|Interface||1st 360 simple||Real-time||minor|
a.k.a. Egypt 3: The Destiny of Ramses
You play Maya, an Egyptian magician during the reign of Ramses 2. Ramses is building a new temple in exchange for some extra years of life, but mysterious accidents plague the construction. Ramses sends you to uncover the source of the problems and get things moving again.
Maya is a fun character. She's generally pleasant, but she has a bit of a temper. There aren't many characters you have significant dealings with, but they are similarly given distinctive but realistic characterisations.
The story takes place in the world as the Egyptians saw it, full of magic and gods. A key part of Maya's abilities, in addition to the usual adventurish problem solving repertoire, is the use of magic. The idea is good, but I found the spells too vaguely defined to make for good challenges (cf. Enchanter). Several of the spells could make sense in any situation, but they ended up being used with a simple lock-and-key effect -- not really bad, but a squandering of potential.
The game is as linear as adventures get, and with a narrow scope: there's always only one immediate task to consider, and the interface keeps a log for you. There's a strong plot, however, which develops continuously through play. You visit the otherworld of the gods a few times, and sail up and down the Nile, as you try to restore the project and uncover the conspiracy.
The challenges display a sort of multiple personality disorder. The usual contextual adventure challenges are very easy, with Maya telling you exactly what to do, sometimes even before she should know, including identifying objects to pick up -- no pixel hunting in this game! This beginner level design contrasts sharply with a selection of puzzles (and one mini-game); they're not fiendishly difficult, but they are a few notches above the others. The puzzles are usually given the fig-leaf excuse of a test to prove your worthiness, but really aren't relevant to the location or story. Apparently the ancient Egyptians thought only the pure of heart could be clever.
There are several timed sequences, and you can die in them (and in the mini-game), but there is an autorestore back to the beginning of the sequence. Most were generous, once you know what to do, but I had problems with one, needing several attempts after figuring it all out.
The game is presented through a node-based bubble view, with 3D puppets for characters. The puppets were well done, especially the motion. It wasn't perfectly natural, but it avoided the too common Tourette's-like movements. Similarly, the bubble view avoided the excessive distortion usually found with that presentation, so that looking around felt more natural. Both backgrounds and puppets are of high quality. I especially liked the varied portrayals of the characters, looking more like a collection of real people, as opposed to the usual set of iconic body types.
With a good story and a lovely presentation, Egypt 3 is an entertaining play. The challenge design, however, is weak, with a few good stand-alone puzzles outweighed by a lot of trivial makework, some nose dragging, and some timed sequences.