Review by invalidname

Reviewed: 04/01/01 | Updated: 04/01/01

Inane space-goth smorgasbord


Philips & Infogrames, for CD-i, does not require digital-video card

PROS: Flying sequences look pretty.

CONS: Tedious game-play throughout, inane storyline, easy and uninteresting puzzles, boring maze sequences with bad graphics and control.

This is the kind of game for which Wired magazine coined the term ''multimediocrity.''

''Kether'' is a mess -- a bland mix of flying, shooting, and puzzles, all thrown together with no rhyme or reason. It doesn't help that only the flying sequence is particularly engaging, or that it's all held together by apainfully lame attempt at a story that's embarrassingly reminiscent of the tacky sci-fi movies that followed the first ''Star Wars'' movie.

After you turn off the French dialogue on the first screen and click ''New Game'', Kether opens with an introductory ''movie'' in which the main character is formed out of some ''star stuff'' -- it's really hard to tell what's going on -- and arrives in a big space-palace to be told his mission. What's to explain? You're the pretty-boy space-prince, and you have to rescue the beautiful space princess. Stop me if you've heard this before.

The graphics here would be quite lovely if they were either stills or computer-generated video (ala 7th Guest), but the action is shown as a series of dissolves -- a tacky attempt at ''video''.

After this, you're off to select which ''temple'' you'd like to enter first. The first one, ''temple of hockmat'' appears first -- after a few games, you'll figure out that moving your control up or down will bring the other temples up on screen.

The goal of the game is to collect five runes from each of five ''temples'', by flying to the temple through some sort of space hazard, solving a puzzle to get inside the temple, and then finding the runes within monster-infested mazes.

The flying sequences are the one part of ''Kether'' that actually works. You control a ship much as you would in any other flight simulator, and avoid the hazards flying at you. Early on, you dodge slow-moving asteroids; near the end, you'll fly through buildings and space ships, around tight corners, and even avoid duelling spaceships.

Every time you hit something, your shields take a hit. Lose them all and you lose a life, and get sent through a wormhole where you can steer into colored stars that take you back to the flying sequence. Fortunately, your shields can be recharged by hitting one of the green balls that are hidden among the asteroids, architecture, and what-have-you.

The hazards in this sequence come at you the same way every time, leading me to think they're some sort of pre-animated data that is ''unspooled'' (i.e.,played back) from the disc rather than generated on the fly. The CD-i simply can't generate polygon animation this good this fast. Even the 64-bit Jaguar is barely capable of that. Fortunately, the action is so fast in later rounds that you probably won't be able to memorize any particularly useful ''safe spots'', so it remains challenging. Movie-quality music adds to the experience.

Half-way through each flying sequence, the story intrudes as you get a message from the ''emperor of light.'' He's a pretty cheesy three-faced mask that spins around and piles on such New Age pieties as ''look to the star which can guide you.'' This guy makes Forrest Gump look deep... ''the emperor of light is like a box of chocolates, he's a big ball of love wrapped in golden foil.''

Get through the flying sequence and you get to the first part of what's wrong with Kether. Your ship flies up to a huge door, inscribed with a puzzle. After a dissolve, you must solve the puzzle before time runs out, or lose a life.

Unfortunately, after more than a decade of videogaming from which to draw inspiration, the puzzles are still trite. The first and possibly best is''concentration'' (or ''memory''), in which you find matching runes in a grid, two at a time. The second is ''simon'' (repeat the light-and-sound patterns), the third is ''master mind''. The final puzzle is so easy it doesn't need to be solved -- just get into a rapid cycle of hitting the right-arrow and the ''face'' icon, and you'll quickly eliminate all the icons from the puzzle.

Of course, there's an obvious question here: who are these doors supposed to keep out? People who are smart enough to build and fly spaceships, but too dumb to play ''Simon''? Smarmy space heroes? Forrest Gump?

Finally, you get to the first-person-perspective maze sequences, where you'll spend most of your time in Kether. The idea is to find five runes, each of which is in a special glowing room, while avoiding or shooting the monsters in the hallway.

Several problems here -- first off, the convenient map that's drawn for you is made up of green lines that are so fine they're hard to see on a US television. Secondly, there are two graphics for the monsters in the hallways: 20 feet away and right on top of you. It's less than vivid animation to jump from one to another. Many will scream ''the game cheats!'', and they'll be right.

Worst, I suppose, is the fact that this is the kind of lame maze game that ''Wizardry'' popularized for the old Apple IIs 15 years ago. You can only move north, south, east, and west; an open hallway to your side is shown as a door (instead of as open space); the controls are unresponsive -- you either can't turn in time to shoot an enemy or you end up turning a full 180 degrees and spin right past him. In an age where ''Doom'' sets the standard for this kind of game, ''Kether''s maze sequence is just pitiful.

Get all five runes and take them back to a ''scoreboard'' room and you'll get a message from kidnapped princess Eta Carene, who shows you a graphic of some stars and tells you to remember how many there are. When you get to the final temple, you'll need to remember how many stars were at each temple to solve the puzzle... but I seriously doubt many players with bother keeping up with Kether long enough to get there.

Somehow, Games magazine took a yen to ''Kether,'' calling it ''as good a reason as any to buy a CD-i.'' My only explanation is that they never finished the flying sequences.

Kether is really three games in one, but they're three pretty lousy games, and the whole kielbasa is even less than the sum of its parts. If you want to fly, wait for Chaos Control or rattle Philips to release that shelved ''Rebel Assault'' CD-i; if you want puzzles move on to Dimo's Quest or Lemmings. If you want a maze-oriented shoot 'em up, keep waiting.

(c) 1995 Chris Adamson

Rating:   1.0 - Terrible

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