Ankh 2 - Heart of Osiris
Release date Germany: 10/2006
Game language: deutsch
USK: no age restriction
A review by slydos 27th November 2006
The pitfalls of definition
Scarcely a year has passed to meet Assil and the rest of the Ankh-crew again. The PR department seems not completely sure, how to present this new comic adventure. First it was a little contradictory described as a kind of stand-alone add-on. Then again as normal sequel, which has not much changes to offer concerning locations and characters. Finally they came with the term 'episode', which should shorten the waiting time for the fans up to the next 'regular' Ankh game. Hopefully the prospect of a next 'regular' adventure game in the future is no 'running gag' of the makers.
The term 'episode' is right on target if you look at a quite reasonable, that is short playing time of again 10-12 hours on the one hand, and a plot strongly tying up to the first part dialogue-/contentwise, which is not really self-describing on the other hand. Though the knowledge of Ankh 1 is not mandatory to be able to play Ankh 2, it contributes a lot to understand the story and first of all some gags and allusions. To play Heart of Osiris leaving its predecessor unconsidered is not recommendable.
Assil awakes in one of the dark lanes of Cairo after a boozy night and notices the absence of the Ankh. The seriousness of this loss becomes really clear to him as he is told, that a most responsible office has been given to the guardian of the pendant. Well - at least now our careless hero tries to avert the worst from Egypt and to prevent Osiris and his henchmen from taking over power. Part of the cast are familiar faces from Ankh 1 and there are several new too. Besides Assil's ex-girlfriend Thara we can this time also slip into the role of the Pharao himself. We first embody the main characters only one after the other to finally change between Thara and Assil back and forth in the last of the 5 chapters.
Characters, locations and sound are familiar for the most part. Starting from "information office" Volcano to Burger-Olga to the members of a caravan - actually one must rather ponder, who is no longer part of the gang - I could only think of the old lady in the bazar. Welcome continuity is also established by the dubbing voices known from part 1. But there are also some new fellas, who can't be unveiled yet to preserve fun and surprise. Most of the locations are well-known either. They were changed a little bit and extended by new scenes.
Dialogues as well as graphic- and story-details make you smile. Even though humour is always a controversial matter - at least there's something for all tastes. Some annoying clichés should be better forgotten immediately to keep the really original gags in mind. Word jokes however are mainly allowed to our hero Assil, the other characters are only feeding him.
The other two playable characters, thus Thara and the Pharao, pass the humour-baton directly to the NPCs surrounding them: Thara to the pretty dumb daughter of the Pharao, and the Pharao to a pricky shrub! I hope, these unexpected crowd-pleasers will attain a more prominent and important role in the next 'regular' Ankh adventure, particularly for the bush I would be curious about a role extension.
There's no cause for bore in dialogues, as we can enjoy them in all detailedness, if we like, or learn the essence quickly and continue - to everyone's gusto. Regarding standard response phrases however: they vary mainly in stress and their repetition is really bugging after some time! Honestly said, I waited for a dance interlude the whole time - but I guess, we won't experience it until the next Ankh game, perhaps in the highly praised center of entertainment - (the) Luxor?
There are almost exclusively object/inventory puzzles, alternated by some dialogue puzzles. According to the stereotype, Thara must prepare a meal from different ingredients and the boy has to mix the cocktails. The coloured code wheel needed for mixing is however a tender reminiscence of 'the good old days', serves as external copy protection and is besides a beautiful collector's piece.
I liked the team puzzles in particular with Assil and Thara working together. The comic world of Ankh, which is not exactly close-to-reality, gains its logic from the possible and the impossible of the told story. So the challenges can be usually solved by deduction, here and there you should however rather use the try&error method, which is however no doom for an inventory-based adventure game, since in this case both the number of hotspots and inventory items keeps within limits.
Sometimes you may stop short, when e.g. Thara desperately needs assistance to climb down a rope (getting it strained) - but could all of her own climb up the labbering end of it!? After all we are in Cairo and not in Ankh Morpork, aren't we?
Puzzles are even simpler - compared to Ankh 1 - and should permit a smooth walkthrough even for raw adventure beginners while reaching approximately the same game length as Ankh 1.
Handling - inherited
Handling is heavily based on its predecessor's with the same point&click controls in 3rd-person-perspective. It's always a good sign, if I haven't much to say about the handling, because this means, there is hardly an adaptation phase and one can start immediately without conscious consideration.
With a leftclick we specify where the characters should walk, a doubleclick accelerates their speed to running. As in part 1, we cannot choose actions ourselves, except left mouse button =look and right mouse button =interact. Movement paths are clearly defined, there are no problems in positioning characters.
The main menu appears after hitting ESC. Saving games is nearly automatically done by mouse-clicks.
Graphics and sound settings are changeable in the options menu as well as selecting sub-titles. The graphics changes are however not effective until you restart the game.
Handling - changes
There are some new additional features still improving the comfort of handling in some points: the new main menu item 'continue' places the players at the last saved game position with each start.
Another menu option allows the inventory to be faded out and in if necessary during the game using the RETURN-key, preventing you from clicking inventory objects by mistake.
The function of the TAB-key is likewise new. It shows a list of the current tasks.
One comfortable function from Ankh 1 was however dropped: Walking longer distances can no longer be shortened by clicking on an icon. Now you have to do all running around by yourself, especially at the end of the game.
In the menu one can customise graphic options such as degree of details, full screen effects and resolution to the computer's capacity. At low system performance you can start with minimal configuration properties from the Windows menu (as in Ankh 1). While my computer had less problems with background graphics and characters at that time, but couldn't display inventory objects correctly, this time it was the other way round! The inventory objects could be clearly seen, but colouring and textures of the character paths were missing.
The minimal configuration couldn't help either. Players, whose computer is just above minimal system requirements, should keep their hands off the game. I additionally played Heart of Osiris on a more efficient test computer, but even there my old inventory problem occasionally pipes up again and objects dissolved into difficult indentifiable pixels. I can report one game terminating crash and return to Windows on this system (with maximum options) but no more unintentional interruptions. There were no more problems, neither in installing nor running the game.
In general Ankh 2 runs without serious problems. However the nearer the end, the more noticeable are small bugs, manifesting in graphics and programming: Sometimes for example characters disappear or can only be heard but not seen. Or Assil can use the elevator to the kitchen and runs around there while colleague Thara hasn't even started the motor of the lift.
The already mentioned code wheel coming with the game is not only a beautiful gimmick, but is also a facilitation from keeping an eye on a CDROM to be always left in the drive for a copy protection check, which is no longer necessary now. This time the detailed four-color glossy manual is not only great looking and added with various cartoon drawings, but also perfectly readable thanks to a new choice of font and background. Apart from the description of handling it also reveals 'first steps' on the solution and contains free support phone numbers, what is not a matter of course in game business.
The graphics of Ankh 2 are again warm an colourful. As for brightness it's however not such a positive case - so who would rather like to see, what he/she is actually examining, can choose between 3 brightness levels in the option menu: normal/light/dark, whereas the option 'dark' was indeed unnecessary. If you however use the 'light' option, the loud candy colours hurt at first. But the eye is used to get accustomed to a lot of things and so I forbear on constant switching.
In the light-flooded scenes a general soft focus effect is more noticeable than in normal mode and suggests, that the developers tried to paper over the cracks in anti-aliasing or other raw details with it, because normally the ambition of graphic artists rather goes toward more sharpness.
An extreme soft focus effect is also used for dialogue backgrounds, as we have already seen in Undercover, in order to underline the excellent character close-ups in this case. Facial expressions and gesturing go excellently with dubbing and text content. These movie-like, vivid animations rank among the highlights of the game!
While music and sound effects maintain a low profile in the background, the excellent dubbing by many well-known professional actors stands out. They also master multiple roles easily without any disturbance to the listeners. Animation effects such as steam or whirring mosquitoes additionally contribute to the aliveness of the scenes.
The stories of Ankh - Heart of Osiris come along a bit loose and incoherent - however so be it! This new easy going abduction into the bizarre cartoon world of Assil and buddies comes quite right after a hard working day, if you are looking for relaxation rather than stress! And so even advanced adventure fans will surely find the correct time for this entertaining soft puzzler. But don't forget to play Ankh1 prior to Ankh 2!
My total rating: 77%
Adventure-Archiv rating system:
- 80% - 100% excellent game, very recommendable
- 70% - 79% good game, recommendable
- 60% - 69% satisfactory, restricted recommendable
- 50% - 59% sufficient (not very recommendable)
- 40% - 49% rather deficient (not to be recommended - for Hardcore-Adventure-Freaks and collectors only)
- 0% - 39% worst (don't put your fingers on it)
Minimal system requirements:
- Processor 1,5 GHz
- Video card from GeForce3 with 64 MB
- 256 MB+ RAM
- Windows 2000/XP
- DirectX 9.0c
- Windows XP
- Pentium IV 3,6 GHz
- 2 GB RAM
- 48x DVD-ROM
- NVidia GeForce 7600GS 256 MB
- Sound card DirectX-compatible
Copyright © slydos for Adventure-Archiv, 27th November 2006
Click to enlarge