Many Gamezebo readers are aware of my soft spot for the adventure genre – um, perhaps it’s because I wax nostalgic about these point-and-click story-driven games in my reviews whenever possible – so I’m the first to jump on an assignment that lets me play and write about them. Such is the case with NiBiRu: Age of Secrets, a nearly 3 year-old CD-ROM adventure game that is now available as a sub-$20 “casual” game download.
While it doesn’t hold a candle to the likes of LucasArts’ Day of the Tentacle, Sierra’s Monkey Island adventures or Funcom’s The Longest Journey, NiBiRu: Age of Secrets should satisfy patient players in search of a deep story and good puzzles.
You play as Martin Holan, an archeology student who has been contacted by his uncle to examine a mysterious secret tunnel used by the Nazis during World War II. To get more info on the discovery, Holan’s uncle, a university professor, sets up a meeting with a friend of his, Barbora, but when Holan arrives in Prague she is nowhere to be found and her apartment has been ransacked. Before long you’re knee-deep in an adventure that is one-part history – combining Nazi secrets with the demise of the Mayan civilization – and one-part science fiction, as the story also involves the existence of the hypothetical planet of NiBiRu (check out the work of Zecharia Sitchin). According to Holan’s uncle, the Nazis were close to a major discovery that could’ve saved the Third Reich from demise and given them the power to take control over the world.
Similar to most graphical adventure games, players use the mouse to control the protagonist. If you want Holan to talk to a character on the screen you’d left click on the person to begin chatting. Learn more about an object by right-clicking over it or pick it up by left-clicking on it; items are placed in your inventory for when you need it. In NiBiRu, push the mouse towards the bottom of the screen to see what you’re carrying.
Puzzle-solving is fairly straight-forward, such as getting a character to reveal some information by probing as much as you can, solving Myst-like brain teasers (featuring levers, rotating pieces, and so on), or using an object in your inventory on the environment. An example of the latter is trying to find a way into a locked apartment early on in the game. When the door is locked you make your way to the attic, find a window, wrap your hand around a cloth and break the glass. Then you need to find a rope, security it to a post in the room and climb out of the window and into the locked apartment. You get the idea.
The puzzles are quite good, albeit a bit on the easy side, but the dialogue can be painful for two reasons: the voice acting is pretty bad and there’s a lot (and I mean a lot) of dialogue to sit through that might prove taxing on someone’s patience. And this is quite a long game with about 80 locations spread out between Prague, Bohemia, France and eventually Mexico.
Played from a third-person perspective, NiBiRu‘s graphics are quite impressive – even for a nearly 3-year-old game – thanks to high-resolution environments, detailed characters and weather effects, such as rain and mist, that add to the atmosphere.
Too bad this game doesn’t let you try before you buy, but the Big Fish Games download is more than 950MB (!) in size, which might be too much for some. But if you enjoy graphical adventure games and a good mystery, you won’t be disappointed with NiBiRu: Age of Secrets.