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antstream
Written by  :  piltdown_man (197328)
Written on  :  Mar 08, 2021
Rating  :  4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars

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Summary

Is that really the time!!

The Good

I played a free download of the 2013 version of the game (though there is a 2011 date linked to the game's credits). It played perfectly on my Windows 10 machine.
I started playing it as something for a bit of fun before going to bed, I thought it would be relaxing and I'd maybe get a few screenshots for the database, but I ended up playing through till two-thirty in the morning just to see how it ended.
If I'd looked up this game on Steam I would not have touched it with the proverbial barge-pole as all the reviews seem to be very negative saying it has bugs and does not play. That may be true of the Steam version - The Director's Cut Edition - but my download played perfectly and I enjoyed it.

So the price, a free download, is good value.

Playing the game. All the mechanics I need are there - auto save, the ability to skip puzzles if I need to, being able to pause a game for comfort breaks and coffee refills, a decent variety of puzzles, being able to top up the hint system, a diary that serves a purpose - Yup! Everything is present and correct and it just worked. The game's pacing was pretty good too, several times I thought about talking a break and, well, fell into that 'just a little bit more' trap.

The artwork. I feel artwork is key to hidden object puzzle games and this was very good. I played another game yesterday and had to lean in really close to the screen several times - not so here, as the objects were generally clear once I knew what I was looking for.
What I really liked though were some of the scenes as I explored the game. I loved the triple decked train that comes into the game early on and reappears a couple of times thereafter. There are others too, like the sunset over the harbour where the Iron Liberty is moored and the station that the express pulls into - these are just linking scenes but they are very pretty and very well done.

The music. I must be getting soft in my old age because this is the second game in two days that I've played through and have listened to the music throughout. There were a couple of places where, though the music suited the scene, I was not so keen on it, but in general I really enjoyed it and thought it added to the game.

The hint system. Hints are awarded for completing mini games. Additionally, in new locations there will often be one or two small skull-like creatures that sort of fade in/out of view - clicking on these gets additional hints. The hints are only of use in the hidden object puzzles though and are of no use in the general game.
There were a couple of times when I was left wondering 'What to do next?' and that's where I found the game journal very helpful - unlike some games where this is merely recording the story as it unfolds, the diary in this game has a ToDo list which actually helps. Sometimes even knowing what I had to do wasn't enough but with a bit of clicking and exploration, guided by the ToDo list, the game eventually yielded the information I needed, e.g. 'To do x I'll need y to create a diversion here'. Overall there were very few occasions when I was really, really stuck and on both occasions I have to admit that 'user error' was the cause.

The Bad

There were a few places where my pet hates for games of this type popped up, 'knowing that I needed to pick up an item but nothing happened when I clicked on it' and 'mislabelled items'.
The not picking up thing happened maybe twice in the entire game and I got the items eventually so that's no big deal - especially as no penalty was incurred for clicking in the same area multiple times.
I expect some dubious item descriptions in a game of this type - it's part of the puzzle and I enjoy the play on words that is usually employed but a couple of these have stuck in my mind as being just wrong - callipers are not tweezers and a protractor is not a ruler. Rant over.

The biggest/worst part of the game for me was the voice acting - especially that of the main character. It was clear and well enunciated but it just was not right for a hard-boiled detective. The other voice acting was iffy at best with, in my opinion, the floating voodoo skull having the best and most appropriate voice in the game.

The Bottom Line

I started playing at around nine o'clock on a Sunday night and ended up playing straight through to two thirty on Monday morning. I was playing in casual mode and I did use the hint system to find some difficult (i.m.h.o. mislabelled) items. I got really stuck twice, once early on because I'd just skimmed the instructions and didn't know what to do and again mid-way through when I'd missed an item in one location that I needed in another. In both cases I resorted to an on-line walkthrough to help me make progress.

The fact that I looked for ways to keep on playing rather than just give up and go to bed shows that this game, despite its flaws, had me hooked. It was fun. I enjoyed it but I don't plan on replaying it.

antstream