1999 Ruske & Pühretmaier Multimedia
Designed by Axel Ruske, Anita Pühretmaier
Reviewed 2003 September 18

Rating -3 Linearity narrow
Reasonability reasonable Connectivity moderate
Difficulty pedestrian Relevance strong
Interface 1st paned simple Real-time minor

A meteor strikes an inhabited planet, causing it to stop spinning. A resident scientist had set up a device to restart the rotation, but (for some reason) couldn't finish the work. You receive his message and fly your spaceship to the installation. It's up to you to restart the generators and activate the machine.

The device is sort of a cannon, throwing a large rock into space to provide thrust to restart the rotation. The story is pretty silly, since this is supposed to be an educational game about physics and yet the whole premise is nonsense from a physics perspective. Just ignore it and embrace the challenges.

Even ignoring the premise, the mimesis is sometimes dodgy. The town comprises only what is necessary to hold the challenges. For example, the only store in town is a lens shop. The challenges mostly try to fit naturally into their world, but things are too neatly arranged. The sense of adventure is lost.

Whatever its failings as an adventure, Physikus works well enough as a puzzle game. Clues are nicely scattered, and the scope is not too narrow, so that what is really a fairly linear game doesn't appear that way to the player. There's a mix of codes to find or decypher, and apparatuses and machines to suss out. There's one real-time challenge: hard enough to be annoying, but too conceptually boring to be any fun. The challenges are mostly pretty simple. Most surprising, however, is how few involve physics in any significant way.

The presentation is the old first-person slideshow. The artwork is attractive and clear -- there's no pixel hunting or murky vistas. The inventory was overly complex, however. There's a little sub-screen of objects which you scroll to your desired item (one item visible at a time), then click to move it onto the "ready" area. You then have to drag it onto the scene to use it. If you accidentally move your mouse out of the inventory area before beginning the drag, you have to start all over again. Also, although the hotspots light up when you move your cursor over them, there is no indication when you're dragging an item. So, if nothing happens, you don't know whether it's the wrong item or whether you just missed the hotspot.

Physikus is intended as an edutainment product. Parallel to the game is a presentation of physics. I'm not sure how effective it is didactically, but it's enjoyable to click through.

Physikus doesn't quite make it as an adventure. The world is too simplified to make for exciting exploration, and there's nothing in the way of story. The challenges are too mundane, and, most significantly, too few of them depend on physics, which is supposed to be the point of the game. It's not a bad game, but it falls short on being good.

Beware! Here are some spoiler-ridden notes on the game. They're only recommended for people who have played the game and want to see some of my rationale for my evaluations.
David Tanguay's Game Reviews
Here's a description of all the gobbledygook in these reviews. It's also a bit of an essay on the nature of adventure games.