Cryptic world of puzzles

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 07 May, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 07 May, 1995, 12:00am

Jewels Of The Oracle for PC and MAC CD-ROMs AT LAST! A game which has no violence, no blood, no carnage, no nudity ... not even a chance of anything 'dying'! You may think Jewels Of The Oracle (JOTO) sounds like your run-of-the-mill role-playing adventure game. Well, it's not.

The fancy name is actually the name creator Courtland Shakespeare decided to call his new puzzle game from Discis. Puzzle games have been around for as long as electronic games have been in existence. The secret to their staying power is of course that these games are 'timeless'. They never go out of fashion; there's something about solving puzzles that can keep players glued to their computers for hours on end. So, consider yourself warned, this is not a game you can finish in a couple of hours.

These puzzles date back to 5000 and 10000BC and for creator Shakespeare (a fitting name) JOTO is more than a game. It is a place with a long and dignified history, a playground if you will with primitive machines you can push and pull and put your skills of logic and reason to good use.

As the story goes, JOTO is the only legacy that remains from an ancient civilisation that lived before the Sumerians. They were an intellectually superior race and built a secret complex to train their skills.

As the player, you take up when the secret place is discovered and you will meet the Oracle's challenge (there's no way of leaving the temple otherwise) of solving the puzzles and regaining the lost jewels.

You are placed in a deserted room with a well in the middle. The well will be your 'time tunnel' to the puzzle rooms. Images of the puzzles will appear in the water and you only have to click on it to get to the room.

The Oracle - which appears as an inverted pyramid at the top of the screen - will guide you with hints often more cryptic than the puzzles themselves. Once you solve a puzzle, you will get a jewel. But there is no time limit so you can take as long as you need to solve it.

However, there is no way to save the game in the middle of a puzzle which can be very frustrating because if you make one wrong move, you have to reset the puzzle.

And, we're talking major frustration here since some of the puzzles can take hours because these devices move very slowly (they are ancient!). Even after you work out the solution, it can take you up to 30 minutes moving all the pieces.

There are two levels to choose from: Easy and Difficult. The easy ones can sometimes be too easy but the difficult ones are darned hard! All in all, JOTO offers many hours of good, clean fun but also many opportunities to pull out your hair. Depending on how much RAM you have, the puzzles can be wonderfully colourful and the sound effects are great. So is the background music.

But Discis should really do something about their 'manual' because it only offers hardware and installation instructions. There is no explanation on how to play the game or what you should be doing. Players could find themselves wandering around in circles for days before getting to their first puzzle.

MEGAHINT: The first thing to do when you enter the well room is to find the door with the image of an inverted pyramid on it. Enter and you will find the Oracle.

MEGAHINT: Try clicking your mouse on any stone that makes up the well, not only the obvious ones. Pushing the right one will take you to a puzzle.

MEGAHINT: After you complete a puzzle and get a jewel, remember to take it back to the Oracle room so that it can fit itself back into the walls. Otherwise it doesn't count.

MEGAHINT: Give yourself time to think out a possible solution before you start twiddling with the gadgets because, in the long run, it will save you time on resetting the game every time.