"Secrets of the Pyramids", the title boldly proclaims, hoping to pique your interest. What secret might they have that we don't already know? Don't get your hopes up, because this "multi-faceted multimedia experience" won't tell you. Presumably it's only a red herring, dreamed up by the marketing department. "Sure," you might say, "the secret is that the pyramids were tombs of the Pharaohs." But how could such common knowledge ever be a secret? And the title doesn't promise just one secret, but many! I may need to think harder. Think... think... what could they be?
Maybe it's that the Egyptians were actually very well versed in the English language. Don't believe me? The game says so! After I translated the hieroglyphic symbols into the Latin alphabet, I received messages in English! That's surely one of the secrets! The next might be that the Egyptians loved to include a variation of "Simon Says" as the final obstacle into their pyramids, possibly to keep people with a weak memory away from the grave of the Pharaoh. And of course, there are the invisible hamburgers! After feeding mine to a vulture, I could still grab and look at it from the inventory without actually seeing it, thanks to the power of the pyramids. Amazing!
Of course, what kind of game could you expect from a developer called Ednovation? It’s one word formed out of two, education and innovation, which were probably their product goals. The first was more or less fulfilled: Secrets of the Pyramids wants to teach you about Egyptian culture, religion, and rituals. Yet you won't find more knowledge here than in a child’s picture book on the same subject. On the other hand, it's clear that the target audience includes children and teenagers.
The game offers three modes and recommends that you experience them in the following order: film mode, discovery mode, and game mode. Choose the first one and you will be presented with a ten-minute long animated cartoon that's entertaining, amusing, and informative. Annoyingly, most scene transitions happen after an extremely slow fadeout of the music, and an occasional bug halts the cartoon at a specific scene.
The discovery mode depicts drawings of various places, like a settlement, a pyramid construction, a tomb chamber, and more. You click on screen elements to receive descriptions. Since only six meager screens are available, there's not much information to take in.
The game mode is the meat of the game, yet no more than a tiny meatball. It's a third-person point-and-click adventure wherein you control Harold Peabody, an explorer on his first adventure. It begins in front of a pyramid and ends with the discovery of the Pharaoh's tomb. There are no characters to meet and no story to speak of. After two hours, you're through. It might not even take this long.
Eighty percent of your time will be spent deciphering the hieroglyphs. The first item you find is a small book that translates hieroglyphs to every letter of the alphabet. You decipher messages in order to pass a potential death trap, heed warnings, and to attribute names to gods. It's quite fun to do, but it becomes slightly tedious after awhile. The rest mostly consists of item combination and some annoying pixel hunting, of course, which sadly isn't the only design sin.
If you enter the pyramid without a light, then Harold will cluelessly tap in the dark and fall to his death. At other times, and with lights on, he can be too dumb to realize he's walking into a pit, and you won't be able to stop him. Harold behaves so stupidly it frustrates the player! Similarly, until Harold reaches the place to which you sent him, you have no control over him. Other adventures allow reconsideration of the goal while the player's character is on his way, but not this one.
Inscriptions warn you of dangers, but one is so senseless that it is unhelpful. I died two times before I determined which doors I shouldn't enter.
The graphics are solid, but the use of black outlines is inconsistent. The music underlines the atmosphere well, yet it can get a bit repetitive. Additionally, the compression ruins the sound fidelity.
Although I just finished criticizing the game non-stop, I have to admit it was kinda fun. The puzzles are easy, but enjoyable to solve, since they're logical and varied. The deciphering becomes a bit tedious, but it doesn't outstay its welcome for too long.
So despite its briefness, design sins, and bugs and other shortcomings, Secrets of the Pyramids entertains while it lasts. I didn't feel like I wasted my time playing it. It isn't absolute garbage, and I assume it might be worth a try for other curious people.
Unpack into a folder in your DOSBox directory of games. Run the unecm.bat file to recreate the .img file. This is a Windows game, so you'll need to either play with the compatibility settings and run the game directly in your latest Windows OS (not recommended) or run it through Windows 3.X installed in your DOSBox. Either way, you'll need to somehow mount the image. In your latest Windows, the CD image can be mounted using special programs such as Daemon Tools Lite or MagicIso. However, DOSBox itself supports image mounting. What you need to do is get yourself a Windows 3.X installed in your DOSBox, preinstalled version here.
Start DOSBox, mount your C: drive normally. Imgmount pyramid.img as D: drive. Start Windows 3.X the way you normally start games. Access D: drive through the Windows interface (File Manager) and run the Pyramid.exe you find there to start the game. Example:
mount c c:\dos\cdrive
imgmount d "c:\dos\cdrive\pyramid.img" -t iso -fs iso