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A review by slydos 2nd April 2002
Cryo pooled together with the developer tbot. Their first joint product is the adaptation of Jules Verne's probably most well-known novel: "20,000 Miles Under the Sea". It must be concerned as first of a series of adventures after materials of Jules Verne.
21st century. A research submarine, the USS Shark, encounters a metallic object when investigating volcanic activities in the Atlantic Ocean. The object is four times as large as the USS Shark itself.
While the crew is still argueing about the fact whether the object should be examined or not, a young scientist against all rules grabs a mini submarine and docks at the mysterious wreck. After he entered through a hatch, we can hear an alarm bell ringing and the hatch with the large letter "N" can't be opened any more. Our young scientist is in the decompression chamber of the Nautilus and must find a way out. As it turns out after some investigations, it's the submarine of the legendary captain Nemo equipped with a number of technical finesses. An artificial intelligence guards the submarine and tries to kill the intruder...
"Jules Verne - The Secret of the Nautilus" is sold on one CD with a multilingual manual in DVD-box. For the installation it needs approx. 510 MB on hard disk. Through the main menu we can reach the game's options menu, continue or quit and replay the video sequences already seen in the current adventure - a praise-worthy addition.
The totally mouse-controlled game begins and we can scroll with the mouse in 1st-person-perspective without bucking and smoothly in all directions. From the animated and variable mouse cursor we can read whether we can move in a certain direction or interact with an object.
Here we can already find one of the weak points of the game: the interactive areas are very small and even if you've already detected a hotspot, that indicates an object, it's sometimes extremely hard to position the cursor exactly on that spot again to execute an action. That's of course particularly fatal within the numerous time-dependent sequences, where fast acting is inevitable.
A further weak point of handling are the two constantly inserted icons for inventory and PDA (personnel digital assistant) at the bottom left corner. On the one hand one gets again and again from normal game area into these two icons and opens them so by mistake. On the other hand the main screen area relocates each time you want to save the game clicking on the PDA. Most of the time you then store a topicless picture of the floor with the savegame instead of the picture, that you actually wanted to have, because you must always drive the cursor to the down left corner to open the PDA.
The inventory can also be opened with the right mouse button, must however be closed, before one can click on the PDA. The inventory, a backpack, opens perpendicularly upward and can be scrolled. Since collected objects are not always clearly recognizable, one gets to know what they are to represent, if one drives over them in the inventory and a describing text appears. If you want to put back an object into the opened inventory, you have to be very exact, until the text "store" appears, otherwise you should rather directly click on the backpack. The head of our hero can also be found in the inventory. If you put a taken up object here, e.g. gloves, then our hero will wear them as better protection against dangers.
All in all taking up, using and placing inventory objects is a science for itself and no easy affair. During the time-limited puzzles the complicated handling is often the cause for a "Game Over".
If you want to save during the timed sequences, you have to run after the PDA, because it is moving away under the mouse movement. The game has 24 save spaces, which can be selected individually. Here the screen contents, the room of the Nautilus, day and time-of-day are stored automatically. Only 8 save slots are displayed at once, you have to use the scroll-bar to find the rest.
If you open the PDA, you'll find again 9 icons. Behind them the save/load menu is hidden, a log, a computer, plans of the ship's already visited rooms, book extracts, sound recordings, navigation aid and the option menu. Unfortunately only insignificant facts for the solution are stored here. Really important construction notes cannot be found there. Those can only be clicked once in the game and then must be sketched or noted down, because you can't look at them a second time.
The handling of this game is substantially more complex and more complicated opposite earlier Cryo adventures and needs sure instinct. It aggravates, to some extend substantially, the solution of puzzles "on time" and diverts indeed more from the game's happenings, than it is helpful.
The entire interactive story of "Jules Verne - the Secret of the Nautilus" takes place in the inside of the submarine. In the process of the game ever more rooms become accessible, you can open doors to laboratories, sleep chambers, kitchens, machine and transmission rooms, where really each detail counts and must be examined. Graphical basis were engravings from the 19th century to let revive a long ago time.
Unfortunately the graphics quality is below average, indistinct and blurred, often very dark. Most of the time we move through three-dimensional still lives, here and there aerated by withdrawing smoke or water. In animations a lever or a wheel is moving now and then. Here and there the isolation is interrupted by a blurred, ginger-coloured hologram of captain Nemo, which is beside the computer voice of the artificial intelligence the only talking.
Usually we can watch video sequences when we can enter a new part of the ship or have solved a puzzle. The sequences are partly spectacular and can be called again through the main menu.
The few music topics fit the historical ambience and become fast and excited, the more time pressure or difficulties there are. Together with the music various sound effects support the uncanny atmosphere on the abandoned submarine. Scratching, squeaking, fizzling, rumbling, clinking, creaking - all this gives a realistic touch to the environment and the actions of our hero.
The difficulty level of the puzzles increases in the linear game process from a middle level up to exceedingly difficult. Our hero thinks again and again, what is to be done next and where to use certain objects. Thus one usually knows, what door must be opened or which machine started, but the path to get there isn't simple at all most of the time. First objects and hotspots must be found. Often a very high positioning accuracy of the cursor is required. Sometimes a certain order of sequence must be observed. You can run into a dead end, if you cut through e.g. the false cable and can die often, if you don't apply objects fast enough.
There are some timed puzzles and here you must assume that 5 or 6 restarts from saved games are not sufficient, you may need 30 or 40 attempts with the more complex ones. Switches must be pushed in the correct order, machines must be refloated and of course also a safe must be opened. You have to fight against deadly radiation, deoxidation or flooding. An inserted chronometer thereby increases suspense even more. The puzzles are however usually logical and there are hints to the solutions, to be found somewhere in the ship. You have to examine the environment carefully in every detail and save often.
The background story of the Nautilus, which we experience gradually, is not very imaginative or extensive. More importance was layed on the puzzles of the present, and those are really tricky. Not a game that I would recommend to beginners or gamers, who do not want to remain persistent also after 30 deaths in the same place. Likewise nothing for gamers, who love dialogues and interaction with many characters. For experienced adventure gamers, who like the isolation and the ego perspective, it's a recommendable challenge if you want to get involved in the laborious handling and the mediocre graphics. In contrast to Cryo's last adventure "Jerusalem" you obtain anyhow a lot more game for the money with "Nautilus" and can enjoy approx. 30+ hours play time.
Total rating: 60%
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)
Minimal system requirements:
- Pentium II 350
- Windows 95/98/2000
- 32 MB RAM
- 8x CDROM-drive
- 16 bit graphic card
- Soundblaster compatible 16 bit sound card
- DirectX compatible system (on CD)
- 510 MB on hard disk
- Pentium III 850
- 128 MB RAM
- Sound- and graphic card DirectX-compatible
- Toshiba DVD-ROM
The main menu
24 save slots
The map room
3 objects can be seen in the inventory simultanously
Captain Nemo speaks to us as a hologram
Machines must be repaired
This organ has a secret
The chronometer in the lower right corner shows the remaining time
The guest room - the nicest room of the Nautilus
A helpful sketch
A serious confusion