Ripley's Believe It or Not! The Riddle of Master Lu

1995 Sanctuary Woods
Designed by Lee Sheldon, François Robillard
Reviewed 1996 September 1

Rating +5 Linearity narrow, segmented, branching
Reasonability reasonable Connectivity high
Difficulty difficult Relevance strong
Interface 3rd paned simple Real-time minor

You are Robert Ripley, collector of oddities and, consequently, a globe trotting adventurer of the 1930s era. After receiving a note from a colleague, you set off to find the hidden tomb of an ancient Chinese emperor, designed by the genius Master Lu. You must get the emperor's emerald seal before it is found by evil men who will use it to lead China into a war of conquest.

Ripley is an appealing character. Not a great action adventurer, he compensates with an insatiable curiosity and (if you're successful) a sharp wit. He is not fearless, but his curiosity always overcomes his fear. The result is often drole. The voice acting for Ripley was good, enhancing these aspects.

Ripley operates in a well developed setting. The game has a very strong sense of atmosphere. The graphics and sounds are well done, although not outstanding, and bring the exotic locales to life. The plot is simple but solid: it directs your actions as it reveals more of the evil scheme and the people behind it. It strikes a good balance between the playless stories of interactive movies and the storyless puzzle of a poor adventure.

The challenges are well done. They are cleanly integrated into the story. Some are very difficult. There are a few minor nits to pick, but on balance the challenges are reasonable. The big surprise is one long, tedious maze -- surprising because Ripley himself says he hates mazes. Unfortunately, there is one challenge for which death seems unavoidable.

Play is from a third person perspective, with a curious device of "animated" live characters on rendered settings. The idea isn't bad, but I found the aliasing problems distracting (like very bad blue screening in movies). It's also tedious waiting for Ripley to walk around the screen and perform various simple actions.

This is a compleat adventure game, solid in all major aspects. It manages to be challenging, fun, and interesting.

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.