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Cameron Files: Secret at Loch Ness

Score: 92%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: DreamCatcher Interactive
Developer: Galilea
Media: CD/2
Players: 1
Genre: Adventure

Graphics & Sound:

Cameron Files: Secret at Loch Ness is a point and click adventure game from Dreamcatcher Interactive. In the endless barrage of Egypt-themed adventure games that were released around 2002, Secret at Loch Ness is a welcome and refreshing change. Set mainly in Scotland, the game boasts an original storyline. Of course, the sequel to Loch Ness, Pharaoh's Curse, is sadly a fallback on the Egyptian theme.

The traditional Scottish score in Secret at Loch Ness is absolutely extraordinary, and an exceptional achievement in the adventure game. The music stayed with me, and as music will do, it inspired comforting feelings during the long tedium of non-play hours.

The voice acting for Cameron is just perfect - he's the kind of guy you want on your side in a crisis, and he comes out of the Sherlock Holmes tradition, by way of film noir. He's not beautiful in that Hollywood sort of way; but this is precisely his appeal, and you grow to like him immensely.

Motion capture technology was used in the production of Secret at Loch Ness, and the quality shows. The character motions and lip movements are realistic and make immersion very easy. The graphics are extremely detailed, and the worlds that you visit are compelling - the castle, its grounds, and the depths of the lake are all deeply absorbing.

The sound editing is integral to the solution of the mystery - you must listen carefully to distant sounds at times in order to determine what should draw your attention. However, I found that sometimes there were sounds which did not require my attention. I spent a lot of time chasing sounds because I thought sounds were consistently important throughout the game - but apparently not. Game worlds should establish and follow certain rules, but in this way Secret at Loch Ness falls just a little short.


Gameplay occurs in first person; cut scenes are shot from the third-person point of view, so you are able to see Cameron in action often. As a result, you both identify with Cameron (in first person) and see yourself as Cameron (in third person). This strategy reinforces player/avatar identification, and in my view was a good design choice.

Cameron's attitude in Cameron Files: Secret at Loch Ness is just what you would expect from a 1930s-40s hard-boiled detective. He is wise, skeptical, intelligent, and clever. His mission is to travel from 30's Chicago to Loch Ness, Scotland to investigate mysterious goings on at Devil's Ridge Manor. The Scottish references and milieu are fairly accurate - the game refers to Scottish mythology both in the legends of Loch Ness and the ancient mystical Banshees.

The closing sequences, while fascinating to play and remarkably engaging, are a little disconnected from the rest of the game - they make sense with a stretch, but the end is narratively somewhat weak.


The game is extremely linear, which can be either reassuring or irritating, depending on your viewpoint. On the one hand, it is always clear when you haven't done some particular thing. On the other hand, as with all linear games, you can go around in circles for quite a long time doing nothing much. As a measure of judgment, I did not find it necessary to cop out and go to a walkthrough, partly because the game is not riddled with impossibly frustrating puzzles, and partly because I enjoyed the game enough to go with it as it is presented. There are some timed sequences, but they are not irritating, and with some vigilant saving (always recommended anyway) are on the whole fun to complete. The enthralling storyline makes the puzzles meaningful and a pleasure to solve. For a game to have challenging, engaging puzzles and not compel me to cheat with a walkthrough is, in my register, a grand coup.

Game Mechanics:

The game uses 360-degree panning, which is a real plus in encouraging player immersion. The game is entirely mouse-driven, and the cursors are intuitively identifiable. The inventory holds a number of items, all of which are useful at some point (this is no small thing: there are a number of adventure games out there that have you collect things that you will never need). Inventory work is sometimes a mixed bag - it can be cumbersome or downright confusing. Neither is the case with Secret at Loch Ness - all the inventory work is logical and contributes successfully to gameplay.

The game ran flawlessly on my system (see below). At the time of this writing (2006), there were no patches on Dreamcatcher's website, which suggests to me that the game was coded correctly from the outset.

Cameron Files: Secret at Loch Ness is a great adventure game, and while it probably doesn't rank with the greats such as Syberia I and II and The Longest Journey, it is not too terribly far behind them. It is intriguing, entertaining, and a fully realized graphic and technical achievement. The quality and originality of the score and voice acting are well above average for an adventure game, even now, four years after release. In spite of the minor problems with some of the gameplay sounds and perhaps the ending, Secret at Loch Ness certainly deserves a place somewhere on a long list of the greatest adventure games.

-Doc Holliday, GameVortex Communications
AKA Valerie Holliday

Minimum System Requirements:

Windows 95/98/ME/XP; Pentium 166 MHz (200 recommended); 16 MB RAM (32 recommended); 4X CD-ROM drive; 3D accelerator video card

Test System:

1.1 GHz AMD CPU; ATI Radeon 9000 video card with 128 MB RAM; Creative Soundblaster Value audio card; 512 MB RAM; 16X CD-ROM

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