Release date Greek version: 2002
Release date English version: August 2003
Developer/Publisher: Anima ppd-interactive
Publisher USA: Got Games Entertainment
Language tested version: English
Age restriction: 13 years and up
A review by slydos 15th August 2003
Even if adventure games in movie format with real actors always involve great expenses and the writing guild likes to place it offside, there are still teams taking care of this interesting sub-genre. The company Anima ppd has its domicile in North Greek Drama - right, Drama - and the developers of the screen drama Conspiracies didn't take a leaf out of anybodies book, but the probably most brilliant FMV-game (full motion video): the Tex Murphy series as example. Apart from all the intended similarities with this classic Film-Noir-game of the 90's in contents, handling and execution, authoress Marina Kokkinidou and director Anestis Kokkinidis, like Chris Jones and Aaron Connors, likewise took over roles in their game as dubious woman lawyer and just as shady chemicals company boss.
However the main role in this sci-fi crime story, starting in the year 2063, is played by Nick Delios - rather a human wreck, whose life isn't really made easier by his gambling passion. Nick once was a promising student in medicine software as his scientific leader, the already mentioned chemicals company boss Dimitris Argiriou, bumped him out of his own project and passed off Nick's research results as his. Not enough, mentioned Dimitris also prevented the marriage of Nick with his sister Anita. One can thus imagine, that Nick isn't much enthusiastic, when Dimitris turns out as the owner of Nick's IOUs and requires therefore some services. When Nick, now earning his living as a private detective, is put onto the murder of the small-time crook Mikes by his police friend Thanos, he doesn't suspect, that he will trace a 'conspiracy of galactic proportions' ...
The Greek version is already published on 2 CDROMs and could be installed smoothly on my XP machine, a P IV. Unfortunately I couldn't apply the English DVD demo version (the English is DVD only) on this computer - the DVD wasn't recognized by the system. Therefore I had to make do with my laptop, a P III with Windows ME, on which the installation succeeded. The sales version may contain changes, therefore no rating of this aspect. About 2 GB are transferred to the hard disk. One can directly change some graphics settings before starting the game, e.g. increase anti-aliasing etc.. After that we get into a loading screen and must wait approx. 35-40 seconds. We find these loading screens with every scene change and while loading savegames. The graphics of the loading screens always refer to the actual location and story. Afterwards one can move freely and without delay within a main location.
In the intro we get an overview of the state of Greece in the future with skyscraper landscapes, private flight modules and modern electronics during a rapid camera travel. The exciting intro music theme accompanies exactly the passing of each individual column of the runway. After we've received some text informations in Starwars-style about the social and political conditions of this future world, we find Nick in his element - shooting Craps in the casino. You correctly assume - finally he isn't lucky and ends in the arms of a sun-bespectacled, silent muscle man, who drags him to the hated Dimitris. In the following dialogue we can interact for the first time.
Here we come to an important difference to the Tex Murphy games: the controls are likewise splitted between mouse and keyboard, but are by far easier to learn than for example the Overseer controls, with which you can only cope using manual and online-briefing.
In 1st-person-view the camera follows our mouse movements in 360 degrees around, upward or down. The cursor's cross hairs don't change while we examine the scene and receive Nick's spoken information about objects with right-clicks of the mouse. There are no graphic or text references to hotspots. We get to know, that we can manipulate or take up an object, if we left-click it. Then Nick stirs, gives us a comment and the object disappears in the inventory usually with a suitable noise.
Forward, backward and sideways we move Nick with the arrow keys. We can let him run faster with (both) Shift-keys, what is absolutely vital in later action scenes. To investigate what can be found on or under cabinets etc., I was however missing the Tex-Murphy-functions 'kneel' or stand on tiptoe'. So you often have to walk backwards so far, to recognize an object that you are no longer close enough, to be able to click at it. Sometimes the scope for accessing objects is teeny weeny!
With the spacebar we open the partly transparent inventory which takes around 2/3 of the gaming area. With a left-click you select objects, right-clicking zooms them and lets you hear an acoustic description. Objects can be combined within the inventory and some few objects can also be manipulated. You can notice that, when these objects don't automatically fade out. With the Strg-key and the mouse we can turn and work on items in 3D-view, what isn't always free of problems, e.g. with small paper cuttings lying one above the other. The Esc-key helps us leave these zooms and the inventory too. With a selected object you can simply leave the inventory upward and it will close.
A characteristic of inventory objects requiring getting used to is the fact that they do not disappear in the inventory as with a rubber band, if you try to use them in vain at a hotspot. They are simply dropped on the floor just at your feet. Thus one loses important items at the beginning, without noticing it at all. In addition the number of objects is limited to 27 pieces, so that you best drop unimportant things in Nicks apartment, to get them back later. But what is important or not, usually turns out in particularly dicey situations. Usually Nick dies here, if he does not carry the suitable object with him and he uses it automatically in a film scene, if he's got it.
You can save with F4 and ESC brings you back to the main menu. Here you can create new player names and also delete players. But one should be careful when clicking the 'delete'-button, because then also all accompanying savegames are deleted! The automatic save creates small screenshots with date and time. Unfortunately a text input is missing here, since the pictures of the savegames are very small and indistinct, and the last game isn't always stored on top. Location changes are introduced by leaving the current scene for example by pushing a button in the elevator or clicking on the glider. You then get onto a cubic map, which is moveable by clicking and dragging with the mouse. Depending upon your progress more and more locations are marked here.
Altogether an agreeable handling with some few weak points. It doesn't need a time-consuming learning phase.
Conspiracies contains a large amount of film material, which was filmed in blue screen mode - not completely screen-filling (as in Overseer), but of relatively acceptable quality, if you think of the compression to store it on 2 CDROMs.
In addition we find 3D-evironments for the 1st-person-investigation-part of the game, which however have a rather spartan polygon equipment and won't cause waves of enthusiasm. Some locations are more sumptuously and detailed furnished, others are rather dark, meager and rough. However in the outdoor scenes at least importance was attached to some nice animations of starting and landing spaceships or trains, in order to strengthen the futuristic atmosphere.
If you get closer to other characters in the interactive 3D-environment, they might become Potemkin villages: the interlocutors consist only of a stiff 2D-façade and become as thin as a rake, if you look at them from a certain angle. That even lets me fail to see the sleeping scientist in a prison cell, when I was exposed the pursuit stress of killer robots!
The possibilities, which a 3D-environment offers, were however 'cold-bloodedly' used, so that only those gamers strike it lucky, who move much and also try to take extreme points of view. A challenge, that adventurefans gladly accept. I was however missing, as said, the possibility to raise or lower the camera point of view - who likes to twist himself/herself, even if it's only virtually?
The scenes are varied - even if one has occasionally the feeling to move only from one warehouse to another. You rummage through apartments, offices and hotel rooms, hang about in Bars, must climb down into the sewers and even visit a space station. A short trip into another time is also enclosed.
The feeling of isolation rarely arises, because Nick again and again meets new interlocutors. The actors, who partly originate from the circle of friends of the developers, work professionally and are doing a good job. Probably also a consequence of the synchronisation by native speakers of the most important roles in the English version. A titbit is the video-clip of the Greek bluesband 'Blues Wire', who are known beyond Greece and also got involved in the game action.
The entrance of the white Bluesmen really succeeded. Likewise the intro theme and the music during the game produces crime thriller suspense but is not disturbing. Sometimes I asked myself whether someone really plays on the saw or if the whole was only produced electronically. The different sounds support the exciting atmosphere. But the music does not follow the rather melancholic Film Noir direction of Tex Murphy; it has a harder, technical touch.
The dubbing took place on English spoken film scenes (so a part of the scenes had to be shot twice) and is not only well and clearly implemented but also matches the lip movements perfectly. You'll rarely will find divergences.
You should also listen to the conversations very close, as they keep extremely important imformation sometimes, without which Nick won't get ahead. So you must note fast a telephone number or keep in mind other information, which is b.t.w. not repeated. Here really a continuous concentration is necessary, since there are unfortunately no sub-titles. Frequent saves, particularly before beginning a conversation, is thus necessary.
Although I often smiled when playing Conspiracies, the unique humor of the Tex Murphy games remains absolutely unequalled. Perhaps it's because of the fact that one always has to walk on directly after selecting a question/answer with Nick, while one can play the different 'verbal kinds of attack' to the end with great relish as Tex, usually without reloading.
In order to learn the 'manners' of the game, one is confronted at the beginning with a relative simple puzzle, where one can get accustomed to controls and operations of the inventory. After Nick leaves his apartment it gets more complicated. Particularly in the first half of the game the puzzles become demanding. There are no text or graphic references to hotspots, and necessary objects can be very well hidden. Not everything that you can find is useful, so that the limited inventory forces to the exact selection of the carried items. In some situations Nick automatically uses a carried object, otherwise he's in for it without special comment.
Of course Nick must open doors and crack codes too. He needs information from data bases, from inventory objects or from dialogues. He scarcely will simply find a password, but must use powers of deduction. Not illogical, however often twisted and coded. Since Conspiracies offers some freedom to visit locations again and to solve some puzzles in different order, nevertheless the main structure is linear. Thus one can be stuck for hours without a success experience.
Nick can also die, by outside influence or on his very own, because he stays e.g. too long in the water - the chap cannot swim, you'll ask yourself automatically. One must overcome a small maze and there are also some sequences where reactivity, speed or correct positioning are necessary. The game length will hardly be less than 30 hours but rather between 35 and 40 hours. Finally again an adventure game, which is not finished in 1-2 days!
An exciting story and many puzzle challenges make Conspiracies an absorbing adventure game, which offers many entertaining hours even to the advanced player. Who knows sufficient English to get through the game without sub-titles and owns a DVD drive, should access the homepage the next days, because that is at the moment the only possibility of purchasing this Sci-Fi crime thriller outside of Greece.
Rating: 78 %
Adventure-Archiv rating system:
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:
- Windows 98/2000/XP
- PII 400 Mhz
- 64 MB RAM
- 16 MB graphic card
- DirectX 8.1 compatible sound card
- 1,5 GB on hard disk
- 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
Save and load
Everything in Nick's apartment must be examined
Dimitris has Nick's IOUs
The policeman Thanos instructs Nick
Catalogue of questions
Nick must ... browse through someone elses clothes ...
... and kill electric dogs
Another dead body
A trip to the past
Looking for clues in the luxury suite
Fate of an PI
Meeting the lawyer
Another door opened
The sleeping scientist only in 2D
Prison of the flying wardens
The credits are really worth watching