Shivers

Review by Orb (and her son Brando)

Shivers is absolutely the kind of game to be played in the fall, when the days are getting shorter and the nights longer, the air cools off, and the trees start giving the idea they're going to give it a break for a while, as no one's going to be looking for any shade for a few months.

Shivers is scary. Okay—Shivers was scary for me. This is the Tim Burton/John Carpenter/Vincent Price of adventure games. Right up my alley. It is designed with an accent on eerie, starting with Sierra's opening screenshot of its logo as a moon, the castle-like museum looming in front of a purple sky, a wolf howling in the background.

A fun game, I found, to play with my 14-year-old kid. He's a veteran PSX man himself—his usual idea of a gaming good time is being chased around by zombies in Resident Evil. This makes us a good team. A ghost jumps out at me and I'm startled. He laughs. Maybe a bit evilly. I land upon a Chinese checkers sliding ball puzzle. He yawns. I laugh evilly. And solve it. Like I said, a good team.

Shivers is what I consider a perfect example of all the right things about adventure gaming. It was produced by Sierra, at the pinnacle of their glory days of adventure gaming publication, and it shows. Released in November 1995, the years do date the design tech but actually not by much, because the game has such style to it and is, well, so darned playable. Roberta Williams, the grand dame of adventure gaming, served as a creative consultant. It is extremely well put together, each part done excellently to make up a greater whole.

The game plot is well–thought out and contributes to gameplay, rather than hindering it; we've all seen some games treat the plot as a red-headed stepchild—not the case here. It is set at the Windlenot Museum, a museum of the unusual and unnatural. Professor Windlenot, an archeologist, has collected artifacts from all over the world and brought them to his museum. The Professor has disappeared, and evil beings called "Ixupi" have been let loose within the confines of the museum. You must find them and capture them in the containers to which they belong, which have been strewn throughout the museum. In the process, you uncover the Professor's story as well. One of the jewels of the game is the museum has really been created to be a museum as it purports; there are strange and interesting things all around to look at and read about, and per the notes included with the package, 90 percent is factual, certainly enough to keep my history-buff kid interested. The museum voice-overs, like ethereal docents, have been done to sound like Rod Serling (an interesting choice over Leonard Nimoy—maybe the voice was easier to do).

The story reveals itself as you play the game, and it is fun and manages to stay interesting despite a number of things to read or collect. One of the best things about how Shivers was made was that it is really hard to get stuck and not find something else to do. There is a wide range of spaces that can be initially explored or gotten into without too much work, making the game completely nonlinear and always moving it forward.

As far as graphics go—hello Dali! There are no melting clocks here, but there might as well be. This is one of the most superb qualities of this game. The design of each room is completely original and intriguing (take it from a graphic artist). The rooms vary wildly in what they contain and their motifs, with the common thread binding them together being the fact that you are in a museum of the unusual. The cursor is done as they all should be. No pixel-hunting, it changes appropriately for the situation, with not too many changes to remember, and this also includes a pause cursor to let you know that, well, things are just out of your control at the moment.

The ambient music is simply ominous, foreboding. Sometimes it's unpleasant, which is apparently on purpose. Even the areas where it is played lightly for effect, it still sounds like The Exorcist just before all that stuff started happening. The composer runs the gamut between orchestral and Nine Inch Nails.

The sound effects are incredible and uncomfortable. Screaming and begging is mixed in with the music. Doors open in a properly creaky fashion. Clay pots slide off ledges and sound like ... clay pots. The only boat missed by the game makers sound effects–wise is the fact that you are apparently floating just above the floor because your feet have no sound, the only thing in the game that does not. I mention this as, because of the quality of design, there is the sensation of walking through this museum, crossing a room, etc., so no footfall becomes more noticeable.

The puzzles are wildly different from one to the next, with the only ones having any similarity being the elevator entrance puzzles. The puzzles themselves in some instances borrow from other puzzles you've seen, such as Chinese checkers or duplicating a musical sequence (albeit on a Sumerian lyre), but for the most part they are entirely fresh and, in some instances, fiendish. Some I found difficult enough to slow gameplay down for me, and I am partial to keeping it moving at a nice clip, so I was not happy about that. Ghosts do jump out at you, from random spots throughout the game, and suck a little life essence from you if you're not careful, like an IRS agent (as which I am always surprised more parents do not dress their children for trick or treat, by the way, as this is the far scariest thing I can think of becoming).

I love Shivers, but I still hate mazes. And I certainly like them even less with a woman screaming for help and howling randomly throughout it. All right, I'll admit I was looking for a fright, and this certainly did the trick.

The kid gives this an 8 out of 10 on the scare-o-meter, with Resident Evil a 9, and a 10 being the first time he saw The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in the dark. (Yes, I'm that kind of mother.) The End

The Verdict

The Lowdown

Developer: Sierra
Publisher: Sierra
Release Date: 1995

Available for: Macintosh Windows

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Screenshots

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System Requirements

Mac:
Color Macintosh
8 MB free memory
System 6.07 or higher
CD-ROM drive

PC:
486 SX 33 MHz or faster
Win 3.1 or better
8 MB RAM
2x CD-ROM drive
640x480 at 256 colors or better
Hard Drive
Mouse

Where to Find It

 
   
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