Sylvie Leroux, the heroine of Chronicles of Mystery: The Tree of Life, would never make it past the first round of an insult swordfight. Sure, she’s intelligent, accomplished, well-traveled, beautiful, and, as the game proves, more than able to handle the slow-paced puzzles and clue-laden conversations that make up the average adventure game. What Sylvie and the rest of her game lack, however, is personality. Without any distinctive features, a sense of humor, or even an out-of-the-ordinary story, there isn’t much to set this game apart from the piles of other point and click adventures on the market.
As the start of this review implied, the gameplay in Chronicles of Mystery: The Tree of Life is perfectly normal for an adventure game. In order to discover the story behind the game’s titular tree of life, you must uncover historical truths by having drawn out conversations with vaguely quirky characters, searching for odd items that’ll solve convoluted puzzles and pushing around enough blocks and tiles to fill a bucket of Legos. This would be fine, if not a little dull, if the game weren’t so strictly linear. There were several points during the game where, even though I knew exactly how to solve a puzzle, I wasn’t even allowed to attempt it until I completed a completely unrelated task. I realize that this was done to keep the game’s story in order, but what it really does is create frustration without having a noticeable effect on the narrative.
The graphics and sound in Chronicles of Mystery: The Tree of Life are also fairly average. The game’s cut scenes do look nice, and the puzzle screens are clear and easy to navigate. When Sylvie is in one of her numerous conversations, though, things look very bizarre. The people are constantly moving, with motions so repetitive and choppily animated that they begin to look a little creepy, and their faces look pasted on in a way that just barely surpasses the graphics of an N64 first person shooter.
The game’s sound is better than the graphics, but not by much. Although Sylvie’s Brainy Smurf-esque intonation endlessly annoyed me, the rest of the voice acting is actually pretty good. In regards to the music, however, it should be noted that if everything sounds dramatic all of the time, it’s not going to build suspense. It’s just going to make puzzles about fixing photocopiers a lot funnier than they should be.
As a whole, Chronicles of Mystery: The Tree of Life is an average game that could keep adventure gamers busy until they finish and forget it. Since the game is not of a remarkable length and does not have much of anything to unlock, it is not an extraordinary value. If you enjoy adventure games more for the conventions of the genre than for their stories or characters, however, Chronicles of Mystery: The Tree of Life might make you happy. It understands and executes the parts of an adventure game as well as it possibly can without developing a distinct personality.
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