hidden object games

[Review] The Beast of Lycan Isle (PC)

Luna and Tara are best friends and traveling buddies who are set to rendezvous on Lycan Island – a normally bustling tourist trap that has turned dark and inhospitable in its off-season. Luna arrives only to find that Tara has disappeared from her hotel room. You go searching the Island for your friend, and find a wolf is on the loose. With the help of Brina, an old woman with special powers to manipulate the wolf, you search the entire island for your friend before it’s too late. Has a wolf got a hold of Tara, or has she turned into one of them?

The Beast of Lycan Isle has been sitting in my Steam library for many years. Obviously, I had forgotten all about it! For the most part I can say this is a game reminiscent in style and feel to Angelica Weaver, right down to the ever present voiceover instructions which can get tedious. There is a lot of leading and hand-holding here, which is perfect for the beginner gamer. Clues are always present but the voiceover is constant. This one is a little low on the hidden object scenes, but high on the puzzles and collecting of items around the environment.

I think others would enjoy the Beast of Lycan Isle, even though there are plenty of elements I did not enjoy about it. On top of the constant hand-holding, I didn’t care much for the look of it, or the characters…and the plot seemed a little odd. Yeah, I didn’t like it, and I would never want to play this again. HOWEVER, the newbie gamer might / would likely get something out of it.

2/5

The Beast of Lycan Isle
Gogii
2012

Advertisements

[Review] White Haven Mysteries (PC)

Something happened at the old White Haven…Dr. Conlon the head researcher was doing trials on a serum that would reverse the effects of mental disorders testing it on young patients. Some would say he managed to help his patients reverse the effects. If only the Federal Drug Administration would have approved the antidote already instead of banning it! It didn’t help that those five children administered the serum ran away from White Haven causing so much negative attention…which inevitably caused the manor to shut down and 20 years on it’s slated to be razed. Dr. Conlon has since disappeared from sight to parts unknown…

How is it you woke up at White Haven’s dilapidated doorstep? You are groggy and can’t remember how you got here, or why. You are met with a little girl who knows you and says you used to live there. She lures you into the manor – and the door shuts on you abruptly. The little girl vanishes down the corridor. You roam the halls seeing her in an apparition. You feel like you are going insane. A voice gets in your head, saying you must find the antidote before you go crazy. Who was that man’s voice? Dr. Conlon? Who is that little girl? Do you know her?

White Haven Mysteries has been sitting on my Steam account since 2013, and I have to wonder why I waited so long to play it. It’s a pretty good game with an interesting story. The game is from 2012, but don’t let its age fool you: everything looks fairly modern. And if you want to get creeped out, you’ll find it in the unsettling imagery, as well as music that reminded me a lot of Alan Wake (one piano note playing on a loop, and the sound of a gust of wind deafening you).

I really enjoyed the hidden object scenes in this one. The game does have typical scenes, but also did something a little different to make the game even more challenging:

Yeah, man! This HOG is worse than looking through a junk pile…

Canadian game developer Gogii also gave some nudge-winks at their Canadian roots, infusing some “very Canadian” items in their scenes, including having to locate Canadian old-school $1 bills (not in use in Canada since 1987…) and an airline ticket that looks destined for Europe, but the YYC destination would send you to Calgary, Alberta.

Overall, I’d recommend White Haven Mysteries. I see it go on sale on Steam frequently: pick it up on sale for cheap!

4.5/5

White Haven Mysteries
Gogii
2012

[Review] Haunted Past: Realm of Ghosts (PC)

Sara Haverston gets a call from Solicitor Mr. Malloy, and learns she has just inherited a large estate. Details about the estate remain a mystery. But, she soon finds out more as she encounters the ghost of her dead mother who is hiding out from an evil force that has taken over the estate. Room by room, Sara must systematically clear out the evil spirit by finding glyphs and other objects that will chase it away.

The estate itself is a dark and depressing place, but you as Sara gain access to a portal of light in each room – a gateway to a brighter and more cheerful equivalent of the room you are in. There you can also find objects that can be hidden away so that once you “cross over” back to the dark side they can be used to chase the evil away and save Sara’s mother’s spirit.

The first time I played Haunted Past: Realm of Ghosts was back in 2011 when I was tearing through Hidden Object games like there was no tomorrow. I remember writing down on “my list” that it was pretty good… And it is still a good game, albeit a little short at under 3 hours. It’s also a little dated in the graphics department, but the overall plot and mechanics still hold up. The soundtrack to Haunted Past is very eerie; if you play, make sure the volume is turned up and the lights off! Guaranteed to give you the willies.

About my only real complaint is the very tinny voice overs which likely had to do with the game’s age. The music however came out crisp and clean…and creepy!

I found Haunted Past: Realm of Ghosts on Steam at a huge discount. Pick it up if you are so inclined. You won’t be disappointed.

4/5

Haunted Past: Realm of Ghosts
Gogii
2011

[Review] Enigmatis: The Ghosts of Maple Creek (PC/Android)

I reviewed Enigmatis: The Ghosts of Maple Creek back in June 2013: one of the very first games I ever reviewed for Caught Me Gaming!

Back then, I was looking for decent games to play on my Android tablet, and this one was just about perfect. Recently, I acquired this game and its sequel in a Steam sale. Wanting to see if it still held up, I installed it and took for a spin on my PC. I can tell you, my feelings about this game have not changed.

In the Ghosts of Maple Creek, you play a detective who wakes up with amnesia after an accident during a violent storm. As your memories flood back, you realize you are in Maple Creek, Vermont investigating the disappearance of Kate, a woman from the area who disappeared. To your surprise, you discover this disappearance is not unique. In fact, there has been a succession of women gone missing, including the loved one of one Detective Hamilton who had disappeared himself searching for her. Along the way, you find clues to Kate’s and the couple’s whereabouts as well as discover that there is something strange going on with the townfolk that links back to a local preacher.

The clicheed-sounding plot of Enigmatis: The Ghosts of Maple Creek may lower your expectations of the game. But stick around – there are some interesting takes on the whole amnesia-stricken-oh-I-finally-remember plot line. In fact, I’d hazard, this game is one of the more intriguing plots I’ve come to discover in a HOG in a while.

The mini-games are a good variety of hidden object and other uncommonly seen puzzles (Picross, anyone?); some are actually very challenging. I did notice how the game recycled hidden object scenes and even clues a few times (hint: you will be looking for those John Lennon eyeglasses and feathers a lot so pay attention!). In fact, the first HOG you come across will become very familiar throughout. And weird too, because you get to stare at people’s gitch while searching for objects, like you are looking for your keys after an eventful frat party.

Picross in a Hidden Object game? Great!

The graphics in the Ghosts of Maple Creek are well-produced. The story takes place sometime in the Fall, so you get plenty of falling leaves that you have to sweep out of the way, rainfall, and even what looks like a tornado in the distance. Combine that with an eerie soundtrack, and you have the perfect ambiance for a creepy game. This means if you don’t like seeing graves, dead bodies, zombies and skeletons, this is not for you (but who doesn’t like a zombie in their games? C’mon now…).

In one scene, you get to play around with a compass!

About the only real critique on the game I can offer is for the map which is hidden away in your notebook for some reason and doesn’t transport you to a particular area. No idea why…it’s the most essential part to the notebook, in my opinion. Quite a missed opportunity for the perfect game. Just expect a lot of back tracking and mouse clicking with this one.

The Collector’s Edition of Ghosts of Maple Creek also includes a prequel called the Ghosts of the Past, unlocked to players after completing the main game. It is a short HOG that explores Detective Hamilton’s experience searching for his beloved Emily back in 1980. It’s quite good, and fits perfectly in the Enigmatis canon.

A scene from Ghosts of the Past

I was very impressed with Enigmatis: the Ghosts of Maple Creek. Great story, great gameplay. Pick it up!

4.8/5

Enigmatis: The Ghosts of Maple Creek
Developer: Artifex Mundi
Released: 2011

[Review] Theatre of the Absurd (PC)

Theatre of the Absurd is a game I bought on Steam in May 2014 in a Silverback Games gamepack. Silverback Games is a Canadian developer that brought us the great Empress of the Deep series (“The Darkest Secret” got a 4.75/5 from me when I reviewed it September 2014!). And on preview, Theatre of the Absurd looked like creepy fun. What could go wrong?

Scarlet Frost is an expert on the occult who is called to Doctor Corvus’s estate one dark night to authenticate his Habsburg cube, a red box that holds a captured demon. The troubled Corvus loses his temper and throws the cube, shattering it and unleashing the demon who captures and possesses his young daughter. Scarlet is to use her forces of good to save the young girl. She is tasked with exploring Dr. Corvus’s weird “theatre of the absurd,” a massive mansion, to find pieces of a magical bell that will exorcise the demon. Each room is creepy, and demonstrates Corvus’s disturbing obsession with the devil.

I could really buy into the darkness vibe of Theatre of the Absurd. The music was foreboding, and there were some unexpected jump-scare moments not often seen in a hidden object game. However, the story itself was pretty thin and the tasks and puzzles were repetitive and uninspired.

In the first scene, you are having to save Corvus’s daughter by giving her water of Horus, an elixir that would temporarily relieve her of her possession. This could only mean the potion would wear off, and you would have to find more water of Horus to help her. I had enough of this task by the second time…

It didn’t help there were elements of the game that I feel were unrefined. Some of the hidden object scenes were blurry to the point I was reduced to pixel-hunting around and using hints to find certain objects. The puzzles felt ho hum fare (run steam through the pipes). And while I pile on, I also noticed odd errors in navigation in the game: an arrow would direct you to go one way, only to click it once to have you loop back to where you stood!

I tried to forge ahead with Theatre of the Absurd but alas, I found myself losing interest by the third chapter. Maybe someone else will feel this game is fun, but I would highly suggest you try Silverback’s much better offering, Empress of the Deep: the Darkest Secret.

2.5/5

Theatre of the Absurd (PC)
Silverback Games
2012

[Review] Princess Isabella: A Witch’s Curse (PC)


Princess Isabella is set to marry her beloved Prince Adam, but an evil witch has put a curse on the entire castle. All who live there have been locked away in a series of mirrors which have been shattered and scattered throughout the castle. You must find the mirror shards to free your loved ones. Each room is locked within the castle which you must open to free the curse. A combo of puzzles, hidden object scenes and scattered mirror shards are available in each space. A fairy follows you throughout the game, providing you guidance and hints, as well as the ability to cast spells. Once all the mirror shards are found, you are to fit them together in each mirror frame to make an image of a loved one to free them from their curse.

Hall of Mirrors

When I found Princess Isabella: A Witch’s Curse on sale on Steam, the comments about it were generally positive. A game from 2009, Princess Isabella seemed to conjure up very happy memories for some from when they would play casual games as children. This game was also a nice bonding experience between parents (and in some cases, grandparents) and their kids who would play together. People were going on about how good a game this was, so when it was on sale, I snapped it up. On preview, its graphics appeared a bit dated, but I wanted to see what the fuss was about.

Considered one of the first of its kind according to some sources, Princess Isabella has the notoriety of being one of the first hidden object games to follow a non-linear environment. Most HOGs from this era forced you to follow a certain series of steps to proceed in the game, but Princess Isabella allows you to move freely from room to room as you wish, which is helpful as there are about 20 rooms to navigate. Thankfully, there is also a trusty map to allow you to port to a particular room quickly, and even provides guidance if there is a task that still needs completing (…and y’all know how I appreciate a good map!).

As an expert HOG player and seasoned reviewer, I am careful not to criticize the decade-old Princess Isabella too much. The game is generally meant for newcomers to the genre, not for the expert, although I think it has something to offer both camps. Some of the charms of this game could also be construed as irritating. The constant hinting by the fairy who is always there in wait, as well as the continuous unskippable dialogue would be extremely helpful for some, but would surely grate on others. I chose to mute my game and listen to some music instead of relying on the soundtrack, and my enjoyment of the game improved tenfold. I mean, everything is better with the very à propos RUSH A Farewell to Kings playing in the background!

Overall, Princess Isabella: a Witch’s Curse wasn’t a bad game at all. I would definitely recommend it for newcomers to the genre, and even to the seasoned gamer… It is usually cheap on Steam…so why not?

3/5

Princess Isabella: a Witch’s Curse
Gogii
2009

[Review] Hope Lake (PC)

Hope Lake Boarding School today is a run-down abandoned shell of its former self. The school’s  been shuttered for years and forgotten about until it recently caught the attention of the police. The reason: all the girls who went to Hope Lake all those years ago are disappearing at an alarming rate. Police suspect there is a link between the disappearances and the drowning death of Ms Braun, Hope Lake’s notorious Governess. Braun’s drowning was the impetus for the Boarding School’s closure; her death was deemed an accident…but was it?

You are a young detective tasked with solving Hope Lake’s mystery. While on your search through the property you find and follow a cloaked figure in the woods that leads you to several clues that point you toward Ms Braun’s disturbed son, Peter. Could he be the cause of the disappearances? Was Ms. Braun’s death an accident? So many questions to find answers to…

Hope Lake is quite an extensive traditional hidden object game that took me almost a month to complete. I took my time with it, partly due to scheduling, and partly because it was enjoyable enough that I didn’t want to see it end. It was a well-designed game with gorgeous graphics. Some hidden object scenes did repeat, but at the very least, you were given fresh clues to find instead of the same old eye glasses or tea cup. Several other mini-games were also included in the game to keep you sharp, such as a Tower of Hanoi and sliding blocks. A lot of interaction with old tech too: tuning in a radio, playing a vinyl record and dialing a number on an old rotary phone.

The Flashlight was very helpful in scenes like this!

Each area you explore in Hope Lake is unique in design, and there are a lot of them – over 45 scenes! And just when you feel there will be a lot of back-tracking, the developers give you an awesome map that allows you to navigate to a different scene instantly. The casual mode will even give you a clue as to what room has an action that needs your attention and a task list of what needs completing is provided! Impressive! You also get a handy flashlight that you can use throughout the entire game. Really, they thought of everything!

The map system

Although Hope Lake is a well constructed game, I feel where the developers skimped out is on the translation from Ukrainian to English. Sorry, a wrench is not a “key,” nor is a stick a “shelf.” This is mostly found in hidden object scenes, where proper translation of items is needed the most. Thankfully, this isn’t prevalent in the entire game; your journal entries are written properly for the most part.

Overall, I was very impressed with Hope Lake: an enjoyable hidden object game with a satisfying story. How often do you find that?

4.5/5

Hope Lake
Far Mills / Mysterytag
2016