Mortimer and the Riddles of the Medallion
You play either Sid or his sister Sally, two kids from the 'burbs looking for something to do. One day, while chasing after the cat and dog, you stumble upon a secret world that was hiding behind a bush in the backyard. Once you enter this magical world, you discover that the pets have been turned to stone. While pondering how this could have happened, you are greeted by a strange old man named Professor Lazlow. He tells you that your pets were turned to stone by his apprentice named Lodius, who turned evil and stole a magic medallion from him. Since then he has abused the medallion by forcing it to turn all the animals in this world to stone, so that he could steal their powers. The last animals that were turned to stone were your very own pets.
After the animals were turned to stone, the medallion burst into pieces. The pieces were scattered over all the different areas of the world. Where each of the pieces landed, a mysterious gate sprouted forth to guard the pieces, until some brave character came to rescue them. To get each piece from the gates, you will have to answer the riddle that they ask you. These questions will be based on the animals that exist in the same environment as the gate. Professor Lazlow tells you that you must help them to reclaim all the pieces of the medallion and save their world from the evil Lodius.
To help you in your quest you are joined by Mortimer -- a giant flying snail with a hi-tech shell. The Professor has rigged him with some cool gadgets to help you. Flying with Mortimer, you have to steer through all the different lands and recover all the pieces of the medallion. Along the way, you will run into many animals that have been turned to stone. Using the Revitascope, you shoot the animals to bring them back to life. For each animal that you successfully revive, you will earn a glow stone. Sounds easy. But to make this a little trickier, the evil Lodius will send out various enemies to try to take you out of the game. The feared Salt-Shaker Hornets ( a snail's most feared enemies!), Beastie Bags, Whoppin' Popper and Hopsitters are several of the enemies that will meet you along the way as you try to piece together the medallion. Luckily, the Professor packed along the Slimetron Muckchucker 200 that you can use to knock the wind out of these nasty bugs. It doesn't hurt them, but it does put them out of commission.
If you are successful on your quest and you repair the Medallion, you will then travel to Lodius' castle. There you will face your most difficult task -- several puzzles, culminating in the hardest riddle of all. To answer the riddles posed by the gates, you will need to talk to as many of the animals that you encounter as possible so that you can get the information that you need.
After the intro, the game begins. You find yourself on the back of your trusted flying steed ... I mean snail, named Mortimer. You are given the option of using the keyboard, mouse or joystick. While I found that the joystick worked well for me, Elise favored the mouse. You find yourself flying over an African-type savanna. It's your typical rail shooter-type of arcade sequence. Around you on the ground, in trees and lakes you start to pass by many animals who have been turned into statues by the evil Lodius. Mortimer, always helpful, instructs you to start using the Revitascope to start shooting at the animals. Each one that you hit comes back to life and for your good deed you are rewarded with a glowstone. Before you reach the gate, you will need to accumulate as many glowstones as possible. After you have accumulated a bunch of glowstones, you can start looking for a cave to enter. This is the way to the gate. Along the way, Lodius will send out some of his evil minions to try and stop you. Mortimer will then instruct you to use the Slimetron Muckchucker 2000; it effectively eliminates your opposition (without killing them).
"Aaargg. The bugs were hard to see and they made me have to start the level all over again" —Elise
LucasArts, as always, did a great job of creating quality animation and likable characters. The scrolling landscape was smooth and nicely detailed. The evil Lodius was just hideous enough to be a good villain, but not overly scary for any younger children who might be playing.
Installation and Setup
I guess that as I grow older, I have less and less tolerance for a game that requires you to load it up in DOS or make a boot disk or anything like that. While I am capable of doing this, my daughter is not. So when it comes to games that are marketed towards children, I pop in the CD with the expectation that the installation should be almost automatic. Mortimer and the Riddles of the Medallion didn't let me down. I sat back and told my daughter to go ahead and try to install this game. Here's what Elise had to say about the installation:
"The game was very easy to set up and I believe that most kids should be able to install this game without having to ask an adult for help."
One thing I have to say about this game is that it is very politically correct. You get to shoot animals, but you don't kill anything. LucasArts was very creative in designing a game where you can shoot things and actually help them. Even when you are confronted by enemies, you don't kill them, you slime them and put them out of commission temporarily. The game even comes with a heartfelt endorsement by Ed Sayres of the American Humane Association.
For a game that basically sets out to educate kids about various animals that inhabit different climates, LucasArts has created an effective education tool. My daughter Elise spent a lot of time at the end of each level and asked all the questions of all the animals found in that climate. Even if she knew what the correct answer was, she still asked questions of the animals. LucasArts developed nice and likable personalities for all the animals. Elise especially liked the French Cheetah! Another pleasant surprise was the occasional real video sequence of many of the animals in their natural environment.
Windows: Windows 95, Pentium 60, 8 MB RAM, 1 MB hard drive space, Microsoft 100% compatible mouse or joystick, 2X CD-ROM drive, 100% Windows 95 DirectX-certified PCI graphics card, 100% Windows 95 DirectX-certified PCI sound card
Reviewed on: P-133, 16 MB RAM, 4X CD-ROM drive, Trio 64 video
I liked this game. The setup of the game was easy and any kid should be able to install it. I especially liked the riddles that the gates sang. I was able to answer them after talking with the animals. The flying was hard but fun. Lodius's castle was very, very hard. I liked the mazes but it was frustrating, when you died, that you had to start over at the beginning of the maze.
This game is very well packaged, especially for children. While I found some of the songs that the gate sang to be borderline annoying, Elise really liked them. One song that we both agreed was cool was the song played during the credits. The screen pops up and there's a band on stage. The lead singer and guitarist was an alligator, the keyboardist was a beautiful ostrich, the bass player was a penguin with shades, and on drums: a gorilla. They begin to jam to a song with such tear-jerking lyrics as, "Fly the slimely skies" and "Lodius, he is cruel. He is super ugly with a booger breath smell."
The animal voices were cool and the basic gameplay was pretty well thought out and should be enjoyed by children of most ages (over 6 years of age). While I enjoyed this game, I do have several problems with it. First off, it was very short: four levels and you're at the final stage. LucasArts may have purposefully geared this game to the attention span of the average child, I don't know. It seems like the replay potential of this game is severely limited, although they do randomize the riddles that the gates ask, so you might not repeat any of the riddles for a while. My second major complaint is that the final level in Lodius' Castle was way too hard for a young child to complete. For the majority of the game, the flying was fairly easy to do, but as soon as you arrive at the castle, the skill required to complete the level rises dramatically. In the last maze, they throw everything at you. Spears shoot from the walls, pillars appear in front of you and the tunnels twist so drastically that for the last ten minutes of the game you are virtually flying blind. At times, the walls are yellow, the floors are yellow and you cannot determine which way the tunnel is turning.
It was so difficult that it took me many attempts before I could make it through to the end. I would assume that there are many frustrated children out there that coasted through the first four levels, only to be stumped on the last one. I would be very interested to hear any feedback from others who have played this game, regarding the castle level.
While we both really enjoyed the majority of Mortimer, due to the sudden increase in difficulty on the castle level we cannot give it a total thumbs up. For a uniquely designed educational game, LucasArts scores an 80.