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POMPEI: The Legend of Vesuvius
( TIMESCAPE: Journey to Pompeii )

Reviewed by  Mr. Bill & Lela

Based on the most recent archeological discoveries, this game re-creates the ancient city of Pompeii exactly as it existed just prior to the volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D., when it and all of its inhabitants were almost instantaneously suffocated with toxic fumes and buried beneath over 10 feet of volcanic ash.

Like some other historical educational adventures before it (Versailles and Pilgrim), it was designed in close cooperation with the Réunion des Musées Nationaux, and is intended to be more of an educational tool than just a game per se. And as such it is well done. The plot itself is simple and serves only as a device to familiarize you with what life was like in Pompei in the 4 days preceding its destruction.

In the prologue you learn that, as the result of a curse by a Goddess, the love of your life has been condemned to wander history: projected into 3 different times of crisis, the first of which is Pompei (this is the first game of a planned trilogy), without any memory of who she really is or any memory of you. You have been projected into the same time period and given an assumed identity as your only asset, and you have only 4 days to find her and convince her to leave with you in order to save her from destruction. So of course you must very quickly learn to deal successfully with the lifestyle, customs, and inhabitants of the era.

The game contains a tour feature that allows you to just explore without playing, a map of the area, and a comprehensive encyclopedia of known facts. The encyclopedia can be accessed while playing (by clicking on the amulet), and it will take you directly to an article dealing with whatever you have just been contemplating. You can discover clues there about how to deal with a certain situation (play a particular game of the time, etc) and read additional material on whatever interests you.

But perhaps its greatest value lies in the dawning realization, as you compare actual archeological photos to the game itself, that indeed what you are looking at in the game really is an exact re-creation of how that particular house or that particular object looked at the time. It is fascinating to peruse and includes much detail, even some remarkable photos of petrified corpses, one or two seemingly caught unawares in mid-sentence.

We were, however, very surprised by one aspect of the game. Having seen the exceptional quality of the characters in Arxel Tribe's game Faust, and even in their very first game 'Pilgrim', we were quite unprepared for the 'not-lifelike' appearance of the characters. For although all other aspects of the game are excellent (the re-creation of the city, the cut-scene videos, etc), the characters merely stand and look almost like statues: with very little, if any, movement and no lip movement while interacting with each other, in some instances not even facing each other while talking. And this creates the impression that, in reality, the game was developed much earlier despite the fact that it was released only recently.

SophiaBut, with that exception, the game is very well done, with conscientious attention to detail. And as a result, the overall affect that it has on you is strange, and can only be described as coming away from it thinking how very 'ordinary' everything was then (the houses, the people, the daily life): how much like any average small 10-15,000 population town today, with its fancy municipal buildings, and its row upon row of look-alike single family residences and shops, and its mundane daily life. Would you or your town be much different if you were hit without warning by a similar disaster?

And perhaps therein lies the real value of a game such as this: in the understanding and empathy that it creates.

Developed (1999) by Arxel Tribe and was published by Cryo Interactive Entertainment (no longer exists) in Europe.  Published (2000) in North America with the new name TimeScape: Journey To Pompeii by DreamCatcher Interactive ( now The Adventure Company ).

Minimum System Requirements:  Windows   MAC

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Walkthroughs or Hints:

"Walkthrough" available here!

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