to a scene.
You can save your game after each puzzle, but not within a puzzle.
Therein lies the most serious flaw in the game. If you don't solve
a puzzle on the first try, you can keep trying, but you'll have
to watch the entire scene, from scratch, every time, into infinity.
They're nice scenes, don't get me wrong, but after a few times these
repetitions get old.
More repetition comes in some of the puzzles. You'll have to play
a dice game twice, and unless you bet the farm you can play it all
night. You'll have three, count 'em, three, archery puzzles. If
you don't like hand-eye coordination stuff you needn't worry, because
the archery turns out to be about the easiest task in the game.
Yes, the game has a maze, but it's the easiest maze I've ever encountered.
Many of the puzzles are a cinch, but a few are real posers. One,
wherein you're trying to remove the wax seal from a letter by heating
a knife, I found to be actually impossible. Even after consulting
a good walkthrough I couldn't do it, and your intrepid reviewer
gave it over 100 tries. It was the only puzzle in the game I didn't
Untying Rosemonde's hands, putting together a gorgeous mechanical
rooster, and the final puzzle, completing Adam's clock, also will
challenge you. However, you'll do all of this through trial and
error, with no clues and not much thinking involved. Each time you
fail you'll be watching the whole scene again. To me, that isn't
puzzle solving. I want subtle, hidden clues, something ingenious
to figure out, so I can say, "Aha! Now I understand! Why didn't
I see that before?" Only a few puzzles gave me that sense of
That said, the game does have some innovative puzzles, especially
one of the first. As Jacques you'll climb straight up a wall by
moving each hand and foot up to different ledges, all the while
listening to Jacques's heavy breathing as things get tougher. This
one isn't difficult either, but I thought it was a clever idea.
Later Jacques has to arrange small rings with partial inscriptions
into a motto that makes sense, Pierre answers some riddles posed
by Agnes, and there's an interesting decoding puzzle near the end
of the game. I'm just not sure these overcome the tedium of the
Lights, Camera, Action!
In its graphics and voice acting, Paris 1313 really shines.
Its 3D buildings soar with solid stones and bright colors. The furniture
and wall hangings look authentic too, and the cutscenes display
interesting pen-and-ink drawings that lend the game another touch
of authenticity. Pierre, Jacques and Rosemonde are nicely done in
3D renderings, and Pierre especially wears a colorful costume authentic
to the period. The game's medieval period music, played loudly,
also helps you to believe you're really there in the fourteenth
What a relief to find a game that doesn't insult your ears with
amateur voice acting. The actors in Paris 1313 handle the
dialogue convincingly, with just the right touches of emotion. You'll
be hearing them do the same dialogue over and over, of course, so
it's lucky that the actors are good.
However, if you don't at least read French, you'll miss out on
some of the plot. During the game you'll find two letters to read,
and both are in French. The game offers you the option of reading
subtitles for the dialogues. Why aren't subtitles available in English
for these letters? Lack of language ability won't deprive you of
learning what happens, but it dilutes the impact that the letters
might otherwise have had.
I found the in-game encyclopedia to be rather intrusive. The type
is tiny and superimposed on brightly colored backgrounds, making
it difficult to read. You can access the encyclopedia right from
the playing screen, by clicking on a book-like icon, and I often
did that accidentally. I usually appreciate well-done encyclopedias,
but this one left me cold.
I played with a 500 MHz iMac and had some serious problems with
the sound breaking up, especially in one crucial scene with Rosemonde.
Her dice partner made several interesting comments, many of which
were cut off, along with the subtitles. Often the sound seemed to
begin later than the animation. Every time I tried to quit that
sealing wax puzzle I'd lose my cursor, and I had to force quit in
order to get out. Other than those annoying problems, the game ran
I had a tough time trying to decide whether I liked this game or
not. Certainly the fun device of playing three different characters,
the interesting story, the well-done graphics and acting, and a
few of the innovative puzzles stand strongly in Paris 1313's
favor. Yet the tedium of the repetitive scenes and the equally
repetitive trial-and-error puzzles had me gnashing my teeth, almost
enough to overcome my enjoyment of the things the game did well.
I had the impression that Wanadoo cut corners in order to get the
whole game onto one CD. If you have a high threshold for frustration
and love the Middle Ages as much as I do, you'll probably enjoy
it. If not, be forewarned.
Developer: Canal+ Multimedia
Release Date: 1999
Four Fat Chicks Links
Pentium 133 MHz (166 MHz recommended)
32 MB RAM
High-color video card
Soundblaster-compatible 16-bit sound card
4X CD-ROM drive (8X recommended)
PowerPC 120 MHz (200 MHz recommended)
20 MB RAM free for the application
High-color video card
4X CD-ROM drive (12X recommended)
System 7.1 (8.1 recommended)
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