[Review] Cameron Files: Secret at Loch Ness (PC)

Alan Parker Cameron – 1930s P.I. from Chicago. He is a cynical chap, a little hard-boiled, but has seen his share of excitement. He reminisces about his latest case that brought him to Scotland that wasn’t originally a case at all. He had received a letter about his father’s inheritance that required him to go to his ancestoral estate located on the shores of Loch Ness. Of course, the area is surrounded in some mystique, but that was not why Cameron was due for a visit. Well, that is until he arrived to the mansion and the lady of the house started having a breakdown, saying some strange things have been happening: the laird, Allister MacFarley, has been kidnapped, there is a conspiracy and corruption at work, and it doesn’t help that this mysterious banshee keeps appearing on the property. A bizarre set of circumstances that Cameron must work through in the Cameron Files: Secret at Loch Ness, the adventure game I played on PC.

A little background on the game: This was one game that I got at a thrift store that would not run on my Windows 7 computer, probably because it is so old; the label said it would run on Win 95! But, my husband built a computer that would run XP, so lucky me – I could play Cameron Files, and I am glad I did!

Secret at Loch Ness’s main strength is its story. The graphics overall aren’t terrible, if at times, a bit blurry. It’s the characters that look a little…creepy. Thankfully, you play as Cameron often in first person, so you don’t have to look at him too much as you play the game. The characters in the game, dispite their appearances, move the story along positively. There is some great voice-over acting to make you feel like you are there.

Gah! No, I shouldn’t be creeped out by these characters – not at all…[shudder!]
(image from doublegames)

The game is a typical point-and click: Move into a room, click on stuff, put stuff in your inventory. There are also items you have to combine to make something, some running away from people so you don’t get caught, and some time challenges. I didn’t find the gameplay of Secret at Loch Ness terribly natural at first. In the first part, I got a bit lost, admittedly. In the early scenes of the game I met old Lady MacFarley, she had her rant, then I found myself poking around the mansion where the game would allow me to access. I soon figured out that I had to make the lady some tea so I could gain access to her room. The mansion itself is a labyrinth of rooms with every door looking exactly the same. It was a matter of having to go into every one to see if you were in the right place. There is a location map that shows areas and buildings around the mansion, but no map for interiors of buildings, so it was easy to get lost inside.

In an interesting shift of gameplay, if you don’t do things in the right sequence, use the right tools, or do things in the time alotted you can die and GAME OVER! Hah, this happened to me a few times, and every time it did, I would have to ctrl-alt-delete the game because it would get stuck on the GAME OVER screen (ah, old technology!).  Thankfully, I have learned my lesson about saving my game frequently, so I was able to start the game again at a safe point and try a different strategy. One timed challenge has you scuba diving underwater through a maze of rocks and algae before you run out of air. I thought this was a pretty advanced gaming dynamic for an older adventure game (and can be a bit frustrating…)!

I definitely cannot neglect mentioning the legend of the Loch Ness Monster who does play a small bit in the story, but not how you would think. In fact, it’s this banshee (or scottish ghost or spirit) that Lady MacFarley speaks about at the beginning that plays a more integral role in the plot.

Overall, I enjoyed playing Cameron Files: Secret at Loch Ness. As mentioned, its strength is the story. I am not sure it would attract newer adventure gaming fans with its old timey graphics, but its story is worth checking out.

The short review: Great story, rich characters. El creepo graphics, but an older game. I ctrl-alt-deleted a lot.

Cameron Files: Secret at Loch Ness
Developer: Galilea
Released: 2001

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