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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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As a general rule it's better to avoid or run. Realize that the things you might want to fight are always faster than you. Besides you really don't have to fight to progress. But no matter what, always keep in mind the nearest place of refuge to minimize the number of chunks removed from your backside when fleeing. However, if you like fighting, experiment or see the Spoiler Section.

As with any good adventure game there are lots of puzzling situations to keep you busy. Plus the puzzles are reasonable, but not maddeningly difficult offering a combination of trial and error puzzles, like figuring out a sequence of switches, or by examining the surroundings for objects/tools, and again reading, looking for a way to accomplish realistic goals like restoring power to the facility. Most importantly, they avoid being outrageous puzzles for puzzling sake, just to twist your brain into submission.

I also like the game's automatic note system which helps keep the quest on the right track. Examining items causes your character to think out loud, which is good because you benefit from handy tips, leads, and insights you might not otherwise pick up on. I actually worked my way through a substantial portion of the game without having to lean on a walkthrough (which is unusual for me).

Reality Checks
Ok, here's an underground dig site with strange things happening. It might remind you of Doom 3. Or possibly Resident Evil because of the pestilent psycho guard dogs? And maybe Bioshock when someone starts talking in your ear? Despite borrowing, PO is still a good game. In any case, if it's not the dogs, the spiders, or something much larger, something with a three foot wide mouth full of teeth, the realization soon hits that your life is in constant jeopardy exploring these subterranean avenues trying to piece together what is happening here.

While it does not happen often, there are a few situations set up in this game where normal people will not survive the sudden encounter the first time through. At some level it's disillusioning because it reinforces the fact I probably would not have a chance in a real situation like this. However it gives the game an edge. I'm not going to spill the beans, but the easiest thing is to just accept it when it happens and move on. The solutions are not to hard to figure out but initially it may leave you feeling a bit frustrated.

The save system in this game left me shaking my head because it is confusing and not implemented very well using multiple pages. Auto saves usually occur when you go through scene loads. But in my game, it only looks like the last 5 Auto saves are saved. Manual saves happen when you touch the few and far between artifacts (items that look kind of like a portable lamp). Maybe I'm on the slow side, but the game does not make it apparent, the artifacts are just save points. The only way to get a good list of saves so you can return to specific early parts of the games appears to be to pulling up the save page and transfer the saves to the favorite saves list on a regular basis. Frictional says the reason for this save system is to increase the fear factor, which it certainly does. But I was not fearing dying so much as having to go back and repeat those last 10 steps (shivers).

Plus I had crashes, usually a couple of crashes per play session (representing 1-2 hours) on my MacBookPro running Leopard. Now that made me curse and it amplifies the impact of a sub-standard save system. It does not help when restarting the game after a crash, not knowing for sure what steps must be repeated or being unsure of the location because many of these subterranean hallways look similar. Bottom line, I much prefer saving on my terms than based on the developers concept of creating tension.

Performance, Graphics, and Misc
Graphics in some locations look good with nice lighting but in other locations they look drab and washed out. PO graphics are not really competitive when it comes to wow looking-games like Bioshock and Half Life 2. And the level design is rather ho-hum. An underground facility might look exactly like this but I think gamers expect to be wowed by the amazing sights and there really aren't any in PO.

PO plays on both PPC and Intel based Macs with dedicated video cards. The official video card requirements are a Radeon 9600/GeForce 4 or better. The GeForce4MX which can be found in some Power Macintosh G4s is not supported. PO does not support integrated graphic Macs such as MacBook, MacMini, and GMA 950 chipset.


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