A most unusual museum...
The mysterious museum always intrigued you. When it was first announced, the townspeople had embraced the idea so enthusiastically. Professor Windlenot had moved to the town of Mt. Pleasant White from England. His research about the unexplained mysteries around the globe had been met with disrespect and unabashed ridicule from his colleagues. Thus, the professor had decided to take his work across the ocean to the United States. The museum was to be the culmination of years dedicated to understanding the greatest secrets of our history.
Unfortunately, the construction of the museum took much longer than what Professor Windlenot originally estimated. Many problems were encountered as the project continued. Gradually, the townspeople started to lose interest in the effort, regarding Windlenot as an eccentric with far too much money to waste, if not a certifiable lunatic.
Yet the museum had so much potential. Numerous exhibits were planned with a variety of different themes. Windlenot wanted to expose the visitors to a wide range of mysteries. Visitors would be able to learn about strange mystical beasts that might have at one point inhabited the world in one exhibit while reading about UFO sightings and visitors from outer space in another. The museum would give visitors a glimpse into ancient civilizations, mysteries that might be hidden deep beneath the ocean, and an unknown world that may exist right beneath the Earth’s surface. Touring the museum would have been a real pleasure. The exhibits were to be separated from one another by various puzzles, challenging visitors to test their wits and pay attention to the information provided throughout the building. Unfortunately, the museum was never fully completed.
If your friends told you to jump off a bridge...
The museum had been quiet for a full fifteen years. You remembered stories about two students particularly interested in the museum. Along with the professor himself, the students had mysteriously disappeared. There were quite disturbing rumors that surrounded these disappearances. Some believed that it was the professor himself that went insane and murdered the two students, burying them somewhere on the museum grounds. You did not know whether or not those stories had any truth to them, but there was definitely something sinister, something haunting about the museum grounds. It beckoned you to explore, to discover its secrets.
Just about every time you talked to your friends, you kept bringing up the museum. Eventually, your oh-so dear friends decided that the best way to shut you up was to make you spend a night at the old building. And thus, they dared you to stay at the museum for an entire night. Of course, you were not about to back down from the dare. You wanted to show them you were not afraid of the seemingly abandoned building. And this was the perfect excuse to finally unlock the museum’s secrets.
You let your friends lock you inside the museum grounds. As they walked away, you were already second guessing your decision. What was that ominous sound you heard just before your friends left? Why had the museum never been completed? What was the true story behind the disappearance of Professor Windlenot and the two students? There was something sinister in the air. This was going to be a very long night inside the imposing building.
No point spending the entire night in the front yard...
A set of stairs lead to the main entrance to the building. But, as expected, the doors were locked. Seemingly trapped inside the garden area, you made your way to the small pond on the left side of the building. You noticed a few symbols etched on various objects along the way. Did they mean anything? There was some machinery next to the fountain. Taking a closer look, you realized you needed to enter a code to open the panel before you could operate the machine. Could it control another entrance to the main building?
Seeing as there wasn’t much of anything to do in the garden area, even though the pond looked very nice, you thought it might be more interesting to find a way to enter the building. Things got much more interesting once you did manage to break into the museum. It was not long before you encountered the strange apparitions. You managed to gather that they were called Ixupi. These spiritual beings had somehow been set loose across the museum. They were very dangerous, capable of stealing your very life essence.
At first you did not know how the Ixupi managed to break free from their prisons. You did not know where they were hidden. You did not understand what had to be done in order to recapture them. But one thing was clear. If you let the Ixupi run free, they could easily threaten much more than just the museum grounds. You had to find a way to catch them and return them to confinement. Your very survival inside the museum depended on it.
Pots, talismans, and why certain things should be left undisturbed...
Shivers is a puzzle adventure game from Sierra. The game is played from a first-person perspective. Navigation is handled in slideshow fashion, there are no movement animations. You simply jump from one screen to the next. You interact with the game through a simple mouse-driven interface. The mouse icon changes when you can move in a certain direction. You can take a closer look at certain objects or attempt to solve puzzles with a single click on the left mouse button. The options menu is accessible through a button located at the bottom of the screen. The game can be saved and loaded at any time, but there are a limited number of save-game slots. The game comes on a single CD. Even though it was developed back in 1995 for Windows 95, Shivers seems to run smoothly on a Windows XP system as long as you turn on the compatibility mode. In the tradition set by Trilobyte’s 7th Guest, the game throws players into a creepy environment stuffed to the rim with numerous puzzles. The sizeable and cleverly-designed museum makes for a greatly entertaining place to explore as you try to capture the renegade Ixupi.
You will be able to enter the museum after solving a few puzzles in the garden area. You will quickly realize strange things are going on inside the museum. It seems Professor Windlenot has brought back certain artifacts from his explorations that would have been much better off had he left them undisturbed. But it is a little too late for that… Apparitions are spread throughout the museum, waiting for unsuspecting visitors. These beings can absorb the life essence from humans. If they are not recaptured, there may be dire consequences.
You eventually learn that while it is impossible to fight the Ixupi with conventional means, they do have a weakness. They had been brought to the museum in strange containers. Pots and talismans with supernatural powers can be used to capture and contain the Ixupi. The spirits are irresistibly drawn to specific pot and talisman combinations that appeal to their native elements. Thus, in theory, by combining the correct pot and the correct talisman, you can create a container with which you can capture a certain Ixupi. Of course in practice, things a bit more complicated than that.
First of all, each Ixupi can be hidden in any one of multiple places across the museum. The same thing is true for the pots and talismans you are supposed to locate. Since it was Professor Windlenot’s dream to make the museum as interesting and engaging as possible, many of the passageways are locked by puzzles. You have to overcome numerous challenges before you can explore the entire museum. And you need to do a lot more than just explore the museum and take a look at all the exhibits.
The exhibits contain a number of puzzles waiting to be solved. It is these puzzles that contain the talismans and pots required to capture the Ixupi. But you have to be careful which objects you try to examine. You never know if an apparition is about jump right at you when you try to take a closer look. To make things even more challenging, there is a considerable number of different hiding places for the pots and talismans. And it is impossible for you to carry more than one pot or talisman at the same time. You only have room for a single inventory item. Fortunately, if you do manage to find a matching pot or talisman when you are carrying its counterpart, the items can be combined and you are allowed to carry the resulting container.
Once you do have a talisman paired up with its associated pot, you have to determine which Ixupi can be captured with that combination. Then you have to find the corresponding spirit somewhere in the museum in an effort to trap it. If you try to capture the wrong apparition, you will not only lose part of your life essence, but you will also lose the pot and the talisman.
The core storyline of Shivers is quite simple. Once you manage to get inside the museum, it should only be a few minutes before you learn about the evil spirits and what you need to do to capture them. The rest of the game is an elongated and glorified scavenger hunt to locate each of the necessary items. But that in no way means Shivers is a bad game. In fact, it has a number of elements that can make it rather entertaining.
Among the stronger aspects of Shivers is its atmosphere. While the game may not feature a detailed plot with lots of different characters and some interesting plot twists, it does manage to create a creepy atmosphere. Exploring the strangely quiet and seemingly abandoned museum has a welcome eerie feel to it. Even before you encounter any of the evil spirits, you get the sense that something is definitely not quite right. A foul presence seems to be lurking just around the corner, waiting for you to stumble into its trap. The theme of the museum contributes greatly to this effect. Seeing the many exhibits that deal with strange and unexplained phenomenon puts you in the right mood.
The soundtrack of the game also greatly contributes to the atmosphere. Some of the tracks create a sense of urgency, while others are downright disturbing and make you want to get away from the building as fast as possible. Adding to that a couple of startling shadows and small details like the ominous sounds you hear on the in-game menu, you are in for a creepy ride. The only downside to the game’s atmosphere is that the effect is greatly diminished once you have explored the entire museum. Since capturing the Ixupi does require a certain amount of backtracking, during the last parts of the game, the museum can altogether stop feeling eerie or frightening as you will have learned all of its secrets.
Interesting puzzles and a lot of frustration...
There are some notable exceptions, but the game also succeeds in delivering a series of interesting puzzles that should be entertaining to solve. In general, the puzzles can be divided into two groups. The first group includes self-contained puzzles. You can find the solution to these solely by examining them and trying to understand how they work. Once you comprehend the rules, you need to use your deductive reasoning skills or a trial and error approach to arrive at the solution. Other puzzles require you to piece together clues provided throughout the museum. Any document or drawing you come across might have some significance. It is essential to pay close attention to your surroundings in order to overcome many of the game’s challenges. Fortunately, Shivers has a feature that alleviates the burden of solving these types of puzzles. After the first time you encounter an important document, you can review it by accessing the in-game menu. This “Flashback” feature can be a real time-saver especially if you are not fond of taking notes as you play through an adventure game.
By solving the puzzles you encounter, you will gain access to new areas of the museum or find pots and talismans. It is worth noting that some pots and talismans are hidden in places that do not require players to solve a puzzle before they are accessible. Many of the puzzles featured in the game do show a good deal of creativity and should put your observation and deductive reasoning skills to test. However, Shivers does have a number of puzzles that could have been replaced with better ones. For instance, the puzzle involving Chinese checkers or the puzzle involving moving different colored pinballs to correct positions could have been avoided. Some of the clues required for overcoming certain challenges are also in quite obscure places and can be easy to miss. Sometimes it is even quite possible to walk by a puzzle containing a pot or talisman without noticing it. Nevertheless, the game does have a good mixture of many different kinds of puzzles, which should keep adventure gamers occupied for a considerable amount of time.
The single most frustrating aspect of Shivers is the amount of backtracking involved. There are very real restrictions in your hunt for the Ixupi and their corresponding pots and talismans. Only being able to carry a single inventory item is a great limitation. You can end up wandering around the museum for quite a long time in search for the counterpart of a pot or talisman. To make matters worse, since Ixupi guard certain pots or talismans, it might even be impossible to obtain the counterpart of the item you are carrying before you capture some other evil spirits first. Even when you have a completed container, finding the right Ixupi to capture can be a tedious exercise. Of course the game does provide you hints for identifying the correct spirit, but actually finding the apparition can be a whole different matter since it can in most cases be hidden in any one of several different places. The end result is a noticeable amount of running around the museum even after you solve all the puzzles and locate each of the pots and talismans. By the time you complete the game, many of the initially entertaining exhibits can start to look all too familiar. And after all your efforts to hunt the spirits, the ending of the game will most likely be a letdown. Shivers could have been a much better experience with a bit more of a fulfilling ending and less backtracking.
The bottom line...
Despite its considerable problems, Shivers still manages to deliver a greatly entertaining experience. The game manages to successfully create an eerie atmosphere as soon as you enter the museum grounds. The soundtrack nicely enhances the mood and the graphics still look fairly pleasant eleven years after the release of the game. While some environments could have used a little more polish, much of the game shows a good deal of attention to detail and clever design. The puzzles vary in terms of difficulty and style, but many of them should be quite entertaining for adventure gamers. The handful of uninspired or needlessly tedious puzzles do not significantly take away from the experience. If you did not have a chance to play Shivers when it was originally released, it is certainly worth giving a try. If you enjoy puzzle adventure games and if you can put up with the more tedious and frustrating aspects of the game, you will more than likely have a good time as you explore Professor Windlenot’s museum.