If ever there was an adventure game that didn’t deserve a sequel, it was The Cameron Files: Secret at Loch Ness. That game pretty much embodied the word “bad,” with its confusing all-over-the-map story and its nearly puzzle-less gameplay. But it must have sold well enough, because now French developer Galilea has created a sequel, The Cameron Files: Pharaoh’s Curse. Now, Pharaoh’s Curse is a little better than Secret at Loch Ness -- if nothing else Galilea managed to stick to a single theme this time -- but it still has far too much in common with the first game, and I don’t think it has much of what adventure game players are looking for.
In Pharaoh’s Curse, the year is 1936 and an archeologist named Professor Pinkerbottom (that’s his name, honest) discovers an ancient Egyptian tomb. Well, you know what happens when you discover ancient Egyptian tombs: there’s a mummy inside, it wakes up, and then it starts planning evil things so it can take over the world. And, if that wasn’t enough, a group of Nazis becomes interested in the tomb -- not only is there a mummy inside; there’s a powerful artifact, too -- and before you can say “Indiana Jones rip-off” Alan P. Cameron, detective extraordinaire, has been summoned to Egypt to look into the matter.
And so you guide Cameron (looking like a cross between Howdy Doodie and Indiana Jones) as he explores a museum, takes a boat ride down the Nile, and finally arrives at the dig site to end the threat. The premise has potential; it’s just that Galilea doesn’t do much with it. There is very little interaction with other characters in the game, so there isn’t anybody to care about, and the story is vague at best. Maybe I missed a couple things along the way, but I have no idea what the mummy was planning (other than that it was Bad), how the mummy managed to get to Cairo or on the boat, what the artifact was supposed to do, or how the Nazis found out about it. When I got to the final showdown with the mummy, I could have cared less.
Not helping matters is that Galilea is just awful about creating puzzles. Secret at Loch Ness had almost no puzzles of any consequence, and the same is true of Pharaoh’s Curse. In fact, most of the time all you have to do is find a key to unlock a door, and while things get a little more interesting at the dig site, even there you can solve the puzzles through simple trial and error. Worse, the game is very linear. You can’t pick up objects until you need them, and objects suddenly appear on the map (not necessarily in obvious places), or the contents of containers suddenly change, once you’ve done certain things. And so the format of Pharaoh’s Curse goes like this: do something (like find a key), wander around until you trigger an event (like somebody talking to you), search the entire world again to see if anything has changed, and then rinse and repeat about two dozen times. I don’t particularly like searching locations over and over again, and so I didn’t enjoy playing Pharaoh’s Curse very much.
On the brighter side, Pharaoh’s Curse is nice enough to look at. The game is played from a first-person perspective, and you’re allowed to move the camera to any angle you want so you can better examine your surroundings. (If this sounds familiar, it’s the same sort of engine as used in most of the adventures published by DreamCatcher Interactive.) Plus, the locations are nicely detailed, and there is good variety to them. It’s just that the locations are also mostly static (it’s particularly noticeable when you’re on the boat and the water doesn’t move), and they’re rendered in a resolution close to 640x480, making them look blurry on larger monitors.
In other words, Pharaoh’s Curse doesn’t have a lot going for it. The story is weak, the puzzles are weak, and while the graphics are nice, they pale in comparison to some other adventures on the market, like Schizm and Syberia. So unless Galilea goes out and finds people better at creating puzzles and characters, hopefully the Pharaoh’s Curse will be the last mystery we’ll have to help Alan P. Cameron solve.