Release date: 1998
Developer: Media Factory
Publisher: Wanadoo Edition (former Index+)
Game language: English
(A French version was released too)
A review by slydos 8th February 2005
Neither this adventure game by former publisher Index+ (now Wanadoo) has made it to Germany, nor its successor, Monet - Mystery of the Orangery, despite its 3 million Francs budget. And the English version, serving as review-version in this case, belongs to those games you really have to search for. After some years I was lucky to snatch an original English copy and I would like to share my impressions on this 7 years old edutainment title with collectors who are always looking for rare pieces.
The futuristic world of the intro
In contrast to the follow-up game about Monet and his work we don't find a real story in this case. We don't take over another role, just remain ourselves and visit the Van Gogh Museum in a futuristic environment, which one can easily figure in Paris however. In the entrance hall we only find a colorless self-portrait of the master and a vase with sunflowers - his sunflowers of course. Then suddenly a hovering, speaking robot emerges from behind the counter, communicating his problem: he has already tried thousands of different algorithms, but in a world without sun all pictures of the exhibition lost their colors too. The automatic museum guardian asks us for help to return the sun and thus the colors. We visit 3 museum halls one after another, which accommodate thematically belonging together paintings of Van Gogh. Here we can literally dive into the pictures and are seemingly drawn into a 3D-reality of the respective scenes by a digital channel. There we have to complete a number of so-called workshops. Each time we've finished one of those workshops successfully, Van Gogh appears to present a sunflower to us. If we have collected all sunflowers within a topic, the paintings light up again, colored in former brilliance.
"Mission Sunlight" comes on 1 CD with an English manual in form of a folded poster and a small hint book. The game is conceived for Windows 95 and I had problems with my graphic card in Windows XP. So I installed the game on an original WIN95-PC, where everything worked fine. During the automatic installation one can choose between 3 installation sizes: Minimum 15.5 MB, medium 45.6 MB or maximum 144.9 MB. The maximum installation is recommended, to get smoothly running controls in the 3D environment.
First we are asked for a player's name - only during the first start under this name one can watch the futuristic intro. If you click the same name again, you get straight to your last stop. You cannot save a game yourself, but savegames are automatically stored after finishing a workshop successfully.
While entering the museum we are a bit helpless concerning control of our movements. We must procure this knowledge from the back of the poster that comes with the game. It's a combination of mouse and keyboard controls. With the arrow keys we can make stepless moves in 1st-person-perspective and can also look upward or down.
If the cursor changes its standard arrow shape, we are able to carry out actions, e.g. take and manipulate objects or open workshops. We enter the first workshop by clicking on the sunflowers at the front desk. It's a training workshop, where Van Gogh himself explains the rules of our mission and the functionality of the workshops. We can enter each of the presented paintings and have to find objects, which are hidden in the scenery. We take up these objects into our inventory at the bottom of the screen. The Inventory is not always visible but can be opened or closed with spacebar. Hotspots are only made visible by a change of the cursor. You can sometimes initiate scene changes automatically by simply running forward or by left-click, if the cursor shows a red spot.
The Esc key leads us to the main menu containing the menu options Load, Options, Credits and Quit. In the option menu we can, apart from graphic and sound settings, change the keyboard assignment. The combined mouse/keyboard control is not so comfortable in places, where we want to examine the environment, since we must continue to stop and use the mouse to sniff out hotspots, and then use the arrow keys again. But it offers an acceptable middle course. I wasn't missing a personal save function, since I felt very well supplied by the automatic savepoints.
You can move without long idle periods within the scenes and the feeling of dizziness, which may occur with pure mouse-controlled 1st-person-games, is avoided.
If the cursor changes into a small rectangle, what is to symbolize a door, we can enter a workshop, actually the base of the game. What we first find here is one of Van Gogh's paintings. We can zoom in and look around by mouse-click. We receive also information about the actual size of this painting and the present whereabout. On the left side of the picture there are placed 1 to maximal 3 symbols, which we have to search and find as real objects in the game environment. If we drag&drop them on the associated symbol, we sometimes get information about Van Gogh's life, his art and style, but sometimes we must also solve small tasks e.g. memorize and identify special areas of his paintings or solve jigsaw puzzles.
If we have found all symbols and solved all tasks within a workshop, Van Gogh will offer us another sunflower, which we have to place in a vase in the inventory. In each of the three museum halls we must obtain a certain number (up to 15) of these sunflowers, before we can leave it again. The number of necessary sunflowers is indicated as barrier in the door when we leave the workshop using the back-button to the museum area.
Outside of the workshops we must look for objects and take them of course. They can be hidden sometimes in locked cabinets or they wait in perspectively hidden places for us. Although we work within a main location rather nonlinear, some objects are only accessible after finding other objects in already visited scenes. For example a mirror falls down from the wall later, when we've already settled different tasks in this area and re-enter the scene. The puzzles are alltogether very easy, only the combined mouse/keyboard control makes them a bit more difficult. The target group from ages 8 to 13 shouldn't have problems in solving them. If one should really get stuck, one can use the someway coded hints in the enclosed small booklet. The average play time of "Mission Sunlight" should be approx. 5 hours.
The graphics of "Mission Sunlight" are something special. The players can move freely through Van Gogh's art. All scenes were arranged according to his paintings in 3D and the developers tried to take over the style of the artist as good as possible. And that is really very well succeeded, from a farm in the Holland Room over famous sights of Arles with Night Cafe, the Yellow House, the Drawbridge of Langlois to the scenes of the hospital, in which Van Gogh had to stay for some time, up to the Corn Fields of Auvers sur Oise and its unforgettable church. While Van Gogh did not attach importance to correct perspectives and almost impersonates the opposite of a 3D-artist, the game's graphic artists succeeded to adapt his anti-rooms convincingly to their investigatable structures. For me empathising with this procedure was the most exciting element of the game.
A thunderstorm video sequence in Arles is very surprising. We start it with a harmless click. Not only Van Gogh's house is recolored within a short time, also remarkable enormous crystal-like rain drops sizzle down on the fantastic scenery.
Unfortunately all people were removed from his paintings. Not only that we cannot communicate with anybody, they took nearly all life out of the re-enacted pictures. We revisit the original pictures in the workshops with all the interesting characters, which Van Gogh describes so expressive, but in the game even immovable figures were omitted. Only Van Gogh himself appears in the workshops as animated 3D-character.
But they created a sound environment, which can hardly be exceeded in its intensity. Starting with the Potato Eaters in the Holland Room, who live in principle in a quite abandoned scenery, the wind blows so that the shutters rattle, a baby cries, dogs bark from far away, pigs grunt, sheep baa and cocks crow without seeing any of these animals. Only a lonely chicken paces and a bird builds its nest.
In the busy city of Arles we hear horse carts, military marches, chitchat of bar guests, crickets stridulating, bells ringing, piano music in the garden but also disturbing cries and groaning in the hospital. An animated railway is steaming behind trees while the locomotive pipes out. The excellent sound is rounded off by orchestral music accompanying the futuristic video sequences at the beginning and end of the game. The workshops were equipped with excellent and well understandable English off-speakers, a male and a female voice by turns. Sub-titles are missing however.
I once had the chance to see a number of Van Gogh's works in an exhibition, and know that the plane screen presentation method can never come close to the impression of one of these original paintings. But who has actually got the possibility to take a look at his work scattered around the world actually? Here you find everything united and from a complete new point of view. The idea to use Van Gogh's paintings as game scenery is unusual and an eye candy with learning effect for children as well as for adults. Unfortunately the creators of the game abstained in this first argument with an artist's work from presenting the master's characters in the game, and thus dispossessed the work of the artist of an important aspect. Only in the successor "Monet - Mystery of the Orangery" characters were added and apart from simply looking at the paintings the developers also told an exciting story. All of this would have done good to "Mission Sunlight" too.
Rating: 60 %
Adventure-Archiv rating system:
- 80% - 100% excellent game, very recommendable
- 70% - 79% good game, recommendable
- 60% - 69% satisfactory, restricted recommendable
- 50% - 59% sufficient (not very recommendable)
- 40% - 49% rather deficient (not to be recommended - for hardcore-adventure-freaks and collectors only)
- 0% - 39% worst (don't put your fingers on it)
Minimal system requirements:
- Pentium 133
- 16 MB RAM
- Windows 95
- Video card 256 colors
- Sound card 16 bit
- CDROM 4x
- 2 MB Video RAM
- Windows 95
- PII 233 MHz
- 64 MB RAM
- 4 MB graphic crad
- 16 bit sound card
- 24x CDROM-drive
Vincent Van Gogh explaining our mission
The porter-robot asks for help
Infos about dimensions, location site and date of the painting
The house of the paotato-eaters
The paintings are grey until we solve the puzzles of the workshops
A journey into another world starts every time we click on one of the paintings
We fit in the figures at the right place
Van Gogh's room in Arles
A terrific cloudburst
For this workshop we have to find 2 objects
The Night Café in Arles is one of Van Gogh's best known pictures
Van Gogh has done the Bedroom painting twice. In this workshop we must assign the right objects to the right painting
We can even walk across the Bridge of Langlois
The house of Dr. Gachet in Auvers