Shivers Two: Harvest of Souls
It was just over a year ago that I played and reviewed the first Shivers title from Sierra. At the time this mild horror game was an unknown quantity and, despite it being promoted as primarily for younger players, as a mature player I thoroughly enjoyed it. Right from the start I had a feeling that it was going to be a favourite of players of all ages (well at least from teens onwards) and I suspect that I wasn't too far wrong.
Shivers Two: Harvest of Souls moves on in the same vein as the first title, and once again it succeeds in capturing that elusive 'something' with its special recipe of adventuring and abstract or manipulative puzzles.
The context of the story involves the trials and tribulations of a modern pop band, so it has youthful protagonists and a fair sprinkling of pop/rock music, suggesting that it is again targeted at younger players. So I have to repeat comments made in my review of the first game. If you are a mature player don't let this bother you. Maybe the music CD that comes with the package won't match your music collection, but the game itself will happily blend in with your computer games. Although, I can't honestly say that I enjoyed it more than the original Shivers, I can say that it is equally as good. Also, it has some design improvements such as a map for easy travelling and a better scoring system so that your score doesn't increase if you happen to repeat a puzzle. This time around you can carry up to twelve items and you don't have to keep re-working the same door puzzle if you happen to pass by the same way again, which is a great relief.
As with the manual for the original, this game's manual has a listing of the puzzles you will come across in the course of play. So don't forget to read it. Along with lots of crucial information on optimising your system by changing screen size to suit, and using the interface, there is also an option which automatically solves a puzzle for you if you come across one that resists all your best efforts. I tested this option and my score dropped so drastically that within two seconds I was back in my trusty saved game with renewed determination to complete every puzzle. A prologue to the game is included to start you off on track.
A young couple is travelling in the wilds of Colorado heading for the lonely town of Cyclone in Devil's Mouth Canyon, and a rendezvous with their friends in the Trip Cyclone Band. Devil's Mouth Canyon is a fascinating and frightening destination, it was once the home of a community of Anastaszi who mysteriously disappeared. Stories abound about eerie cave glyphs and it is reputed to be evil. Strangely, no one can offer help in locating the elusive Cyclone until finally the travellers are pointed in the right direction.
In this first person perspective adventure you direct the actions of our intrepid couple when they arrive at the Cyclone Motel. Very soon you will learn that Cyclone is not just a sleepy little town. You briefly encounter Charles Spencer, the hotelier, but you will meet no more of the citizens of Cyclone. The past is being repeated, everyone is once again disappearing, your friends are nowhere to be found. Seemingly, Charles is the last and he is none too happy to see you and warns you not to be around in the morning. He's in luck, he's not going to see you, but it is Charles who disappears, not you ... you are left utterly to your own devices.
Well, that's not strictly true, there are loads of clues hidden about the place for you to sniff out and follow. Your friends in the band knew that something was amiss and they have left clues in their rock videos. (Meaning in a rock video! Did I hear anyone exclaim?) Then there are scraps of paper with encrypted messages and odd drawings that won't make any sense till you work out precisely which object they relate to, as well as diaries, messages on telephone answering machines and a host of other bits and pieces. So you need to be diligent in your searching. Each significant scrap of information you learn is recorded in your flashback file, so you don't have to make laborious notes or copy down that line of squiggles.
Your objective is to find out what's been happening in Cyclone and to rescue your friends. To do this you must pass the test and become a Warrior which entails locating twelve prayer sticks or Bahos and placing them in their relevant receptacle in the Kiva (altar). Apart from the first, each Bahos is locked behind a puzzle that is in turn hidden somewhere in the town of Cyclone. Traditional adventuring, for example, finding keys and following various clues is generally the way to move around in the town, whilst the Bahos puzzles are mainly of the abstract variety. Some require you to move counters or other objects around on a board, to negotiate a shifting maze, manipulate numbered balls into numerical order, etc. If you have played the first Shivers, then you will know what's in store. Although I found this game to be overall more complex than the first, oddly, I didn't have so many trials with these manipulative puzzles.
Delivering the Bahos to the altar is also somewhat of a puzzle as in this game you have a bar of life essence that diminishes whilst you are holding one. So quick action is essential to be rid of them. The hitch is you must speed to the cave and match each Bahos with its cave glyph, then work out another puzzle before you approach the Kiva. During your search of the cave your life essence is also sapped further by the glyphs that decorate the walls.
Harvest of Souls is a bundle of fun, it's especially suitable for players who love puzzling. I was waiting for it impatiently and the wait was well worth it. It even provides options for you to connect to the Internet and play along with your friends, as well as to redesign some of the puzzles. The game area is almost full screen and it has smooth scrolling and text throughout. There is also good news for those of us who really enjoy 'suffering' and like things to be as difficult as possible. You can switch off the 'smart cursor' so that significant objects in the game world are not conveniently flagged. Full marks to the designers for including this feature, although the interface lacks action icons to enable you to either 'look' at things or manipulate them.
Really, it's great. It has my approval. And I haven't made one serious complaint ... I'll have to remedy that forthwith. Sadly, I do have to say that there is something to report in this respect, a triple whammy that appears late in the game. Not only is there a timed puzzle, but it appears immediately after a disk swap and a cut sequence that can't be skipped ... and there is no option for saving. Miss out on this puzzle and you won't get the happy ending. To try again means two disk changes and watching the cut scene once more, so if it takes a few tries it will test your patience.
I didn't find that this final 'experience' spiced up the gameplay in any way, as it was undoubtedly intended to do, but I'll leave it up to you to decide. And it certainly didn't spoil the whole game for me. I still thoroughly enjoyed it.
Copyright © Rosemary Young 1997.
All rights reserved.
486 DX/2 66 or better, Windows 3.1/WIN 95, 12 MB RAM, Double Speed CD-ROM drive, SVGA, Hard Drive, Mouse, Keyboard, WIN compatible sound card with DAC