|Interface||1st 360 simple||Real-time||minor|
Dreamcatcher name: The Messenger
Back in the 14th century, some evil Black Templars forced the alchemist Anselme to create four magical objects that, when brought together, would trigger the Apocalypse. Anselme managed to hide one, and the others became scattered over the years, but the Black Templars are still looking for them. You play Morgane, a special forces agent. Morgane's father, an historian, has found out about the plot, and charges you to find and destroy the objects. One is prominently displayed in the Louvre, so you'll start by stealing it. You soon run into a ghost who can transport you to various other times where the various objects were on the Louvre grounds.
With that setup, it should be hard to avoid a good story, but somehow Louvre manages it. There are no conspiracies through the ages, just a quest through the various Louvres (three time periods) looking for the magic objects. There's a little bit of palace intrigue in each era that you have to step around, but nothing involved or interesting enough to be engaging. You run into several characters, but they have no personality, just a set of wants and haves to drive the challenges.
The challenges are mostly relevant to their locales, but they're still poorly conceived. For example, at one point you find some writing on the back of a chair. You can't read it since it's too dark. The problem is that there are several possible ways to illuminate the writing, but only the unlikely one is blessed by the game. There's a creative deficit, with a dozen or so key objects.
Several challenges require unlikely actions which lead to unexpected but required results. For example, and a minor spoiler, at one point you have to open a lock by shooting it with your crossbow. This only works on the one lock, not on the dozen or so other locks you'll encounter. To rub salt into your wounded sensibilities, you also have to shoot it at a lock that is clearly the strongest in the game, just because its failure will trigger an unexpected action.
Save often, because death is frequent and there's no auto-restore. Usually there's some clue to it, but sometimes not, and sometimes you have to do something that seems suicidal. There are also some timed sequences that lead to death, that come upon you with no warning. They're not difficult when you know what to do (just a click or two in a quarter minute or so), but not enough time if you haven't got the right items in your inventory.
The biggest problem, however, is the pixel hunting. The game engine allows you to look up and down and 360 degrees around, and non-obvious hotspots are hiding throughout all this range, sometimes in dark areas, sometimes as an otherwise unexceptional patch of floor.
On the positive side, the challenges are well structured. There's a lot of little things to do, so you're constantly making progress. The game leans to the linear side, but there's enough width to keep it from feeling too linear. Many objects get reused, and some challenges require several objects.
The graphics are standard for the day. They're clean, but too sterile to fire the imagination. Otherwise the interface is generally poor. The voice actors rush through their lines, making them difficult to understand -- and there is no subtitling option. The cursor is locked to the centre of the screen, annoying at the best of times, but doubly so here because the pixel hunting forces you to swing your view around everywhere. It's odd that the French are are so concerned about epilepsy, yet they seem to love inducing nausea.
The inventory interface is annoying. Rather than have an infinite inventory, you are limited to only eight items. That might be realistic, except that you are given magic chests scattered about the Louvre. Put something in one chest, and take it out of any chest, destroying any realism. So for no gain you get a lot of extra tedium, juggling inventory about. The inventory screen itself has a major misdesign, forcing you to sit through a small animation every time you use it.
Louvre looks like yet another game designed by people trying to do something other than make a game (in this case, showcase the Louvre), and who seem to have little experience either making or playing games. They don't even know how to make a decent story. The executive summary is good, but nothing more is done with it. There's no support from the uncreative challenges or the uninspired (albeit competent) art and design. For completists only.