The Omega Stone: Riddle of the Sphinx II Review

I grew up with adventure games. At the age of nine I covertly and successfully installed the first and last copy of Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards ever to grace the RAM of the Commodore computers of St. Ursula Villa Elementary School. While the rest of the class played Lemonade Stand, my friend and I navigated the discos and hotel rooms of Las Vegas in an attempt to find love for our favorite loser, Larry Laffer. We never succeeded in winning the game as the puzzles were too difficult for our fourth grade minds, but nevertheless I was hooked. From these humble beginnings I moved on to more challenging adventure games like Myst, where the puzzles took precedence over the storyline. However, these games often featured slipshod stories put together merely as an excuse for the puzzles. Omega Stone attempts to retain the challenging puzzles of Myst, but wraps its puzzles in an interesting, and somewhat believable, story. Does it succeed? Read on and find out!

Camping out at Stonehenge.

You begin The Omega Stone in a cavern inside the Sphinx on the Giza Plateau in Egypt. Apparently, you are an archeologist who has just found the Ark of the Covenant (ala Indiana Jones) but your assistant has found something else of great interest (because much of the fun of adventure games is about exploring and discovering, I will refrain from giving away any plot elements and only present a broad overview). You soon find that your discovery in Giza is somehow connected to other archaeologically significant sites around the world, including the giant stone heads of Easter Island, Stonehenge, the ruins of Chichen Itza, and the Devil's Triangle in the Pacific Ocean. You are free to travel to any of these sites at any time, courtesy of your assistant and your inventory collection of "passes" to each site. Each site has a "base camp" of sorts where you will find historical information, maps, and valuable clues that come in handy in your exploration of the sites. The reading you encounter in the game, often in the form of books, is very interesting and relevant. I came away from this game feeling that I knew a lot more about some of the cultures involved with the creation of the various sites than I knew going in. To tell the truth, I don't know how much of the historical information was accurate, but I'm sure at least some of it was.

The graphics manage to be impressive and leave much to be desired at the same time. Your movement through the game is controlled by the keyboard, taking jerky steps through the environment which create a slideshow effect similar to Myst and its successors. Much of the game takes place in caves and tunnels which can wind around considerably. While walking through these tunnels, it is easy to get disoriented as your "steps" can take you great distances at times. For example at one spot you may be looking down a tunnel that appears to bend a little to the left about thirty feet away. You then press the "forward" arrow key and all of a sudden you are face to face with a wall, having no idea how far you have just traveled. In any given "step," you can pan around to look any direction you want, giving you an "I am in the middle of a real environment" feel which adds tremendously to the immersion of the game. However, this can lead to frustration as some clues to puzzles can be found "behind" you after you take a step forward. Just like a real archaeologist, you have to slowly and painstakingly examine every inch of your surroundings in order to make many significant discoveries.

This is all well and good, but there is a serious problem: the resolution of the game is so low it makes it difficult to determine what some of the objects represent. The experience is similar to being nearsighted as everything appears close to photo-realistic but blurry, especially far-off objects. There is one puzzle that was impossible to solve before an official patch came out because the resolution was so low that you couldn't make out some of the runes. I am confused as to why the resolution needed to be so low in the first place as any decent computer these days can display images in 640X480. Oh well. There is also a problem with some areas in the game being too dark to see important items on the ground. This can be solved by upping your gamma settings, but an in-game brightness slider would have been a good idea.