Sunday, April 28, 2013

Four Hidden Puzzle Games Reviewed

Shortly after her return from Canada this past Christmas, The Wife and I went on a bit of a computer game playing spree.  We actually finished these games months ago and promptly wrote up reviews, and I let those reviews languish on the desktop . . . until now!

Nightfall Mysteries: Curse of the Opera (SPOILERS):

This was the most rail-roady game ever. Sparkles to “guide” you are everywhere which made the game seem kind of stupid - you weren’t investigating so much as tooling around the village looking for whatever the game steered you to next. Searching was meaningless. The Hidden object scenes had nothing to do with the objects you need and the “tasks” after the hidden objects were lame.

When played after Asylum Conspiracy it seems really simplistic and boring - although some of the later puzzles were very well done and the final puzzle in the game was one of our all time favourites - very unique. When you understand this is the game produced first, it makes more sense that the next game was so much better - even if the “story” is earlier. 

This game is technically the sequel to Asylum conspiracy but was actually produced first. We’ve noted in our Asylum Conspiracy review how much superior that game was to this. We were disappointed (and a little amused) that the plot in this game didn’t tie in very well in later stages to the continuity established in the other game. Not to mention being freaked out by Grandpa Charles’ voice in this one.

Other goofy things:

We have no name and are referred to as “stagehand” throughout the whole game.

When we witness Christine/Carolina’s “suicide” our character’s internal monologue reflects ZERO emotional reaction. In fact, we instantly zero in on a shiny key on the ground. Yoink!

Basically, the heroes from the Asylum are totally mass murderers who show zero remorse and, from what we can tell, offed a bunch of other randoms while targeting the ones they indicated “did them wrong”.

This village has no people in it. That is never explained. As far as I can tell the “Count” is in no way a vampire so that is a big red herring.

At least in the abandoned asylum the idea that things were lying all over the place made sense. In this game you go through ridiculous lengths to “find things” for people that are hidden in stupid places like keys inside music boxes, etc, etc.

Overall: Far from the worst game we ever played, but no where as good as Asylum. We do wonder if we would have liked this game more if we had played it first.

Nightfall Mysteries: Asylum Conspiracy (SPOILERS)
This was was a great game with clever puzzle generation. Some creepy jump scares - really got The Wife. :-) The hidden objects actually tied into the game pretty well since you were actually looking for things you meant to use and there wasn’t as much hand-holding via “sparkly areas for you to look at”. Searching the rooms paid off, because that is how you found stuff. The tasks were a bit more self directed than the Opera game - which was good for experienced players. The plot was decent.
Some funny moments - spoiler: We rescue Grandpa Charles who was the one with the beef with Victor and he stays behind and lets us go off alone to fight him. Chivalry is dead.

Also, the whole idea that Christine is on this island all alone and that she seems to have no way off and no concern at all about the creepy homicidal doctor running around is a bit funny.

Some technical issues, but great service from Big Fish games.

Very compelling - we really wanted to keep playing. The game was also a decent length. Just tough enough to keep you interested without getting overly frustrated and the “isolation” of being on the island and in the asylum was suitably creepy. The opera game is supposed to also have an isolated setting but we just found it a bit silly.

The conceit in the game of finding audio tapes added to the creep factor. You didn’t usually find them all in order which made it even more eerie.

The climactic scene was also exciting and made for a dramatic end to the game.

Princess Isabella 2: Return of the Curse (SPOILERS)

We liked this one. The story is classic - remove the curse, rescue your family, particularly your kidnapped daughter - who is also named Isabella. There was a great sense of accomplishment as you cleared scenes and removed the curse - there was also helpful notation when you found everything you could, so you didn’t waste time searching everywhere. There were some cute side-plots that added to the game and kept it from getting boring.

You have a couple of “helpers” a fairy and a dragon and their powers made it interesting as you need them to solve puzzles. It was a little frustrating (to The Wife) that there were times the fairy pissed off and you still needed her and you didn’t know when she would be returning. The fairy’s voice bugs.

We had the Collector’s Edition which was cool, since it had lots of “extra” content. The only really valuable part of that was a bonus chapter, which we played before the end of the game - a good thing too, otherwise it would not have made a whole lot of sense given - spoiler alert - the ending. The other extras - soundtrack items which were kind of creepy - might make good gaming background music and some wallpapers we are unlikely ever to use.

The final battle was cool, since you had to finish it before you died, but the “ending” was so sudden and jarring that we weren’t sure whether we had ‘won’ - we did - or lost. It made it a bit of a let down. There is a separate teaser for the next game but no epilogue in the game itself.

It leaves a lot hanging, since your poor citizens are now apparently still stuck with this stupid witch and your husband might even be dead? Which, given the TRULY AWFUL animation for the Prince and his voice, might not be such a bad thing. We haven’t played the prequel game yet so perhaps we need to play that to actually like this guy.

The puzzles in this game were really enjoyable. You had to think them through but there enough hints to steer you in the right direction. We only got stuck on one and that was in the bonus chapter. I also enjoyed collecting the bits and pieces of stuff where you would eventually realize what you needed it for. Also collecting the jewels to free your trapped subjects was neat.

It had a bit more of a learning curve than most games of this type, but we were playing the “advanced” version.

We’d recommend it .

The Stanwick Legacy by Youda Games

We had vastly different impressions of this game.

The Wife: I give this one a thumbs down. Although I liked the voiceover options (American or British accent) and the graphics, this game failed to deliver. My high points were that the puzzles were half decent and the hidden objects contributed to the plot. The plot is really where this fell down for me. You are Emma, a young woman raised by her grandfather after her parents mysterious death. Now that Gramps has passed on, you’ve inherited the manor and are searching for the family legacy.

This was an intriguing set up, but I felt let down by the ending which was SO RAILDOADY! I also that the game was over too quickly with only two floors to explore.

We only spent $4 on this game, so that’s fine. I wouldn’t have spent $5 and I will likely avoid Youda games in the future.

Jhaeman: I thought this one was excellent except for the very end.  I liked the plot, I thought there was a nice level of difficulty in figuring out how to use the various objects, the hidden object screens were interesting and fair, and the puzzles were reasonable clever.  The ending seemed extraordinarily rushed, presenting an odd, somewhat random conclusion that came from out of nowhere and wasn’t particularly exciting to boot.  So all in all, great set-up, poor finish.

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