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SummaryShort, but a surprisingly good and thoroughly enjoyable game
The GoodThough I've played point and click adventures for a long time this was my first 'Hidden Object' game and I was not sure what to expect. What I got was effectively a point and click adventure with a novel twist.
Graphically the game is great. Every scene, every background is done to a very high standard. I suppose in many ways the game's graphics standards had be high since the game's star feature is its graphics based hidden object puzzles, however I was suitably impressed.
The game has music too. It's good but not memorable. It fits into the story as it should but, unlike some recent games, it didn't have me looking for a way to copy the tracks to my iPOD. I did like the sound effects, the crackle of the fire, the odd noises of wind, rain ,water both indoors and out were well done and definitely enhance the game.
The controls are really simple and intuitive. It is, I think, completely mouse driven, I don't recall seeing a joystick option and would have ignored it if I had. I'm sure the game is really designed to be played by a mouse and that's what I did. There's no 'progressive motion' or 3D world in this game. To move forward you click the mouse and you're at the next scene. It's so smoothly done I was part way through the game before I noticed I wasn't walking from one scene to the next.
I liked the puzzles. From memory they were either, "move the counters/tokens/icons around until the right pattern/picture/connection is made" or, "find the right combination to undo a lock", type of puzzle. Though there was nothing really new here they were well done. They weren't too difficult either. I'd say the puzzles were designed to be enjoyed and to keep the player engaged rather than to stop the game dead for hours while the solution was puzzled over.
The hidden object puzzles were new to me and, once I realised what I was supposed to do with them I actually enjoyed them too.
I hadn't expected to use the hint system but I did need it a few times. There are three kinds of hints. The first finds objects in the 'hidden object' puzzles and I did make use of this, especially in the first couple of hidden object puzzles when I was not accustomed to the devious trick the artists play to disguise an object. Once I realised that the thing I was looking for could be a crack on the window or a pattern on the wallpaper I used this feature less and less.
The second source of help is the game journal that gets updated as you progress. It is possible to do some puzzles out of sequence so there were times when I was unsure what to do next. The journal was very helpful in this situation because it always showed what I needed to do to progress.
The third source of help which is available only in this game, is the integrated Strategy Guide. This gives every answer to every problem, shows exactly where everything can be found. It's well written and has great pictures. I did use this too but that's in the 'things I didn't like' section.
I also liked the story. The acting was well done despite the implausible plot, and the game had plenty of 'red herrings' - places that could be interacted with but which served no purpose other than to confuse and bamboozle.
Another point in the game's favour is that there is no maze in this game. It's big and I was taxed remembering where I'd seen an object, but there was no running up and down tree lined corridors looking for a way out.
The BadIt's short. I bought it in the morning, loaded it at lunchtime, and finished it around 19:00 at night. Allowing breaks to eat, drink and so-on I reckon the game lasted five - six hours. They were good solid hours of game play but that's not long for a game.
I'm used to adventure games and sometimes expect to do some odd things in order to progress. However there were a couple of points in this game where I had to use the Strategy Guide simply because I was stuck. In both cases I had not performed an unessential task that was actually essential to the game.
A better way of putting it, without giving away any secrets, is that if I had been a detective investigating this mystery everything I did would have been focused on that goal'. At a couple of points in this game an 'unnecessary' action had to be performed in order to trigger a 'hidden object' puzzle. Until that puzzle appeared I was lacking an essential item and could not progress.