Marco Polo comes on two CDi's of which one is the actually game, while the other contains
documentary material about Marco Polo and his time. It turns out to be a really, REALLY
close call which of them is the most boring to sit all the way through.
Marco Polo - the "game" - is labeled as an "adventure and simulation". The "adventure"
element is that you pick an Italian merchant - you can't actually play with Marco Polo
himself, despite the title - and you have to travel with him from certain locations to
certain other locations. This can be done in separate missions or as a 'whole' game. The
traveling consists out of pointing your cursor on a boring looking map and clicking on the
place you want to travel to ... and it's done. That is, if you've managed to do the
"simulation" part well. You have to buy stuff like food and camels for your travels, which
is done, once again, at dusty menus. Just point your cursor ... and click ... well done,
To prevent the player from falling asleep in the unbelievable dullness of this "adventure
and simulation", there are annoying voice-overs available which are able to tell the player
what he is selecting. They sound extremely didactic in a harsh and, for any lazy student,
inexcusable way. For example, when clicking on a camel a female voice tells you at an
annoying instructive tone: "A good camel can carry more than a horse. Camels are very strong
and much appreciated for desert travel. Their drivers consume only ration per day." Is this
supposed to be a game or a learning course?
When you travel there's usually a short video fragment shown at a very small square. I was
amazed that there was such a minimum of actually video fragments used. Why is that in some
CD-i games you're totally drawn in pointless full motion videos, and it's almost absent in a
game like Marco Polo in which it would have nicely fitted?
The most you see in the game are the maps, and the "simulation" screens of towns and
markets. Sometimes you can enter a town and answer "yes" or "no" to a question from a
villager (who is also shown as a picture and not as video footage). I didn't get the feeling
it would become any more interactive than that. Maybe it's possible to work out tactics, but
due to the overwhelming dullness of it all, I not once managed to play this game longer than
10 minutes on end.
After the game, I checked the documentary. I didn't know much about Marco Polo - just that
he was an Italian merchant somewhere in the Middle Ages and that he went to China on an
elephant and came back alive, without being eaten by those cannibals which, as is well
known, lived there back then (at least, something like that). Question: What did I learn
from the documentary? Answer: Nothing! Absolutely nothing! Question: Why not? Answer:
Because, just like in the game, it's boring as hell! That's right, there's also no full
motion video. Just motionless images or photo's with the voice of a guy in the background
who's dishing up some facts about Marco Polo, the cannibals and his time and stuff. The
information can be re-read as a text. That's about it. The average Discovery Channel
documentary is more exciting, captivating and informative than this uninspired, lazy
produced picture set.
Overall, Marco Polo is a horrible package. Both the game and the documentary are too dull to
retain attention to for longer than a few minutes. If you really want to know anything more
about Marco Polo, check out the good old library or watch Discovery Channel. If you're done,
you tell me why those cannibals didn't eat the famous Italian. It would have been a good
thing, because this crappy package would never have been released. Just one more of the many, many CD-i games of which it is best to forget about quickly.