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The Messenger
( Louvre: The Final Curse )

Reviewed by  Cynthia Gary

All right, I'll admit it.  I'm a museum freak.  If given the vacation choice of sunning myself at a beach resort or spending time in a town or city with a museum, I'll always choose the latter.  Whether I'm viewing a moon rock in the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum, an apatosaurus skeleton in the American Museum of Natural History, a mummy case in the British Museum, or a Da Vinci painting in the Uffizi Gallery, I find it thrilling to stand in the presence of such wonderful objects with their unique and fascinating histories.

Among the ever-growing list of museums I'd love to visit someday is the Louvre.  Since a trip to Paris is not an immediate possibility, I thought the next best thing would be a virtual trip via my computer.  With this in mind, I loaded up The Messenger (also known as Louvre: The Final Curse) and began what proved to be an interesting and rather unusual tour.  Not only did I get to see some of the Louvre as it is today, but also how it grew and changed through time from the Medieval period to the Renaissance and then to the French Revolution.

The game begins with the main character, Morgan Sinclair, listening to a tape recording from her deceased father, who begs her to take on a mission to save the world.  (Is there any other kind?)  He explains that during the excavation of the Louvre, a statue was found along with ivory tablets.  After spending many years deciphering the tablets, he discovered that the statue is one of four artifacts, called 'Satan's Keys', which have the power to cause worldwide devastation if brought together.  He pleads with her to retrieve the statue from the museum and destroy it before it can fall into the wrong hands.

Morgan complies with his request, but just as she is going to leave with the artifact, she has a close encounter with a ghostly guardian associated with the Templars.  He tells her that she has been chosen to retrieve all the items so they can be destroyed and opens a portal in time for her.  She steps through it and finds herself in the Medieval Louvre of 1377.  This is where her quest truly begins.

The game is played from the first person point of view, but with the character of Morgan appearing in the cut scenes.  Mouse-controlled movement is tied to the cursor position.  The player can turn completely around the room by moving the cursor right or left and can view the ceiling and floor by moving it up or down.  In some of the rooms of the later time periods, the painted ceilings and inlaid floors are quite lovely to see.

As in many DreamCatcher games, the cursor becomes an arrow when the player can move ahead, a magnifying glass if something can be viewed in closeup, a hand if an object can be picked up, a hand with a gear if something can be manipulated, and a double-gear icon if an inventory item can be used in a particular spot.  Most of the time the interactive hot spots are easy to find, but there are a few, located very high or very low, that may take a more thorough pixel hunt to find.

The puzzles in the game are mainly inventory based.  Objects must be found and used in the right places to further the action, and often items must be combined in inventory before they can be used.  There are also some codes to find and decipher, and clues can be obtained in various written forms or by speaking to a character and/or eavesdropping.  Morgan also has her father's Dictaphone, which gives a brief synopsis of each historic period and some clues for exploring.  I felt that the puzzles were well clued, except for one involving some chemistry and another concerning a keyless locked door.  They weren't game stoppers by any means but just required a bit of inventory fiddling to solve.

In this game, shifting inventory items around can prove to be a puzzle in itself.  The main part of the inventory has 15 slots to hold the basic modern equipment needed to complete the mission plus some of the items found during exploration.  Since these slots are not enough to hold everything, the items not needed right away can be placed in one of several trunks and fetched at a later time.  The trick is deciding which items are essential at any given time.  Fortunately there is no need for the player to find a specific trunk to retrieve a needed item because all of the inventory trunks are magically interconnected (perhaps via portals in the space-time continuum?).  If an object is placed in a trunk in the bedroom, it can be found later in the trunk in the main hallway or vice versa.  The player also has to be careful to allow enough inventory slots to take apart assembled objects when one of the components is needed separately.  For example, the grappling hook, Kevlar rope, and crossbow might be used together, but if only the rope is needed, there have to be spaces for all three items.

The Louvre is a big place, so to help with traveling within a time period, a navigation map can be accessed from the inventory screen.  Once a room or outside area has been visited, the map can be used to jump back to check a clue or to fetch that one essential inventory item invariably left behind in a trunk.  Since there are upper and lower levels to visit, there is a button below the map that will change the levels.

It is possible to die or be captured in this game, which results in 'Game Over'.  However it's easy enough to restore a save.  There are 4 save slots, which show a picture of the location.  I tend to save quite a lot when I play, so I just overwrote the saves as I went along.

There are several timed sequences in the game.  The red timing bar appearing at the top of the screen always took me by surprise at first, but I found I had plenty of time to complete the task once I discovered what it was.  Sometimes an item has to be retrieved from inventory during that time, but the timing bar pauses while the inventory window is open to make it easier to complete the sequence.

The story in the game is interesting, if a bit predictable, but there are some story gaps that I wish had been more complete.  The player never discovers exactly what Morgan does for a living, although it does involves stealth, high-tech equipment, and a nifty black body suit.  Her relationship with her father could have been fleshed out more too.  In the introduction, he accuses her of thinking only of herself, but we never find out why.  The story concerning the Templars unfolds via character interactions, but in a couple of places it left me with more questions than answers.  There are two possible endings to the game, both being rather abrupt.  A little more closure would have been nice.

The game is an interesting mix of real history and magical fantasy.  However, several times Morgan has to dispatch guards and others who might raise the alarm leading to her capture.  These are done via cut scenes and are not gory, but players who are bothered by shooting someone with a crossbow or dropping heavy objects on them should probably avoid this game.  On the other hand, those who also play RPGs and shooters will find this one very tame in comparison.

The game is fairly linear but not completely restrictive.  The player will not be able to leave a time period until all the tasks are completed, but there is some leeway as to the order tasks can be accomplished within a time period.

The background graphics in the game are prerendered and quite decent, and a lot of the areas are authentic, including the artwork.  The characters are varied and wear what I assume to be the correct costumes of each period.  Morgan's costume changes are done automatically in a morphing cut scene, once the proper clothing is found.

There are no dialogue trees in the game, but clicking on a character triggers a cut scene with dialogue.  A scene can be repeated to catch any missed clues, but otherwise a character remains quiet and unmoving, which detracts from the realism.  Although the characters have a somewhat plastic look to them and strange teeth, the voice acting and lip movements are very good.

Music in the game occurs only in the introduction and some of the cut scenes, but it's appropriate in mood and not at all intrusive.  When exploring, many ambient sounds can be heard.

On the whole and despite some flaws, I had fun on my virtual tour of the Louvre.  It was a good mix of the historic and the mystical, and I found it quite engaging.  Who knows?  Maybe someday I'll be able to visit the museum for real and perhaps search for a certain artifact or hidden passageway.

Now where did I put my passport, the Kevlar rope, and that snazzy black jumpsuit?

  May 2006  Cynthia Gary

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Developed (2001) by  Index+France Telecom MultimediaCanal+ Multimedia  and published by  DreamCatcher Interactive.

Rated:   T   for Teen 13+

Minimum System Requirements:  Windows   MAC

Where To Buy This Game:

Walkthroughs or Hints:

"MaGtRo's Walkthrough" available here!

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Copyright  May 2006
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