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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
Pages:123Gallery


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The game played ok on my 1.8 Ghz G5 tower with a ATI Radeon 9800Pro 256MB card, running Tiger and on my 2.2 Ghz Mac Book Pro with a GeForce8600M GT, 128MB card running Leopard. Every so often I noticed pauses, more so on my G5, but the game was still playable.

However, regarding unsupported hardware, my wife can play this game on her MacBook with the X3100 chipset by turning the shader selection in the game options to "low" (otherwise scenes were horribly washed out). Performance is ok, but the game does not look as nice as on supported machines. With a MacBook proceed at your own risk.

Spoiler Section
Skip this section if you don't want to know.

Trying to fight spiders with your hammer or pick axe is mostly suicide and only to be attempted as a last pre-dieing resort. It seems very hard to hit them with a hand held weapon, and if there is a bunch of them, your really in trouble. Once you learn that spiders can be scared away for a time by shinning your flashlight on them it makes a previously, almost impossible portion of the game in the spider tunnels doable. It is much more effective than fighting them. Because I had not picked up on the spider-light connection, it only took me only about 30 tries on normal difficulty to get through this section.

Dogs can be killed after five or six good whacks, usually while your squatting on a box and the dog is lunging at you. For some reason, even though the dog is jumping and lunging, you won't be bitten in this situation even if you have poor aim. If your feeling sassy, once a dog is knocked down, jump down next to him and as soon as he moves crack him again. Dogs can be killed quickly doing this, but watch out for two dogs as you may be overwhelmed with this method. If a dog runs away and howls, don't be surprised if two dogs return. And when dying by way of dog, a nice touch is the sound of munching and crunching of your bones as it chows down.

The many pressurized tanks sitting around can be used as weapons. Before I discovered I could whack a dog to death, I was dropping tanks on them from high places. But simply dropping a tank does not ensure they will explode. I was rapping the tank with my hammer until I heard a hissing sound then pushing them over the side. But smacking dogs with your hammer perched on a box is easier.

Conclusion
Amidst the river of casual gaming appearing on the Mac these days, Penumbra Overture is a breath of fresh air created by a small gaming studio. The ability to create a genuinely suspenseful story is a talent and Frictional succeeds in this effort. But realize Penumbra Overture is not in the same league as a Myst or a Bioshock from a graphics standpoint. The puzzles are not as difficult as Myst but they are reasonable, practical, and satisfying to complete. Unlike Myst, situations develop where fighting or running is required. And despite borrowing some ideas from other games and the mediocre graphics, the atmosphere is tense and story development is enjoyable.

If you are a gamer starved for some good native adventure Mac gaming and have the hardware for it, you'll want to grab your disco shoes and head for the Underground. I recommend downloading the Mac Game Store demo for a spin.

Also you may not have noticed this game is labeled Episode 1, so while some story elements are resolved, the story continues and Episode 2 is very close to being released.

Pros
• Tense atmosphere and good story development.
• Reasonable and satisfying puzzles.
• Fun exploration.
• Depending on your preference actual fighting may be required.
• Good Performance on supported hardware.
• 300MB of disk space is not a huge footprint.

Cons
• Crashed a couple of times per session.
• Save System sucks.
• So-so graphics and level design.
• Depending on your preference actual fighting may be required.



Penumbra: Overture
Developer: Frictional Games


Pages:123Gallery




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