Nostradamus: The Last Prophecy Hands-On
Quite possibly the premiere cross-dressing detective adventure game set during the French Renaissance.
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Catherine de Medicis is not happy. Having read a prediction by the famed prophet Nostradamus that she would outlive her husband, King Henry the II, as well as her three children, she begs the prophet to break the terrible curse forever and help her beloved family members to avoid their terrible fates. Unfortunately for her, Nostradamus is too old to leave the house, so the task falls on his daughter Madeline to unravel this 16th century mystery.
In Nostradamus: The Last Prophecy, the latest adventure game from developer Kheops Studio, you'll point and click your way through the French Renaissance, searching for clues to help Catherine de Medicis. Cosmopolitan as they may be, French society at this time still does not consider women to be the equal of men, so Madeline will often be forced to disguise herself as her brother Cesar to progress in her investigation. Sadly, playing the part of Cesar requires a lot more work than you expect from a simple adventure game.
In our hands-on time with Nostradamus, we spent hours searching Madeline's home for different components of Cesar's disguise. Rather than keep his clothes in his bedroom like a normal French dignitary, Cesar's clothes are scattered about the entire house, and you'll be forced to pixel-hunt for his boots, pants, wig, hat, glasses, shoulder pads, and a piece of cloth that flattens out Madeline's, um, bosom. As was the fashion at the time, Cesar also happens to wear a goatee, which poses a problem for Madeline as the nubile young maiden doesn't have the capacity to grow facial hair. So you'll have to head to the kitchen and whip up a coloring cream concoction out of water, oil, beeswax, and clay.
Adventure fans should get a kick out of most of the puzzles, although it would have been nice to have a little extra assistance for new players. After creating this cream, Madeline says she will take it to her father so that he may apply it. But when you try to give Nostradamus the cream, he doesn't accept it and won't give a reason why. We were forced to wander the estate, clicking on every possible clickable item to get a clue as to where to go next. Sadly, we never found one, and Madeline remains stuck at home, unable to solve the mystery. At least there's an oven in which you can bake bread, if you so desire.
When you eventually do put on the disguise and make it outside to the streets of Salon de Provence, the citizens will react differently to you depending on whether you're dressed as Madeline and Cesar. We know this because publisher Encore stopped by the office to give us a brief demo, which showed Madeline getting crushed by stone as a tunnel caved in. But when you equip a shield on her head, she'll make it through safely. Madeline also has a tool kit of items such as a magnifying glass and tweezers, as you'll often find yourself examining crime scenes. Think CSI: Salon de Provence.
So far, it appears there's a fair amount of trial-and-error gameplay in Nostradamus, so you'll need to really think about your next move in order to be successful, even if the game gives you no indicator that you should think about your next move. Those looking for a challenging adventure game, look to Nostradamus: The Last Prophecy.