USK: 16 years and up
A review by slydos 01. November 2003
"In Memoriam" is an unusual adventure game, with which Lexis Numérique and Ubisoft try to wear away the borders between game and reality. Developers and publisher follow the media trend of the reality shows.
Means of style
- Internet search on partly existing web pages, partly especially for this game created pages.
- Real emails from the net to real email addresses of the players.
- The players are addressed not only in the game, but also in the manual, readme files and everywhere else not as players but as actual helpers in clearing-up of this case. It is avoided to use the word "computer game".
- The players are addressed directly by a mysterious serial killer and must react to him. In these cases the otherwise usual ego perspective (1st-person) is left for a short time for a 2rd person-perspective (if you let it get you involved in it).
The game is released according to the USK starting from 16 years. There are actually some few scenes, which are inappropriate to a younger audience, i.e. showing sights of corpses but also the panic of the kidnapped people. Beyond that the subject of serial murders and the psychological argument with it aims clearly at grown-up gamers. But the target group is limited still more: Only players with a private internet access can participate, preferably starting from 56.6K-Modem-speed.
The DVD-box contains 3 CDROMs and a German manual. 2 of the CDs are installation disks for PC and MAC. The third disk is the Phoenix CDROM, (the actual game-CD). Although just from the start it's pointed out again and again that the film scenes can be frightening, I had my fright climax just during the installation, when my computer was paralyzed and I had to pull the power supply plug. Thus a quite dangerous game, which right from the start puts sensitive minds over the edge. After I restored my system to conditions before the crash and also had removed the small icon, that wanted to deinstall my scanner, it could start... I thought.
If you now click on the game icon, the following error message informs you that you probably inserted the wrong CD. Aha - I suppose the program wants to cause me to remove the installation CD and insert the game CD? Not much references about that - but a look into the manual tells us that the hotline is accessible around the clock!
With the black CD in the drive it really gets under way. At this point you have to register in real and officially with your email-address and decide, whether you want to receive your emails during the game online or by email program. The game then automatically connects you with the internet and arranges an email to our email address with our personal password, which we need each time, we want to start the game. So first you have to retrieve this email, enter the given password into the associated field - and the game starts.
If you don't want to stay on-line all the time, you should terminate the internet connection here. Whether we are considered of value for Phoenix (the killer), depends on the solution of 3 start puzzles, which result in again 3 passwords. We find two of the passwords over the internet or simply by try and error, which is possible too.
Not until that we have access to an interaction bar within the game to access videos or emails and web pages. In addition you have now the possibility to quit the game, while our only savegame is automatically stored.
But what is it all about actually?
During his investigation of a bizarre murder series through entire Europe the journalist Jack Lorski and his young companion Karen disappear. Some weeks after their disappearing his agency receives a CDROM with fragments of his filmed diary and a collection of strange data. The agency decides, to publish the CDROM to get hints about the disappearance of their staff member. The CDROM is built like a game - more exactly said it consists of a multiplicity of mini games - and was developed by an insane aesthete, a serial killer, who calls himself "Phoenix". He plays with the people, who get involved by following his little clues to save the life of Jack and Karen.
In Memoriam is created with Macromedia Director and offers graphically a sequence of fixed images where collages, animations, video film scenes and interactive elements, e.g. input fields or mini games were inserted. A large part of the screen is black. The killer speaks to us in more or less coded texts, which are typewriter-like faded in and link the individual puzzles. Usually he offers us collages with references to places and persons embedded in a context of esoteric symbols and historical fragments. The whole is accompanied by alienated voices and sounds, which are always repeated during an individual puzzle unit and often sound nerving or intendedly tedious. Who watched the French movie "Sixpack" about a serial killer, will experience the intro as extremely similar to the game graphics and notice similarly dark, cold-rainy atmosphere. (I had actually picked out the film myself, because I wanted to have a look at the original Chiara Mastroianni from Atlantis 3.)
The atmosphere is dark, uneasy and uncomfortable and forces gamers to leave scenes as fast as possible to watch one of the movie scenes which the Phoenix makes available as reward after successful solution.
The film scenes are either parts of Jack's video diary about his investigations, accompanied by his comments and thoughts (with slight French accent although he is actually Polish) or short, indistinct noisy black/white videos, which the killer has made of Jack and Karen.
For a change one can search the internet and will find a lot of web sites, which were created especially for the game, but seem like authentic, independently existing sites. Here the developers took great pains, to let them look like real private, business or scientific homepages with most different layouts - respect! One actually only recognizes that this must be a game website, by the different language versions (many of the sites are apart from the French and English version also in German or Italian. Here and there one can find pure monolingual pages (e.g. an Italian, on which one can access - with the right password - the personal emails and information of the employee of an Italian company), but such offers are only extras and not essential for the solution of the game. That shows, how much efforts were made, to let the background appear convincing and realistic.
The killer gives us the possibility of hunting him with this CD. He keenly controls everything we do, what he not only tells us by his lines within the game, but also by emails.
Phoenix assigns tasks and rewards us with more and more information about himself, his conceptions and actions. There are about 100 single puzzles, which are tagged with a mystic name in each case. Phoenix has summarized these puzzles in several sections, in which we can select the offered tasks as fast moving elements out of a pool, like atoms from the primal potage of the elements water, earth, air and fire. Some tasks have to do with these elements, others lead us on historical, religious, geographical or scientific excursions, which provide finally a further tessera to the personality and the intentions of the Phoenix. But regardless in which order we proceed, we must solve ALL puzzles, in order to get ahead. The difficulty level of the puzzles increases gradually from completely easy to very difficult.
At the beginning of most games Phoenix gives us more or less coded hints to the solution. If we work too long on it - in his opinion -, it can happen that he gives us more detailed help. Sometimes however he leaves us in complete darkness, what it's all about and even the small question mark at the top of the screen gives no clue, how to tackle a puzzle. Tips and clues can be found predominantly on the internet, where we must use search engines to find his traces. The film scenes contain help too and of course the large number of emails, which we receive in the course of time from our likeminded 'colleagues' on the net. The longer we are online, the more emails we get. At the end of an off-line solved puzzle the program each time tries to make an internet connection, in order to report our progress. We should permit that, since we receive otherwise no email hints.
Some of this email hints are really helpful, others you get after having solved the corresponding puzzle. The internet search is the most important component of "In Memoriam" and belongs to the most interesting and ingenious puzzle designs, which I became acquainted with so far. Partly one must find unique pages, partly it doesn't make any difference on whatever page you find certain information, also encyclopedias and specialized books can help.
But don't be afraid, from the plethora of web pages the correct results are always indicated under the first hits, when the search words are entered correctly.
Puzzle examples: You have to find a house address in an European city where a special historical person had lived, the accurate geographical coordinates of a place that you first have tovfind out, the location of real existing objects at certain places and even in the universe, family names, data etc., etc..
Beside these really original and exciting puzzles there are a lot of mini games in our murderer/victim search and I felt reminded of adventures for children, which are fraught with such games too. At the beginning these mini games, which partly require reactivity partly exact reckoning, can be survived fast and very easy, but become more and more difficult in the course of the game. It's about jigsaw puzzles, miniature golf, a pacman variant and the like. I personally sat 3 days to blow certain letters into the corners of the screen while I nearly broke my fingers at the keyboard. After one found out, how a mini game functions, true frustration can arise, when your fingers are just not quick enough, to obey your thoughts.
Well, one can cool oneself down by the thought, that everything is concocted by a disturbed individual. Who however does not have sufficient dexterity and reactivity, should already consider at this point whether "In Memoriam" is something is for him/her. At last you'll have to spend roughly 1/3 of the game time with it.
In principle you play with the mouse, also in most of the mini games. Keyboard control can only be found in sporadic mini games. But you must test the mouse actions and reactions in many of these games first, since it can be quite possible that the movements are retarded.
There is no menu or a possibility to save the game on your own, except using the interaction bar with the email/internet access and film archives. And this just led exactly (as I assume, not only with me) to a fatal situation during a game crash briefly before the very end of the game.
Apart from the extremely unpleasant starting problem already described, there was a still more fatal bug before teh end of the game. After I had left a minigame (a Space Invaders variant) after the first successful level, I unsuspectingly left "In Memoriam", which normally stores the current savegame automatically. Unfortunately not this time! After starting the game again, only a Macromedia Director error message appeared. Unfortunately my savegame had irreparably been lost, what I was told by the fast but in this case helpless support. The only possibility would have been to play the game from the beginning again. For time reasons I wasn't able to replay and finish this review before my vacation, so I ask for your indulgence, that there is no sentence about the finale. It is important to me, to point out that it is essential to at least save the savegame directory each time after leaving the game in another place on your PC and to play the Space Invaders minigame to the end at once.
"In Memoriam" is like a roller coaster drive. On one hand marvelous ideas, suspense and originality, keeping the gamers interested. On the other hand boredom and frustration in the mini games and bugs, which one cannot push aside. The intended closeness to reality and involvement of the gamers are actually successfully done in large areas and force the gamers to go on, quasi despite all adversities.
Nevertheless I cannot suppress a question during the complex and expensive online procedures: "Eric, darling, why havn't you made it as offline game?" Actually you have to add to the 45 euro purchase price still approx. 20 hours online time and there is also no guaranty that the game is still playable in a year or so.
"In Memoriam" is from the outset no game for a large public. Not even for all adventure gamers. It addresses adult internet users, who are in addition fans of movies with a serial killer plot and Reality-TV, and who from time to time pass a few bucks for an esoteric book. If you can echo in this - grab it and you'll be very well entertained, for all remaining pots there are different covers.My rating: 66%
Adventure-Archiv rating system:
80% - 100% excellent game, very recommendable 70% - 79% good game, recommendable 60% - 69% satisfactory, restricted recommendable 50% - 59% sufficient (not very recommendable) 40% - 49% rather deficient (not to be recommended - for Hardcore-Adventure-Freaks and collectors only) 0% - 39% worst (don't put your fingers on it)
System requirements PC:
- Windows 95/98/2000/ME/XP
- Pentium 333
- 64 MB RAM
- Graphic card 32 Bit
- 8x CDROM-drive
- 16 Bit sound card (Soundblaster compatible)
- 700 MB on hard drive
- Internet access with minimal 56.6 KB/s modem
System requirements MAC:
- MAC OS 8.6, (MAC OSX in classic mode)
- 64 MB RAM
- 8x CDROM-drive
- 700 MB on hard drive
- Internet access with minimal 56.6 KB/s modem
- Windows XP
- P IV 1,6 GHz
- 512 MB RAM
- 16x DVD-ROM (Artec WRA-A40)
- nVidia GeForce 2MX400 64 MB graphic card
- Sound card DirectX-compatible
Olivier Chenevat plays Jack Lorski
Caroline Charléty plays Karen Gijman
You must find your way through this permanently moving tube without touching it too often
A scene from Jack's video diary
You have to find the engraving on this painting
A puzzle from a video sequence
Within the element 'air' the letters blow puff mutual reciprocal and we have to use this fact
This dragonfly can create letters
One of the many web pages, you have to find
Mysterious letters must be decoded
Phoenix watches the journalists
Find the right order of the signs
This mini game is about fire
A 'Magical Square'
You need a good power of observation for this video-puzzle
A code puzzle where you need the help of insects
This and similar courses must be handled