As soon as I opened the box for this game and noted that it all came on a single CD somehow I knew it was a good omen. It had to be. It signalled that I wasn't going to be sitting around just watching endless video clips, instead I would most likely be doing lots of things for myself and actually 'playing' the game. And that is precisely how it turned out. Although there are a couple of video sequences, for me at least, Shivers was truly a very pleasant surprise.
This game is aimed at players aged 13 years and up and in it you are cast as a teenager fulfilling a dare to spend a night in an abandoned museum. Don't be put off by this scenario though if you happen to be past your teens. The game is fun, and is sure to satisfy people of all ages, and especially those who are partial to a good deal of exploring, a few friendly frights and a lot of puzzle solving. The museum was the location of the disappearance of two teenagers 15 years before you set off on your adventure, and its history is suitably intriguing, it's a fitting place for an eventful night -- or I should say an eventful few days -- or longer -- depending on your expertise with puzzles and computer games.
In the opening sequence the gates clang shut and you are locked inside the museum grounds. Your first objective is to find a way into the building itself and in this respect it is much like Viacom's Are you Afraid of the Dark where you also play a teenage protagonist and explore a haunted building. But it's a more complex game. It is better described as a cross between the more popular titles The 7th Guest/11th Hour and Myst as it has elements that will remind you of both. Puzzles and exploration similar to the former, and frame by frame movement as in Myst, with the same excellent graphics and mood inducing soundtrack.
Shivers is a step down a new path for Sierra, and I wish them all the very best with this one, because I'd be happy to play more. It is a first person perspective adventure (your character doesn't appear on screen so you can be male or female), and although it is stamped as scary, in this respect it's nothing like Phantasmagoria or even The 11th Hour. Though the museum is 'creepy' and you will explore theme based exhibitions such as one that highlights burial rites and another that concentrates on instruments of death (with its guillotine and gallows that you get to experiment with) it is much like a stroll around Madam Tussaud's. There are no blood curdling video sequences and the Museum's resident ghouls -- in this instance they are called Ixupi -- are certainly not the stuff of nightmares.
In the manual that comes with the game you can read the Prologue, a short introductory story that sets the scene for your coming adventure. During the course of the game you will find various diaries and letters that fill in the history of the museum and you will learn how its owner and benefactor, Professor Windlenot, acquired a set of strange pottery jars that contained the dreaded Ixupi, and how the inevitable happened and the Ixupi escaped their imprisonment.
So if you want to survive the night and complete the game you must explore the museum and recapture the evil Ixupi. It is a fascinating place to explore and you will see and read about lots of weird and wonderful things such as the Colossus of Rhodes and other ancient monuments, extinct dinosaurs, strange myths and legends and theories of extraterrestrial visits to our planet. Von Daniken would be quite at home in this museum and David Attenborough might also find it entertaining. I'm sure I noted his 'presence' in one of the video clips!
As you progress through the game and discover different exhibits and read the various plaques you will be awarded points and increase your score. But it's not that easy. The eccentric Professor Windlenot made certain of that when he built the museum. There are secret passages to find, puzzles to complete to open doors and a kind of paper chase of riddles and clues to lead you to your final discovery.
All the while you must watch out for the Ixupi who will deprive you of your life essence if you are not quick enough. Though, this is not to say that it is a game based on reflexes, far from it. A simple mouse click will get you out of danger if you run into it. To catch the Ixupi you must first uncover the hiding places of their respective pots and matching lids. They are all deviously hidden. And when you make the capture you must be sure to use the correct container with the correct Ixupi. You will find clues to put you on the right path here as you play the game.
You can only carry one item at a time so it is necessary to take note of the locations of the various pots and lids you come across. The correct pot and lid will combine to become one item. Their shapes will alert you as to which matches which, so when you think you have discovered a matching pair just speed around to the location where the partner is hidden, pick it up and the two will lock together. You can then continue on and capture the relevant Ixupi (if you have discovered where it is), or if you prefer, you can leave the capturing for later and do some more exploring.
So remember to note well where you find various objects so that you can locate them again. And be warned, if you make a mistake and try to capture an Ixupi with the wrong pot, then you are in trouble. Not only will you lose life essence but the pot and lid will be whisked away and you'll have to make another search to find them.
There are various ways of scoring points in this game, and you can lose them too if you make a mistake. Just discovering locations and exhibits, as mentioned above, will add to your score and so will finding the pots and lids and capturing the Ixupi, not to mention solving the puzzles. They are of various types and are quite good fun. Some are logic puzzles similar to those that you face in The 7th Guest/11th Hour, although not quite so fiendish. Others are relatively simple and many are not logic puzzles at all -- you will find the clues to solving them in your travels, so you need to be alert and remember what you have discovered. And when in doubt, you can refer to the manual which indicates what type of problem you are puzzling over. Remember also to check out your 'Flashback' list which records all the important clue items you have found. Don't be like me and go haring back to the location where you found the item because that's a complete waste of time.
All in all the logic puzzles in this game are not too difficult. You don't really need to be Hypatia or Pythagoras to work them out -- you just need a bit of patience. Only a couple stumped me for any length of time and one, the Chinese Checker puzzle where you must end with one piece in the centre of the board, was particularly frustrating because I remembered doing it easily as a child but I'd forgotten how. Other puzzles work on a process of elimination strategy and a couple are jigsaw-like, and there is also a maze in this game which I didn't find to be too troublesome. But then I'm a connoisseur of mazes so it might keep you entertained for a lot longer than it did me.
About the only complaint I have is a minor one. The scoring system is relatively meaningless, and it would have added to the game to be able to watch your score and gauge how successful you'd been. But you can't because, although you gain points for solving puzzles, finding pots, etc., and forfeit points for making a mistake; some of the door puzzles have to be reworked every time you pass through a particular door and every time your score will increase. Hence, a high score might mean you have been clever and solved lots of puzzles, etc., or it might mean that you've lost track of everything and been wandering around in circles with no end in sight.
Fun. Fun. Fun. I'm waiting for the next in the series. The music is fun, the graphics are great and there are lots of interesting places to explore, puzzles to solve, things to find and tit-bits to read. Also, I mustn't forget to mention that all the dialogue is sub-titled so if you have any hearing difficulties you can buy this title without hesitation. There are ample save game slots and the interface is simplicity itself with a single cursor which works well with this type of game where there are not a lot of inventory items and you are not manipulating objects in the game world.
Copyright © Rosemary Young 1996.
All rights reserved.
486/33 (Pentium recommended), 2xCD-ROM, 8MB RAM (12MB recommended), Win 3.1 or Win 95, Sound Card with DAC (16 bit recommended), SVGA