A small boat brings you to the shore. It is a dark and gloomy night. A sickly fog seems to be wrapped around the entire island. Ghostly sounds fill the air. A series of caverns lie ahead. You will need to walk through them to reach the main part of the island. As you slowly march into the caves, you see a movement in the shadows. Apparitions dart in and out of sight. Restless spirits haunt the caverns. You feel as though someone or something is watching your every move. You want to run away and forget about this horrible place, but a powerful force draws you deeper into the caves. You know that you did not arrive at this island by accident. You are here for a reason. If you can survive what lies ahead, you could be the one that finally puts an end to the darkness. A long and difficult night awaits. Welcome to the Isle of the Dead.
Tomb of Zojir is a first-person horror-adventure game from WRF Studios. Designed by William R. Fisher, Tomb of Zojir is the third installment in the Last Half of Darkness series. It may not avow you with flashy graphics or a cutting-edge 3D engine, but with its clever design, strong atmosphere, and engaging puzzles, Tomb of Zojir delivers an excellent adventure-gaming experience.
Even though Tomb of Zojir is the third chapter in the larger Last Half of Darkness saga, players are not required to be familiar with the previous adventures. Newcomers can expect to jump in and understand the game's self-contained story. However, once you beat Tomb of Zojir, you might find yourself wanting to go back and check out Mr. Fisher's earlier work.
The game ships in a DVD case with a short manual and a piece of paper that contains a poem and letters arranged in a circle. It is important to note that all of these items are used to solve puzzles you will encounter during the adventure. Even the artwork on the actual game DVD serves as a hint. In addition, the game's manual contains important background information about the island. It is highly recommended that you at least take a few minutes to skim through the manual while the game installs.
Looking through the manual, you will find a journal written by an explorer who tried to uncover the secrets of the island. According to the diary, Emperor Zojir's tomb can be found on the Isle of the Dead. The emperor is believed to be buried with an incredible treasure. Elaborate mechanical locks prevent access to the tomb and the emperor's treasure room. According to local legends, the tomb also used to be protected by powerful dark magic. Centuries ago, a wizard named Tamerac created seven artifacts called bloodstones and placed them in a circle around Zojir's coffin. The bloodstones were used to summon spirits to guard the treasure.
In the years after Tamerac crafted the bloodstones, many thieves tried to gain access to the tomb and claim Zojir's treasure. None of them were successful. Unfortunately, over time, people forgot the nature of the magic that protected Zojir's grave. The guardian spirits became little more than a myth. One day, after failing to gain access to the treasure room, a foolish band of thieves decided to steal the bloodstones instead. They recklessly disrupted the protective circle, unleashing vengeful spirits and turning the once beautiful island into a dark twisted place. It will be up to you to find a way to contain the spirits and bring peace to the Isle of the Dead.
The actual game begins as you dock your boat at the entrance of the caverns. Your first task is to find a way through the caves and reach the main part of the island. Along the way, you will encounter several apparitions and the first of many mechanical locks spread throughout the island. After leaving the caves, you will have a chance to explore several other locations and start finding out more information about the troubled history of the island.
Tomb of Zojir is played from a first-person perspective, using a very simple and intuitive interface. The game is designed as a series of screens presented like a slideshow. Each screen contains one or more exits, allowing you to continue exploring in a specific direction. The mouse icon changes when you hover over an item of interest on the current screen. For instance, the red arrow indicates that you can perform an action or pick up an inventory item. The eye icon is used to examine items. The inventory is accessible at the bottom of the screen.
Among the strongest features of the game is the atmosphere. Mr. Fisher has done an excellent job of creating a creepy and mysterious setting for the Tomb of Zojir. From the old mansion to the swamps and the underground tunnels, each part of the island feels appropriately dark and gloomy. The overwhelmingly thick fog sometimes obscures your vision. It feels as if the air itself is trying to hinder your progress. Ghosts appear at key moments to remind you that you are not alone. You will not be attacked by hordes of zombies or bloodthirsty vampires. However, Tomb of Zojir still manages to create a feeling of imminent danger and urgency. The game compels you to push forward and unlock the island's mysteries.
The game has also been designed to continually give players a sense of accomplishment and real progress. Once you get past the set of caverns from the opening sequence of the game, you gain access to a small pier, a mansion, and a graveyard. The path to the next part of the island is sealed by a series of elegant locks. As it turns out, these mechanisms were constructed because of the thieves constantly trying to raid Zojir's tomb. The islanders tried to protect things and places they held dear, just as mage Tamerac tried to guard Zojir's grave. As you explore the mansion and the pier, you gradually uncover clues and find objects that allow you to unlock each gate. Along the way, you also discover background information about the island's denizens. The locks cease to be meaningless obstacles once you understand their significance. Instead, they serve as an integral part of the story. In addition, slowly peeling back each layer of the island feels like a real achievement and creates a sense of fulfillment.
Between mechanical locks and inventory-based puzzles, Tomb of Zojir offers a significant number of challenges. There are several logic puzzles that are fairly novel and should be interesting to solve for even the more seasoned adventurers. For the most part, the inventory-based puzzles are straightforward and have logical solutions. Items are typically used in intuitive ways. There are no absurd combinations that require tremendous leaps of logic. If you carefully examine each screen, you should be able to get past the game's challenges without much trouble.
In addition to offering an interesting setting and entertaining puzzles, Tomb of Zojir is very satisfying in terms of its length. Beyond the caves and the mansion you will discover during the early portions of the game, Tomb of Zojir contains several other areas for you to explore. Each location has a number of screens to examine and a variety of puzzles to solve. The 20+ hours of game time promised on the box is not overly exaggerated. There is also a pleasant bonus that gets unlocked when you finish the adventure.
Despite its numerous strong elements, Tomb of Zojir does have a couple of flaws. For instance, on certain screens, it is easy to miss an exit that allows you to enter a different room or walk down a different path. This can cause you to miss inventory items or important clues, resulting in needless backtracking. Fortunately, this is only a minor problem and does not significantly hurt the overall experience. On most screens it is clear where you need to click to continue your exploration.
If you are looking for an adventure game with modern graphics, the visuals of Tomb of Zojir may be another problem. The slideshow presentation can feel a little dated and may not appeal to players that enjoy fully exploring a 3D environment. The character models can also seem a little stiff. However, at least for me, the richly detailed screens negated any need for full 360-degree exploration. More importantly, in my opinion, the game's strong atmosphere and entertaining puzzles more than make up for any possible shortcomings with the visuals.
In the end, Tomb of Zojir is a thoroughly enjoyable horror-adventure. The Isle of the Dead is a delight to explore. The game features numerous well-crafted puzzles and a wide variety of locations. The atmosphere is spot-on and the background story is very intriguing. It is remarkable that a single person is responsible for designing this game. If you have not played any of the other Last Half of Darkness games, this chapter makes for an excellent jumping on point. Tomb of Zojir is a very easy recommendation to fans of horror-adventures.