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Installation Issues

I was given option to re-install or un-install the game. Uninstall? Oh, I had the demo installed.  So I just uninstalled it and deleted all my save games (The demo saved games are incompatible with the released version). 

Installation was easy. When starting the game for the first time it asked if I wanted to log on for any updates to the game.

This is where  I ran into my first real problem. As the game was loading up I got the following error…

"_GlideInitEnvironment. Glinde2x.dll expected Voodoo Graphics. None detected" 

After clicking on the OK button it exited me back to the desktop. Not good. Fortunately I knew exactly what to do.  The graphics engine expects to find a Voodoo card.  I used to have a Voodoo card on my machine so perhaps that confused it (Installing the game at home caused no problems). If you get this error, it's an easy fix. Unfortunately, the manual and the Readme file doesn't mention this problem or how to fix it.

To fix this problems, go into the catecumen directory (probably in C:\Program Files\N'Lightning Software Development Inc\Catechumen\game) find the file, "glidedrv.dll" and rename it to something like "glidedrv.dllx". After I did this, the game started up just fine. Rename it rather than delete it in case you need the file later.




Oct. 2nd, 2000

Game Type: First Person Action
Platform: PC
Developer's Website: N'Lightning
Try the Demo

NEW:  Cheat Codes

The Premise
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. 

Great Lighting.               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
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.

Game Play
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!

Great textures!            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 disposal. 

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. 

Game Engine
Graphics and Level Design
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 of it.

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 at them.

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.  I did.

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 your spine.

Creatures and Artificial Intelligence (AI)
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 with impunity.

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 and interesting.

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 move. 

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. 

Christian Sense
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 a 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 body parts. 

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.

Final Score

Highlights: Beautiful graphics and sound.  Very moody and evocative levels.  Solid game play.

Lowlights: Weak AI is sometimes annoying.  There is no multiplayer.

Hints:  When you get to the arena, go left.  Keep multiple saves of your game.  You'll need them. Crates are sometimes very important.

Recommendation: Buy it.  Great gift for that gamer in the family.

Age Appropriateness: 13+ (though anyone familiar with First Person Shooters would do fine.)

Christian Sense (CS): 3.5 (clearly Christian but not fully developed)

Game Engine (GE): 4 (Best use of the Genesis 3D engine I've seen yet)

Game Play (GP): 4

Overall: 3.8

For a full explanation of our ratings system, click here

Catechumen Cheat Codes

To gain life, shield, weapons and super jump: 

1.     Start a game.

2.     Once you're in the game hit the ESC key and it will bring you to the main menu.

3.     Very slowly type the following: franchiseme

4.     When the code takes you will hear "Hallelujah"

5.     Click on resume game.

At this point you can use these letters on the key  board:

  " R " = life, " Y " = shield, " I " = weapon "u"= super jump


To automatically move to the next level: 

1.     Start a game.

2.     Once you're in the game hit the ESC key and it will bring you to the main menu.

3.     Very slowly type the following: iaminahurry

4.     When the code takes you will hear "Hallelujah"

5.     Click on resume game.

At this point you can be taken to the start of the next level up to level 7.  But if you do not obtain the weapons on the levels before skipping you will not automatically get them, so be careful using this cheat!