The setting is ancient Rome during the heyday of Christian
persecutions. As a Catechumen you've spent the last year
learning all about Christianity through your mentor. Your contact
with other believers is very limited but soon you will graduate to
full fellowship and be welcomed as a true member of the Christian
community in Rome.
Lots of Power-ups
Unfortunately, your mentor has just been captured by the Romans and taken
into the depths of their fortress. An evil fate awaits him, unless
you can penetrate deep into the Roman fortress and rescue your mentor. Trying to stop you is an array
of demons and soldiers. It's only through patience and
perseverance that you'll get through the traps, puzzles and demons
and finally rescue your mentor and defeat Satan. Fortunately you
will be armed to the teeth with many different spiritual weapons.
The Interface is simple, efficient, intuitive and fully functional.
As in any typical first person shooter, you use the mouse to look
around and the keys to move forward, backward, jump and crouch. You
pick up items by running over them. You can also use a key to
"grab" certain crates in the game and move them around by
moving your character (I remapped this to my right mouse button).
All the key codes can be remapped easily to any other key or mouse
button. You have easy access to changing the graphical and sound
settings. One nice touch is that you can decrease the size of the
display (not just the screen resolution) which will help slower computers
achieve a better frame rate. All settings can be changed while
the game's running. You just hit ESC to get access to the options
and then resume your game when you're done.
However, you can only adjust game difficulty at the start of a new
game. There are various choices from "fledgling" to
"impossible." These settings affect how much damage your
character takes when "hit" by a demon or grabbed by a
guard. It also affects how much "damage" your spiritual weapons have
on the guards and demons. I played through on the "normal"
setting and found it very challenging. Unless you feel
confident and experienced with typical first person shooters, I
highly recommend that you choose the "easy" or
"fledgling" levels. Otherwise you may find the game very
frustrating at times.
Hold on to your hats. The game is fast paced. It felt like I
was literally running at full speed all the time. I think this
is the fastest first person shooter game I've ever played. Creatures
also move very quickly and their attacks were quite difficult to avoid. I think
most of my frustration with the game centered around feeling like
the game was running faster than I could handle. This isn't a
problem at first but later in the game you can find yourself
overwhelmed. If you don't have fast reflexes you're going to want to
choose an easier game setting. Nothing proved insurmountable,
however, and I finished the game without using a single cheat code.
The game begins in a small garden courtyard. Fortunately for you, a
careless Roman soldier has left a key on one of the benches. A bit
of exploring leads you to the front of the Roman fortress. Since two
soldiers guard the main entrance you'll need to explore a bit to an
unguarded but locked front gate.
Just inside the gate, you'll encounter your first Angel who gives
you instructions and your first spiritual weapon, a sword which
fires light beams. Fire this at soldiers and if you hit them enough
they fall to their knees and pray. A beam of light will enclose them
and you'll hear a few notes of the Halleluiah chorus.
Congratulations, you've just converted a Roman soldier!
Not all Angels are Male. Rescue fellow
Christians. Alien Spacecraft?
My initial reaction to this was a chuckle and a little bit of
incredulity. Laser beam
spiritual weapons? Well, I learned that for the type of game that
Catechumen is trying to be, firing some of those weapons can be very
satisfying <grin>. The folks at N'Lightning took some
liberties and simplified things so they fit easily in a typical
first person shooter game. The "Lightning" sword and the
"Mini Gun" sword" were my favorites. There's nothing
like having massive amounts of spiritual "firepower" at your
Each spiritual weapon has a "best use" situation. All of
the swords except the first have limited "ammo" and must be
"reloaded". As such it's important to watch your
"ammo", especially if you want to try the game at the harder
settings. I'm a pretty conservative player and follow the motto of
"waste not; want not" but there were times when all the
bigger weapons were out of "ammo" and I was forced to use
the less effective weapons. All in all, I never felt like the
game wasn't giving me enough "ammo."
At the start of certain levels you encounter an angel who gives you
instructions and usually a new and more powerful weapon. You'll want
to listen closely since they usually include a little hint on how
best to use the weapon.
Each level has hidden places scattered throughout. I
found quite a few, but I'm certain there's a bunch more. These can
be very important for replenishing your spiritual "ammo"
and you should seek them out whenever possible. Don't forget
to move crates around.
The game levels are designed to hook seamlessly into the next level.
The next level picks up where the last one left off. You can't go
back so it's important that you explore each level first before
moving on. Keep multiple saves of your current level since some
levels at the end will put you in a situation where you can't get
back and must go on. There are several levels I only
partially explored because of this.
You lose the game when your spiritual health drops to zero or two
guard simultaneously grab you. To regain your spiritual health,
there are a number of scrolls scattered throughout each level.
Running over these scrolls recovers some of your health and a
scripture is displayed in the upper left corner of your screen.
Every scroll is a different scripture. I never noticed a repeat but
I didn't read every single one.
The Game is built around
the Genesis 3D engine. It's probably the best non-commercial game
engine available. The folks at N'Lightning have made very good use
Some of the images in Catechumen are stunning. Most are very good.
The textures are all very well done. In some cases you'll find
yourself staring at the graphics simply for the pleasure of looking
The game crashed only once on me and that was because Windows
decided I needed more disk space and figured my game could wait on
its more important task. Usually you can get back to the game
without problems (if the game screen stays black, hit ESC a few times).
Level design varies from adequate to very good. I don't know that I
felt any one level was superb though I often found myself very
impressed by certain sections of most levels. Some of the levels
were designed like mazes and others designed with buttons or
switches which open other doors. All in all, there was a wide
variety. Repetition was never a problem.
The system requirements are quite high, though any higher end Pentium
should run the game reasonably well. I played it on a Celeron 466
with a TNT2 card and 128k of ram. I also played it on a Pentium II
350 with 128k of ram and a low end GeForce card. Both ran the game
smoothly. However, both exhibited problems when more than a few
creatures were on the screen at once. This usually happened when
combined with an area that had a large amount of detail in it. If
the area wasn't particularly detailed then the slowdown wasn't too
bad. On lower end machines, this could be very problematic.
Sound and Lighting
This game excels in its use of sound and lighting. Both are crafted
to create very moody effects, especially in the
latter levels. It's rare for a game to "creep" me out these
days, but Catechumen had me hands down "creeped" on more
than one occasion. I definitely got the feeling I was heading deeper
and deeper into Satan's realm.
Unnerving and Creepy.
Hmm, looks safe to me!
Occasionally, sounds can start at awkward moments and you can be left
wondering where that "blue" light came from (Often, lights
have no obvious source such as a torch on the wall). Fortunately odd
moments are relatively few and when the game designers get all the
elements right, you'll find your palms sweating and your heart
beating faster. You might even jump out of your seat sometimes.
Most of the Roman soldiers are quite talkative. The voice acting for them is
pretty good (most of the voice acting is decent. Satan is one
of the highlights...wait till you defeat him <grin>). The
soldier's choice of phrases seems random. A nice
touch, but it would have been nice if the soldiers actually said
something that helped with the game such as giving out hints on
what's ahead or other little details. As such, their voices are
useful only to let you know that soldiers were nearby and when they
were searching for you. The screams and grunts and the squeals of
the various demons are well done and can cause a shiver to run up
Creatures and Artificial
There are plenty of demons to fight, an occasional lion and a bunch
of Roman soldiers. Each has its own unique method of attack. Roman
soldiers run up to you and grab you, demons either shoot you with
some kind of weapon or rush you and attack you point blank. Most
demons have both a ranged and a close-in attack. This means you'll
not have too many opportunities where you can attack the creatures
Are those horns I
see? Don't let the grin fool you. This
guy likes to tumble.
When you get within a certain range of an enemy, they will hear you
and start to try and find you. Unfortunately, the AI isn't very
smart in this regard. The creatures will try to take the shortest
route to you and if a wall is in the way they'll tend to get stuck
and be unable to reach you. You'll have to "help" them
find you by moving your character to a place closer to a door
opening or opening in the wall. In tight spaces this can put you at
quite a disadvantage. It also limits the time honored tactic of stirring up the enemy,
running back to a more defensible position and letting them come to you.
The models for the creatures vary in quality and appearance. Because
of the need to keep frame-rates at a decent speed the number of
polygons in the creatures is limited, making them appear blocky in
some cases. But for the most part the creatures are well done
Some of the demons have special moves. A couple demons will
"tumble' out of the way with something like a "side
roll" to avoid your shots. I could swear that the creatures
knew when I was pressing the fire button and would dodge out of the
way in the nick of time much too often. I'm sure this was just my
bad luck and random dodging but
sometimes it sure seemed like they were anticipating my every
One of the special attacks caught me by surprise. I edged up to a
doorway, knowing from a previous attempt that the other
side had a bunch of creatures that would kill me quickly. I decided
to take them out one at a time, letting them come through the
doorway. To my surprise, one of the demons grabbed me and
threw me through the doorway and into the "loving" arms of a half dozen other
demons. Needless to say, I died a quick and painful spiritual death.
I reloaded and tried it again. This time I pulled back deep into the
room. Even so, I got thrown back into that room and died once again.
It took me several tries get through this spot. I only did it
by keeping my
character from being thrown into the next room. That particular
situation left my head shaking a
bit. A cool move and a real challenge, but it meant a number of
frustrating deaths and reloads. I almost felt
like the game was "cheating" somehow.
Like the special move above, the game occasionally throws a new twist at you. Often it means you
get damaged severely or "killed." This
forces you to into a type of "cheat" that saving and
loading games affords you. Before going into a new area, you save
the game. You then rush into the area, find out what's there and
where it is. Then you re-load and attack the creatures in the room
with your 'fore-knowledge." Unfortunately, Catechumen has a
number of situations where saving and reloading is essential to
winning through that spot. I don't mind a challenge, but this came
off as a bit too much sometimes.
The game doesn't come with a multiplayer option and so playing
cooperatively with your friends isn't an option. I'll grant that
this one would have been very difficult to do within the time limit
of the game's development cycle, but it sure would have been great
to kick demon butt with my friends.
The game is very accessible to non-Christians as it doesn't force
you to read any scripture and the interstitials with the angels are not heavy handed. Anyone who
understands how first person shooters work will have no difficulty
understanding how to play Catechumen. No new Christian specific game play concepts have
to be learned.
The unfortunate thing about this approach is that the chance to
really take advantage of using spiritual warfare in a powerful and
unique way was lost. The premise and story line are not strong
enough to make this game a spiritual powerhouse. In fact the game is
spiritual lightweight. While unmistakably Christian, it's more like the Christian elements were made to fit
into a typical first person shooter game rather than a game being
made around a Christian theme.
But it's clear that the folks at N'Lightning were trying to reach
the masses and were limited by the short development cycle and the
tools on hand. Only time will tell if this game will succeed outside
Christian circles. I think it holds its own compared to most of
the first person shooters on the market these days. And it has the
distinct advantage of not having blood and body parts flying
everywhere. A marketing angle no other FPS game has, but then again
will it be able to attract the teen market if it's not filled with
splattering bodies? And will people simply dismiss the game
because it has a Christian theme? Maybe in our day and age
Christianity has become more offensive than reveling in exploding
Overall the game is a thrill ride. It offers fast paced action,
variety and beautiful graphics. Catechumen has some problems:
creature AI is a sometimes weak and the story and game play is
relatively simple. But the game gets right most of what makes a
first person shooter fun. Once you get past the odd sensation of
firing high tech laser swords at Romans, the game draws you in. The
graphics are on par with all but the few best 3D games on the market today.
The sound and level design are well done contribute greatly to the
moody feel of the game.
Tthe puzzle is a tune!
This is a definite buy. Unless you really wanted Catechumen to have
the depth of Half-Life or System Shock, this game is an easy recommendation
(if you want more depth and don't mind a primitive game engine,
you might want to consider
Saints of Virtue).
If you are buying the game for yourself or as a gift, make sure the
computer it will run on is at least a fast Pentium (with a 3D card in it). Even then, the
game will be slow at times even if all the graphics options are
turned off. If you have a Pentium II or better then you can play it
without a 3D card but it'll probably chug along. A 3D card is a big
bonus and many are quite cheap these days.
This will be a great Christmas present. If you can't wait
until then, you can purchase the game now, go here
or click on the Buy It Button.
graphics and sound. Very moody and evocative levels.
Solid game play.
Weak AI is sometimes annoying. There is no multiplayer.
When you get to the arena, go left. Keep multiple saves
of your game. You'll need them. Crates are sometimes very
Buy it. Great gift for that gamer in the family.
13+ (though anyone familiar with First Person Shooters would do
Sense (CS): 3.5
(clearly Christian but not fully developed)
Engine (GE): 4
(Best use of the Genesis 3D engine I've seen yet)
Play (GP): 4
a full explanation of our ratings system, click here
gain life, shield, weapons and super jump:
Start a game.
Once you're in the game hit the ESC key and it will bring you
to the main menu.
Very slowly type the following: franchiseme
When the code takes you will hear "Hallelujah"
Click on resume game.
this point you can use these letters on the key
R " = life, " Y " = shield, " I " = weapon
"u"= super jump
automatically move to the next level:
Start a game.
Once you're in the game hit the ESC key and it will bring you
to the main menu.
Very slowly type the following: iaminahurry
When the code takes you will hear "Hallelujah"
Click on resume game.
this point you can be taken to the start of the next level up to
But if you do not obtain the weapons on the levels before
skipping you will not automatically get them, so be careful using