Puzz-3D CD: Neuschwanstein Bavarian Castle
|a game by||Wrebbit Interactive|
|Editor Rating:||5/10, based on 1 review|
|User Rating:||4.0/10 - 1 vote|
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Neuschwanstein (pronounced 'noy-SHVAN-styne') Castle, in the German state of Bavaria, is one of the most beautiful fairy-tale castles in Europe. It has appeared on countless posters and travel brochures, was featured in movies such as Around the World in 80 Days and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and Walt Disney used it as the primary model for his Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella castles. Yet this archetypal medieval castle was built in the mid-19th century by Bavaria's most eccentric king, Ludwig II. An artistic soul who cultivated a close relationship with composer Richard Wagner and who almost drove his small country to bankruptcy with expensive building projects, "Mad King Ludwig" died under mysterious circumstances. Even now, there are rumors of a curse…
Puzz-3D CD: Neuschwanstein Bavarian Castle is one of a series of virtual jigsaw puzzles created by Wrebbit Interactive and DYAD Digital Studios; others include Notre Dame Cathedral and a Victorian mansion. Much like the boxed Puzz-3D puzzles in hobby stores, this title allows you to piece together a three-dimensional jigsaw model of Neuschwanstein Castle, but this version offers some additional goodies: multimedia information on the history of Neuschwanstein and Wagner's operas, correspondence between Wagner and the king, and a dramatized re-enactment of their often stormy friendship. Once the castle is completed, you are invited to explore the rooms and passages and discover the secret of Wagner's curse in an interactive mystery adventure.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
In many ways, Puzz-3D Neuschwanstein is like getting two games for one price: the virtual jigsaw which allows you to put the castle together, and the adventure game which places you inside the finished castle. It's an interesting idea, but it doesn't come together perfectly; more on this later.
The construction phase of the game takes place inside a study. There are two tables for assembling the puzzle -- the semi-circular Main Table covered with the puzzle pieces, and the Construction Site, where the castle is assembled. Once you complete a section of the puzzle on the Main Table, it can be moved to the Construction Site and snapped into place.
To move around the Main Table, drag the mouse to the edge of the screen and click to move up, down and side to side. You also have three magnification levels on the Main Table, allowing you to pull back in order to find similar colors on the table or zoom in quite close to assemble pieces. To move a piece, just click on it and drag it where you want to go. You can rotate the piece clockwise by clicking the right mouse button, and attach it to another piece simply by dropping the two pieces next to each other with the correct edges matching.
In a game with so many small pieces, it's helpful to sort similar pieces into trays. Right-click and drag around a series of puzzle pieces, and the game will create a tray which can be named and anchored to the bottom of the screen. You can create up to seven trays at a time for sorting. To add pieces, just drag them and drop them in the tray; to add the contents of two trays together, drag and drop one tray onto another. To put the sorted pieces back on the table, click on the arrow button in the upper left corner of the tray.
Once you've assembled a section of the puzzle such as a wall, roof or floor, you can move it to the Construction Site for placement. (A handful of single puzzle pieces are considered full sections and may be moved directly to the Construction Site.) Drag a completed section to the Gold Box, drop it in, then move it to the Construction Site and put it into place. You can rotate around the Construction Site to find the correct area where the section must be placed; the site will light up with a green highlight when you find the correct spot. If you're having difficulty figuring out where a particular piece is meant to go, there are several Reference Pictures showing the completely assembled castle.
As you make progress, a Book will appear in the upper right corner of the screen. This book contains multimedia clips, including historical dramatizations, stories of the Wagnerian operas, information on Neuschwanstein Castle and handy construction tips to help you complete the puzzle. To play these clips, click on the Film or Sound button at the bottom of the book pages.
Once the puzzle is completed and fully assembled on the Construction Site, you will receive a key to enter the Castle. At this point, the game changes to an adventure and exploration phase where you can walk through Neuschwanstein itself, solving additional puzzles and gathering clues through movie clips. Characters from the Ring Cycle -- Wotan, Siegfried, Tristan, Isolde and many others, including the dragon Fafner -- are within the castle, many trying to sunder the curse of tragic endings that hangs over the Wagnerian characters. They look to you to find the shattered pieces of Siegfried's sword and reforge it to destroy the curse.
A game like this, which focuses heavily on the ability to recognize and match patterns, must have high-quality graphics, and for the most part Puzz-3D Neuschwanstein scores high in this department. There are multiple views, including an overhead view of both tables, a 3D view of the Construction Site and the three focus levels on the Main Table. I did notice occasional glitches with the display of specific pieces -- sometimes an extra line would display floating free of a piece, for example -- and the "hunt the pixel" aspect of placing a completed section in the construction site was frustrating, particularly on the more challenging levels.
In-game movies were of average to good quality. Information on German history, King Ludwig and Wagnerian opera were well presented, but the dramatized meetings between Ludwig and Wagner were painfully overacted.
Within the jigsaw section of the game, audio is minimal but effective. Pieces come together with a satisfying snap-lock sound, and there is a quiet chime when a full section of puzzle is complete. The multimedia presentations are of acceptable sound quality, although it is sometimes difficult to follow the dialogue; if the game has subtitles, I was unable to toggle them on. Background music and themes, although drawn from Wagnerian leitmotifs, often sound distressingly synthesized.
Windows: Pentium 100 Mhz (200 Mhz recommended), 16 MB RAM (24 MB recommended), Windows 95/98, 45 MB free hard drive space, 2X CD-ROM drive (minimum), 640x480 video display with 16-bit colors, DirectX certified video driver (1 MB cache video memory recommended), Microsoft-compatible mouse.
Macintosh: PowerPC 80 Mhz (200 Mhz recommended), 20 MB RAM (32 MB recommended), MacOS 7.5 or higher, 32 MB free hard drive space, 2X CD-ROM drive (minimum), 640x480 16-bit color video display.
Reviewed on: Pentium 200 Mhz, 64 MB RAM, 24X CD-ROM drive.
The 30-page jewel-case manual contains tips for installation, construction, exploration, keyboard shortcuts, full credits and technical support information. If you have never played a Puzz-3D game before, I recommend reading at least the first few pages to become familiar with the game controls.
Varying degrees of difficulty are built into the game, from the simple (many sections pre-finished) to the diabolical (every single piece must be fit together). When gamers complete the challenging Platinum level, they gain access to every available room in the walkthrough castle. These degrees of difficulty may increase replayability somewhat, although there's no real drive to play again once you've completed the castle at Platinum level.
Room for Improvement
Puzz-3D Neuschwanstein is a game with a split personality. The virtual jigsaw section of gameplay is technically flawless; the adventure/walkthrough is a great idea with less than perfect execution. It seems that more effort was put into polishing the jigsaw section than the adventure section, and as a result the game is unbalanced.
One of the game's greatest flaws is the acting in the adventure section's cut scenes. Production values are not good enough to match the scenery and not bad enough to be deliberately funny. The actors who played Ludwig and Wagner in the jigsaw section play Tristan and Wotan in the adventure section, apparently for financial reasons and with dubious results. Wagner's creations were heroic, larger-than-life characters; here they only come off looking cheesy, with Siegfried playing the buffoon, the king of the gods goggling one-eyed over Venus like a teenager, and the fate-spinning Norns little more than comic relief. (Where are Mike and the Bots when you need them?)
In many ways, Puzz-3D CD: Neuschwanstein Bavarian Castle can be compared to Mad King Ludwig himself: demanding, perfectionistic and ultimately flawed, falling short of a lofty goal. If I could rate this title as two separate games, I would give the puzzle section a high score and the adventure section a lower score. However, for puzzle fanatics, parents seeking edutainment titles for their teens and anyone who wants more from a game than messy dismemberment, it is well worth a try.