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Game language: German
USK: for all ages
A review by slydos 19th March 2004
On the occasion of their 10th anniversary this year, Heureka-Klett releases quite a number of special editions of their older edutainment titles, this time not in the noble cardbox but in a scarce DVD-box without concrete manual, but therefore at the remarkable low price of 10 Euro per game. In these anniversary editions manual and walkthrough are added as PDF-files on the respective CDROM. This time I would like to take a look at the first and thus oldest adventure game from the series: Opera Fatal.
The players slip into the role of the maestro: On the eve of the premiere of Beethoven's Fidelio he detects that his score has disappeared. He rushes into the nightly theatre and finds the letter of an apparently mad but music-possessed adversary, who has hidden the notes. Only if he correctly answers the questions that are also hidden, he can hope for the return of the score. The maestro follows a trace of puzzles and questions out of the world of music from the cellar to the stage of the opera house. Many doors are locked first and secret corners wait to be discovered. By skillful combining and the correct use of found objects he finally detects the numbered notes with the questions of the stranger ...
Opera Fatal runs from CD (hybrid CD PC/MAC). No program groups/desktop icons are created or data copied onto your fixed disk. Only with a Macintosh one needs QuickTime2 and IndeoCodec. Both can be installed from the CD if necessary. For storing savegames the manual recommends to create an extra directory on your hard disk. If you didn't create an icon, you can start the file opera.exe simply from the Windows Start Button and Run-Option.
When starting Opera Fatal each time the intro begins, where the conductor notices the theft and finally reaches the opera house. One can skip this intro by keeping the mouse button pressed during the short loading procedure. Here one should act fast however, otherwise one must watch the film up to the end. Afterwards we have to use the mouse 3 times until we can enter the theatre and can finally use the icon of the main menu in the lower right corner of the screen, so that we can load a savegame. This uncomfortable handling at the beginning has nothing to do with the age of the game, it could have been designed more convenient already 7 years ago.
Opera Fatal is totally mouse-controlled, pressing the ESC-key brings you back to Windows directly from every game location however (and without safety inquiry). That is absolutely welcome on one hand, on the other hand one can easily forget, to save the current game score and may have cursed this function 1 or 2 times, until one has internalised it.
In ego-perspective we move through the house. We must pay attention to cursor changes. Either the standard cursor transforms into different arrow symbols or into a small hand. The possible directions are very different and often we cannot simply just go back, but must turn around using 2-3 clicks forward, left or right. By arrows we reach new scenes and also often new points of view or close-ups within the fixed scenes. The hand cursor appears, where objects can be looked at, used, moved or taken up.
The few (usually not more than 3-5) taken up objects are stowed away in the inventory, which can be seen permanently at the bottom of the screen. Sometimes one can only sense, what this objects are, since there is neither a description of the individual items before nor after collecting them. Inventory objects disappear after singular use and cannot be combined.
On the right side of the inventory bar there is a button for the main menu. There one can, besides screen and sound settings, switch the narrator voice in the learning part on/off. Save and Load-functions are executed through a normal Windows window, in which one can assign user-defined names up to 8 letters. After each game start one must search the savegame-directory again, as the program resets to the game directory on CD each time. Besides one has a fast access to the learning part through the main menu.
The save-function and the somewhat limited controls (one cannot turn around e.g.) are not exactly comfortable. All in all no exemplary but no deterring controls either.
One finds answers to all questions in the library, in the instrument room or at the maestro's huge CD collection.
In addition, the individual learning blocks are directly selectable from the main menu: The library answers all questions about the topics of music theory and music history with the help of seven books each with simple arrow navigation. Looking up terms is sometimes lengthy depending upon chapter length and animations. In the navigation bar is a nicely animated navigator-icon. Its yellow dot face grimaces, if we make a mistake in the training sequences and it smiles during correct inputs. We have the possibility for practicing very often and together with the navigator strumming on the keyboard really makes fun, e.g. playing different intervals.
Different groups of instruments are introduced in the instrument section. Here we find only the standard instruments of an orchestra described, those however eked by 3D-movies with music samples and a measuring possibility.
In the room of the maestro we find the CD collection of the conductor in a shelf. If you open a CD and move the mouse over the music titles, the cursor transforms into an ear-icon. You can start a selected music piece by mouse-click as a short clip. If the cursor transforms into a stylised sheet of paper with the letter "I", so one can get information about the respective music examples. The associated text can be scrolled by clicking and dragging the mouse. For the current music example titles and composers are indicated at the bottom.
It could have been more and longer music examples. From Vivaldi to Verdi only the most well-known pieces are played, and some are even good for a puzzle question, e.g. how is the element called, that is the driving power in Ravel's Bolero?
For people, who cannot read notes and or have enjoyed their music lessons more from a distance, the learning part offers an introduction to the stuff with some brainteasers. Who learned at least one instrument or was otherwise concerned with music theory, there are surely still untouched areas, for example the many terms of tempo, dynamics and transitions - or would you know at first go the difference between 'con anima', 'animato' and 'con brio'?
That learning part just makes fun on its own. Contrary to other one-track edutainment titles not only eyes but also ears are demanded here. A part of the puzzles is based on music identification and the ability to play tone sequences correctly after hearing.
It's all about answering a set of questions in each chapter or level so that new areas with new puzzles can be opened. The right answers to the questions must be entered in the secretariat into a solution book. Only if all questions are found and answered correctly, the secret of the disappeared notes is finally disclosed.
The answers to the questions can be found in the learning part. But before one can do that, one must know the questions. Those are written on partly well hidden, partly simple to find sheets of paper. Sometimes one must solve mechanical, sometimes inventory puzzles to open doors, switch the lights on or to operate e.g. a lifting platform. For example you have to produce a triad after hearing on heating pipes, to get the water running again, what again means access to a new question.
The partial nested puzzles are solvable within a level in different order and some puzzles of the higher levels can be prepared for solving right at the beginning. You can of course enter the answers individually after finding each solution in the book, but you'll quickly notice that you can save much running around, if you wait until you have gathered all questions of a section.
Opera Fatal does without spoilsports such as labyrinths etc. and the players are also not forced to repeat scenes by Game-Overs. The quiz elements are entertainingly embedded into the adventure environment with exploring the theatre. The mechanical or object-oriented puzzles are easy to solve, while the music puzzles can be quite tricky and particularly become more difficult towards the end of the game. One will master the answers to the knowledge questions only at the beginning and later no more without the assistance of the learning part, whereby it is ensured that the players will open the learning part at least for the solution of the puzzles. Approx. 70% of the questions come from music theory, for the rest you must know composers, music history and instruments.
I would estimate about 20+ hours for the gaming length, depending on how thoroughly you study the learning part.
The graphics of the only little animated backgrounds is actually a bit dated and in relation to the newer games of Heureka-Klett one can note in the somewhat grainy pictures their age of 7-8 years. More comic-like coltish than realistic, the graphics style points to children as target group, who will also surely enjoy the funny animations of otherwise liveless objects such as coffee pots, wigs or paintings. So a number of hotspots act as entertaining elements with funny animations and noises.
The opera house is deserted. The presence of other people is suggested to us by placeholders like a just lighted cigarette or a fresh cup of coffee. From time to time we hear spooky steps or door banging. But since these sounds repeat in always the same places, the fright effect passes rapidly. The only living being (beside our maestro) is a mouse, which we find surprisingly in a drawer.
Although we have to deal in principle with classic music, the background music of the different scenes usually consists of modern pieces or one is limited to the background noise only. Some titles are nerving when again and again entering rooms, particularly the exaggerated chirpy song in the cafeteria which is constantly repeated.
There were 2 or 3 crashes, but one could continue after a restart of the game normally. No "fatal" errors thus in "Opera Fatal".
Opera Fatal is an edutainment title. Hey - the one or other will ask - don't you learn something in every adventure game, and let it only be the perseverance trying to open a door for the 19th time after 18 futile attempts? Sure you will with every adventure game. But learning adventures are not only named this way by the developers, to get easy access to grandma's purse. Behind it is a didactically thought out selection of topics, which moreover is summarized in a learning part or an encyclopedia that can be used again and again, as in this case too.
Opera Fatal was a long time sold for the proud price of 98 DM and therefore surely not frequently found on the purchase list of normal players. Thus rather seldom well-heeled donors may have grabbed it and the target group could hardly afford it. That is different today - for not more than 10 Euro the current edition is available and even includes the complete walkthrough (on CD). Now everybody can afford it, who would like to become acquainted with music theory and classic compositions in an entertaining way. Even recommendable for classic sourpusses among the music friends, as the topics of the music theory are valid independently from music style and of course simply for adventure fans, who are searching for inexpensive puzzle replenishment and attach no special importance on the newest graphics.
Total rating: 73%
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 PC:
- Windows 3.1/95/NT/Me/2000/XP
- 486er 50 Mhz and higher
- 8 MB RAM
- 4 MB free disk space
- 2x CDROM-drive
- Sound card
Minimal system requirements MAC:
- System 7.1
- Power PC 50 Mhz and higher
- 8 MB RAM
- 4 MB free disk space
- 2x CDROM-drive
- Sound card
- 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