iPad Game Review: Mysteries of Notre Dame de Paris
Reviewed by Guy Dayen
The cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris is certainly one of the most familiar icons of the Catholic religion, and is one of the best well-known churches in the world. It is one of the premier tourist attraction in Paris, and is one of the most extensively photographed buildings in all of France. Sadly, many people have never yet had the opportunity to visit the magnificent building, perhaps due to the expense or extensive travel involved. And many people who have had the pleasure to visit these famous monuments have only scratched the surface of all the artistic and architectural treasures on display in this magnificent edifice.
Este Bueno Studio, with their new app Mysteries of Notre Dame de Paris, strives to bring at least a part of the wonderful experience that is Notre Dame to the iPad.
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Mysteries of Notre Dame de Paris is part game, and part educational presentation. You explore the cathedral by making your way through a virtual reconstruction of the cathedral, starting with the outside of the structure, and making your way step-by-step throughout the interior of the grand church.
You use one finger to remain stationary and look around, two fingers to move forward, and three fingers to move backwards. At various points, white circles will appear on the screen. Taping that circle will bring up information or a close-up scene. In the close-ups, a color change from white light to yellow will also indicate an active area.
There is a lot of information presented here, and for anyone planning a visit to Notre Dame, this is a great way to find out about all the must-see elements of this incredible cathedral. Knowing the stories behind the art will make the actual visit so much more enjoyable!
English information is presented in textual form, but, curiously, the narration in the app is strictly in French. What’s more, there seems to be no way to turn off the narration, so those people who don’t understand French will be left wondering what is being said.
Unfortunately, the English text is poorly translated. There are times when the sentences are very awkward, and readers are left to puzzle over exactly what is being said. At other times, some of the French spoken information doesn’t quite make it to the English text.
This leads to a problem: in order to progress through the cathedral and unlock new areas, players have to answer series of five questions. If you can’t understand the French narration, and the English text is sometimes lacking, it becomes difficult to answer correctly. The app doesn’t tell you which questions you got right or wrong, so it can be an exercise in frustration to go through the entire exploratory sequence.
This mix of gaming and education feels a little forced at times; I wish it was an option rather than the only way to experience the app. Those people who just want to read about the cathedral without all the rigmaroles have no choice but to play along with a rudimentary quiz game.
The virtual recreation of Notre Dame is incredible. There is a great amount of detail, and the visuals are crisp and clear. There are some parts of the cathedral that are too high up or that are inaccessible to the general public. Mysteries of Notre Dame allows you to get right up close and examine things in detail in a way that is impossible even for those who go to Notre Dame in person. In this aspect, the app truly shines.
The most unfortunate shortcoming of Mysteries of Notre Dame is the lack of English narration. The French audio is very well done, and it is really too bad that Este Bueno couldn’t go one step further and add an English track to their app. Being able to listen while examining the visuals is a much better experience than trying to go between the images and the less-than-stellar English text. I hope the makers will see fit to correct this oversight in the next version of Mysteries of Notre Dame.
I had the pleasure of visiting Notre Dame de Paris three times in the past, and I can confidently assert that the Mysteries of Notre Dame does a very good job of bringing Notre Dame to the iPad, especially visually. The French narration is very well done, with lots of interesting information. The English text is good, but spelling and grammar mistakes tarnish what could be a truly enjoyable experience.
The game aspect of the app seems quite superfluous; the content is more than enough to justify exploring the Mysteries of Notre Dame, the quiz portion is unnecessary as a means of progressing. It would be more enjoyable as a separate game experience, rather than as an integrated part of your exploration.
All in all, this is a very good app to find out about Notre Dame de Paris, and it should appeal to Francophiles, to French teachers and students, and to anyone who is lucky enough to be preparing for a trip to Paris. With a few changes; such as making the quiz portion a separate part of the game, cleaning up the spelling errors and grammatical mistakes, and adding an English narrative track, Mysteries of Notre Dame would be a terrific app.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5): 3.5
Graphics: 5 Excellent visual representation of Notre Dame de Paris, great amount of detail.
Sound: 3 Excellent narration if you speak French, but you’re left out in the cold if you can’t. No way to turn off the narration, either.
Controls: 4 Moving around the app is easy, and the motion is very fluid.
Gameplay: 2 The quiz game portion of Mysteries of Notre Dame seems much too basic, it doesn’t really fit in with the rest of the experience. A separate quiz would be better.
Playing Hints and Tips:
Since you have to answer questions in a series of short quizzes, be sure to read the text very carefully to get the info you need to progress through the game. Some of the info is hard to come by, so there will be some trial and error in the quiz. It’s a little frustrating, but with a bit of hit and miss, you’ll be able to get through the game.