Ancient and epic, with puzzles to match!

There comes a point in your life when you realize your grandparents may not be the simple folk you thought they were. This is an especially poignant moment for Vanessa. She knew very little about her grandfather, but when an archbishop invites her to a small town in Italy, she learns he was researching some very serious, very dangerous stuff. Portal of Evil: Stolen Runes follows Vanessa as she uncovers ancient secrets lost beneath St. Peter’s Cathedral.

Most of Portal of Evil: Stolen Runes plays out like a casual adventure game, complete with an inventory bar and journal. There are locked doors, blocked passageways, sealed chambers and suspiciously loose bricks in walls that beg to be pried opened. You’ll spend a lot of time wandering back and forth between scenes, searching for items and using things you picked up to solve quick puzzles. Nothing out of the ordinary. At least, until you run into demons and stuff!

Portal of Evil: Stolen Runes Collector's Edition

Hidden object scenes aren’t too frequent, but when you do encounter them you won’t be distracted from your adventure for very long. You’re given a list of over a dozen items to find in a room packed with debris. You can only search for a handful of items at a time, but as you clear the list new ones appear to take their place. Blue objects must be uncovered or found within the scene by performing special actions, like zooming in on an area or using an item to open a concealed package. Strangely, Portal of Evil: Stolen Runes doesn’t pay much attention to the items strewn about in these scenes. It kind of breaks the immersion when you stumble across a hamburger lodged in an archway behind a statue.

Portal of Evil: Stolen Runes is a lovely, lovely game. The graphics do a great job of capturing the Mediterranean and mixing it with a Renaissance backdrop tinged with the events that take place in the story. Even in the dark underground worlds there’s a sense of epic and ancient wonder. There’s a lot of religious imagery, to be sure: a great deal of it taken from the Judeo-Christian tradition. In some ways it feels like a throwback to The DaVinci Code, only with a little more adrenaline and a lot more fire-spewing hellbeasts.

Portal of Evil: Stolen Runes Collector's Edition

Portal of Evil: Stolen Runes is a surprisingly easy adventure, even in Expert mode. If you do get into a tight spot, the hint system is extremely helpful. The map allows for fast, easy travel between locations. It also gives you an idea of how many areas you get to explore (nearly 40). The extras in the collector’s edition round out the package quite nicely.

Even though Portal of Evil: Stolen Runes is laid out like a typical adventure game, the story, artwork and creative puzzles make up for the lack of innovation. It’s quite an exciting game, as the opening few minutes convey, and you’ll be more than happy to play through a few average mini-games just so you can see what strange sort of things get thrown at you next.