Secrets of the Immortals
Have you ever wished for something extraordinary to happen? For someone to step into your boring, everyday life and turn it on its head? Nikopol: Secrets of the Immortals, a large-file point-and-click adventure, may just make you think twice about that. Mixing stunning presentation with an off-beat story, it may not keep you wrapped up for days on end, but it offers a fascinating adventure into unfamiliar territory.
Like everyone else in this unpleasant future, Nikopol lives under the thumb of a dictator masquerading as a prophet, where everything from how a person acts to what they believe is controlled by the government. Struggling to get by as an artist, he joins a rebellious underground religious group, only to find that not all the villains in the world are so easy to spot. He soon finds himself pulled deeper into a dangerous adventure that dredges up secrets about his family he never could have imagined. As if he didn't have enough to worry about with trying to make his rent, or that monster coming up the stairs...
You spend the game looking through Nikopol's eyes, and you can look all around you freely with the mouse, nudging the cursor around the edges of your view to turn around or look up and down. Click on objects to interact, and hit the [esc] key to open your inventory, to let you use items you've picked up, or access the menu where you can save and load your game. Speaking of, you'll want to save your game frequently. In this point-and-click adventure, things can be a little more dangerous than you might expect.
But danger aside, put on your best southern belle outfit and get ready to be woo'ed. The visuals here are knock-outs, from the detailed environments to the comic book-style panel progression in cutscenes. You'll want to take full advantage of the free-moving camera in every new area to catch all the little touches. Everything is tied together by some fantastically atmospheric audio, from the ambient soundtrack to the It's a shame, then, that the subtitles feature such a rocky translation and are liberally sprinkled with typos; not enough to actually impede understanding, just enough to look sloppy. It wasn't "nocessary"? Really, game? Really?
Analysis: Nikopol is based on a trilogy of graphic novels written by Enki Bilal, and it shows. Nothing says "based on a book" like tossing a player into an unfamiliar environment with little ceremony and acting like it's all second nature. Despite how grim it is, Nikopol's world is fascinating, and I wish we were given more time to explore it. Instead we're left grabbing glimpses of a much more expansive mythology through the windows as we're pulled along with him. As it is, the game is very good at hooking you in, and the gaps in your knowledge wind up being more intriguing than anything else. It's just too bad the game wasn't longer and more open, the better to allow you to soak it all in.
What is a potentially crippling blow for less patient players is the frequently overcomplicated approach to traditional point-and-click adventuring, several steps of each action usually being completely unnecessary. "Open movie projector, put in movie, pull down display screen, close projector, then flick the start switch"? Are you kidding? And while some of the puzzles are interesting, most of them wind up feeling like they're there just to pad game's length rather than add anything to the experience. When was the last time you had to play a little mini-game when you wanted to destroy a wall with a hammer while you were running for your life? A little more carrot and a little less stick would be nice, Nikopol.
Because, honestly, I could care less about where I'm supposed to use the tire iron or how to break into the corpsesicle chamber. Nikopol has a genuinely intriguing cast of characters that I wish popped up more often. Religious zealots, being who may be gods... or not. You know what? Not that soaking up the ambiance in these decrepit buildings isn't super awesome, because they're honestly very pretty... but I'd rather go talk to the bird guy some more. Or, hey! I hear there's a magic floating pyramid in the sky, let's check that out!... no?... *sigh* I never get to do nuthin'.
Despite some poor decisions and a potentially unsatisfying ending, Nikopol still manages to be a contender for your time and your imagination. It's not as long as other large file titles, but if you're looking for a cinematic experience in a new world, you'll find a lot to like here. Just don't expect everything to make sense all of the time. It's all part of the world's mystique... and, besides. If the weirdest thing that happens to you today is a guy with a bird's head showing up on your doorstep, you're doing pretty good.