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Evidence: The Last Ritual

Score: 89%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: The Adventure Company
Developer: Lexis Numerique
Media: CD/3
Players: 1
Genre: Adventure/ Puzzle

Graphics & Sound:

Evidence: The Last Ritual is the sequel to The Adventure Company’s Missing: Since January and the mini-sequel expansion pack Missing: The 13th Victim. Like its predecessors, Evidence is an unusual experience in PC gaming: the game world is created not by textures, characters, objects, areas, or the avatar, but rather by the internet, email communication, the game CD itself, and the player’s involvement in a fictional role as investigator. The player does not invest in an on-screen avatar, but rather in a narratively constructed role. The player doesn’t play a character – the player is a character in this unfolding drama.

Since the game doesn’t build a world following ordinary game design conventions, it is a little tricky to speak of graphics and sound. The puzzles are Macromedia Flash puzzles, designed around sometimes very disturbing images. For instance, in one Flash puzzle, the player must click on small floating icons to get the image of a corpse’s face (live action video of a real “corpse”) to spit out the letters necessary to solve the puzzle. In another, the player must count the number of sobs (real audio of a woman sobbing with fear) in order to choose the correct icons to put in the crucible. These Flash graphics are extremely effective in their eerie psychopathy.

Once each puzzle is solved, the Phoenix rewards the player with a live action video sequence of his most recent victims. Jack Lorski from Missing makes another appearance here, working on a case with a Portuguese investigator and filming a documentary of it. Evidence also involves the second mystery of Jessica Moses attempting to locate her missing brother Adrian. The live action footage here is as good as Missing. Unlike most PC games, in this game series, one must speak both of voice acting as well as screen acting as a matter of graphics and sound, and in every case the performances are extremely compelling and engaging. And one must also speak of cinematography: Jack Lorski has a professional cinematographer with him, so the camera work in that mystery is skilled. Jessica Moses, however, is not a professional cinematographer. She simply wants to film the search for her brother, so her camera work is unsteady and unprofessional, and looks a lot like the cinematography from the film The Blair Witch Project. As such, Evidence keeps the camera work remarkably consistent with the characters' roles. I found myself wondering occasionally if the Phoenix made the victims do the post-production on their videos as part of their torture, or if he did it and made them watch ("Ahhgghh! No, no!! Don't cut it there! AAHHHHGGH!").


The story trope of Evidence uses what literary critics call "metafiction" - fiction that exceeds itself and bleeds past its own boundaries. The International Committee for the Phoenix Arrest has obtained a CD created by the killer, known as “The Phoenix.” The CD is a teaser wrought by the mind of this sadistic and violent murderer – ergo, the puzzles are sinister in their difficulty. However, if the CD is carefully examined and the puzzles solved, the chances are better that the Phoenix will be captured. The ICPA has distributed this CD to the public in an attempt to solve the case as quickly as possible. The player is one of the recipients of this CD.

Conceptually, Evidence is brilliant, as was Missing. To my knowledge, there is no other game quite like these two thriller/adventures. Evidence reconceives the route to player immersion in an entirely new way: the player becomes deeply involved and concerned with the fates of Jessica Moses and Jack Lorski by the use of "real" live-action video footage. While the puzzles have nothing to do with the stories of Jessica and Jack, they are nonetheless meaningful and integrally connected to the victims' plights because to solve the puzzles is to save the characters. I’ve always struggled with the sneaky suspicion that Missing and Evidence are a little too fragmented in the gameplay (with the puzzle component being essentially separate and discrete from the mysteries of the characters in the live action footage). But in the end, I am always convinced of the coherence of the game design. The complete restructuring of the conventional game world design in Evidence and Missing absolutely works.

What doesn’t quite work in Evidence, however, is the split in the mysteries with which the player becomes concerned. It is difficult to follow both Jack Lorski’s investigation (much of which occurs in Portuguese) and Jessica Moses’s search for her brother at the same time. The stories do merge (not surprisingly) in the fifth level, but for four levels the player is attempting to comprehend two disparate storylines and assimilate all the clues and information from both. And, unfortunately, the split storyline also splits the player’s capacity for concern. I found myself far less interested in Jack Lorski this go round and far more intrigued by Jessica and her friend with whom she travels. Missing didn’t make this mistake, focusing exclusively on the investigation into Jack Lorski and Karen Giljman’s disappearance (and their evolving love affair as well). Evidence tries, I think, to outdo Missing by taking on just a little too much.


Evidence: The Last Ritual is without a doubt the most difficult game I have ever seen. All the information the player needs to solve the puzzles is available – somewhere. Information may be secreted away in nanosecond-long blips in the video footage, which if you’ve not solved a particular puzzle to obtain that nanosecond blip, then you can’t view the video to solve the puzzle you're working on. But you don’t get the answer just because you’ve caught an apparently insignificant clue in the video – you have to take that clue and figure out what to do with it. Most often, you have to take that clue to the internet and do a very tenuous search on some very esoteric subject, sift through entire websites (some of which are created for the game, some of which are real websites - and some of which are in foreign languages) to find – well, what? What are you looking for? You might figure out what you’re looking for by solving one of the other level puzzles - which, of course, you can't solve until you solve another level puzzle. And the internet, you will come to feel deeply, is a very, very, very large place. Your (real) inbox will be littered with emails from other “investigators,” some of whom are occasionally helpful, but more often are not.

So, you say to yourself, “Walkthrough!” Wait – not so fast. Even when you do find a walkthrough and use it to make all the connections you need and find the answers, the Macromedia Flash puzzles are not subject to the facility of the walkthrough. You still will sometimes, for instance, have to push the little suns into a line before the mean red suns eat them, or some such contrivance, before you can even enter the answer that you laboriously sought and found. And the mechanics of the Flash puzzles are not at all always obvious. You may find yourself clicking away at the screen cursing, just trying to determine the logic of the Flash graphics.

This game is hard. Very hard. Even for seasoned adventure gamers, Evidence will prove to be a sustained high-level challenge in every imaginable way - both in solving the mystery and operating the Flash puzzles. For the casual gamer, Evidence will be impossible to tolerate.

Game Mechanics:

The mechanics of the game itself are flawless. The player logs in to the game server at the beginning of each gameplay session; if you played Missing, your user ID will still be good, but you will be assigned a new password. On dual screen configurations, the second monitor will not be shut down, as is the case with most PC games. I was able to keep my email and a web browser (and a walkthrough) open on the secondary screen while the game continued to function on the primary screen. This feature alone merits high marks from me for its ease and glitch-free convenience. The in-game menu keeps all necessary game features immediately accessible – videos, email, internet, decoder, and magnifier. And the game runs from beginning to end without a hitch.

As I mentioned above, however, the mechanics of the flash puzzles, while they work reliably, are often extremely difficult to figure out. I found myself doubting the reliability of the Flash mechanics, until I realized (by way of the old walkthrough) that the problem was operator error.

Evidence: The Last Ritual is a game for people who are looking for something that will occupy them for a very long time. It is a good reprise of Missing, with new storylines and the same old killer, although you don’t need to have played Missing to enjoy Evidence. However, Evidence is not quite as tight as Missing because it splits itself in too many directions with the diverging and converging storylines of Jack Lorski and Jessica Moses. Nonetheless, if you want your brain teased to death, Evidence will provide hours, maybe weeks, maybe months, of unmitigated, eerie, psychopathic pleasure.

-Doc Holliday, GameVortex Communications
AKA Valerie Holliday

Minimum System Requirements:

Windows 98/ME/2000/XP; 800 MHz Pentium 3 CPU; 256 MB RAM; Sound Blaster Compatible sound card; 8X CD/DVD-ROM; 2.5 GB hard disk space; 32 bit graphics card; 56.6 Kbps Modem and web Browser

Test System:

Windows XP Professional; 1.8 GHz AMD CPU; 1 GB RAM; Creative Audigy 2 sound card; NVidia GeForce 7800 256 MB graphics card; 52X CD/DVD-ROM; 802.3 Ethernet LAN connection with Microsoft Internet Explorer 7.0

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