Mozart Requiem Review: Rock me, Amadeus
There simply aren’t enough Baroque / Classical era games, and as someone who loves this time period so much that I attended Fêtes Galantes in Versailles to fulfill a childhood dream, I find this to be downright criminal. Oh sure, there’s Card Shark of course, which is a clever card manipulation game, and one simply cannot forget Ambition: A Minuet in Power — an absolute gem. So, while perusing GameStop’s preorder titles to see upcoming releases, I practically squealed upon seeing Mozart Requiem and secured a Switch copy on the spot. And while I don’t regret my purchase — I have a reputation to uphold, after all 😉 — I would only recommend this title to an extremely select group of people.
Allow me to elaborate.
Mozart Requiem was originally released as a PC point and click mystery adventure game in 2008 as Mozart: The Last Secret (and seemingly again in 2009 as Mozart: Conspirators of Prague). Previously only available only in some parts of Europe, Mozart Requiem has been remastered for PC, Switch, and PS4, including updates such as “Italian, German, Spanish and Korean subtitles/menus, upgraded visual quality of environments from 1k to 2k, increased many of the characters to 4k (including Mozart), increased sound quality, and a redesign of some of the puzzles so they also work on console machines.”
Mozart Requiem requires a lot of mental gymnastics to make the titular character’s involvement make sense. In a nutshell, Mozart has gone to Prague to settle some debts; during his time there, he has nightmares about the seemingly ill-fated emperor Joseph II, secret societies, the occult, and more. Unsure of what to make of it all, Mozart continues about his day as usual, until a murder transpires right in front of him — and he’s fingered as the suspect! In an effort to clear his name and get to the bottom of his strange dreams, Mozart takes to the streets of Prague to solve the mysteries of this gold gilded city once and for all.
Mozart Requiem is broken up into multiple chapters, each one posessing several components. First, the exploration stages, where players will take control of Mozart (or a friend of his) as he wanders around collecting items that may be of use. Eventually, he’ll stumble upon something that will require him to take a specific musically-inclined action, such as conducting one of his songs or fixing one of his compositions. There are also other puzzles featured that are more mechanical in nature, such as getting a mechanical beetle’s legs to all move at the same time or open up a door with an intricate lock. Good thing Mozart’s a genius, otherwise he’d be successfully framed for murder!
Controls in Mozart Requiem are simple enough on PC, as it’s a point and click game that more or less retained its original mechanics. This, of course, is not necessarily a good thing, as there were complaints about hitboxes back in 2008 that are still warranted 14 years later. While most scenes can be maneuvered through without much issue, some will require more finesse than it’s worth to make a simple move from one screen to the next. I get that it’s a puzzle game, but a pixel hunt does not a good puzzle game make.
Speaking of puzzles, nothing is really explained upfront in terms of their purpose or cohesion; only players who stick through to the end will figure out why they’re doing any of this. That doesn’t make any of it less convoluted, however; to quickly sum, Mozart has a book that, at times, will require him to conduct one of his songs (by using the mouse to follow a moving target, staying on it the entire time). After conducting the song, a grid will appear with many letters — the better you do at the conducting portion, the easier this next puzzle gets. Players will need to remove a set number of letters to solve the puzzle, yielding a specific phrase that will enable Mozart to move forward with his quest.
When it comes to reviewing a remaster, it’s imperative to not only rate the work gone into updating the game but the game itself; as such, this review of Mozart Requiem almost becomes two reviews. As a game, Mozart Requiem still feels very much like it’s from 2008 in almost every regard. The voice-acting is cheesy (not uncommon for the era), the puzzles are poorly interwoven, character development is non-existent, and there are plenty of quality of life basics that are lacking, such as a title screen (booting up the game each time drops you directly into a new game — you’ll have to load your game from there). Maybe fans of retro point and clicks will find some charm in its jankiness, but even those with that kind of experience may not have the patience unless, like me, they’re utterly captivated by the subject matter.
As a remaster, Mozart Requiem made some good choices, some understandable ones, and one that left me pretty pissed off. I appreciate the effort that goes into localization, so the ambitious add of Italian, Spanish, German, and Korean subtitles would certainly be appreciated by those audiences. And while I understand updating the visuals, there was a stark difference between the environments (2k) and the characters (4k). Watching an old let’s play of the original version shows a much darker but much more cohesive experience with plenty of things missing in the remaster, such as brightly burning basins or held objects. Overall, the characters didn’t seem to belong to the environments in the remaster, which is a shame considering how genuinely dazzling the salons are.
As for the part that left me pissed off? The very first word jumble puzzle. I experienced a litany of bugs in my playthrough (one that even left me soft-locked and forced to play from a much earlier save), but there was one in particular that ended up not being a bug at all. I sat at that puzzle for a good 30 minutes before feeling forced to move on; however, since the second word jumble puzzle was bugged, I figured I should email the dev team about the issues. I was then informed that the first word jumble puzzle is a red herring, designed with no answer, existing only to waste my time (time I don’t necessarily have to waste). Not only have I NEVER heard of that in a puzzle game, it deviates from the original release. I was tempted to quit the game then and there out of frustration…
…but, if I’m honest, the aesthetics kept me going. Every gold gilded salon reminded me of my time spent in Versailles and Vaux-le-Vicomte, a genuine treat to traipse around in. Coupled with the genius work of Mozart playing on repeat, Mozart Requiem was an absolute feast for the ears. Including starting over again from a much earlier save, my playtime sits at just under 20 hours, a good 5 of them spent just listening to the music while doing other tasks. The characters may have been a bit janky and the environments still pretty dated, but the setting and soundtrack kept my blood pressure at bay during an otherwise frustrating experience, so… points for that.
Mozart Requiem is not for everyone; in fact, it’s really only for people who would consider themselves fans of Mozart or janky 2000s point and clicks. There’s some charm in terms of unique musical puzzles and setting, surely, but the execution leaves much to be desired. I don’t regret buying a physical copy for the Switch at full price — a cart destined to sit in its cellophane for time immemorial — but that doesn’t mean I’m not disappointed. Even though I have some faith the dev team will fix any reported bugs, they can’t fix a woefully outdated experience. Dona eis requiem, amen.
Final Verdict: 2.5/5
Available on: PS4, Switch, PC (reviewed); Publisher: GS2 Games; Developer: Hoplite Research; Players: 1; Released: September 7, 2022; MSRP: $29.99
Editor’s note: This review is based on a digital copy of Mozart Requiem provided by the publisher.