A review by slydos 04th November 2002
"Chaos at the Set" is the second 3rd-person sleuth adventure with edutainment character after "Fire at the Docks" by bvm and Heureka Klett. The target group are young people starting from 11 years and adults.
Jo has won a competition and is allowed to take part in the shooting of his favourite soap opera. Even a guest appearance with Linda Flores, the star of the series, is planned. But Linda Flores has vanished! None of the colleagues want to make any comments and finally Jo finds out that Linda was kidnapped. Jo starts to search for hints and clues...
"Chaos at the Set?" comes on one CDROM with detailed German manual in the, as usual with Heureka-Klett, marvelous box with flap-cover. After the smooth installation of approx. 464 MB, there is an intro with an unusual title song, which is at the same time title song of the soap "Tragic Hustle and Bustle". In the intro and also the outro we can watch an old acquaintance from "Fire at the Docks", the reporter Thomas Schneider, this time moderating the TV-show "Trash and Soaps" of channel 3. He tells us, that a planned interview with the director Theo Flanders and the leading actress Linda Flores was canceled.
From him the spectators also get to know, that Jo has won a guest appearance in the soap in a casting competition. The intro can be exited with the ESC-key to reach the main menu faster.
In relation to the predecessor game we find straightaway an improvement: Though here the principle of the transparent spheres was not changed, the big operating problem of the first game is moderated, because if you unsuspectingly click on the spheres simply, you can nevertheless start the game directly. If you don't know the menu functions yet from "Fire at the Docks" and want to select one of the other menu options, you should consult the manual first, because the handling is not intuitively recognizable. The individual rotating and by mouse movements shifting, translucent circles must be mouse-dragged into the foreground.
"Chaos at the Set?" is partly keyboard-, partly mouse-controlled. Our 3D-character Jo is moved with the arrow keys, the SHIFT-key lets him run faster. You can feel, that special importance was attached to the fact, that he shouldn't run into objects or walls, which is often the effect of 3D. However he is repeatedly caught on exactly these objects, there is no automatic avoiding and turning off before obstacles. To control Jo, particularly to turn him, is laborious, because it takes sooo long.
One must bring him near persons or items, to be able to interact. One recognizes the correct position when a status line at the bottom of the screen lights up. An interaction is started with the RETURN-key. This way objects can be taken up or manipulated, or a close-up of the examined area is opened and we can have a closer look, manipulate or take up.
Under Jo's comment several objects find their way into the inventory, that can be opened with the "I"-key. Before an item is finally stowed away, one can also directly look at it, use or combine it. Here, as also in many other zoomed views and all dialogues, the mouse is used. Inventory objects can be zoomed and then rotated with the mouse.
The developers call the interactive area, where objects and information is stored "Braintool". The Braintool has, just like the main menu, the shape of translucent, superimposed spheres and appears in the right lower screen corner when you start a dialogue or press the keys "I" for inventory or "B" for Braintool. Again you make your choice by pressing and dragging the left mouse button, to get an inventory object or the picture one of the main characters into the foreground, to ask e.g. your current interlocutor about it.
In conversations the possible topics appear next to a small picture of the person you are speaking to. If you drive your the mouse over a topic, the question is at the same time already formulated in the status line and you can decide, whether you really want to place your question by clicking.
Here again the same difficulties as with the use of the main menu, you try to select something from the disorder of superimposed, translucent objects or character graphics, click on the supposedly above lying and then select exactly the wrong one.
If you've already talked to some people, a short summary of the facts appears in the Braintool cirle, which can be read by driving the mouse over it. But through the circle shape sentences are cut off on the left and on the right - just as confusing as in the predecessor game.
Apart from this laborious controls however still something positive: The "K"-key calls a clear map of the accessible scenes in shape of a crumpled piece of paper. At the beginning we only find the film studio on it, later on some other main locations are added. You can move to this locations fast by simple mouse-clicks. In addition you also get fast access to the main menu with the ESC-key and can save, load or exit the game within seconds. In the save-"bubble" the current game is stored automatically together with the location. The save slots don't seem to be limited.
Beside Jo we meet 6 more 3D-characters with whom we can also interact. Contrary to "Fire at the Docks" there are even some NPCs, which serve only for livening up of the scene, but cannot be talked to. The movements of all characters are very realistic and well designed. Although there is very few facial expression, the texts are spoken quite lip-synchronously.
Also the character design can please and is realistic up to Melanie Precht, who looks like a twelve year old girl. If we let our hero run faster with the SHIFT-key, even his dark hair blows in the wind. Jo moves within prerendered backgrounds, which are fantastically detailed.
Even if - this time again - the game doesn't take place in the finest neighborhood, nevertheless the pictures are an eye candy. A scenery with German cars, traffic signs and German mail boxes. However the blue uniform of the policeman at the end seemed strange to me as taken from a banana republic. A small break in graphics continuity could be noticed: Jo must open the door of a caravan, one sees a door knob in the full shot, while there is a smooth fitting and no knob in the close-up. That is particularly interesting, because Jo has a detailed conversation about the topic continuity with the camera woman.
There are 6 main locations, which were divided into many scenes and views, from the film studio on an old factory site over the set in a re-designed hotel up to a self-service restaurant and a camping site. Here and there the developers inserted some "gags": The logo of the developers "bvm" appears in neon letters in the amusement arcade. Drain- or garbage container-covers are lifting and dangerous red-hot eyes look out from below - what a pity that Jo doesn't notice them and this red-eyed monsters have nothing to do with the story!
Unobstrusive, suitable changes of perspective make it still more interesting to investigate the area and create movie feeling. This time the locations are only accessible one after the other, depending upon Jo's progress.
During the game there is practically no music, but unobtrusive background noises. With the dubbing voices one paid attention to quality. They are casted matching the characters with professional speakers. Graphics, movements, sound and speech are o.k.. With the texts, especially the dismissing answers of the interlocutors, I would have wished however more imaginativeness. They are too often repeating, work fatiguing and sometimes also strange, when the answers have no connection to the question at all. Of course Jo is scarcely noticed as a beginner, but that he can't talk with anybody about the kidnapper's letter, I find disconcerting indeed.
The emphasis of the extremely linear game lies in the dialogue puzzles. I. e. the correct people must be asked the correct questions in the correct order to advance in the game. Therefore you can be stuck, if you haven't put yet all questions. There are however no dead ends, no time-dependent, complex mechanical or switch puzzles.
The object/inventory puzzles are easy. Objects are used as topic for conversations, contain more or less coded clues or can be applied to characters or other objects.
An innovation in relation to the predecessor game: This time there are substantially more inventory objects, which cannot only be combined within the inventory but also manipulated. The confusing object-selection becomes however sometimes torture, if you've umpteenth times posed the wrong object into the foreground.
Your memory is tested, when you must remember details from conversations. An English telegram should be understood, Roman numbers be converted into Arab and chess moves must be interpreted. Nothing that can disconcert the average adventure gamer. There is an orientation puzzle and some door codes must be cracked with the help of clues. An imaginative change is a card game with prime numbers, where you must have a certain strategy ready.
The entire degree of difficulty is deliberately kept on low level, since there are no unnecessary hotspots. How nive would it have been to examine all the objects more closer and hear Jo's comment about it. But unfortunately we can deal only with the things, that serve for the puzzle solution. There is a lot to see. Incomprehensible for me the fact that Jo enters the back room of the amusement arcade after all, and doesn't deign to look at a lying about money suit-case, let alone give a comment about it! In this way it goes on and on.
No great background knowledge is required. For example one can solve a color puzzle by simply trying out, without understanding anything about additive color mix and that there are different color definition systems. The WHY of a solution is usually only touched in the game.
Who however wants to know more, this time gets (after successful finishing) a catalogue of evidence in form of a PDF-file created on the Windows desktop (unfortunately this file wasn't produced in the predecessor). Here actually it is eleborated on the different types of tasks in the game and background information is made available.
These are partially very large, but nevertheless not always totally correct: for example how to classify the four points of the compass on the basis of the position of the sun at a certain time. (The creators of the table could have indicated at least that in the southern hemisphere it's a different state of affairs than in the northern.) That may be pedantic, but "Chaos at the Set" wants to be called Edutainment Adventure, therefore such explanations should be correct.
"Chaos at the Set" is a game for beginners regarding the puzzle depth and the degree of difficulty. Advanced tinkerers won't feel very challenged. Only the extreme linearity and exact processing of the dialogues require a certain concentration and perseverance. The plot is rather unbelievable and lets arise only little suspense in contrast to the more convincing predecessor. Although there was an improvement with the main menu, the mixed keyboard/mouse control with the nerve-racking handling of the Braintool is no fun. Positively this time: the catalog of evidence after finishing the game to get some background knowledge. With around 16 hours play time and a price reduced 10 euro in relation to 39 euro ("Fire at the Docks") is still no good deal, but a more acceptable price performance ratio.
Rating: 71 %
- 80% - 100% excellent game, very recommendable
- 70% - 79% good game, recommendable
- 60% - 69% satisfactory, restricted recommendable
- 50% - 59% sufficient (not very recommendable)
- 40% - 49% rather deficient (not to be recommended - for Hardcore-Adventure-Freaks and collectors only)
- 0% - 39% worst (don't put your fingers on it)
Minimal system requirements:
- Pentium III 450 Mhz
- WIN 98/ME/2000/XP
- 128 MB RAM
- 600 MB free hard disk space
- 12-x CDROM-drive
- Sound card
- 3D graphic card with 16 MB
- DirectX 8.1 (on CD)
- Windows XP
- P IV 1,6 GHz
- 512 MB RAM
- 16x DVD-ROM (Artec WRA-A40)
- nVidia GeForce 2MX400 64 MB graphic card
- Sound card DirectX-compatible
We know the reporter already from "Fire in the Docks"
Jo looking around the grounds of the film company
Gloria von Manten is the producer
See, a birthday photo of Georg Keun
Nobody cares about the fax of the kidnappers
Jo tries to interview the director
The hotel is another set
Camera woman Iris talking with Georg
A puzzle following chess rules can be found too
Jo in dark by-streets
In the amusement arcade
Very messy in the self service restaurant
In this room there are only 2 hotspots!
Detailed background graphics - but Jo can't look into cupboards or pots
Who owns the caravan?
Will Jo find the solution on the camping ground?