for Kids 8 years and up
A review by slydos 8th September 2002
Another time after "Alice in Wonderland" (see Adventure-Archiv review) , Cornelsen Software let transform a classic story, "The Beauty or the Beast" from Jeanne Marie Leprince de Beaumont, by French developer-studios EMME and Lexis Numerique into a multimedia adventure game - "The Beauty or the Beast". Actually the fairy taleful theme was addressed to adults (think of the famous movie with Josette Day and Jean Marais by Jean Cocteau of the year 1946), became however last but not least through Hollywood a matter especially for the younger audience. "The Beauty or the Beast" has nothing to do however with the merry-colourful Disney title, but adheres close to the romantic-fantastic original. It is meant for children starting from 8 years.
Yes - you've read correctly, it spells "or" and not "and". Because in the game you are asked to undergo the game either as the beautiful Belle or as the Beast from different points of view. But no matter, from which perspective we watch the story, it will lead finally to the same end.
The young Belle is searching her disappeared father. She rides through a dark forest and discovers a mysterious, execrated castle. There she finds indices of her father and is courageous enough to enter completely on her own. She does not know yet that the castle's owner is a nobleman, who was transformed by a bad curse into a terrible looking beast.
She suspects her father in there and succeeds, after many troubles, to release the imprisoned man. But in this moment the Beast emerges and requires the daughter as pledge for the freedom of the father. Belle deals with the trade and the father could go.
So Belle remains in the castle, the seasons change and she becomes acquainted with the Beast not as a frightening monster but as a subtle art connoisseur and scientist. The Beast is naturally taken with Belle's beauty, her openness and frankness.
How they master their fate is not further betrayed.
The largest part of the plot is told us by a set of video sequences, beginning with the two long intros. These sequences, altogether more than 20 minutes, are very impressive and dramatic, with equal dramatic music. Unfortunately the indispensable and actually very good cutscenes overcome only blurred and raw in full screen mode. Too bad! The sequences are kept in a cold grey-blue tone contrary to the golden-warm colors of the remaining game and bear a likeness to eastern productions. You can feel here a clear break compared to the interactive part of the game.
"The Beauty or the Beast" is a hybrid version for Mac and PC, delivered in an expensively designed, solid collapsible box, as we are accustomed to from Cornelsen Software. The small manual is a jewelcase insert and also designed in color and graphically magnificent. It contains a brief overview of installation and handling.
You need approx. 96 MB free hard disk space. The installation of the game from CD ran smoothly under Windows XP first. However there were problems with the sound, which resembled more the sound of an old shellac disc and was hardly understandable. In this case it's good for us, that the game has already been released in France and some problems were already recognized and described in the readme-file. There are incompatibilities between Quicktime and the sound card, which can be repaired by changing the configuration. However I am sure that this cannot be managed by a 8 year old child. So here the parents have to stand by!
At the very beginning you have to select your game character. Accompanied with medieval lute sounds our companion - the owl Walther Huldelied (I think his name will be different in the other language versions) - asks us whether we would like to play Belle or the Beast. A simple click on the appropriate picture and we can proceed to the name input. Here you can quasi determine the number of savegames, because this file is the saving file during the game - there is no other poosibility.
Afterwards we experience one of the two impressive intro movies and then finally arrive in the castle. According to whether we have selected Belle or the Beast, we are in different areas of the castle and the owl Huldelied gives us tips, what we can do next. We first must put the map of the castle into the inventory. The map shows us, which parts of the building are still locked and which we have already entered. From now on we can control our character.
We must not play to the very end as Belle or Beast, but can also change our character in between. Unfortunately we have to leave the game each time and must start with a new name.
"The Beauty or the Beast" is totally mouse-controlled. Hotspots are not clarified by on-screen-texts, however the cursor transforms into a hand, if we can take or move objects. Arrows indicate the direction, in which we can leave the scene.
The inventory is in the navigation bar, which is hiding at the top of the screen. If you click on an always visible hook, then it opens. Here you can quit or save the game and also store collected items. One can scroll the inventory to the left and right. But this will not be necessary, because "The Beauty or the Beast" gets along with downright few inventory objects. In addition we find another icon for the owl in the navigation bar. It is the help option.
In 3rd-person-perspective we control our heroes, who however do not avoid obstacles automatically, but used to get stuck here and there at a door frame. This is communicated by a short pain sound. During the many mini games we must be prepared, that the control does not only depend on clicking and dragging at the correct place. The pure mouse movement itself already controls objects or our heroes. It is often already a puzzle to find out how to use the controls in the mini games at best.
Altogether the handling is improved in relation to the predecessor game "Alice in Wonderland", but is far from perfect with some mini games. In some of these game sequences movements must be started both by mouse moving and at the same time by clicking and dragging. Since these movements often had to run into opposite directions, you might be a bit confused. Example: a butterfly must actually fly to the left by mouse movement, but you must at the same time fend off a spider below the beastie by clicking, so that the butterfly likewise moves downward thereby - towards the enemy. This somewhat more complex connection must be recognized first.
In addition you will frequently collide with the inventory, when dragging the mouse too far to the top, because this movement opens the inventory automatically and covers a part of the screen.
In principle the puzzles and tasks are quite easy, however handling and execution are sometimes not quite evident. There are only few inventory/object-based puzzles and the solution to those comes directly from Walther Huldelied. You really have to exert only for the approx. 30 mini games or game sequences, which require a certain skill e.g. to free a butterfly from a spider net, to rope down under attack of bats or to let frogs hop over rotating sea-rose leaves. But there are also very originally designed puzzles, e.g. to find the correct star constellations in the observatory. Besides there are sliding puzzles and an assigning task in the style of a Memory game. The mini games are very well integrated into the story and doesn't feel to be pulled out of the game by this inserted sequences. Few puzzles are the same for Belle and Beast, some are similar, most however are very different and offer long fun.
Both the prerendered 2D-background graphics of the more than forty scenes are wonderfully designed and an eye candy, also the different 3D-characters can please. The movement animations of our characters are sometimes a bit snatchy but in general lifelike. The fantastic scenes with speaking armours and gargoyles let you be astonished, Troll Gunter, the funny companion of Beast, lets you smile and special effects, e.g. fires, support the fantastic atmosphere of the game. Unfortunately there is a noticeable break to the quality of the video sequences, as already mentioned above.
"The Beauty or the Beast" has no dialogue selections. Any talking, as the thoughts of our actors or small conversations, runs automatically. Though the dubbing voices are expressive and professional, I think that even the best speaker is swamped with dubbing nearly all male roles. Thus Beast, Walther Huldelied and Belle's father and some others are synchronized by the same speaker. Of course you'll immediately notice this, particularly if you hear the voices directly one after the other. Also Belle's voice serves at the same time as the presentation of her sisters. I think that children, who could identify their father as Santa Claus, will also immediately unmask this economical use of voices. No offence, but one could have used different speakers, at least for the leading actors.
On the other hand music and sound are top. The music in medieval garb with lute sounds and a capella singing - which reminds a bit of the Cirque du Soleil - is accompanied by many noises such as fogey calls, bell ringing, wind and bird's twitter. A really fantastic atmosphere is created, particularly in the video sequences.
"The Beauty or the Beast" holds some technical difficulties and partial (in some mini games) not completely transparent controls. It is recommendable despite these reductions for younger gamers up to 11 years. The romantic fantastic atmosphere, the well met characters and well integrated game sequences offer in contrast to the predecessor "Alice" with approx. 10 to 12 hours gaming time more easy playful entertainment without frustration and a beautiful story. Older children or adults, who are looking for provocative puzzles, will not be satisfied, since games and puzzles are very easy and the owl help leaves hardly elbowroom for making some mistakes.
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)
System requirements Windows:
- Windows 95 or higher incl. Windows XP
- Pentium 166 Mhz or higher
- 32 MB RAM
- High Color graphic card, 640 x 480
- 16bit sound card
- 8x CDROM-drive
System requirements Mac:
- System 7.5.3 or higher
- iMac or G3
- 32 MB RAM
- High Color graphic card, 640 x 480
- 8x CDROM-drive
- 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
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