>> Sunday, January 28, 2007
Back in 1993, this title was highly over-shadowed by Philips’ high profile title: The 7th Guest. Compared to this one, Inca looks pretty bad. That’s unfortunate, because there’s a highly clever story and gameplay behind the title. According to insights Inca was one of the most expensive CD-I games to make (along with The 7th Guest). Does it show? Not really, but the port from CD-ROM may have caused several problems to run it smoothly on CD-i. However, this game is big, and its story is very well worked out. Why did it receive so little attention?
Developer: Coktel Vision (Sierra Online)
Publisher: Philips Media (France)
Genre: Adventure (with action/puzzle elements)
Review date: January 2007
DVC Required: NO
Extra: no multiplayer, age rating: >12+
One thing that hooked me to this game was the setting: It is based around an ancient Incan world flooded with science fiction and folklore. I will explain the story for you: In a drift from time and space, you awake to fulfill a destiny set over 500 years ago. You have to save the lost Incan civilization. This “Back to the future” idea marks a very original game, a true blend between action and adventure, born in a rich past, set in an unknown future.
The game has been developed by French based Coktel Vision, which showed the potential of designer Pierre Gilhodes. Pierre also gave the popular “Goblins” series (from parent company Sierra) its visual style. Inca offers different styles of different game genres, put together with a clever story-line. Something that would never work in theory, but it unfolds beautifully in our imagination. Then comes the true point: You will only appreciate Inca to the most if you are immersed to the unusual theme, which is based on both facts and fables.
The story starts in 1525, and an Incan ruler named by Huayna Capac tells a story about the Tawantinsuya Empire. Capac predicts the arrival of disasters like floodings and earthquakes. He talks about “beared savages”, thieves from Spain lured by tales of El Dorado. According to the legend, El Dorado was an Incan Chief, celebrating typical rituals by covering himself in gold dust. He is called “The Gilded One”. As a sacrifice to the God of Nobility, he washed off the gold in Lake Titicaca. Incan followers also toss gold into the Lake to worship the God of the Sun. Seven years later the Spanish thieves started to battle with the Incan community. The Incan army was soon defeated, but the thieves (led by Pizarro) never found a lot of gold. It’s the credo of Capac: The real treasure (Inca knowledge) will never be found. Now, we go 500 years into the future and we’re boarded at Paititi, a lost city adrift in space. The spirit of Huayna Capac approaches you and welcomes your return as El Dorado. Soon Capac tells you about the Incan Sun which has to be recovered by retrieving the three missing jewels: Energy, Matter and Time. In order to find the jewels, you have to gain trust from various spiritual protectors and defeat evil powers of Aguirre (symbol of the spanish thieves).
The game itself follows a lineair path divided in three parts: One per jewel. Ofcourse, every part increases in difficulty but also in diversity: The most fun parts of the game occur in the latter stages. Especially the end scene where you have to fight the Spanish Galleons, huge three-masted ships firing cannonballs: amazing stuff. It offers a mix between arcade action and mind buggling puzzles, going from 3D space combat in first person perspective (Like in Kether), to logic puzzles as found in The 7th Guest. Unsolved puzzles will hold your progress, and you will be killed by failing the arcade shooting scenes. The save system works with periodically passwords which saves a lot of memory space which is a big plus (regarding the very minimal memory capacity of CD-i). After each stage you will receive a password, so you can continue from these milestones.
The interface of the game is cursor based with different functions in two available modes: Cockpit-view (space arcade scenes), and Ground-view (3D mazes). The cursor serves as weapon crosshairs and as a pointer to which direction you want to go. The screen in where it all happens is pretty small, probably because of the limitations of the gaphical power of CD-i. The screensize during space-fights is as large as the Ground-view scenes. You’re not only fighting though, you also pick up items like keys. In ground-view, you’re fighting Aguirre’s warriors in 3D mazes, with plasma bolts instead of swords. The sound effects are of very high quality and the digitized video is implemented well, although it could have been a lot better using the Digital Video Cartridge.
The graphics interface makes use of both 3D polygons (space scenes), digitized video (character models) and detailed bitmaps (puzzles). The sound deserves a special mentioning: Sampled effects like footsteps and slamming doors are of very high quality and gives the game a nice touch. Coktel Vision offers full character voices (all in true Audio CD quality) in various languages including Dutch, French, Italian. Excellent stuff, this is something I’ve never seen on a different CD-I title. One of the biggest flaws with Inca is with its speech. It’s all going pretty fast and there’s no way to hear it again, so if you’ve missed it, you might have missed very important information to go on. The puzzles sometimes require simple hints of Capac, so you have to listen carefully to him. Another flaw is in the speed of the 3D mazes, it comes a little tedious and dull to find yourself wandering not knowing where to go and coming across the same warriors over and over again. Here, the loading times are a tad long, but hold on, because you still want to know what’s coming next: a charme that keeps Inca hooking you to the screen.
Inca is highly underrated and doesn’t get a lot of attention these days from any CD-I enthusiast. It definitely deserves more: it offers a challenging mix between arcade and puzzling, a quite original ancient space theme, a long quest to go through, all presented in your local language. If you want to have a diverse game, Inca should be considered. However, it’s a hit or miss game, if you don’t like the Incan theme, you might enjoy the future minded Burn:Cycle a lot more, which is in fact the same kind of game offering the same game elements like action and puzzling.
Low-res, bland. Inca screams for a Digital Video version. The cut-scenes could have been a lot smoother, character models are integrated from real actors, which gives it a natural touch. The overall game is very dark, and the 3D mazes aren’t realtime, but exist from pre-rendered scenes. The play-field is very small (half the screen), obviously to prevent the game from getting too slow..
The soundtrack offers over 40 minutes (=14 tracks) of original New Age music, performed with authentic Incan woodwinds. Another extra is the minor hit single of J. Marrier: “Inca People”. The main menu allows for instant access to the audio tracks, and it’s a minor pity the tracks aren’t offered as an Audio CD, just like how SPC Vision has treated their games on CD-i. All the audio is presented in high quality, and the effects are implemented very well. Without a doubt the best bits of Inca!
The game plays very nice and doesn’t suffer many slowdowns as I expected. However, exploring the 3D mazes asks for a lot of patience, and responds slow to my movements. However, there aren’t any long loading times, which feels great. The puzzles are clever and sometimes difficult, and the shooting scenes are very smooth. There is no detail level as in Kether, but it definitely plays very well.
The game is pretty long and will keep you busy for a lot of hours. But, after you’re done, there’s no reason to come back. Been here, done that. Some parts can get a little tedious, especially the 3D mazes. However, if you use a walkthrough you can skip them really fast. In Fights are fun though and you can return to any specific scene to replay, which puts it back on the map.
Overall: 7 (not an average)
Similar games on CD-i:
Burn:Cycle, or a combination between Kether and The 7th Guest.