Adventure at the Chateau d'Or

Developer/Publisher:  Karma labs
Year Released:  2001

Review by Rosemary Young (May, 2001)
"A modern day princess finds herself caught up in a mysterious adventure when she receives a cryptic letter summoning her to the palace of her deceased uncle, the Duke.

Your task is to help the Princess unlock the secret of the Chateau d'Or and claim her inheritance."

So says the brief introduction in the Chateau d'Or manual.

The opening of the game shows the Princess reading the letter and via her thoughts you learn a little about her uncle and his mysterious collection of 'sensory focal devices' that allow him to see any place, anywhere, anytime. Then, as you gain control you meet up with her in person at the sumptuous Chateau d'Or and she tells you that your first task is to search out the departed Duke in his 'virtual' form as only he can help you unravel the mystery.

All this (a mystery, a traveller after his time, and time defying devices) was enough to pique my interest. I set out with high hopes but, ultimately, this game just wasn't long enough or varied enough to build up sufficient mystery to fulfil that promise.

Be yourself
I was surprised that the Princess was not the main character in this first person perspective adventure. I must admit I was expecting another Doralice as in Lost in Time who was also bequeathed a tantalising mystery but she had to solve it herself. Instead this game doesn't force you to play or direct an existing character as you simply play as yourself. You must do all the work and the Princess conveniently gets imprisoned so that you can rescue her. To me this was good and bad news because I wasn't particularly excited at the prospect of rescuing an ineffectual Princess (I think that's been done before) but as compensation I did appreciate being able to play as myself.

Chateau d'Or is a quite magnificent place to set out and explore. The graphics are detailed and for me they worked fine. I enjoyed exploring the wondrous gardens and the Chateau itself with its reception areas, galleries and library but I must point out that the gameworld is very static, much like a series of picture postcards. The graphics only come to life occasionally during transitions and when the princess appears in a short video sequence or whilst you are solving a puzzle.

Interface and controls
Playing this game is all fairly intuitive point and click although you do have to come to terms with a couple of peculiarities: sometimes an arrow will turn you 90 degrees and sometimes 180 degrees, and instead of using a pointer to move forward the game uses an eye icon. Moving the cursor to the lower part of the screen activates a toolbar where you can find the map and HIM or Hero's Information Manager that notes everything you learn, as well as the controls, help and quit icons. This lower bar will also display inventory items once you have found them.

Briefly the controls menu contains the usual save/load and tweaking controls for music, transitions, game speed etc. Unfortunately there are no subtitles and the game cried out for them during the question/answer puzzle and when conversing with the Princess who has a strong French accent. The Help function is related to game controls and it also displays your current objective so it won't spoil anything if you try it out. Also, when you start the game there is a choice of difficulty levels with three settings for the knowledge component and two settings for the puzzles.

Problem solving
As hinted at above there are two types of problems in this game: a knowledge test plus some manipulative puzzles. For the former you must find and use a couple of electronic devices and read one book to learn some lessons in French history and a little about the architecture. Take note of what you learn because you will be tested. At the lowest difficulty level the knowledge puzzle requires just a few correct answers and this number increases as the difficulty setting increases. Although I appreciated this puzzle and I enjoyed doing my homework and sitting the test I'm not sure that other players will feel the same. Regardless of my personal feelings though, this kind of 'challenge' doesn't fit in so well with an adventure game, especially when it is so prominent and demands so much of the total game playing time.

Apart from this learning component and the end puzzle there are only three or four other manipulative puzzles plus a few inventory items to seek out. These remaining puzzles mostly involve experimentation. You simply need to manipulate whatever objects you find and observe what happens. I played with the difficulty set to the highest and a little patience was all that was necessary. Completing these puzzles might get you some information or open a door or, maybe, reveal an essential item. And, I mustn't forget, there is one timed puzzle that played havoc on my computer. Ultimately the problem was with the failure of QuickTime to show an active area so I lost my life essence far too many times before I sorted it out. This also caused problems because it involved reading a short note which, according to the walkthrough, should have been stored in my inventory. This didn't happen so I had to restore the timed sequence several times to finish reading it.

This latter problem was very likely also due to QuickTime. I didn't try to resolve it because I didn't need to after I'd found the relevant details in the note. I should point out that the QuickTime problems described above may cause frustrations for some but others may sail through easily. Suffice it to say that if you consider this game it might be best to wait for a patch. In any case the Karma Labs web site has a support page to help you overcome some difficulties.

Adventure at the Chateau d'Or offers a quite fascinating game world to explore, plus an educational component on the history and architecture of France. Unfortunately the game itself is too short to be truly satisfying and it has some flaws that might spoil your experience. It certainly had potential but this is not fully realised as the story doesn't develop and there doesn't seem to be enough to do. rating:  

Copyright © Rosemary Young 2001. All rights reserved.

System Requirements:
Win 95/98/ME/2000, Pentium 100 or faster, 32 MB RAM, 70 MB free hard disk space, 4x CD ROM or faster.
Macintosh PowerPC CPU, Mac OS 7.5.5 or later, 12 MB free RAM, 70 MB free hard disk space, 4x CD ROM or faster.