The Cameron Files: Pharaoh's Curse
After just a short break Alan Parker Cameron is back chasing mysteries once more. He seems to have made a habit of being late. On his first adventure he just missed Lord McFarley when he arrived in Scotland for an appointment to solve the Loch Ness Mystery. On this occasion he gets to Egypt too late to meet up with Moira McFarley because the lady's already vanished. The two locations couldn't be more different: geographically, culturally and climatically; but the games are essentially very similar. If you took Cameron's first trip then this one will be quite easy going.
It's a gentle journey like the first, not too easy, not too hard, and not too long. You once more play as Cameron and the game uses the same mouse-driven engine, with a first person perspective view so that your character only appears on screen in cut scenes. In fact it is primarily during the cut scenes that anyone appears on screen, as this is where all person to person interactions occur, including conversation. You have no input into conversation as it is all pre-packaged, all you do is select a character and the game takes care of the talking. There are no subtitles.
The interface is very simple. Easily identifiable cursors take care of navigation and indicate when you can talk to someone, take or examine something, etc. As with the last Cameron your view circles 360 degrees as you move the mouse. You can move it at your own pace and turn as slowly as you like. A right mouse click opens your inventory where everything is neatly tucked away and items are enlarged in small window as you pass the cursor over them. Inventory items aren't labelled, and although magnification helps, I had at least one mysterious item that I didn't identify until I found a use for it. Below the inventory sits Cameron's diary and wallet. The diary simply allows you to replay cut-scenes but I didn't find this to be necessary, and the wallet, of course, holds all the documents that Cameron picks up so it's crucial you take a peek at this occasionally.
The manual explains that Cameron is Egypt-bound at the request of Moira McFarley who has reported strange happenings at an archaeological dig. On your arrival she's nowhere to be seen so you had better start looking for her. You'll soon learn that there are other 'parties' interested in the dig including a rival archaeological team, a traveller with a familiar whip and hat (he was elusive, I kept knocking on his door but he wasn't in) as well as a hungry-looking fiend with fiery eyes and a very persuasive manner.
The game is roughly divided into four sections with the hotel and museum your jumping off point. The next part takes place on a paddle steamer on the Nile, followed by the dig site and tomb, and so you make your way through the game. All the locations are well put together and the graphics are clear, the cut scenes are impressive, and movement is silky-smooth. The music helps a lot as well, it's not continuous, but in some locations it's haunting; and I have no complaints about the voice acting. But if only the game allowed for more interaction and more feedback from Cameron. I would have liked to have known more of what he was thinking about the situation, and about the damsel in distress; and the opportunity for more interaction in the museum would have made the exhibition halls appear more tangible. For instance, the chance to read the plaques about the various exhibits would have worked wonders and provided more detail.
But, of course, there's more to do than simply explore and admire the scenery in Pharaoh's Curse. Each section has a range of problems to overcome. There are quite a few things to find, some of which (letters and diaries, etc) simply provide information to advance the story whilst others have useful clues. Still more, of course, are items you just collect up and wait for the opportunity to use to solve a problem in the game world. There are also some aural signals in this game to listen for, and at least three timed puzzles. If you don't like timed puzzles rest assured they are short and not too difficult. After a couple of 'Game Over screens' you'll have worked out exactly what to do. But will you be impressed? Not if you dislike repeating actions over and over as much as I do.
Generally the puzzles in this game are of easy to medium difficulty as it's fairly clear what you have to do and a little searching around will usually see you through. The division of the game into sections parcels up the problems, so you don't have to think too far out of that particular 'box'. There are some entertaining challenges such as breaking a code, finding coloured gems and keys and other devices to open cases and doors of all sizes, and there are a lot of locations to search carefully. If you do happen to get stuck it will be because you've missed picking up something or, more likely, you haven't triggered a cut scene that will zap the story on and give you more to do. Only one puzzle (recognising Egyptian Deities at the very end of the game) I thought was a bit of a problem. It wasn't difficult, you can work it out by trial and error in no time at all, but adventure games shouldn't be about trial and error. There should have been a clue for this particular puzzle. I searched carefully and didn't find it. Please someone correct me if I'm wrong.
The Cameron Files: Pharaoh's Curse comprises two CDs and there are 16 save game slots, ample for this game. As I said earlier, it's a gentle and enjoyable adventure that won't have you climbing the wall too often in search of answers. The story literally trips along as you solve the puzzles, and there are some fun things to do and a few frights to be had before you reach the end. As with the first Cameron mystery, this one is a good game for new players or if you want a relaxing ride. It may not, however, suit experienced adventurers who a looking for a 'meaner' challenge. Although I'm happy to have games that are relatively easy to encourage new players, I thought that maybe Cameron was ready for something more. I think a little more complexity and length wouldn't have gone astray. There was room to develop the plot and take the story further ... I wanted to know more about the Countess and her powers of ESP, and where exactly she fitted into the picture.
Check out our interview with the Cameron team at Galilea here.
Copyright © Rosemary Young 2002.
All rights reserved.
Win 98/2000/ME/XP, PII 233 MHz (PIII 500 recommended), 64 MB RAM, DirectX 8 Compatible Sound and Video Cards (16 MB DirectX compatible 3D accelerated Video Card recommended), 16xCD ROM Drive, Mouse.