Release date: 05/2003
Developer/Publisher: The Adventure Company Europe
Game language: German
USK: 12 years and up
A review by slydos 22nd May 2003
"Salammb˘" comes on 2 CDROMs in a really beautiful folder including the German manual. The folder again fits in a DVD sized box. After the smooth installation of 810 MB one can watch the intro, which is also separately playable. Our alter ego is Spendius, a slave, who vegetates in the dungeons of Carthage. Our first task will be, to help him escape ...
The 1st-person-game "Salammb˘" is totally mouse-controlled. The since "The 7th Guest" well known animated bone hand cursor is used in a somewhat modified shape. It becomes only visible, where a scene change is possible, otherwise you only see a small cross for the view center. It becomes a grabbing hand, when you can take up an object and rotating gears mean that you can manipulate something or speak with someone.
We can turn around smoothly 360 degrees and look upward or downward.
During the game we can open the scrollable inventory (at the bottom of the screen) by right-clicking with the mouse. At the same time some additional navigation buttons appear in the lower rigth corner. Here one can either access the main menu e.g. for saving games, the map or the journal.
The journal does not only offer an excellent overview of the events so far in comic format, but is also helpful with some puzzles - sub-titles point us to that. A further button leads to a picture of our hero, where we can apply inventory objects to him, e.g. food or clothes.
The options offer possibilities to adjust screen and sound and also to switch on/off sub-titles. The menu seems metallic and becomes alive, when a kind of aperture closes in front of it with each transition. Menu options are represented as pictograms, you get the German explanation every time you drive your mouse over them.
Upt to 5 players can separately save their games. Unfortunately there are only 10 savegames. Savegames are stored with time and a small picture of the scene by mouse-click - own text inputs are not possible. With the F5-key one can make a quick save. An excellent function during restart of "Salammb˘" after a break is the menu function "resume current game". One begins then at the point, at which one has stopped without saving.
In principle controls are simple, if you wouldn't have those big orientation problems. The area is unclear and with every change to a new scene, you often don't go straight forward and have the scene entrance in the back, but are simply positioned anywhere in the new location, which can be very confusing. A map of the area exists, but it gives only a rough overview. If you meat the cannibals for the 5th or 6th time instead of walking to the opposite direction, you'll easily doubt your own map reading skills.
Using the mouse to make larger movements is a little unwieldy - one must often take up and set the mouse down at the edge of the mousepad and then pull it repeatedly to the other side (I call that mouse pad ironing). That is particularly unpleasant during short time-dependent sequences.
Exact focusing of targets however functions excellently, e.g. when doing archery.
Our game is based on a novel by French writer Flaubert, who described the story of Carthage after the sea-defeat against Rome. After the fights the army of mercenaries, that consists of different compatriots from Europe and North Africa, requires to be paid, what the commercial centre Carthage refuses however. The mercenaries revolt. Flaubert again has referred to actual historical events of the 3rd century before Christ, whereby he however invented the title character Salammb˘, the daughter of the Carthage army leader Hamilkar Barkas in the first Punic War against the Romans and her dear relationship with Math˘, the leader of the mercenary rebels. (Most of us know rather Hamilkar's son Hannibal, who later dared to attack the Romans in their own territory.)
Who doesn't want to be spoiled about the end of the story, should not read the next (in grey) paragraphs!
With poetic license, Flaubert reflects the (actual) tragic fall of the mercenary troops in the just as tragic private love story of Salammb˘ and Math˘. But Philippe Druillet changes Flaubert's story and the historical events:
By intrigue and influencing control of the slave Spendius, our main character, the barbarian mercenaries triumph! No tragic thus, no big theatre, only the completely normal insanity of war (as we still know it today).
None of the characters is likeable - neither Spendius, who destroys whole companies for his own fate, nor Math˘ and the other leaders, who are gladly fooled by this buffoon and not Salammb˘, who throws herself despite her doubts at the winner. Actually one would like to touch anybody of them with a pair of pincers only! Anyhow I can't remember any adventure game, where the main hero was less appealing to me and would have surely deserved one of the repeatedly offered deaths. No game for people, who divide gladly in black and white, good and bad - that can't be found here.
Also the graphics don't correspond to the garden center optics of other 1st-person-adventures. Dark apocalyptic mood wherever you look: cold blue colors instead of warm North African desert sand livened up by a few ccrucified cadavers, metallic-oily also the abandoned interior of Carthage, poisonous-green the drinking water in the pipelines and sulfur-yellow the threatening sky with the nearly to a supernova developed blood-red sun.
Likewise blood-red the eyes of most characters up to Salammb˘'s, who is the only character drawn a bit more human-like, but also looks rather like a figure from another world by her perfect body with the bluish gray complexion and the strange absent look. The other characters really don't look much humanlike anymore, are they the Carthagian treasurer with his Jabba-like appearance or the mercenaries reminding of an alien army. Even the combat elephants and riding animals are alienated and hardly remind of what they should represent. Marvellously detailed, but just as strange as all others, the cannibals from next door, with their emaciated however wiry bodies and their bright goggle eyes, always lurking for a tidbit.
Also our hero does not seem to have real parents, his facial expression reminded of someone, who continuously bites into a lemon while thereby his Michael Jackson-nose slipped near his screwed-up eyes. Looking at the clothes we are rather avantgarde too, cutting edge Salammb˘ and the two other women in the game, who got their push-up-breast-armour forged to the body in the best garden-gate-squiggle manner. All these unusual characters move quite seldom, but if they do it, then sleeky and... human-like. Also mouth movements and gestures are excellent and very congruent to the German speech. The few film sequences, in which we can experience our "hero", are outstanding.
Completely contrary to the cold-dark scenes of the game are the comic graphics of the journal. They nevertheless explain the plot in perfect two-dimensionality and strong, warm colors whenever our hero does a step forward. Even if the colors should become "too warm" from time to time, and Spendius finds death in the red-hot jaws of the Moloch.
The puzzles of "Salammb˘" are various, imaginative, very logical and increase in their degree of difficulty. There are pure object/inventory puzzles, dialogue puzzles, coding/decoding puzzles, a very beautiful color mixing puzzle at the beginning, a puzzle in Memory-style, mechanical puzzles, strategy puzzles and some, partly very brief time-dependent puzzles. Besides you must prove your reactivity with bow and arrow and in certain throwing games. The degree of difficulty of these reaction mini-games isn't very high, similar to "Thorgal", but better integrated into the story.
Some puzzles should be solved with the data in the journal - one is referred to this possibility by subtitles.
Wrong actions or also wrong questions or answers can lead to the death of Spendius. But after a Game Over a mouse-click gets you directly back again to the point, from where you can try again. Loading save games is seldom necessary. "Salammb˘" is suitable for beginners due to the logic puzzles and the easy to middle degree of difficulty. The timed tasks demand most expenditure, because you partly must execute a series of actions. The necessary exploration of the locations lets you often die thereby. The bad conversion ratio of the mouse movements paired with frequent loss of orientation is very frustrating. There are no dead ends, however one wishes at certain points to havn't done certain actions before. But one can get ahead nevertheless.
"Salammb˘" is nonlinear to a limited extent (one can take object A before object B or execute action 1 before action 2), but at certain key points one must have solved puzzles, before the game continues.
The successful German translation will please many fans, who were disappointed about the English speech in "Thorgal". Special thanks must go to Alexandra Lange, who took over the speaker part in "Salammb˘" with her unmistakable voice. One can hear her again, when reading the journal.
Music is rare in Salammb˘ (instead of the announced Mozart there is the Dvorak's "Symphony of the New World"), and it always arises, when it becomes exciting or during the film sequences. Sound effects are discreet and support the dark atmosphere.
Although I cursed the handling and complicated orientation, the quality of the puzzles outweighs in the general impression, because they are challenging but not asking too much. And the story is good too, where you can really learn a lot about the background of the time even if Druillet in some places changed the historical facts. The dark story with its likewise cold and dark graphics may not please everyone. But "Salammb˘" is in each case unusual and with approx. 20 hours playing time (without walkthrough of course!) of medium game length.
Rating: 75 %
Adventure-Archiv rating system:
80% - 100% excellent game, very recommendable 70% - 79% good game, recommandable 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 II /AMD 333
- WIN 98/ME/2000/XP
- 64 MB RAM
- 810 MB free space on hard disk
- 8x CDROM-drive
- Soundblaster 16bits-compatible sound card
- Graphic card with Thousands of colors
- DirectX 7.0 (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
Math˘ - leader of the mercenaries
Film sequences are following a puzzle solve
Animals for riding
A special colour must be mixed
Comes faster than you think ...
Shooting with bow and arrow is easy
The drinking water pipe-line
"You are HERE" at every corner in Carthage
Getting informationen at the bar
Lover's hour with treasurer Hannon
In the temple of Tanith