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Necronomicon
The Dawning of Darkness

by Wanadoo (Developer/Publisher)
after H. P. Lovecraft

A review by slydos,  02. May 2001

 

After "Louvre" or "The Final Curse", how the game was called in Germany, and the two parts of Dracula - "Resurrection" and "The Last Sanctuary" by Wanadoo, the successor of Index+, I was very curious about the new mystery adventure with the title "Necronomicon". Necronomicon was designed after the horror stories of the american author Howard Philips Lovecraft. Well, I never read Lovecraft but at least I played some adventures created after Lovecraft novels: "Shadow of the Comet", "Prisoner of Ice" and "The Scroll" and I know, that Lovecraft used recurring terms like the Necronomicon of Abdul El Razad or the god Cthulhu in his stories. He wrote for the magazine "Weird Tales" and some other authors used elements from his stories and tried to develop them further. Lovecraft too seemed to take over this stories and updated them.
On principle his stories are dealing with the following: In the past our planet earth was settled by "The Ancients", an alien race, who practised black magic and now exist on unrecognized by humans waiting to take over the rule again. Lovecraft, who only became 47 years old, was born in 1890 in Providence, near Boston.
Here a part of the story of our game "Necronomicon" takes place in the year 1927. It all starts with a strange visit of Edgar Wycherley at his friend, the student William Stanton – our hero. Edgar hands over a small pyramid with strange characters on it and asks William, not to hand over this object to anyone else including himself. After that Edgar's physician, Dr. Egleton appears, to tell William about Edgar's psychic changes and asks him to look after his friend. William Stanton sets out to find out about Edgar's changes and gets involved deeper and deeper into occult happenings, which point to an unearthly power from the past moving into the present trying to gain control over his friend and perhaps the whole mankind. William searches for information in the nearby fishing village Pawtuxet and must spend all his skills and abilities, to interpret encoded hints and combine this information to a whole. Necronomicon consists of two CDROMs that come with the manual in a normal Eurobox. The subtitle on this box "after a novel by H. P. Lovecraft" suggests that Lovecraft wrote a book with this title, but according to my knowledge this is not right however. I think the book of the dead, "Necronomicon", was not a title of a novel but contents and topic in his short stories.

The game is installed very easy and takes approximately only 10 MB on the fixed disk. Like its predecessors it is played almost exclusively from CD. Even if you are already playing from the 2nd CD, you have to insert CD1 first with each start.

Caution: if someone should click a bit too fast on the menu options created under Windows and selects the deinstallation by mistake, then there is no jumping back and not even a question like "Are you really sure?" appears - the game with all savegames is deleted within seconds without preliminary warning. This happened to me when I arrived at the "Bungalow" and so I had to start over again. However the playing time up to the point you left the game could be quite reduced, because you could abort the video sequences with the spacebar (all conversations are such sequences). In other ways the game is also easy to navigate, like its predecessors: with moving your mouse you also move William's view flowingly in all directions - it's a game in first person perspective - what means from the perspective of the main character, whom you can only watch during the intermediate video clips. Actions will be carried out by clicking the left mouse button. Depending on how the cursor icon changes, you can change your walking direction, talk with people, combine objects or take objects a.s.o.. A click on the right mouse button will open the inventory screen, which is a circular area like in the two Dracula games before. If you drive your mouse over an icon it will be shown magnified in the centre of the inventory circle. But differently to Dracula 1 and 2 there are 3 more inventory departments: A general map, with which one can transport oneself fast from place to place, a bookshelf where you can store important manuscripts, letter or books for renewed reading and (only at a later point in the game) a suit-case with ingredients. You can find locations or hotspots to interact with by moving your mouse over them. If you have to combine an object from inventory with an object on the screen, a coloured icon frame shows if that is possible or not. The escape-key calls the main menu, where you can save (or load) up to 8 savegames or can exit the game. These informations are also described within the short manual and you don’t have to know more about that to start with the game.

At the beginning you keep gathering lots of information, walking around, examining everything and so get an impression of the surroundings and the people you have to deal with. The difficulty level at the beginning you confidently can call foolproof, you only have to question people in the right order.

So you can become familiar with the controls, the environment and using the map. But near the end of the first CD the difficulty level of the puzzles rises suddenly to very difficult. You can’t renounce to make notes and sketches to go on with the following combination puzzles. Besides this there are some acustic hints. You really have to prick up your ears otherwise you will miss important statements. Towards the end of the game you have to master some mazes to go on, one of them is timed within 2 minutes. The puzzle at the end of the last maze also is timed and in addition you can’t save the game at this point. This means, that when you havn’t saved the game at the right point you have to go through the maze again and again if you want to watch the final video sequence. I think the number of mazes at the end is showing that the developers only want to legthen the game (but not the fun!). I don’t mind one labyrinth, but this kind of stringed mazes drives the gamer into tediousness or frustration and shows that the developers worked under time pressure or a massive lack of ideas. 

If you take each maze separately, they are not so hard to finish (for example the way through the timed maze is controlled by the gamers own first inputs) but the mazes are strongly ruining the gaming fun. Not much fun either is trying to solve illogical puzzles: In the subterranean laboratory I missed hints, out of which ingredients a certain fluid should be created (you have to try them all). Also not very logical was to find the day of the week which opens the door down there. Of course you could try each day of the week – there are only seven, and this doesn’t even takes much time, but I was missing the hidden hint and logical explanation here. In Dracula 1 and 2 you find logical and imaginative puzzles throughout the games, for example by combining objects within inventory. In Necronomicon you primarily have to find your next place of action and execute an action or find/use an object there.

If you are able to interpret the written material or statements of persons, you can indeed shorten the playing time, besides you will take in a lot of useless information as you will recognize at the end. 

Dialogues with other game characters are lead automatically within videoclips. During some scenes you really have to prick up your ears to understand the low and somewhat indistinct voice acting (in the german version). It can happen that you miss some important facts by this. The selfcomplacent and a bit english sounding synchronization of Dr. Egleton fits the character on the one hand but on the other hand it adds suspense to the game like a sleeping pill. Against that synchronization and acting of main character William Stanton and his friend Edgar have lively effects and are building up suspense. Strange and a bit disturbing with all voice actors I noticed, that they pronounced the name of the city “Providence” in a nasal french way (“Prowidons”), though it’s an american town.

Unfortunately I also noticed a logical error within the dialogue text: After Stanton’s first meeting with Edgar in Edgar’s house, he tells the doctor, that Edgar didn’t recognize him and called him Mister. But as a matter of fact that actually happens in the second meeting between the two! Nothing what really matters but also nothing I would give a plus point. 

In some of the video sequences at the beginning of the game my characters were lacking their teeth. Although the developers tried to reach lip synchronicity, this was a bit irritating. In all the videosequences make the game a more vivid spectacle and I wished there were more. The 3D-graphics were brilliant (like in the predecessors) and it was really fun to move and examine everything within the splendid designed locations. Imaginative and at the same time part of a puzzle was the kind of movement in the newspaper archive.

The fishing village Pawtuxet shows an abandoned, rejecting and dark atmosphere supported by excellent soundeffects. It reminded me of the village Illsmouth from "Shadow of the Comet". In contrast with Pawtuxet Illsmouth was designed in bright, shining colours and I’m still reflecting, which of the two presentations may rather do justice to H. P. Lovecraft, who wanted to create the horror hiding behind the normal facades.

There are no music themes but only pure soundeffects, very much matching, suspenseful and never disturbing. The subtitle “Dawning of Darkness” is really taken by its word. During parts of the game you not only keep bringing light into puzzles but also in fact on the screen. To enter nearly black rooms costs an effort and if you get attacked by monsters from the deep, your breath comes to an standstill. Nevertheless here I have to say the same as with the mazes: too much can be boring or frustrating. Wouldn’t someone in a dark laboratory first switch on the light to look around instead of tapping around especially when you own a lighter? Well – for vindication I have to say that making light is part of some puzzles, William Stanton has to solve.

I have to mention that there are some possibilities of a game-over screen within Necronomicon. Therefore you should save your game from time to time, not to replay long sequences. But there are no action sequences as in Dracula 2. After “Dracula – The Last Sanctuary” I hoped for a gradation in Necronomicon. A little allusion on Dracula with the monk Barrabas and Transylvania could be found in a letter in Necronomicon. Unfortunately Necronomicon doesn’t reach Dracula if you look at story and suspense and after the first-rate end sequence of Dracula I expected something like that here too. There are some parts of the game building up suspense but it couldn’t be hold and drifted away. At some places the gamer is really surprised and sometimes frightened, but its too little to keep it the whole story. Through the sudden changing difficulty level of the puzzles the game looses homogenity and at at last you are under the impression that the developers were finally lacking time and strength to design a real climax. I’m sorry about that! There could have been made much more out of it!  

The quoted gaming length of 30 hours seems to be right more or less. I needed around 26 hours to complete the game, including the replaying time after deleting the game by mistake. Less experienced gamers may need 35 hours (without walkthrough) I estimate. A give a total rating of 68% for Necronomicon (satisfactory), cuts because of lacking suspense and the filler-mazes. Necronomicon is not an outstanding adventure game but because of easy handling, beautiful graphics and sometimes challenging puzzles I wouldn’t advice someone against it – but if you expect something similar or better than Dracula you will be disappointed.

In autumn we can await “Loch Ness”, Wanadoo’s next mystery game. It will be interesting how this game will fit into the series of Wanadoo-mystery-adventures.

Ages 12 and up

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 166 Mhz (recommended Pentium 200 Mhz)
  • 16 MB RAM (32 MB RAM with Windows 98)
  • Graphic card HighColor
  • 16-bit soundcard
  • 4x CD-ROM-drive (8x recommended)
  • Windows 95 or 98

Played on:

  • Windows 95
  • Pentium II 233 Mhz
  • 64 MB RAM

Homepage
Boxshots

Hier wird gespeichert
Here you can save your game

Was ist mit Edgar los?
What is happening to Edgar?

Auf der Suche nach dem "Tor"
Searching for the "Gate"

Der Eingang zur Unterwelt?
Entrance to the underworld?

Pawtuxet
Pawtuxet

Was bedeuten diese Knöpfe?
What do these buttons mean?

More screenshots

Copyright © slydos for Adventure-Archiv, 08. May 2001

 

 

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