The Gene Machine is a point-and-click adventure from 1996 that deserves a lot more attention than it unfortunately received. It somehow slipped off the radar despite its excellent story and a graphical style that can easily stand alongside the likes of such classics as Discworld and Simon the Sorcerer.
You play as Piers Featherstonehaugh (pronounced Fanshaw), an arrogant explorer from Victorian England who's desperate to make a name for himself. Always at his heels is his manservant Mossop, a simple man who's happy to take on any put-down Fanshaw wants to bestow on him. It's a symbiotic relationship that leads to some very amusing asides.
After returning home from a trip to the Americas, you are introduced to a talking cat named Seventy-Three. He is the result of an experiment by Doctor Dinsey who, in homage to Island of Dr Moreau, is creating a man-beast army using his creation - the titular gene machine. This will not be the first reference to any literary classics of the era. The story is filled with references of H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Sherlock Holmes and you even meet Jack the Ripper innocuously giving him the idea that the world should be cleansed from all sin.
The humour is excellently written throughout. Fanshaw may seem like an unlikeable person on paper, but the script and voice acting talent gives him an affable charm that could easily not be there in lesser hands. One of the first tasks in the game requires you to find money to fund your expedition to Dinsey's uncharted island. To help with this, you volunteer yourself to help out a scientist by taking a trip to the moon in the hope to mine it for cheese. Needless to say, there is no cheese on the moon foiling the scientist's ambitions but at least his rocket works. The imagery here harks to the work of the early French filmmaker Georges Méliès, with an inspired 1900s idea of futuristic technology.
Everything is beautifully drawn. The backgrounds are hand-painted with the odd pre-rendered animation used on some of the more complicated machinery and vehicles. The characters are also hand-drawn using cell animation to nice effect. Put together, it looks very handsome. Perhaps the only negative I can think about the visuals is that the animation can sometimes be lacking, recycling movements too often and having a jerky cheap feel, especially in the cut-scenes. This by no means distracts you from enjoying the game, but it does show the game's age in an otherwise timeless presentation.
Controlling the game is standard point-and-click fare; just click on what you want to interact with. If you can do more than just look, icons will appear to show you how you can interact. To get into your inventory and use the options, there is an invisible area on the bottom left of the screen that will access them once hovered over. It's not as intuitive as the best in the genre, but it is an adequate control scheme that doesn't hinder your play.
You will have a lot of fun playing this game. I laughed out loud several times during play which goes to show the quality of the writing. It's not particularly long or taxing so I wholeheartedly recommend this to any intrepid adventure gamer.
To download the game, follow the link below. This custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber uses DOSBox to bring the game to modern systems. Manual included. Tested on Windows 7.
12.07.2015 - Ver 2 - Added manual
File Size: 323 Mb. Install Size: 477 Mb. Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ
The Gene Machine is © Divide by Zero and Vic Tokai
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me
Does the version you have for download include the full voiceover soundtrack? I lost my original CD years ago (still have the box!) and have never been able to find a full English CD image of this game. The voice acting was really excellent and a major part of the atmosphere...ReplyDelete
OK, I downloaded it anyway to see (I've been downloading versions of this game for years in an attempt to get a replacement for my lost CD - the closest I've found so far was a French version!) and this one DOES contain the full soundtrack / voice acting so thank you for that. I would say though that it the install complained about corrupted files and quit about half way through - I copied the missing files from another version I have and it seems to work fine.Delete
Thank you for telling me. Now that I'm back from an intensive period of work, I'll be able to see what went wrong here. I'm glad you got it to work. I always try to get the best English version of any game I review - it's not as fun otherwise :)ReplyDelete
I've just checked the files, which installed correctly for me. There might have been an error during your download, which can sometimes happen.Delete
Should the save function work? I am having no luck with it unfortunately...ReplyDelete
Hello Gavin, Sorry for the late reply.Delete
This game is a bit finnicky with the saves.
Click 'Status' as normal, but instead of clicking on save or load (depending on what you want to do), hover over it. Move the cursor up to the main area and click to bring up the save/load list.
It's a bit awkward so I don't know if this is how it was originally or not. It's one of my older installers so it's due for an update and I'll investigate further when I get to it.
Only just seeing this response now! Must have forgotten to click 'notify me'. Thanks for getting back to me. That seems to work albeit with a little guesswork involved. Thanks once more! Keep up the good work!Delete
Hi - hope you can help. Only one of the adventure games on your great site that I cannot get to. I have tried this a few times and the same error occurs. It downloads fine and the install begins as normal too. However at the end of the installation a message appears:ReplyDelete
Gene Machine has not been totally installed because of the following reason:
File corrupt or unreadable:
HDD\VIC\F64.DAT (Note - no files after this were installed, does appear to be more VIC files)
You will have to run this utility again to completely installed Gene Machine
I still attempted to run the game but no joy - unlike others the game .exe does not automatically run DosBox and no DosBox files appear to have been downloaded / installed
Hope you can help
Hello, this is because I missed a file when moving over to Mega not long ago. It's all sorted nowDelete
I would also add that the download link states a file size of 323 mb. Yet when you press the link there is only 1 x file (the game .exe) at 195 mb. Unsure if there are missing files?ReplyDelete
Yes, there's a file missing which I've now re-uploaded. I recently moved everything to Mega so there may be a couple of mistakes.Delete
Worked a charm! ThankyouReplyDelete
Made an amendment on the dosbox.conf file as there was an error and the game would not start - related to the screen display. Amended to 800x600 and all ok - just in case anyone gets stuck on this
Thanks again for the quick reply and upload
Yeah, there's a general point about that in the FAQ. I didn't pay much attention to the fullresolution in my eartly uploads. Setting it to desktop or 0x0 will suit all desktops with aspect=true being optional.Delete
This one is due for a revision at some point.
Excellent work, thank you!ReplyDelete
Thanks a lot for packaging and upload this game! :) As a 'Golden Era' adventure game lover, this one skipped me - and it seems most other people - when it was released, which is a real shame as it's a real gem. I only learnt of it recently when I saw it mentioned on a vintage P&C Facebook page, and completed it within about a week (without walkthrough... I still got it!), as a lover of Victorian London I knew I had to play it.ReplyDelete
Really good adventure, some great voicework from lead Sean Pertwee, seriously funny in places (so many people have noticed the Blackadder/Baldrick-like relationship of the leads, with just a teeny bit more polish this could easily have been from one of the big Sierra/LucasArts/similar publishers of the day. The Load/Save function is a little buggy but I found simply keep trying it eventually kicked it into life.
The only minor disappointment is the game's very rushed ending, which has strong signs that much more was planned for the ultimately brief finale, with a few earlier story threads and potential puzzles feeling unresolved, as if the publishers had to rush to meet deadlines. But still an immensely enjoyable game, deserved a far wider release (I don't think the title really helps sell it though), highly recommended to vintage adventure fans. :)
I believe Divide By Zero were on the verge of going under, which would explain the rushed ending. They've done a few other sci-fi adventures which I reslly enjoyed too. Mostly. Both Innocent Until Caught and its sequel Guilty are well worth a play through and Orion Conspiracy isn't as bad as they all say (though it is their worst game by far). Glad you're enjoying them!Delete
I get a problem when starting the game. A message says "Could not set fullscreen video mode 1920x1080: No video largenouth for 1920x1080"ReplyDelete
I'm having this problem with the subtitles being out of sync with the voices if they turned on. Increasing or decreasing the speed does not help.ReplyDelete