History buffs among you should know who Temüjin is. Everyone else knows him as the feared warmonger Genghis Khan (that goofy guy from Bill & Ted). In 1997, SouthPeak Interactive released Temüjin: A Supernatural Adventure. It threw history out of the window and made the warlord into some sort of practitioner of dark magic. It's an alternative facts version of our past.
That's not to say there aren't any actual facts. Temüjin takes place in the present day of the mid-90s and is entirely set in a museum. After a rather well-produced prologue shows us Khan's fantastical burial rite (it involves a priestess, a concubine and a decorated ram's skull that traps souls), we're forced into the unknown shoes of a museum employee. Things are a little off from the outset. Try to leave and the voice of Mei, Khan's concubine whose soul is trapped in the skull, will stop you and beg you to help her. Other employees you encounter will comment on the fact that you cannot talk, which is weird in itself, but the nonchalant way they address this is a little... off.
This is SouthPeak Interactive's second game as a developer. They had somehow managed to acquire the exclusive use of one of America's largest studios which allowed them to come up with some impressive tech for full-motion video. The result is the development of the Video Reality Engine which allows you to look around during video like a primitive version of one of those 360° YouTube videos. The effect is impressively immersive, even if does take place in a tiny window. Even so, there's such a large amount of FMV that game originally came on 6 CDs worth of game.
There is a downside, though. Navigating through the museum is a nightmare. It may be a small fraction of the size of The British Museum or the Smithsonian, but you'll constantly get lost. This is because clicking in a direction will not guide you the next junction or point of interest, but will keep going until you reach whatever you clicked on, be it wall, door or fireplace. This means you can cover an entire hallway in one click as you see the door you wanted to get to slowly pass you by.
There is a knack to it. First know where you want to go by scouring the room when still, then click. A handy image of where you're going will appear below the main window, just in case. If you misclick, you can change your trajectory by clicking on another hotspot while walking (which I didn't find out until much later). Good luck with your aim.
The puzzles are a little off too. One of the first real brainteasers you come across is a series of jigsaw puzzles found in the gift shop. It took way longer than necessary to complete because it's so awkward to control. There's a weird physics to the pieces that will rotate as you drag them. They're rather arbitrary, but necessary if you want to see progression. Cut-scenes trigger at certain points in the game, but you have to approach them at the exact point, from the right angle or you won't see them. And there's no indication that you're missing anything until you're stuck. This means that without a walkthrough in hand, you'll go every single point from every single angle if you're lost just to see if it triggers a cut-scene.
Some of the better puzzles in the game involve the use of your inventory. Knowing what to use and when is a puzzle in itself and there are clues for the attentive gamer. There's also a lot of red herrings. A lot of items can be picked up, most of which have no use in the game whatsoever. Needless to say, your inventory will get quite full pretty quickly. Even the most inventive of puzzles are a little off when you have to scroll through dozens of pages of pixelated blobs. While you can get a closer look at them, none will be described. Having a mute protagonist has some merits, but when you can't differentiate items it makes the game harder than it needs to be.
At one point in the game, you'll have the ability to trigger memories as you slowly piece together who you actually are. An interesting premise but before you get there, these hotspots are still interactive. What replaces the memory is a single line by Mei saying "soon my friend". Why not now? If later, why can I still interact with it? It's a game design choice that's more than a little off.
And that's the best way to describe Temüjin; a little off. When talking about the individual elements - the story, the presentation, the acting - they're all show flashes of being exceptional, but as a whole, it's just off. It's technically impressive, with an absorbing story acted out by a more than competent cast. There are some engaging brain-teasers among the banal jigsaws and sliding puzzles. The screen layout is uncluttered, aesthetically pleasing and functional but oddly impractical.
The game itself? Very entertaining, but a little off.
To download the game, follow the link below. This exclusive installer uses the DOSBox Daum build of DOSBox 0.74 running Windows '95. Manual included. Tested on Windows 10.
IMPORTANT - Remember to shut down the emulated version of Windows before exiting DOSBox. This could potentially result in errors, lost saves and corrupt data. Press Ctrl-F9 when it is safe to do so.
File Size: 3.6 Gb. Install Size: 4.3 Gb. Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ
Temüjin: A Supernatural Adventure is © SouthPeak Interactive
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me