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Mistero della Piramide, Il - Review

Review by Zuperfaust


Last edited:

Enrico Ragaini coded this adventure when he was 16. During a school scientific event, he casually met Enrico Colombini, the author of the most famous Italian adventure game: Avventura nel castello. On that occasion Mr. Ragaini and his schoolmates played that adventure and Ragaini decided to code one on his own.

However he had an expanded VIC 20 (8 Kb) and he had to wait for the Commodore 64 to have enough memory to make his dream come true. Despite the 38 Kb, he was still forced to simplify some descriptions and remove some actions. I'm saying this because while I was playing the game I could perceive there was a lot of work behind it.

About the story, you've heard of a legend about Ramses II's pyramid, which seems to contain lethal traps and complicated puzzles. The legend says nothing about treasures, but the fact that nobody has ever survived the pyramid is enough for you to decide to take the risk and explore it.

The game advertisement said that you could have months of enjoyment, and its price was quite high for the time. After playing it, one understand the advertisement was not exaggerated.

Parser/Vocabulary (Rating: 7/10)

Ragaini used Colombini's "Modulo Base," a parser in BASIC for several platforms. The syntax is 'verb object' (or 'verb article object') and the parser is quite flexible with additional spaces in the string. Verbs can be typed in the 1st or 2nd singular person, "ciao" and "grazie" are understood, as well as 8 bad words. But don't try to use those insults, or the parser gets offended and freezes...

The game understands about 48 verbs (including synonyms), 6 directions, 60 objects, and the 10 definite and indefinite articles. There is a limit of four objects carried at the same time, and you always need your flashlight, which reduces the limit to three.

Atmosphere (Rating: 8/10)

The story itself is not original: you must escape from a pyramid. There were many adventures with the same plot in the period, but perhaps this is why Ragaini's Mistero della Piramide stands out.

Given the much-exploited setting, nonetheless the environment is plausible, objects are located in proper places, room descriptions are well written and without grammar errors.

All the rooms are dark, and you start with your flashlight on, and this is another detail that this game has thought of, differently from other pyramid-escaping games where rooms are lit and nobody knows why.

Attention to detail is a constant here. As an example, if you try to take a second shield, the comment you receive is appropriate to the context, and not a standard "you cannot do that."

The only problem I could note is that some object descriptions are too limited, but that depends on the 38 Kb memory limit.

Cruelty (Rating: Polite)

There are several places where one can die, however dying is an experience that must be lived... for the means and descriptions are worth the reading.

Eventually you will learn what not to do, and you can explore the pyramid in a more relaxed way, just to be stuck with some clever puzzle.

Puzzles (Rating: 10/10)

Everything makes sense, in hindsight. Yes, you need to complete the game to appreciate how well everything fits in the whole picture, but every time you solve a puzzle you believed impossible, you inevitably say: "Why didn't I think of that before?"

Overall (Rating: 9/10)

I've waited 30 years to complete this game, and I know other people who have done the same: this adventure can become an obsession, and it is hardly forgotten.

The mix of creativity, the difficult but logic thus possible puzzles, the atmosphere that never breaks the suspension of disbelief, the smart-enough parser makes this game in the top ranks.

I could rank it a 10/10, but I perceive something is missing, and I don't know what. Or perhaps I know what: the descriptions and puzzles that were omitted due to lack of space. I'm not punishing the author for something he had no control on (machine hardware), rather I wish I could read and play those too.
Apart from that, I believe this adventure can be compared to Infocom's for the care shown in the product.

I strongly recommend any serious adventurer to tackle this piece of software.