The Cassandra Galleries
Published in 1996 this game invites you to explore the Cassandra Galleries, the home of one William Cassandra (and his daughter, Maya) who is yet another computer game character with a passion for puzzles. William Cassandra walks along side by side with Stauf of the 7th Guest/11th Hour fame as he too has delighted in sprinkling puzzles about in the rooms of his palatial home-cum-gallery. However, Cassandra isn't nearly so mean and devious as Stauf. Along with his puzzles he's left plenty of clues and, even without these clues, his teasers aren't nearly so treacherous.
The Cassandra Galleries is essentially a puzzle game so the story sits in the background and only impinges occasionally when you are rewarded with shortish video clips after completing sections of the game. In these sequences you'll meet friends and associates of William Cassandra who tell their side of the story.
As the game opens both William and Maya Cassandra are missing and you, of course, are looking into the matter. Although your initial host tells you that you can question other guests this isn't the case. All you can do is listen during the video sequences, which are quite blurry by today's standards, and although they hint at an underlying mystery, there isn't really enough of them to draw out the story. This probably contributes to the fact that the eventual resolution isn't very satisfying.
But this game isn't really about story; it's about puzzles and they are varied and plentiful, around 50 at a rough count. They include question and answer puzzles, or quizzes really, where your general knowledge will come in handy. Others involve fitting together shapes, allocating colours, recognising number sequences, sounds, music and patterns, and playing simple games. There are two or three that kept me guessing for a while but most range from being simple to medium difficulty. For many of them trial and error will get you through easily, and if all else fails, somewhere in the museum or the galleries there'll be either a hint or an outright answer.
In retrospect the puzzles are both a great strength and a weakness of The Cassandra Galleries. The way in which the game is constructed, inviting you to seek out answers works particularly well, especially with the knowledge based puzzles, but as you can generally just try again if you get an answer wrong, it doesn't take long to succeed by a simple process of elimination. Being so forgiving negates some of the fun of having to carry out your own search and rescue effort to complete these challenges. However, the inclusion of puzzle solutions within the game is a very useful and timesaving idea and adds an extra dimension to the game in the form of 'find the solution'. Sometimes what you find is not a solution at all but only an example to help you on your way.
Despite not being a huge challenge this game feels fresh and friendly and it's quite diverting. Even if the puzzles are fairly easy they are fun to fiddle around with and they make the journey gentle rather than furious and frustrating. Exploring the gallery and admiring all the works of art is entertaining and hunting down clues/answers adds to the experience.
The graphics aren't, of course, gee-whiz 3D with 360 degree panning, quite the opposite. But The Cassandra Galleries are a pleasant place to be and they change in appearance and atmosphere as you move through different time periods and different architectural styles during the course of the game. The music throughout is very good, quite relaxing, although I wouldn't give the designers/writers top marks for musical appreciation. I was surprised that they confused Beethoven's 5th and 9th Symphonies, it did make me wonder somewhat about the educational merit of the game. I didn't have time to check all the facts.
The Cassandra Galleries isn't a classic puzzle game but it's very easy to trip along through if you just want a mild challenge with an occasional pause in play when you can't find an answer fairly quickly. It is a simple point and click game and would be a possible choice for new players but I must stress though; deaf players should give it a very wide berth. There are no subtitles for the video sequences or for the question and answer puzzles, not forgetting the challenges where you have to identify sounds or music. The game consists of two CDs but you always have to start the game with disk 1, a constant annoyance for any game player.
Copyright © Rosemary Young 2002.
All rights reserved.
Win95 - Pentium P60, 8 MB of RAM, 2 x CD-ROM drive, 8-bit audio capabilities, 640x480, 256-color graphics display.
Win 3.1x - 486-66, 8 MB of RAM, 2 x CD-ROM drive, 8-bit audio capabilities, 640x480, 256-color graphics display.
Macintosh - 68040 or PowerPC, System 7.1, 8 MB of RAM, 2 x CD-ROM drive, standard Macintosh© audio, 640x480, 256-color graphics display.