Egypt II: The Heliopolis Prophecy review
The Good:

Engaging mystery and interesting characters; great voice acting; good attention to historical detail; excellent soundtrack beautifully evokes ancient Egyptian atmosphere; informative encyclopedia of facts available

The Bad:

Stealth and rhythm puzzles are jarring and frustrating; graphics are pixelated on newer machines; bustling city soundscape contradicts largely empty city streets

Our Verdict:

Despite a frustrating shift in gameplay focus toward the end, Egypt II: The Heliopolis Prophecy is a great example of how games with exciting mysteries to solve can include history lessons without being boring.

Poor Egypt. Currently in the midst of serious cultural upheaval, the country wasn't much better off three thousand years ago, at least according to Cryo’s Egypt II: The Heliopolis Prophecy. The middle installment in the barely-connected “edutainment” trilogy of adventures focused on ancient Egypt sends players straight into the heart of a disease epidemic and deadly political turmoil. Fortunately for gamers, over a decade after its original release in 2000, this little known gem still manages to deliver both an interesting history lesson and a compelling storyline for a satisfying game experience, despite a couple of problematic puzzles towards the end.

After opening with an intriguingly ominous dream sequence, you play as Tifet, a medical student at the Temple of Sakhmet. Her studies are interrupted when she gets an urgent letter from her adopted father Djehouty, urging her to come home as he has contracted a strange and mysterious illness that is plaguing the city of Heliopolis. Naturally, Tifet rushes back to solve the mystery and save her father before the plague kills him. From there the story focuses on the close relationship between Tifet and her father, and then slowly builds to include a political conspiracy that threatens the entire city. Obviously I won’t spoil the details, but the game surprised me with a couple of plot twists, and it was fun to keep guessing what could possibly be behind the illness.

Tifet herself is an engaging main character, which is important seeing as you spend a lot of time listening to both her inner and spoken thoughts. She’s kind and compassionate with many of the people she encounters, but is also independent and resourceful, relying on her wits and intelligence to get where she needs to go. These traits are entirely believable and frankly a bit refreshing to see in a female character. More often now it seems like female characters need to be “tough” or “edgy” in order to demonstrate intelligence, and it was good to spend time with one who didn’t feel the need be sarcastic with everyone she meets to prove her worth in a male-dominated world.

Of course, the main draw of the game is the chance to explore an ancient Egyptian city in its heyday. For myself, who has always had a love for all-things-ancient Egypt, this was especially exciting and the developers did their research well. Attention to detail is evident from the reconstructed grand temple right down to the small headrest ancient Egyptians used in place of pillows. Even if you’ve never studied the era, you will enjoy exploring and learning as you go. There is an encyclopedia built into the game with extensive information on the history and culture of ancient Egypt. For the most part it is an optional background supplement for the curious, but it ended up helping me out with a couple of puzzles early on.

It’s hard not to get swept up in the mysterious and romantic atmosphere of ancient Egypt, but the city of Heliopolis, while extremely detailed, seems somewhat empty of people and is a bit of a disappointment. The developers had a perfect excuse for the lack of activity right in their story: the plague threatening the city could have easily accounted for a lower population, with frightened survivors remaining indoors, but it’s never utilized. In fact, a lively soundscape gives the illusion of a busy, bustling city: the murmur of crowds, screams of children, musicians playing in the street, and animals barking and braying. The effects are all well done, but they  further emphasize the discrepancy between what you hear and actually see.

Speaking of soundscapes, the musical score in The Heliopolis Prophecy is simply fantastic and adds a lot to the atmosphere. Whether it’s a sweeping epic piece to accompany a cinematic or a background tune while you’re exploring a temple, the mix of Egyptian and western instruments instantly gets you in the mood to solve some ancient mysteries. The music is always appropriate to the current events on screen and never feels repetitive. I remember playing this game for the first time years ago and scouring the internet for the soundtrack almost immediately after playing. I still have yet to find it, but I can hope!

Equally impressive are the supporting characters, who may be few in number but more than make up for it in unique personalities. From the whiny petulant scribe to the wise head priest, all are interesting and unique, aided by some great voice acting. Each character speaks with a North American accent, but this isn’t to the game’s detriment as it allows the actors to concentrate more on their emotional performance than putting effort into a fake accent. Tifet’s portrayal in particular is very well done, balancing compassion for her loved ones and determination to get her job done. There are a couple of performances that grate a little, but these are very minor occurrences.

The graphics are a little difficult to judge now, given the game’s age, but at the time they were some of the best of their kind. Birds fly off in the distance as you walk down the street, while animated shopkeepers are busy working as you approach them. Tifet’s face is suitably expressive during cutscenes, and a sleeping man’s chest rising up and down with his breath is a nice example of the game's little visual touches. The downside is that the now-dated graphics appear more pixelated and blurry on a high definition monitor.  This also makes hunting for smaller inventory items more difficult, as they often appear as small blobs in dark corners and you have to rely on your mouse to find the hotspot to pick them up. Characters also seem a bit stiff and their lip synchronization is strangely slow, but this doesn’t detract too much from the experience.

In terms of actual gameplay, The Heliopolis Prophecy is about as linear as they come. The story will not progress until you complete certain objectives and there really is only one path to take, although you have the freedom to travel between locations as you discover them. Most of your tasks involve questioning other characters for information and searching for items that could serve as clues to your investigation. It never feels too confining an experience though, instead keeping the pace moving briskly along.

The point-and-click interface is simple and easy to get used to. Presented in a first-person perspective with 360-degree panning, the transitions between each screen are quick and smooth. Any cinematics can be skipped if you want, which is a huge plus in my book, since a cutscene plays every time you switch areas. Dialogue can be fast-forwarded line-by-line if you’re in a hurry or need to double-check a previous conversation. Even better is the use of a quick travel map, which cuts down on backtracking time significantly, as you do a lot of travelling between locations.

Puzzles are mostly inventory-based, with a couple of logic and slider puzzles thrown into the mix. These are all well-integrated and make sense to the plot. Early on a grumpy temple guard wants proof that you’re a priestess before you can enter the temple, which results in a matching game to show your knowledge of the gods. Later on you’ll need to pour liquid into jugs to get the right measurements for medicine. As you explore different locations in the city in search of clues for the origin of the mysterious plague, you’ll meet various locals who require your help before they're willing to help you. Many of the puzzles revolve around discovering and mixing cures for the various ailments other characters are afflicted with.

For the most part these puzzles are enjoyable, but this positive experience nearly gets derailed by the last third of the game, when the developers decided it would be a great idea to include a couple of stealth sequences that involve sneaking past guards. This is incredibly jarring in a game where up to that point failure has been impossible and the gameplay quite leisurely. I had to shift gears, saving my game every two minutes, sighing in frustration every time some guard hiding in an unseen corner spotted me, which would then end my game.

The pinnacle of frustration, however, was a rhythm puzzle that almost had me give up on the game entirely. It seems simple enough: pretend to be a drummer, follow the rhythm highlighted on your drums, and get two dancers to dance to that rhythm. The dancers won’t move until you get it right, and good gravy, I couldn’t get them to move more than an inch towards each other. I tried every single combination of tapping the darned things. Finally, after about twenty tries, the game gave up on me and just let me move on. It was incredibly aggravating.

The letdowns toward the end are a shame, because otherwise Egypt II: The Heliopolis Prophecy is an underrated, fantastic game. It’s one of the only chances you’ll get to explore ancient Egypt in its glory, and you get a decent amount of gameplay as well. In my experience it's definitely the strongest of Cryo's three Egypt games, enjoyable both as an adventure game and as an interactive history lesson. Just make sure you’re okay with rhythm and stealth, or at least know someone who is.



AD Egypt II: The Heliopolis Prophecy can be purchased at:
Gamersgate   • Big Fish Games   • Amazon  

Game Info

Egypt II: The Heliopolis Prophecy

Platform:
iPad, iPhone/iPod Touch, Mac, PC

Genre:
Mystery

Developer:
Cryo


Game Page »

Worldwide 2000 DreamCatcher
Europe 2001 Réunion des Musées Nationaux

Where To Buy

Egypt II: The Heliopolis Prophecy

Available at

Available at Big Fish

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User Score

Average based on 3 ratings

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User Reviews



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About the Author
Manda Whitney
Staff Writer

Comments

Capt. Queeg Capt. Queeg
Jan 11, 2013

It sounds like it was reasonably well written.  The female lead is good to see.  I’m impressed that it let you move on without solving the physical puzzle. “Accessibility” is not usually a going concern in games, but this one sounds like it at least give it a slight nod.  Allowing a pass for those who are, at best, rhythmically impaired is a nice touch.

Thirtysomething
Jan 13, 2013

Great review! All those Cryo edutaintment games were pure awesomeness! They had this unique, amazing creepy atmosphere, I wish they were still around..

Advie Advie
Jan 18, 2013

Lovely Review, Manda has something that i do not remember reading with most of AG reviewers,  an adventurer touch, a player who cares about giving advises to other players who would like play that game.

She had followed Cryo’s details and information of this time of Egypt and that is OK, but Cryo had LOADS of mistakes about Sekhmet God Time.. i mean Major ones.

Everything concerning Tifet in Egypt 2 are totally fictional and that is obvious, but I am talking about the history of these times where Sekhmet lived. For example, there was never a Temple named after Sekhmet, She was a God, the God of revenge (Mistress of Dread, Lady of Slaughter) the daughter of RA the sister of Bastet (the cat of Ra) and Hathor (The eye of Ra).

And these times of RA ruling Egypt were at (2494 to 2345 BC) years. I am not being picky but that is history. But still, 3000 years sounds more catchy isn’t it? , loool,or i gotta sew Cryo Grin

Its true these were the darkest times of the pharaohs for decades to come until they had diminished, and supposedly it was therefore (it said) that these were the times when/where Moses appeared.

Anyways , i would love to read more reviews for Manda she has got some different talent that shows here.

Whitless
Jan 28, 2013

Thanks very much Advie! I’m also very passionate (but not yet very knowledgeable) about ancient Egypt. I DO remember reading a novel about the gods of ancient Egypt and learning that indeed, Sekhmet was not the nicest of gods at the best of times Smile. It’s good to get some historical facts clear too, thanks for the info!

Jyn Jyn
Jan 28, 2013

I tried playing this and was just getting drawn into the atmosphere when I
came across the first puzzle - a sliding tile puzzle with added difficulty.
I hate sliding tile puzzles so much I gave up.

Whitless
Jan 28, 2013

Slider puzzles have the tendency to annoy me as well, but this one actually started to give you hints the longer you worked at it, telling you which tiles to slide next. Actually, I recall THAT part annoying me as I was trying not to look at the text flashing up on the screen so I could try and figure it out myself. Sure, i ended up using it anyway, but I like the feeling of choice Tongue.

Jyn Jyn
Jan 28, 2013

Hah, just after I wrote that comment I saw that I still had it on the computer. I flicked quickly through a website which said how to solve slider puzzles in general, had another go, and ended up solving it in half a minute! I feel like I can solve any slider puzzle now I figured out the trick.

I played a bit more of the game, and while it’s pleasant, the voice acting is nice, the pace is nice and slow, and the sound is good, it felt a little bit empty and hollow atmospherically to me. A lot of what I was doing was backtracking and fetching, and the story didn’t really engage me.

Maybe there’s a way to turn off hints? Either way, I think it’s a really nice touch, and nice to see in such an old game especially.



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