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Sep 13, 2011

Save the world with Science!

Game Category: Adventure - Educational 
Developer / Distributor: Ruske & Puhretmaier Edutainment / Tivola Electronic Publishing
Release Date: 18 Nov 2003
Rating: ESRB - Everyone

Physicus: Save the world with Science! was one of the earlier adventure games I got after my sojourn in Myst. Here was a game that billed itself as edutainment - an educational entertainment software. In their first release, Tivola brings us Physicus - a mix of physics and adventure that is sure to puzzle you as well as reinforce your knowledge of physics.

In all, the developer and publisher released at least six other edutainment games in the franchise. There's Physicus, Bioscopia, Chemicus, Masters of the Elements, Physicus 2 - The Return   (known as Physicus 2 - Die Rückkehr in Germany), and Webmaster - Master of the Elements 2. Fortunately, Viva Media has the rights to publish most of Tivola's edutainment games in the States.

If you have played Myst before, then you should know what to expect with Physicus...

Save the world, again...

First, a bit about the weird story that defies all laws of physics:

Armageddon! Well, almost... it seems a meteorite has struck the world of Physicus (yeah... so where's the devastation from the strike?). This has caused the world to stop rotating (rubbish... everything would be burnt to a crisp on the light side). You must rescue all of mankind by trying to generate enough electricity to drive a large impulse machine (sure... that's plausible in a fantasy world, considering the amount that is required to be generated by the game's finale).

Well, I suggest you close your eyes and disregard the preposterous backdrop story to Physicus and just concentrate on enjoying the beautiful world that the developers have dreamed up for us in this single player only educational adventure game.

Ahh... it's a Myst-like game
Educational? Can you mix a game with education and still keep the player entertained and not get bogged down by boring lectures... why not?

To tell you the truth, I thought that Physicus does this quite elegantly. It's marvellous that you can get to learn a lot of Physics from this game. If you are not interested, you can always skip the the knowledge collected here for you.

One of six educational chapters included in the game
Very early in the game, you will find a primitive looking laptop that contains what the manual calls "essential knowledge regarding physics you will need to save the planet". There are five chapters within this laptop for you to access. They are:
  • Electricity - Revise on the basics of the electrical circuit, current, voltage, generators, and such.
  • Mechanics - I hope you like Newton's Laws of motion and the Laws of energy conversation.
  • Acoustics - Can you hear that? Yes, it's a topic about sound waves, oscillations, resonance and other physics terms you learnt way back in high school.
  • Optics - Let there be light... and then there was shadow, and lenses, and colors, and much more.
  • Heat - Everything you could think of about heat should be covered in this chapter.

Explore strange buildings
As you explore the island to find a means of starting the impulse machine, you will notice that movement in Physicus is quite similar to Myst (the original). You move from point to point within a beautifully 3D rendered world filled with strange buildings and structures. Every point you visit is static and usually has a small handful of viewpoints. So you could be walking down three points along a road when you finally reach a fork and can either go left or right. If you turn around, you can walk back the way you came, but your viewpoint would be different.

You will see all sorts of peculiar buildings, with strange looking doors or gates. These doors or gates can be opened by pointing at the door or gate, or clicking on a button or handle, or even placing a key into a keyhole.

Collect mysterious objects
You will of course find keys and other interesting objects during your exploration. If you position you mouse over an object, a green line scanning symbol appears. This means you can pick up the item and store it in your inventory. You can scroll through the items in your inventory by clicking on the thingamajig at the bottom right of the screen.

When you position your mouse over a scene and a red line scanning symbol appears, it means that you must use something there. Scroll through your inventory and pick the object you think will do the job. So in the example I mentioned, you could pick up a key and place it on the keyhole which has this red line that keeps on animating whenever you move your mouse over it. As easy as pie... almost.

Solve puzzles with a physics slant
There aren't any hints in the game. You must instead rely on the physics knowledge database stored in your laptop as well as your smarts to solve the puzzles that are located throughout the world of Physicus.

The puzzles range from getting the right voltage to power a lift, to finding a lens that will allow you to see clearly through a telescope, to using a color filter to see a hidden message. If you ask me, I'd say that the puzzles are very fair and can be solved with some thinking, brainwork, and creativity. There are enough visual clues in the game and the laptop to get you through all the puzzles.

But, if you are really stuck, you can also check out the Internet for walkthroughs of the game.

Explore this beautiful world
Graphics and Audio
The rendered 3D graphics in Physicus is very pretty; it almost feels like a labour of love. You will see interesting structures, beautiful scenery, and lovely interiors. All applied with nicely detailed textures. Some of the objects in the game will animate; for example when you turn on a generator, a scene that was previously unmoving suddenly comes fully to life. You will see the generator fans start to turn and hear the hum of electricity in the background. That is Physicus for you.

You will meet no persons in Physicus, so it's feels pretty lonesome after a while. However, you will hear some good narration in the game - both from the game's cutscenes as well as from the knowledge database stored in the virtual laptop. The music chips in now and then to add to the suspense in the game and also to spur you on in finding a solution to a peculiar puzzle. I personally thought the sound effects were apt and also very nicely done.

Sounds great
  • Surreal and lovely 3D rendered world to explore.
  • Get educated in physics all over again. The chapters all make for interesting reading and listening.
  • The inventory system is quaint and simple.
  • Challenging puzzles that are not only aimed at kids. Anyone can solve them if they dig deep for the visual clues or study the material on physics.
  • No time pressure in the game. You can take as much time as you want to explore every nook and corner in the game.
  • No violence to worry about in the game.
Use objects intelligently
  • The game is very short; there really isn't that much to explore in the world of Physicus.
  • No hints are given in the game.
  • I was half expecting Physicus to cause my Windows 7 PC to cough up a furball (like my cat), but surprisingly, the game ran like a charm, with just one little issue. I had to set my screen resolution down to 800 x 600 to truly enjoy the game in all it's graphical glory.
  • You will be needing some pen and paper (or a calculator will also do) to solve the final puzzle.
  • The kookiest background story this side of Oz. Defying everything we know about Physics. Perhaps it was intentional.
A peculiar door lock that is actually an action mini-game
I think what the developers had in mind was this - To design a game that presents a good excuse for kids to play it. The kid could always claim that he is brushing up on his physics, but is actually trying to save the world of Physicus.

I must add that Physicus is not only aimed at kids alone. This game is labelled as being fit for all from ages 10 to 102, and I almost agree with it. If you are a kid and you solve this game without any help from walkthroughs, then I say you are one real brainy kid who deserves to go to the university and study hard to become a physicist.

Try Physicus, you may be pleasantly surprised by the nice graphics and transformation of dry science subject matter turned into an interesting edutainment game.

Quickly, you need to get the generators running
Daily PC Game Review Score: 7 / 10
Review Date: 13 Sep 2011


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