Developer:  Wanadoo Edition
Publisher:  Multimedia Productions/Cybele
Year Released:  2001

Review by Steve Ramsey (June, 2002)

Another edutainment title involving the stable responsible for Vikings and Crusader (Index+ joined Wanadoo and formed Wanadoo Edition), Genesys takes you on a journey through human history. Guided by renowned French actress Jeanne Moreau, you start with the big bang and end at the computer age.

If you have played either of the above games you will be at home here. Genesys plays almost identically to Crusader, and like Crusader, you have to make a fair bit of use of the encyclopaedic database to complete the game as certain items are only found within the encyclopaedia.

More than either of those two games though, Genesys feels like a learning tool. The commentary by Jeanne Moreau is direct to camera, and whilst images are played behind her, it gives it the feel of a lecture, as opposed to playing a story. I confess I felt I was participating in an interactive history lesson, rather than playing a game.

A puzzle by any other name
Through the game screens, and through the database, you have to solve 16 "enigmas" that focus on a specific aspect of the development of the human race. Amongst other things, you will make fire, print a document, develop trade routes and build steam engines and railways. You will find some of the things you need in the various scenes accompanying each enigma, perhaps in the form of information garnered from the various persons in the scenes, or in the form of an item or piece of equipment. The rest you will find in the database, along with the remaining information needed to successfully solve the enigma.

To complete the enigma, just drag the items into the game window. If you are utilising them correctly or in the right order (eg it is no good trying to place a train if you haven't laid tracks, and for that you will need to build a steam engine), they will be "used" accordingly. A bar at the top of the screen will indicate your progress. Each enigma can consist of up to 20 separate steps.

The game window is as it is in Crusader, a blend of 3D figures on 2D backgrounds, with little animations and some use of full motion video. The organisation of the game play screen is the same; when you are on a good thing, why fiddle with it? Other games could learn a lot from this interface, including knowing when to leave things alone.

There were no subtitles, either for the Jeanne Moreau commentary, or for the enigmas. Unlike the other games, you do not get a caption giving you a sense of what the characters are saying. Each enigma though has a written note telling you what to do, and I think in all but one I got all the information necessary from the database and, even in the one where some character information was necessary, trial and error would have solved the enigma. So it would be possible to play if you rely on subtitles, but you would miss all the commentary.

One thing at a time
As time is linear (at least I think so), so is the game. You progress systematically through the enigmas, the first being 2 million years ago in East Africa, the last in 1981 in a Seattle office building. You must solve one before getting access to another. Unlike the other games mentioned, in Genesys you can save in the middle of an enigma; that is, partially completed puzzles can be saved and picked up where you left off.

The game is on two CDs and as it is linear you will only have to swap discs once. You can also load saved games with either disc in the machine (another lesson for other games), so you really will only have to put each disc in once. It all ran smoothly, but the sound and vision was slightly out of synch, which meant Ms Moreau was mouthing words she wasn't "saying".

The puzzles are all fairly easy, and if you play it as a game, with the intent to simply finish, it probably wouldn't take much more than 2 hours. You could get through it even quicker if you pressed the space bar to skip the commentary.

If you did, you would be missing much of the point of this presentation. I do think that Genesys is really best seen as a learning tool, and it's probably a pretty good one. Obviously you can't cram every significant moment or development in 2 million years of history onto 2 CDs (well you can but it's called Encyclopedia Britannica), so there is obviously some judicious editing. However, what it does present is done clearly and concisely, and the detail is more than sufficient for getting a broad grasp of the events covered. It sure would have made learning about some of this stuff at school a lot more fun. rating:  

Copyright © Steve Ramsey 2002. All rights reserved.

System Requirements:
Windows 95 or higher, Pentium 166, 32 MB RAM (64MB recommended), 4x CD ROM, 375MB Disc space.
Macintosh Power PC or G3 System 7 or higher, 16 MB RAM, Thousands of colors, 4x CD ROM.