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Genre: Adventure & RPG
Min OS X: 10.4    CPU: G4 @ 1 MHz    RAM: 512 MB    Hard Disk: 300 MB    Graphics: 128 MB VRAM

Penumbra: Overture
March 21, 2008 | David Peck

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There are things I need of you. Things you may not understand and may not wish to do, but please do not make the mistakes I did... Human nature sealed my downfall... If we are lucky by the time you read this, I'll be dead... If fate frowns, we'll all perish.

Talk about setting a mood. Prophetic words from a not so lucky character, named Philip summoning you on an adventure to the Greenland Underground, (one of the world's little known disco hot spots) to solve and resolve a mystery surrounding his deceased father and a situation Philip has become entangled in.

According to Webster, Penumbra is something that covers, surrounds, or obscures as in a shroud. Penumbra Overture, hereby known as "PO" is an adventure game by Frictional Games that lives up to this characterization. PO begins with a plea from Philip and has your character following in his footsteps by purchasing a ticket on a tramp steamer to Greenland. But what exactly is this mystery about? Frictional Games is not telling; that's for you to discover. Whatever the mystery, the documents were compelling enough to ensnare Philip and his plea is enough to lure your character in his wake. But wait-a-minute, the Greenland Underground is not a hot night club in Nuuk. It's a secret hell-hole location in the remote Greenland hinterlands! You'll be dancing plenty, but it won't be to disco music.

Unfortunately, organization does not suit your character because once the ship docks, the game forces you stumbling out onto the tundra not properly dressed, frantically searching for shelter. Make note: strike one for going to Greenland in the winter; Strike two for not being organized. Try to avoid strike three, ok?

Speaking of strike three, at least freezing is not going to be the method of your demise because after descending below ground level, the discomfort of frost bite will soon be replaced by ample sweating. Here's hoping that after a questionable start, your organizational and logic skills will improve before running into the AGGRESSIVE LARGER THAN AVERAGE SPIDERS! No, they are not World of Warcraft larger than average size, but their deadly bite and not friendly disposition will quickly get your attention.

Fortunately the first thing you drop into is not a teeming nest of arachnids, but a deserted excavation site and underground facility that at some point was controlled by the military, where research was conducted and where something bad has happened. The atmosphere is nice and tense. As sharp as a tack, your first visual clue of something gone wrong might be the pestilent psycho guard dogs that are patrolling certain areas. But well before then, you'd better be using the standard adventure gaming methodology of reading the conveniently available notes and documents laying around. Why is this facility here? Read, become informed, and realize while the reading requirements are not excessive, they are required to succeed.

The game's physics and mechanics are pretty good for an adventure game. I like being able to pull open drawers and picking up items by grasping and moving my mouse. Items can be stacked and thrown.

Game mechanics allows the camera to swing 360° looking up and down with your mouse. Movement is accomplished using the WSAD keys. When holding a hammer or pick axe and holding the left mouse button down, a sideways movement of the mouse serves to swing them for the purpose of bashing things like boxes, rocks, or canine noggins.

The game mechanism of moving the mouse to open things gives the game a nice feeling when exploring, but it becomes a double edged sword when it comes to fighting. Unlike a Myst style game, in Penumbra: Overture critters do attack and if attacked you must either run or fight back. But once into the game you might think your playing a First Person Shooter (FPS). Don't get fooled because there are no guns and except for very specific situations you'll be at a disadvantage fighting things especially THE AGGRESSIVE LARGER THAN AVERAGE SPIDERS! Primarily, the spiders are hard to whack. If you end up running for your life and wondering what's so hard about swinging a hammer, you picked the wrong technique.


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