China: The Forbidden City review
Secrets of Imperial House
In 1775, Quianlong is the Emperor of China for 39 years. But someone wants to end his reign. That's what An, surintendant of the Imperial House, discovers when investigating the murder of Wang, the chief of eunuques of His Majesty. An has till the dawn to find the culprit... Will he find who is behind Wang's murder? Will he find who is trying to end his investigation by killing people involved in the plot? Or will he be banned from the Forbidden City for not clearing the case?
China is a Cryo product, meaning that the engine is OMNI 3D and that a large documentation about China, Forbidden City and Quianlong is provided. It's a point and click game, in the same genre as Egypt, Aztec or Versailles.
Storyline: Once upon a time, in the Forbidden City ...
The plot is good. I mean, you're just investigating a murder and then, you're finishing by discovering that Wang was forced to use his talents for the count of a "demon", trying to harm the Emperor. Wang let evidence by writing a series of letters which were hidden. Wang was killed trying to stop the Emperor's murder. When An, I mean you, began to understand that, a series of murders will strike the Forbidden City during the same day. And it's up to you to solve it before dawn (even if dawn never arrived in the game).
Gameplay: clicking, clicking and right-clicking
The gameplay is easy to understand. You just click. When a finger is appearing, you can click for walking. When it's a fist, that means that you can pick up or interact with your environment. When it's lips, you can talk to a character... if the cursor is on the head, if not, lips will not appear. When it's a star, that means that a item in your inventory can be use on the environment. You can also show some objects (well, mostly papers) to characters. The inventory is appearing when right-clicking but I found a problem. Perhaps it's because of my OS (XP when the game is for Win 95/98) or because the game is a re-release but I couldn't exit the inventory by right-clicking again. I needed to pick an object or to right-click a certain time or to come back to the game by returning to the main menu and choosing to Return to the Game.
Anyway, by right-clicking, you can access to some features. You already know that the button for going to the main menu is present. Now, I'll explain the others. The eye is for watching papers like Wang's confessions or clues for the hidden papers. The compass is for the map. Indeed, you can use a map for moving from a place to another. But be aware that sometimes, you can't access a specific part before going by yourself. After, you can access directly by the map to the location. Finally, you have a paper meaning that you can access the important parts of your investigation. An is writing the important facts in it, helping you to remember what you have to do.
A weakness of the game is the fact that you can't choose your sentences when talking. It's a cutscene that revealed you important clues and somewhere, it's boring when you can't lead the conversation.
Graphics: It's an old game, people
The graphics are nice... even if now, they're really old. But I'm wondering if the fact that sometimes, it seems so... strange, wasn't related to my OS. As I've already explained, China is fine for Win 95/98 but for XP, it's another problem. It worked perfectly, I mean, the game didn't have a problem, like I've with Aztec, where the graphic engine is encountering problems for working. I can't explain why the feeling of odd graphics in English but don't worry, it's not bothering when playing, it's just during cutscenes. But don't expect a great variety of faces...
Soundtrack: China's tune
The soundtrack is very nice. You have the feeling to be in China and it's a very relaxing music. The acting voices... well, having played the game in French, the original voices of the game, I can tell you a thing: It was a bad voice acting. Poor eunuques, they've got a pitched voice, I know that they were castrated but the French voices were ridiculous. Even An didn't have a good voice.
Puzzles: Wang was a clever man
About puzzles, most of them are easy to understand but be aware that some are difficult to understand if you don't consult the provided documentation or if you don't pay attention to the clues left by Wang...
China being an educative soft, the documentation about the Forbidden City, the country and Quianlong is provided. You can access it during the game by returning to the main menu or by clicking on the interrogation mark when investigating. You can find in it pictures (sometimes from the game) and articles about the culture.
The soft is letting you visit the places of the game without having to do specific actions by choosing the "Visit the Place". Keep in mind that you'll only visit where you'll be passing by during the game. So don't be hoping to have a complete tour of the Forbidden City.
Bottom Line: Nice soft but a little limited
China is a nice soft for people loving adventure games... limited interaction adventure games. Without the possibility of leading conversation, the game is just: click on this object, talk to this character, etc.. The graphics are nice even if old and the soundtrack is very great. But the real strong point of the game is the provided documentation. Without it, China would have been a poor game. I loved it but I doubt that players will love it now. Anyway, keep in mind that at the time of its release, it was a good soft.