Time Gate: Knight's Chase
Infogrames are well known for their Alone in the Dark series of action/adventure games and this latest offering is very similar in looks and feel and may well appeal most to those who enjoyed the earlier games.
In this story your character is William Tibbs, a young American law student in Paris who is about to be drawn into an ancient conflict which saw the destruction of the Knights Templar. The introduction shows how you are summoned by the last of the knights to aid them in their fight against Wolfram, an evil dark lord of mysterious powers. Wolfram's power enables him to kidnap Juliette, your girlfriend, and thus gives you added incentive to seek out and destroy this wicked villain. From the present day (or, at least, 1995) you must travel back to 1329, to the cold dungeons of the Knights Templar, in order to rescue Juliette.
As a plot device in computer games rescuing 'your girlfriend' is wearing exceedingly thin and seems especially superfluous in this one where it has a feel of being very much tagged-on to give a clearer purpose to an otherwise ill-defined story. Of more interest to me was the fate of the Templars and their fabled treasure as outlined in the potted history that comes with the game. Sadly, this aspect was not developed sufficiently for it to contribute much to the plot other than background.
The game itself provides a third person perspective of your character as he explores locations, solves puzzles and fights enemies in a way that will be instantly familiar to those of you who have played any of the Alone in the Dark titles. All movement is exclusively keyboard controlled and this can be a little difficult to master at first, but you will soon get used to it. In fact, keyboard dexterity is one of the primary skills you will need to develop to get through this game, but rest assured the emphasis is on precision movement rather than simply reflexes.
There is the option to use your mouse when selecting actions such as search or push, or when choosing items from your inventory, though it is far easier to put your mouse to one side so you won't be tempted and use the arrow keys instead. Rather strangely, I thought, the default action mode is fighting which would tend to indicate the game's priorities when clearly it would have been more useful for the default to be the open/search mode. Especially as you must thoroughly search every location and if you do have to fight you generally need to access your weapons first.
For the fighting sequences you can choose from three levels of difficulty: easy, medium and hard and you can switch between these at any time during the game. Needless to say, not being a fighting fan, I chose the easy mode right from the start and was not tempted to waiver from my decision for one moment. Even so I found the going quite tough not least because of the changing perspective.
Your view of your character changes as you move around a location as if filmed from different camera angles. During the sequences when you are searching a room this gives a sense of your character as really being there and occupying a three dimensional space, but the shifting perspective whilst fighting adds a greater degree of difficulty. At least, I found this to be so, though I know many will disagree with my assessment. On the plus side for me, playing on the easy mode, I found that fighting wasn't the major component of this game and was thankful that I wasn't constantly beset by monsters on all sides.
However, this doesn't mean that you won't be constantly dying. You will. And my advice is to save fast and save often, and use a different save game slot -- of which there are just eight on a rather annoying rotating barrel. All sorts of traps are set for the unwary adventurer from the simple trap door in the floor to the more complex dodge the laser beams to the extremely frustrating follow in someone's footsteps for several screens through the inevitable shifting perspectives. In these examples, and more, one false move and you're dead (or arrested which is the same thing and results in that dreaded 'game over' screen appearing). Those of you who hate constantly dying and restoring in adventure games be warned, the designers of this game have a particularly vicious sadistic streak. I must admit that there were times when I seriously considered looking for a new girlfriend and leaving poor Juliette to her fate.
The problem solving aspect of this game isn't particularly difficult provided you have the necessary items to accomplish your task. Although I did resort to the tried and true use everything on everything on a number of occasions. To solve more complex puzzles a book outlining what you need to do is usually conveniently at hand, and William's terse comments may point you in the right direction. Often the most difficult part is manoeuvring your character into the precise location to carry out your intended action. At times you do need to be standing on the exact pixel before it will work. Also the difficulty level is increased by a number of problems where you are racing against the clock.
On a more general note the graphics are very good and combined with the sound effects provide a suitable medieval backdrop to the story. Those of you who have played the earlier Alone in the Dark games will notice an improvement in the representation of the characters who now look more decidedly human and less angular, though distinguishing features are still rather indistinct.
On the whole I was pleasantly surprised to find more emphasis placed on solving problems and less on fighting, or perhaps it was just a better balance between the two. Perversely though, and this may simply be my memory playing tricks, I think I enjoyed the Alone in the Dark series more.
You can purchase this game on-line from Playing Games Interactive
Copyright © Gordon Aplin 1996.
All rights reserved.