[Freeware, Remake] The Abbey of Crime Extensum

Get your Sean Connery on. No, no, not with a pistol and martini of the shaken variety, but with sandals and robes. Wait, bear with me… The Abbey of Crime Extensum may be about abstinent monks, but it also happens to be a pretty darn polished and challenging The Name of the Rose murder mystery. So it may not have secret agent action, but it does contain a license to kill.

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Playing as Franciscan monk Fray William and his young novice Adso of Melk (yes, you sort of have to control both at once), you are thrust into a race against time to find the perpetrator of a series of grisly murders in a Benedictine abbey.

Abbey Extensum is a freeware remake of an old Spanish game called La Abadía del Crimen (The Abbey of Crime), and is available in both Spanish and English. The original game first appeared back in 1987 on a few platforms such as the ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC and MSX, but only in Spain, where it was revered for its level of detail, but feared for its difficulty. This remake is, as far as I know, the first time English-speakers can take a crack at this notorious game.

First thing’s first – Abbey Extensum sports some excellent mood-setting isometric pixel art. The amount of detail here is deceptively charming – given that there is a murderer on the loose somewhere and all – with cluttered pots and pans, bookshelves, belongings and the like filling the various rooms, all lovingly detailed. While the original game didn’t officially include Connery, who starred in the perhaps not-so-well known movie adaption, the upgraded graphics also allow for a sneakily closer (and totally unofficial) likeness.

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Gameplay in the original Abbey was impressive for its time (and even by today’s standards), but also difficult to get into. There are an overwhelming ton of objects to examine and collect, and more importantly, everything in the game world goes on around you in real time. The various monks of the abbey would go about their business, performing duties and changing location depending on the time of day. Furthermore, you, being a monk yourself, are expected to pay attention to the abbey’s routine and customs – and be present for certain events such as dinner. Failing to do so can raise suspicion and lead to negative consequences, and eventually, a game over.

So, yeah, as you may have guessed, though, these features, while neat, are also one of the more confusing aspects of the game, especially since Abbey Extensum doesn’t even pretend to try and hold your hand. At first it can be frustrating wandering around, not really knowing where everything is or what you are supposed to be doing, and you will waste a lot of time learning the layout of the abbey and its rooms, meeting all the characters and learning their schedules.

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This is where Abbex Extensum, as improved as it is, may scare a lot of people off. Despite its more (relatively) modern coat of paint, the mechanics underneath are still decidedly old school – for better or worse. It will take quite some time to familiarise yourself with the abbey and its inhabitants, and their schedules, probably via a few replays – before you can really even get started in the game. Frustrating matters, the orientation is not consistent for every screen – so you may exit an area on one side of the screen only for the next area to use a different orientation – this makes it quite easy to get lost for quite a while, until you’ve become properly familiar with the monastery.

On the upside, though, from what I understand, the modern version brings a bunch of slight but nevertheless significant additions and changes. Foremost of these is the difficulty: it is slightly less punishing – apparently phases of the story won’t proceed past a certain point until you’re ready, which sounds like it should avoid walking dead scenarios, at least. Oh yeah, and the original game didn’t even have the ability to load or save your game – so be thankful! Finally, this version takes advantage of fleshing out the detail in a few locations much more than was capable on the hardware in the original’s time, as well as some of the story and the ending, which makes the plot feel a bit more satisfying.

Abbey Extensum requires that old school manual approach – keeping track and learning on your own like an old school dungeon crawler that requires you to take notes and draw your own maps. If you’re into that sort of thing, then you’re probably one of those sorts who finds that effort is its own reward. Careful thought and consideration is important in Abbey, it’s up to you to carefully find and follow clues on your path the the heart of the mystery.

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If the old school aspects are the kind of things that put you off a game, this remake isn’t going to change that. If you are still pining for the days of yore, though, Abbex Extensum will do well to remind you of that time when the effort it demands is all part of the reward.

Abbey Extensum | download: homepage, steam

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About J.C

I grew up in the dark dingy arcades of the 1980s, blasting heads with Robocop 2, but grew up in an era that spanned the introduction of the x86 home computer, through to the 16-bit revolution, into the polygon age and beyond. I write about food, travel and of course, New Retro Games. I started newretrogames.wordpress.com and contribute to www.thecitylane.com. I am also a freelance business researcher, writer, and editor having published academic and corporate articles on innovation and intellectual property.

Posted on February 13, 2017, in Adventure and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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