From the makers of The 7th Guest and The 11th Hour, Clandestiny (they could have called it 'The 13th Earl') is a game that is similar in many respects to its predecessors in that you explore a rambling old building and solve logic puzzles to gain access to new locations. Yet it is also different as the flowing movement and live actors have been replaced by a step mode and cartoon-style characters. The use of these cartoon characters have considerably lightened the mood of this game.
Andrew Macphiles, "last living scion of clan Macphiles", is travelling in Scotland with his girlfriend, Paula, to claim his inheritance as the 13th Earl and heir to Castle Macphiles. But Andrew has also inherited another 'gift' from his less-than-illustrious ancestors -- an instinct for self preservation commonly, though somewhat cruelly, known as cowardice. Still, he does have Paula to lend him support and he will need all the help he can get if he is to overcome the curse of "the beast within". His arrival at Castle Macphiles is hardly an auspicious beginning, but before he can run away Andrew is thrust, reluctantly, into his ancestral home.
At this stage you are given the option of setting the difficulty level of the logic puzzles you are about to face. There are three settings: Brave, Nervous or Cowardly which, need I say it, correspond with difficult, medium or easy. Of course, you are all going to choose 'Brave', aren't you? The other two settings considerably remove the challenge from the puzzles with the easy level simplified to the point of being pointless. No matter which mode you choose you will still need to solve the various door riddles before you can enter certain rooms. I must admit I enjoyed these riddles though the challenge was patchy, ranging from very easy through to quite difficult. For those of you who have played The 11th Hour these seem to have replaced the cryptic puzzles featured in that game.
As for the logic puzzles themselves, these will be instantly familiar to players of Trilobyte's previous titles as variations on a theme: chess moves, sliding tiles, joining letters, moving books, board games, etc. Once again the actual difficulty level varies, but I did think these puzzles were a little easier than those in the earlier games, or perhaps I have become too familiar with them. Or, it may simply be that the Trilobyte team is attempting to gain a broader, if not younger, market for their games. The lighter style (though spooky, there is no realistic horror or gruesome scenes here) and the option of a very easy mode would seem to suggest this.
This is not to say that you won't get stuck playing in 'Brave' mode. I certainly did and even though I could see the solution to some of the puzzles, making the right moves to get there was not always easy. If all else fails you can always let the game 'solve' the puzzle for you -- after getting the hints from your on-line guidebook, of course. Though, I must admit, understanding a hint can sometimes be a challenge in itself.
Solving a puzzle either lets you have access to another room or initiates a cut sequence where you can follow the fortunes of Andrew and Paula as they bump into the assorted denizens who have not quite departed from their spooky hauntings. These sequences may be just a bit of fun, or they may move the story along and they may even offer a clue. You can pick up hints to some puzzles from the occasional conversations, but the accents make it difficult to follow what is being said. (At least, a didna' ken 'em the whole while.) You will need to be attentive here as there is no on-screen text to assist you. The last puzzle, which features talking 'heads', is particularly frustrating in this respect.
Whilst the cut sequences are cartoon-like the castle itself is drawn in that detailed, realistic style we have come to expect from Trilobyte, and most of the game is played in a first person perspective that allows you to leisurely explore your surroundings. As you follow your beckoning skeletal-hand cursor up stairs and along corridors it wags when you can't proceed any further. It will change to an eyeball when you can get a close up of a picture or other item, or a set of chattering teeth when there is something to hear, and, of course, it becomes a throbbing skull when you stumble across a puzzle.
All this will be familiar enough to those who have played The 7th Guest or The 11th Hour, but there have been a few modifications. Move the cursor below the game window (which takes up about two thirds of the screen) and your skeletal hand may be rotating to allow you to turn 180 degrees, or it may appear as a hitch hiker's thumb allowing you to jump to the nearest exit (seemingly developed especially with the Macphiles in mind).
Above the game window you can find your guidebook from where you can load a saved game, get a hint or a piece of Macphile mythology, or access your maps of the various levels of the castle, though these pages may be blank or incomplete until you have explored all the locations. Castle Macphiles seems larger than the haunted house featured in Trilobyte's previous games and the floor plan is more complicated. It's not easy to keep your bearings and I would have appreciated a 'you are here' map marker to help me out. Also, I was disappointed that there wasn't an option to turn down the music during play as I found it became very insistent whilst I was trying to solve a door riddle.
In this title the save game function is a little different as well. For saving your game there is a camera option which allows you to take a snapshot of your location. It is also located above the game window but to the left of the 'guidebook' which contains the remaining game options. Though neat it doesn't make saving and restoring any easier. A simple save/load menu would have sufficed.
The cut sequences play in a small screen framed by your guide book if you accept the default settings at the start of the game, but you can change this to 'full' screen view by changing the setup at the 'welcome' screen. If your system will allow, I recommend that you do this as it is much more enjoyable to watch the antics of Andrew, Paula, Fergus, Murthly and others played out in full. The smaller window tends to spoil the effect and loses something of the atmosphere.
I loved the opening sequence, it made a perfect introduction to Clandestiny, however, don't be mislead by this as it only changes the mood of the game compared to Trilobyte's previous titles. It isn't in any way a 'traditional' graphic adventure although, dare I say it, it does demonstrate that Trilobyte might be more than capable of producing this kind of game if only they put their minds to it. Castle Macphiles would make a wonderful setting for such an adventure.
Clandestiny comes on two CDs and will only install in Windows 95. It is another solid game for logic puzzle and riddle fans.
Copyright © Gordon Aplin 1996.
All rights reserved.
System requirements (min):
Pentium 60, 8MB RAM, CD-ROM, Win 95, Local bus video card with 1MB RAM compatible with DirectDraw 2.0 or later, 100% soundblaster-compatible sound card, Hard disk with 8MB free space, mouse.