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Shivers II:
Harvest of Souls
Developer:Sierra Studios
Publisher:Sierra Studios
Release Date:1997
Article Posted:October 2006
System Requirements

Cyclone... A quiet, secluded town in Arizona. Few strangers ever travel through this place. It is a humble town with a small population. You will not find the rhythm of a large city here. But you might enjoy discovering the remnants of Native American culture through artifacts carefully protected and displayed inside virtually every structure. On the surface, Cyclone certainly looks like pleasant place. Perhaps it is stuck in the past, but the town is also charming in its own way with a strong touch of mysticism.

Your friends choose Cyclone as the ideal place for filming the first batch of videos for their aspiring rock band called Trip Cyclone. Being miserably broke however, they cannot afford the equipment needed for the production of their videos. As such, they have to spend some time working at the local businesses trying to save up some money before the recordings can begin.

In the meantime, strange events have recently started to occur in the town of Cyclone. Just before Trip Cyclone's arrival, an abandoned jeep is found at the entrance of the Devil's Mouth Canyon. The couple that owns the vehicle has been staying at the local motel. During the search that is conducted to find the missing couple, another person mysteriously disappears in the canyon.

Rather than being scared by these disappearances, your friends decide to take it upon themselves to find out what might have happened to the missing people. Their videos are meant to contain clues that lead to the capture of the person responsible for the disappearances. After all, solving such a mystery is sure to get them some attention from the media.

Unfortunately, let alone solving the mystery, your friends have a very rough time saving enough money for the equipment they need. When they have just about given up all hope, a mysterious benefactor appears. He is only known to the band members as Darkcloud. He refuses to reveal his true name and he will not allow your friends to see his face. Darkcloud always wears a kachina mask. However, having found a sponsor that will pay for all the equipment, the band members choose not to ask too many questions.

Several days later, you finally arrive at Cyclone after having stayed behind to work in the city. As you approach the town, you are confronted by a rockslide blocking the way into Cyclone. Fortunately, your dirt bike is designed to handle these kinds of situations. You deftly go over the rockslide and make it to the town's only motel.

The owner is less than pleased to see you, immediately labeling you as a troublemaker. Nevertheless, he does confirm your reservation and gives you an extremely alarming note. The message says that your friends are captured. Only the warrior is capable of saving them now... It is obvious you are not going to get any real information out of the motel owner. But something is definitely not right here. What caused that rockslide? Where are your friends? What happened to the other missing people?

As you walk across the parking lot to your room, you can almost sense something disturbing in the air. Something terrible is about to happen, you just don't know what it is yet. But you do know that you can't abandon your friends, you have to find them. Then you have to figure out a way to get away from here.

All of that is going to have to wait however. As you step into the motel room, exhaustion takes over. You barely manage to turn on the light and set your luggage down. Walking over to the bed, you almost immediately fall asleep. Unfortunately, you can forget about a good night's sleep. You are haunted by a strange dream.

The images are not altogether clear. Everything seems a little incoherent. But you can still see group of people getting out of a building. Are those empty alcohol bottles? They get into their cars. You can make out parts of an argument. What are they trying to settle? Suddenly, you see an accident. Cars hitting each other in full speed as one of them almost instantly erupts in flames. A woman is being carried away. She must have died in the horrible accident. "Guess we don't have to worry about the police" you hear a man say. "Yeah..." answers another, "Money took care of that!" The dream ends as you see the image of a man wearing a strange mask.

You finally wake up, but you cannot seem to forget the images from your dream. Who was the woman that died? What really happened? What was the cause of the accident? Who is the mysterious figure wearing a mask? You step outside your room to start searching for some answers. But something has changed. The town seems to be deathly quiet. Everyone has simply vanished without a trace.

The eerie stillness of the town is extremely unnerving. You want to get away from here. But you cannot leave. You have to find out what happened to your friends. There must be a way to save them. The entire town is yours to explore. There must be some clues hidden somewhere. You remember the note that was left for you. It said only the warrior could save your friends. What could that mean?

Harvest of Souls is the sequel to the successful horror-themed puzzle adventure game from Sierra Studios. However, while carrying undeniable structural similarities to the original game, Shivers II features a new setting and a new storyline while putting more of an emphasis on the plot than its predecessor. The resulting game features a variety of interesting puzzles, a strong atmosphere, and a few unique elements that set Shivers II apart from many other adventure games.

Harvest of Souls comes on two CDs and the game is played from a first-person perspective. The game is controlled through a simple mouse-driven interface. You can pan the camera by moving the mouse icon to the edge of the screen. Unless you turn off a setting from the options menu, the mouse icon will change as you hover the cursor over a hotspot. You can attempt interact with a hotspot with a single left click on the mouse. This will allow you to take a closer look at certain objects, put items in your inventory, or use various objects. The inventory is presented as a list of items that appears along the bottom of the screen. In order to use an item, you have to select it from the inventory list and click on an object in the environment.

Harvest of Souls opens as you arrive at the only motel in the town of Cyclone. After having a brief conversation with the motel owner, you make your way to one of the rooms and have the vision about the tragic car accident. When you wake up from the strange dream, the game truly begins.

A quick survey of the room and your belongings reveals several important details. Stepping outside, you face the abandoned town. Somewhere among its buildings you will find the key to unlocking the mystery. But the path is not easy. Before long, you will discover the first Bahos stick as you begin to understand what you are expected to do.

Even though you are not quite sure how he single-handedly accomplished it, the mysterious Darkcloud who sponsored the Trip Cyclone videos seems to be responsible for the disappearances. Now, he is asking you to complete a task for him. You are to find a series of Bahos sticks hidden throughout the town and deliver them to a sacred place.

You are not quite sure what these sticks are or how you will go about finding every single one of them. But this does seem to be the only way you can hope to obtain clues as to how you can save your friends. Fortunately, you will not be completely alone in your search either. An enigmatic ghost appears before you shortly after you find the first Bahos stick. She seems to be genuinely concerned about your safety. Perhaps she can help you in your quest by offering some much needed guidance.

The storyline in Shivers II works at multiple levels. Your immediate quest, clearly spelled out for you very early in the game, is to locate a set of Bahos sticks that are hidden throughout the town. It will soon become clear that you will need to overcome a series of puzzles in order to find each of the sticks. Once you locate one of the sticks, you have to take it to a special place in the Devil's Mouth Canyon. Before the holy artifact can be placed in the proper position however, you will need to solve one more puzzle.

While you will spend the majority of time playing Shivers II trying to locate the sticks, there is much more to the game than a simple scavenger hunt. Your real goal is to find out what happened to all the missing people and come up with a way to save your friends from Darkcloud. In order to accomplish that, you will have to do more than solving each puzzle you encounter. Clues scattered around the town hold the key to the mystery.

Every document you find has a significance. Every simple note, every picture has a meaning. It will be up to you to understand the significance of the Bahos sticks and find out why they are needed. In your quest to rescue your friends, you will come to realize that every single citizen of Cyclone has his or her secrets. As you examine each building, you can find out the identities of the ghost and Darkcloud. As you discover the true nature of the car accident, you may come to realize that Cyclone is not exactly the pleasant and secluded small town it appears to be.

While Harvest of Souls may not have the most intricate plot to ever grace an adventure game, there are plenty of elements to spark your curiosity from the very beginning and keep you interested until you reach the end of the game. The game directly provides most of the answers through a series of documents, but it also leaves it to the players to deduce part of the underlying mystery. While it will certainly not take legendary detective skills to understand the events that took place in Cyclone, it is nice that the game offers a few things to contemplate without meticulously explaining every single detail. In order to fully enjoy and appreciate Shivers II, players are just about required to make sure they read every document and uncover as many clues as possible.

Just like the original Shivers, Harvest of Souls has been designed to have an overall creepy atmosphere. The game accomplishes this by combining multiple elements. First of all, the underlying abandoned town setting definitely creates a scary feeling from the very beginning. The effect is magnified by the fact that every single citizen seems to have disappeared while you suffered from a strange nightmare at the motel. They are nearly ten years old, and on occasion they certainly feel very dated, however the graphics still manage to convey the right kind of unsettling mood in many of the game's environments. Then there are the subtle hints about the nature of the town and its surroundings dropped from the very beginning of the game. The rumors of a curse, the disappearances, the regular appearances of the ghost, and the knowledge of the tragic accident all add up to create an overall eerie tone that stays with you throughout the game. As you find out more about the townspeople, Cyclone increasingly feels more twisted and disturbing.

Among the biggest contributors to the game's atmosphere is the music. In many of the locations where you quietly explore the town, the soft yet creepy tunes feels right for underlying tone of the game. Perhaps the best example of this is the track that plays while you are exploring the church. It is a fairly simple tune, but it has a haunting quality that is fitting for both the location you are visiting and the overall mood of the game. In addition, if you pay attention to the lyrics, they actually relate very well to the puzzle you have to solve inside the church. It is not the kind of thing that would make the game, but it is a nice touch nevertheless. In the locations where there is an imminent danger threatening your life, the soundtrack also manages to convey a sense of urgency. But that is only part of the picture. The best part of the Harvest of Souls soundtrack is in the music videos featured in the game.

As it turns out, with Darkcloud's sponsorship, your friends have actually managed to record a number of their songs. While the music or the videos may not necessarily be of exceptional quality, the tunes and the imagery certainly help enhance the game's atmosphere. More importantly, the videos contain hints that are extremely useful in solving some of the game's puzzles. It is by no means impossible to finish the game without the help of the videos, but having them at your disposal is most certainly useful and you might even find several of them quite entertaining to watch. For those of you who are not thrilled about spending long chunks of time analyzing these videos, it is worth noting that each of them are fairly short, covering only a portion of the song as opposed to the full track. Players do not have to view all of them at the same time either.

As with Shivers, the puzzles are among the biggest highlights of the game in Harvest of Souls. The game offers a nice variety of challenges as you explore the town. Inventory-based puzzles make up only a small portion of the game's challenges. As long as you explore each location carefully, these should not be much of a problem. The music videos are particularly helpful for the inventory-based puzzles. Many of the remaining puzzles are self-contained and put your deductive reasoning skills to test. Finally, a number of challenges require you to uncover some clues before you will be able to find the correct answer. Once again, the music videos are a good source of hints for these puzzles.

While Shivers can be an overall enjoyable experience for adventure gamers, there are a couple of aspects of the game that might be frustrating for some players. First of all, if you do not like tangram-style puzzles, you might want to stay away from Harvest of Souls. Every time you manage to locate a Bahos stick, you will have to take it to the sacred place inside the Devil's Mouth Canyon. Before the Bahos stick can be delivered however, you will have to solve a puzzle by clicking on one of the petroglyphs along the canyon wall. These puzzles work in a very similar fashion to traditional Chinese tangram puzzles. You will have to use a set of geometric shapes to fill in the symbol on the petroglyph. Since you have to complete one for every single Bahos stick, if this style of puzzle does not appeal to you, the overall experience can suffer.

Shivers II also has a couple of slider-like puzzles. Similar to traditional slider puzzles, the goal is to manipulate tiles to create an image. The difference is that you will be moving the tiles using a series of buttons along the top and the left side of the puzzle. While there are only two of these puzzles in the game, if you do not like the style, they can once again take away from the experience.

The last aspect of the puzzles that can be remarkable frustrating is the need to revisit certain locations as you play through the game. While in general Shivers II is good about letting you know you have to go back to another location, there might be a couple of time when you are not quite sure how to proceed. Upon revisiting the locations you have already explored, you might find that something has changed in your absence. It is possible to argue that this adds to the suspenseful feel of the game. After all, somebody is clearly sneaking around without you being able to see them. In practice however, having to go through every single building for a second time just to make sure nothing has change can certainly be annoying.

Fortunately, Harvest of Souls also features a good number of quite creative puzzles that can be highly entertaining to solve. In addition, if you are completely stuck on one of the puzzles, it is possible to bypass it by using a button on the options menu. The game does have a scoring system and using this option costs you points. However, having a lower score at the end of the game might be well worth saving yourself the frustration of being stuck at a puzzle.

It is worth noting that it is possible to die during the course of the adventure. Each time you pick up a Bahos stick, your life essence slowly starts to drain away. If you do not make into the canyon to deliver the stick in time, you will lose the game. In addition, the petroglyphs around the canyon will periodically attack you while you are exploring the canyon, taking away your precious life essence. Thankfully, the gradual drain you have to endure while carrying a Bahos stick will temporarily stop while you try to solve the petroglyph puzzle inside the canyon. As such, you can take as long as you need to solve the puzzle. You will regain a portion of your life essence each time you successfully deliver a stick. In addition, there are a handful of healing symbols scattered around the canyon. Each of these symbols can be used once throughout the course of the game. Fortunately, once learn the layout of the canyon, delivering the Bahos sticks should not take you much time. Thus you should not have to pay too much attention to your life meter as you proceed through the game.

In addition to the option to have the game solve puzzles for you, Harvest of Souls has a couple of features that prove to be extremely helpful without making you feel like you are cheating. The game has a map that is accessible through a button underneath your inventory list. As you gain access to different structures around the town, you will be able to go back to them using the map. This will most likely save you a good chunk of time as you go back and forth between different locations.

Just like the original game, Shivers II also has a flashback feature that can be quite helpful. All the important documents you find throughout the game will become accessible through the flashback screen. You can also access the flashback screen to review the music videos and the important cinematic sequences that will be triggered as you go through the game. The flashback functionality not only saves you the trouble of relocating documents, but also provides a way to remember the key events if you stop playing the game for a while.

Viewed as a whole, Shivers II can certainly be an entertaining game to play. While the story is not incredibly complex, it does have multiple layers to keep you interested. Finding out the dark secrets of the townspeople, uncovering the mystery behind the car accident, and understanding the nature of the calamity that has befallen Cyclone makes up for a sufficiently engaging experience. The game has a strong atmosphere created by the eerie presentation of the town, fitting soundtrack, and cleverly designed music videos. There are a good number of unique puzzles to solve and plenty of clues to uncover as you explore the town. While it ultimately depends on a decision you make at the end of the game, Shivers II also has multiple endings.

Without a doubt, the game has certain negative aspects. The tangram-style puzzles can become tiresome, having to revisit locations you have already explored can be annoying. You will not see much of it, but the acting also most definitely leaves something to be desired. Nevertheless, the positive aspects of the game manage to outweigh its problems. If you enjoy adventure games with a scary theme and an emphasis on the puzzles, consider giving Shivers II a try. It may not be the best game that will ever grace your computer, but Harvest of Souls has plenty of fun to offer as you try and uncover the tragic mystery behind the disappearance of your friends.

The final grade is 86/100.


PC System Requirements:
Windows 95*
486 DX/2 66 Processor
15 MB Hard disk space
SVGA Video Card
2x CD-ROM drive
*Runs on Windows® XP under Windows NT 4.0 (Service Pack 5) compatibility mode.