In December of 2000, Omni Creative Group and DreamCatcher Interactive teamed up to release Riddle of the Sphinx, a graphical adventure about the mysteries of the Sphinx and Great Pyramid on the Giza Plateau in Egypt. The adventure was nice in that Omni was able to blend fact and fiction together seamlessly, but the game’s interface was clunky and its puzzles owed more to bookkeeping (taking notes, studying screenshots, making maps) than they did to reasoning, and I found the whole experience to be rather dry.
Now Omni (as Omni Adventures) is back with The Omega Stone, the sequel to Riddle of the Sphinx. As the game opens up, you discover the situation this time around is more dire. It turns out the Omega Stone is “the stone of end times,” and so your goal won’t be to just solve puzzles so you can find a great treasure (as in Riddle of the Sphinx); you’ll need to solve puzzles so you can prevent the world from ending. That’s pretty good motivation, and your travels will take you to places like Easter Island, Stonehenge, and the Bermuda Triangle.
Probably the best part of The Omega Stone is those locations. Just like in Riddle of the Sphinx, the locations in the game have been faithfully reproduced from their real-world counterparts, and so if you’ve never been to places like Stonehenge or the Mayan pyramids in Mexico, the game works pretty well as a virtual tour. Plus, the graphics engine is much better than in Riddle of the Sphinx, and every location allows you complete freedom with the camera, and so the game provides an immersive, atmospheric experience.
Unfortunately, while The Omega Stone has the same strength as Riddle of the Sphinx, it also shares the same weaknesses – the interface and puzzles. The interface is probably the biggest surprise of the two. Adventures don’t require much in the way of an interface, and adventures haven’t changed much in the last ten years, meaning it should be easy to look at another game’s interface and simply copy it. But the interface for The Omega Stone has a myriad of problems. There isn’t any difference between the action cursor and the move cursor (making exploration more difficult than it needs to be), and the cursor doesn’t always indicate hotspots where you can do things (making some puzzles more difficult than they need to be). Plus, the inventory system is a mess (it’s clicktastic!) and the game gives absolutely no help when moving through winding tunnels, which is unfortunate because you’ll spend a lot of time moving through winding tunnels, and probably getting lost and frustrated.
In other words, the interface isn’t very friendly. That’s something people can work around, but the problem here is that the puzzles are complicated enough on their own. They don’t need an extra layer of difficulty added on. Plus, the puzzles in The Omega Stone are a lot like the puzzles in Riddle of the Sphinx, which I’d argue is a bad thing. That means you’ll have to do a lot of pattern matching. For example, if you find a scroll with a symbol on it, no doubt that symbol will appear somewhere later, and you’ll have to remember where you saw it. That’s a simple case; for some puzzles you’ll have to match a pattern to a pattern to a pattern to something else, and the endless note-taking such matchings require isn’t a lot of fun. Omni tried to help out a little by adding a camera to the interface, which allows you to take and view mini screenshots while in the game, but the pictures are too small and so the feature isn’t as helpful as it might be.
Of course, not all the puzzles require pattern matching. Some force you to navigate hedge mazes or find countless skulls while stumbling through underground passages. That is, the puzzles by and large aren’t very exciting. They definitely took some thought to create, which is nice, but, just like in Riddle of the Sphinx, they didn’t grab me and pull me into the game. I felt more like I was doing homework than playing a game.
And so, overall, The Omega Stone isn’t an adventure I’d recommend. It’s a good-looking and professionally made game, but it isn’t a lot of fun. Of course, I didn’t much like Riddle of the Sphinx, either, and so it’s possible fans of that first game will enjoy the sequel just because it offers more of the same. But for everyone else, unless you’re feeling overly patient and have lots of scratch paper lying around, it’s probably best to leave The Omega Stone unturned.