the writings of a mind

Title: In Memoriam
Genre: Adventure?
Big Word: Enigma
Strap: A well written, excellently produced, dark, intriguing and original French adventure gameÖ What the hell?

Youíll have to bare with me Ė Iíve not quite finished the game yet. Well, in a way I have, but strange as this sounds, the game hasnít finished with me.

The slightly tenuous opening sets up the idea that the police have failed to crack a CDROM of puzzles sent by a serial killer, and so have opened it up to the public. The killer has recently taken two people hostage, and his disc will ultimately help you find out why. Forgive this, and youíre away.

In Memoriam starts off poorly. But it picks up quickly, and itís easily worth playing through the dodgy opening. What soon unfurls is the most extraordinarily complicated plot elaborately woven throughout thousands of years of history - ancient myths, facts, and theories, mix with contemporary circumstances and a gruesome series of murders, and youíre being led through it all by the murderer himself.

Hereís the massive hook. This is a game that smudges the boundaries. A puzzle may offer some clues Ė a name, a location Ė at which point you switch out of the game, open your web browser, stick the info into your favourite search engine, and explore. If youíve ever come across the internet puzzle game, The Stone, then youíll have some idea of how this works. But strikingly differently, in amongst the results you will not only find sites containing the genuine information the story is based upon, but also the remarkable number of faked sites the developers have build and scattered across the internet.

Search for the name of one of the victims and youíll find her blog. And a news story about her on a university student information page. And a public forum discussing the murder. And none of them are genuine. There are fake companies, sailing regatta results pages, CVís, even fake scout troops. Try it. Search for "skl network" today. These sites are out there. And this is nothing compared to when you start receiving emails to your regular account. You end up with co-players helping you out, and they arenít real. Halfway through, I wouldnít have been at all phased if someone had pushed a clue through my letterbox.

The depth of care, the sleek design, and the deeply threatening and disconcerting messages from the killer, makes this gripping. The fact that the development team spent two years filming the video footage, built dozens of fake websites, created fictional characters that emailed me (and still are), and taught me so much I never knew before, makes this exceptional.

Some puzzles are frustratingly weak, and some acting is scratchy, but forgive or ignore it - this is a truly original game. Having finished, I still unsure of what was fact, and what was fiction. I donít know where the lines were. And part of me still believes in that serial killer. I urge you to try this, purely because youíll not have played anything else like it.

Margin Note:

It canít be stressed enough how original and interesting this game is. While there are too many weak puzzles, some are so fine that the thrill of solving is awesome. You know that you used your ingenuity to make that leap, try that search, and put those two ideas together. And the youíll be rewarded by the sinister blackening puzzle screen, perhaps more film footage, and certainly another curdling message from The Phoenix.

 A new idea, executed with a macabre finesse. A fantastic surprise.


Tech Specs:

Publisher: Ubi Soft
Developer: Lexis Numerique
Price: £30
Minimum System: P333, 700 MB HD, 64MB RAM, 16MB graphics card, 56K internet connection
Recommended: Broadband
Multi-player: Not with real people.
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