Archive for the 'Video Game Reviews' Category

Treasure Seekers: The Time Has Come

Treasure Seekers: The Time Has Come (4/19/11) Hidden Object / Puzzle Game (2011 ***1/4) Produced by Artogon. Tom’s sister Nelly has been abducted by a sinister Nazi-like figure with a monocle. Using only his wits (and a time-traveling ring and a magnifying glass that lets him see through walls), Tom must rescue Nelly and coincidentally save the world from the Mayan’s 2012 end-of-the-world prophecy. My wife and I hadn’t played one of these hidden object games for nearly a year, and this was an almost idea casual gaming experience. The selling point for me was the time travel aspect, and it was integrated into the puzzles quite nicely. We both enjoyed it and hope to play other games in the series in the future.

Doors of the Mind: Inner Mysteries

Doors of the Mind: Inner Mysteries (4/29/10) Hidden Object Game (2010 ***1/4) Published by Big Fish Games, Inc., produced using the Playground SDK, credits not readily available on the web or accessible from the game. After taking a short break, my wife and I downloaded our FIFTH hidden object game (HOG). The artwork wasn’t as strong as some of the other games we’ve played, but some of the visual effects provided plenty of eye candy. The story, which involved a woman undergoing hypnosis sessions with a psychotherapist in an effort to solve the murder of her mother, was intriguing, well-integrated and it worked well with the HOG concept, with each hidden object scene added to that narrative. In addition, the hypnotic trance device made the surreal components of the games more plausible. There was some branching, which helped to minimize the “rail game” feeling, and there was a high artwork-to-game-time ratio. However, the game was extremely short, possibly shorter than any of the games we’ve played up to this point, and some players might be quite disappointed by that. The game seemed like it just stopped, making us wonder if the development team ran out of money. Also, I wish the artwork had been produced at a higher resolution (when played in full-screen mode, that limitation was quite apparent), and my wife would have enjoyed more mini-puzzles. One final note: Watching the credits, it was interesting how large the (apparently Italian) production team was; most of the other HOGs we’ve played were created by a relatively small group of three or four people.

Haunted Manor: Lord of Mirrors

Haunted Manor: Lord of Mirrors (4/20/10) Hidden Object Game (2010 ***1/2) Published by Big Fish Games, Inc., developed by Top Evidence Studio using the Playground SDK, art by Peter Lysenko, programming by Alexey Tugaenko. For those keeping track, this was the fourth hidden object game my wife and I have played. After the (sometimes annoying) open-ness of Dark Parables: Curse of Briar Rose, it was a bit disappointing to return to a more claustrophobic rail game experience, but with this game there was definitely a stronger connection between the puzzles and the narrative. The artwork was the strongest we’ve seen yet, and some of the hidden object screens were really beautiful, and they were integrated well with the narrative. Also, the game’s response to random clicking in the form of a “cracked” mirror, was jolting and definitely discouraged “cheating.” The mini-puzzles were well integrated and offered a good variety, and in terms of game-play, the game as a whole was satisfying, with a length that felt “just right.” There was even a twist at the end: Just as we thought the game was nearly over, there was a bonus round of a sort. As good as this game was, it had one minor but highly irritating feature: The player had to complete a “mirror cleaning” task before advancing to each new chapter. After the first couple of times, that task became quite tiresome.

Dark Parables: Curse of Briar Rose

Dark Parables: Curse of Briar Rose (4/18/10) Hidden Object Game (2010 ***1/4) Published by Big Fish Games, Inc., developed by Blue Tea Games, game design and story by Steven Zhao, programming by Zhao, Amy Lai and Olle Fredriksson. Like Enlightenus, produced by the same team, this game also featured an appearance by a spectral narrator. My wife enjoyed Briar Rose better than any of the hidden object games we’ve played thus far. However, a lot of gameplay time was spent navigating through the physical space in which the game took place, which was a lot like being asked to repeatedly trudge items back and forth from one side of Disneyland to the opposite side. Even the game makers recognized that, which is why they added a “teleportation vortex” in one of the rooms so the player could return to a spot near the opening scene. My wife was particularly annoyed by some of the random animations that were completely unrelated to gameplay, which seemed to exist for their own sake. Also, after being conditioned to look for hidden cards for hints in the previous game, finding “enchanted items” was weak. On the flip-side, this game felt less like the player was on fixed rails, and the effect of that was that the experience felt more like playing an adventure game.


Enlightenus (4/17/10) Hidden Object Game (2009 ***) Published and developed by Blue Tea Games, game design and story by Steven Zhao, art direction by Shawn Seil and Steven Zhao, programming by Olle Fredriksson and Steven Zhao. Having recently played Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, this was the second hidden object game my wife and I played. We chose it primarily because its premise about a search of missing novels written by a favorite childhood author appealed to me. The artwork was a step up from Crusoe, but the established narrative didn’t really pay off in a satisfying way. It also wasn’t clear why the “missing” author appeared in spectral form when he wasn’t dead. There were also a number of quotes peppered throughout the game that didn’t have any connection to the story, and my wife found this irritating. The hidden object screens themselves were completely random and not thematically linked in any way. Also, the structure of the game included visiting each screen three times, which added to the gameplay length but also made them feel a bit repetitive. On the plus side, we enjoyed “earning” hints by finding cards within the hidden object scenes. Not only did that become a game within a game, but it also added a sense of value to the use of hints.

Adventures of Robinson Crusoe

Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (4/11/10) Hidden Object Game (2009 ***1/4) Published by Big Fish Games, Inc., developed by MagicIndie Softworks, written and programmed by Vladislav Chetrusca, Lead art by Dmitriy Timoshin, based on the book by Daniel Defoe. This game was recommended by a friend, who said it was the top-selling hidden object game (HOG) of 2009. Except for a minor familiarity with the concept and from watching several game trailers, I was unfamiliar with HOGs, and this was the first one my wife and I played. The artwork for Robinson Crusoe was well-executed, but it didn’t blow me away, and some of the imagery was grisly and mildly disconcerting. As we played through each hidden object screen, I could definitely see why these games sell as well as they do. The mini games were fun, though I was a bit frustrated by one that took nearly an hour to solve, and it was very tempting to hit the “skip” button. I’ll chalk that up to our general inexperience playing puzzle-based computer games. I must admit I’ve never been a fan of them when I’ve encountered puzzles in adventure games in the past. All in all, it was a positive and satisfying experience, with a total game-play time of around four or five hours. At a very affordable $6.99 per download, I can definitely see us playing more games of this genre.

Resident Evil 4

Resident Evil 4 (AKA Biohazard 4) (11/4/07) Video Game (2005 ***½) Directed by Kuniomi Matsuhita and Shinji Mikami. A video game review? What kind of topsy-turvy alternate reality have we stumbled into? A couple months back my wife was at an event with her co-workers in a bowling alley and I found myself playing a coin-op zombie killing game. I liked how it felt. A lot. And so, for my 43rd birthday my wife bought me Resident Evil IV for the Wii so I could satisfy my zombie-killing bloodlust. The last time I played a comparable game was about ten years ago when I played the first Tomb Raider. Even though I’ve worked on video game projects in the past, I have never been a “gamer.” I really enjoyed the hell out Resident Evil IV, though. I was impressed not only by the graphics but also by the multiple gameplay aspects. The only weak area for me was the story, which I accepted from the beginning as just a framing device to allow for the creature-killing action. The “translated” dialogue was at times pretty awful, but I didn’t really expect anything better. According to the stats at the end of the game, it took me nearly fifty hours to play all the way through. I must admit I used online walk-throughs when the puzzles got a bit tricky. Having completed the game, I’ve unlocked a few more options, including a separate mini adventure, as well as being able to take my accumulated weaponry through the game with me. If you’re looking for pulse-raising zombie-killing action like I was, this is a wonderful game.