hidden object games

[Review] Adam Wolfe (2016) (PC)

This past Spring, I picked up the game Adam Wolfe on a Steam sale. At first glance, what immediately struck me was how similar this game’s name was to a favourite game of mine:

Familiar? Yes, indeed; in appearance, and in initials (A.W.)! And the similarities go further – both games use aspects of the paranormal in their story. (Both A.W.s are different in genre, however: Alan Wake being more on the survival horror spectrum, while Adam Wolfe is hidden object adventure).

More to the point, the paranormal as a plot device in games is a familiar one. Adventure games in particular have used it repeatedly. I am quite familiar with it having played games like Angelica Weaver: Catch Me When You Can, and Shiver: Vanishing Hitchhiker, among many more. Some gaming studios have taken the device to dead horse flogging territory, using it over and over again (looking atchu, Big Fish Games…). You would think by now I would avoid games like this… but there was just something about Adam Wolfe that pulled me in.

Adam Wolfe is a paranormal investigator with the San Francisco Police Department, responsible for cases that are too “out there” for run-of-the-mill detective work. First order of business is to chase down a firebug who is wrecking havoc in the Bay area. He mantracks the perp and discovers there is something supernatural about the dude.

In this scene, the perp just melts on screen – literally!

Meanwhile, Adam’s sister mysteriously goes missing, and he soon discovers the firebug case he is investigating and his sister’s disappearance are interrelated. This leads Adam into the seedy underbelly of San Francisco, face to face with a strange cult whose leader claims he has the secret to eternal life on Earth. Along the way, Adam discovers a watch that allows him the ability to turn back time to a period when crimes took place; helpful to Adam who uses it in his investigation to get a better grasp of what happened. Using a cellphone, he is able to GPS his way around the city, and call his partner, Marv, back at the station, for information needed to further his investigation.

Over the four-part game, Adam Wolfe draws you into an intriguing story that infuses suspense and horror into the plot successfully.  There are indeed some scary moments in the game that made me jump out of my seat, which isn’t normally expected in a hidden object game. Granted, the plot devices of missing relatives, turning back time, and the supernatural is totally cliched in hidden object adventure games, but I forgive Adam Wolfe as there are bigger standouts that trump the negatives. For one, the quality of the graphics in this game are unparalleled when compared to other hidden object games I have played as of late.  The gameplay is taut and the puzzles are varied and challenging, including clear-picture hidden object scenes, and picture scrambles. Most interesting is the game gives opportunities to be a part of Adam’s police work: take crime scene samples, shoot Adam’s gun, beat up perps with fists, and drive Adam’s motorcycle through the streets of San Francisco…all in a day’s work!

Having played dozens of hidden object games in my life, Adam Wolfe is one of the better hidden object adventure games going, and is definitely worth your attention. Available on PC, Mac. iOS and Android, I highly recommend you pick this one up.

4.5/5

Adam Wolfe (PC)
MadHead Games
2016

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[Review] Hidden Expedition: Titanic (Nintendo 3DS)

Thank you for sticking with me through my Titanic-themed games series! This review will be my last for awhile, and let me tell you, I think I saved the best handheld Titanic game for last!

Feeling pissed off about my experience with Murder on the Titanic for the Nintendo 3DS, I was reluctant to take a leap of faith and acquire Hidden Expedition: Titanic, also for the 3DS, through the Nintendo eShop. On preview, I discovered this game is developed by Big Fish Games, the leading authority on casual gaming. Now, BFG have made some choice titles, but they have also made some real bowsers. And as I have written throughout this series, a port from PC to the Nintendo often does not go well at all. I am here to tell you, I got lucky for once; Hidden Expedition: Titanic is pretty good! It is a port, but you wouldn’t know it to play it. Huzzah!

You are working as a professional diver, and have been hired by the Titanic Museum Foundation to do a series of dives to find the Queen’s crown. A cargo manifest from 1912 shows the crown was being shipped on the Titanic to New York to be a part of a museum exhibit. Researchers have some idea where the crown is located on the sunken ship, but it will require several dives into the wreckage to find the exact location. Along the way you are asked to save lost artifacts and gems scattered throughout the ship. Since this dive is a dangerous mission, you are permitted to keep any gems you find.

There are 14 dives in total, with each dive exploring up to three areas of the ship, starting from the top to the bottom. Each dive has a time limit of at least 20 minutes long. Within this time period, you are completing at least two hidden object puzzles and finding at least 10 gems. A hint button is provided, but you are penalized two minutes off the clock for using it. Once you have completed a dive, you are then to complete another casual puzzle in the time you have remaining. If you let the clock run down without finishing, you have to start the whole dive over again.

For once, there is a Titanic game that I can confidently say has some replay value. The hidden object scenes in Hidden Expedition: Titanic are challenging – no getting bored! And the images are crystal clear and detailed, even when zoomed in. My only “complaint” is putting a timer on this game – what for? I suppose it’s to simulate the limited amount of time you can be underwater on a dive?

And I played a decent Titanic game!

Of course, my complaint is a very minor jab on this game. Hidden Expedition: Titanic is enjoyable, and the plot behind it makes some plausible sense. It’s a very enjoyable game, and (I can’t believe I am finally saying this after all this time…) I RECOMMEND IT!

4/5 !!

Hidden Expedition: Titanic (Nintendo 3DS)
Big Fish Games
2014

[Review] Titanic’s Keys to the Past (Android)

All aboard for more Titanic-themed games! Let’s look at what’s available on the mobile market…

This next game review is for a game that is not that bad compared to what I have been playing lately…but it does have one major hiccup. I came upon Titanic’s Keys to the Past after having played a succession of very crappy “Escape the Titanic”-type games (I won’t waste your time on those…). Keys to the Past is a National Geographic game that I actually think is meant for children since Nat Geo have it up on their “Kids” website. I didn’t find the game immature; on the contrary, it was quite history driven, informative and entertaining.

You play as Lillian; someone whose family lineage has ties with the Titanic’s maiden voyage in 1912…Lillian’s great-great grandmother, Rosemary, was a nurse on-board the ship. The story goes that she tried, in vain, to save some people from certain fate, but they were in the third class area of the ship, and the gates separating class areas were locked up, preventing anyone in those areas from being able to flee to the lifeboats. Your great-great-grandmother did not have the necessary keys to open the gate, so she was not able to save those souls, and she too died, knowing she couldn’t save them.

Because of her family connection, Lillian is invited to the grand opening of the newly-built Titanic museum; a self-contained ocean-floor conservatory of the sunken ship. The museum conducts tours of what is left of the ship, with informative exhibits about the Titanic, including its history and information about the fateful night. While on the tour, she happens to find her great-great-grandmother’s half-broken medallion among the ruins of the ship. Upon this discovery, Lillian encounters the spirit of Rosemary, who tells Lillian her story and begs her to help her by going back in time to collect keys that will open the gates and save those people from certain death. To help her, Rosemary transports Lillian through time, back to 1912 via a mirror to allow her to search for these keys. You lead Lillian through the ship, exploring rooms and completing a variety of puzzles, to be rewarded with a precious key. Collect all six keys to fulfill Rosemary’s desire to save those people.

Let’s be honest: as odd as this game’s plot sounds, Titanic’s Keys to the Past was a gasp of fresh air compared to the flotsam of the last few Titanic games I have played lately. Each puzzle was, at the very least, easy enough to figure out. Puzzles vary from HOGs, to mazes, to “unscramble to picture,” to “match the images”. The puzzles were admittedly not difficult, but were a decent pastime, fun enough to play through. In some cases you are able to bypass a puzzle by playing a match-three game instead, but there is a catch in choosing it…you are told you need to match three items enough to gain 200 points in 2 minutes and 40 seconds – it’s harder than it looks! Why such a random time? You got me!

Probably the best part about Titanic’s Keys to the Past that added to the enjoyment of the game was the fact that I could SEE! Images were clear, even when zoomed in. This game is also a port from PC, and unlike game ports to the Nintendo handhelds that I have experienced as of late, this port to android is adapted well for touch screens.

With all the positive feedback I could give to Titanic’s Keys to the Past, I can only wish the game didn’t crash so damn much…Yes, yes, this game crashed…several times. Enough to really piss people off on the reviews on Google Play. I have no idea why there were crashes. If I were playing this game on my old android ASUS eeePad Transformer tablet, I might explain that it was me crashing – not the game (in its twilight years, everything was crashing on that thing), but, I have a Samsung Galaxy Tab A now with the latest OS – no reason for crashes. Keys to the Past crashed a lot, but thankfully it auto-saved, so not much was lost in the way of game progress. Despite this snafu, amazingly, I was a CHAMP, exercising patience and restraint with this game, seeing it to the end.

Titanic’s Keys to the Past costs ~$3.50 on Google Play…Would I pay for this knowing it has this crashing problem?…Hmm, let me be contrary, and say probably not. However! I have hope the developers fix this issue so I could get behind it fully. I actually don’t think this game is that bad…but it does need fixing…

2.75/5

Titanic’s Keys to the Past
Apar Games
2012

[Review] Titanic Mystery aka 1912 Titanic Mystery (Nintendo Wii)

Onward on another adventure reviewing Titanic-themed games. I have reviewed three so far, and show no signs of stopping. Tired yet? No? Then, ALL ABOARD!

I have forever been searching for half-decent hidden object games for the Nintendo Wii…and ever since I found Mystery Case Files: Malgrave Incident, a great game on the Wii, I held out hope. The game, Titanic Mystery continued to come up in my hidden object searches for the Wii, but it has also been difficult to find around these parts. Funny too, another game called 1912 Titanic Mystery also came up in my search…but impossible to get as it appeared to be only available in Europe.

As you can surmise from the title of this blog post, these games are one and the same. Don’t ask me why, but the packaging for North America calls this game Titanic Mystery, yet the game itself on-screen is called 1912 Titanic Mystery. At any rate, I managed to find a copy at an EB Games, and asked my sweet hubs to bring a Wii upstairs to the living room where I game so I could review this for y’all. What a guy!

A replica of the original Titanic has been built and is set to sail on the anniversary of the sinking of the 1912 Titanic. All of the ancestors from the original voyage are invited to board and experience Titanic II’s maiden voyage across the Atlantic. The media are out in full-swing and everyone is excited to participate… Everyone except for a terrorist who has communicated with you that they have planted a bomb somewhere on-board, and you must find out who has!

Throughout the game you get a bit of a history lesson on the Titanic. You are made to search for missing pages from a diary authored by a young woman who was on the maiden voyage of the Titanic. You get to know some of the characters on the ship – a tad stereotypical in nature, that can somewhat be akin to a poor man’s Love Boat, complete with an Isaac knock-off. The person responsible for planting the bomb keeps dropping notes to you around the ship, and fascinatingly, all the characters seem to know the notes are for you!

Seriously, I am making this plot line more exciting than this game actually is. In truth, the gameplay of 1912 Titanic Mystery is quite dull and repetitive. Hidden object scenes force players to search for the same object over and over. The same mini games are also provided, such as “unscramble the image,” or “find all the birds in this scene.” Yawn.

This game is visual all the way, and unfortunately, the images were super blurry on the Wii version. The Wiimote allows you to zoom into a scene to get a better look, but honestly, in most cases, all you see are blurred images. The hidden object scenes, in particular, give you a headache.

This scene above is pretty much the resolution I got. Now, imagine zooming in on it… 

Let’s also address the fact that the Wii can be glitchy at the best of times if you don’t have your Wiimote and sensor bar configured properly.  When I first started the game, I ran into this issue – my bad. But, once I fixed everything, I would still experience issues with trying to select things on-screen. I am not sure if this was me, the Wii, or the game itself.  Like most of the other Titanic games I have played so far, 1912 Titanic Mystery also has a PC version. Mind you, I don’t know which came first – the Wii version or the PC version – but I’ll put money on the PC version being much better visually and the gameplay being more comfortable.

Thankfully, unlike Murder on the Titanic for the Nintendo 3DS, you are able to skip puzzles in 1912 Titanic Mystery, but the game weirdly penalizes you 10 minutes…odd since the game has never given you a timer anywhere in its gameplay, so I am not sure where this would have any impact except perhaps on achievements, which I never received. Lastly, I might have been rewarded with a decent ending had I finished this. I just…couldn’t do it. The graphics were way too blurry, and because of the repetitive gameplay and glitchy mechanics, I decided to move on.

Maybe the PC version is better?

1.5/5

1912 Titanic Mystery
JoinDots / O-Games
2009

[Review] Murder on the Titanic (Nintendo 3DS)

I have been on a tear with playing Titanic-themed games lately, and was excited to find Murder on the Titanic for the Nintendo 3DS for sale in the Nintendo eShop, a game with the notoriety of being the first hidden object adventure game being sold there (according to Nintendo). The game seemed decent on preview, with a solid story and puzzles to match. I decided – what the hey…let’s try it. I soon realized this good-looking game was lipstick on a sweaty pig.

Murder on the Titanic begins with the story of a killing that occurs on-board the Titanic the night of the ship’s fateful voyage. The victim was a coal shoveler down in the Titanic’s engine room. Not to fear, the Captain happens to know the great Inspector Magnussen is on board and calls on him to investigate the death. The Inspector agrees to be discrete as the guests are unaware of the murder, but could cause a frenzy should they find out. You play as Magnussen, searching for clues in hidden object scenes and solving puzzles with the obvious ultimate goal being you find the killer. Of course, all of this seems like foolish busy-work, considering we all know how the evening ends…

I have to say, that I was impressed with the overall look of Murder on the Titanic; the graphics really looked great. The problem I have is with the game’s puzzle mechanics. Like Hidden Mysteries: Titanic (the last game I reviewed), Murder on the Titanic is a port from the PC version, and unfortunately it shows. Clicking around in hidden object scenes was fine; it was if you needed to do anything more, like drag an item or pick it up to move it; sometimes these games don’t do those mechanics well on the 3DS (let alone the DS…). In one scene, I was to use my stylus to move a crate under a pile of fallen pipes. The game refused to let me select the crate…at least not until a game crash resulted in me having to start the puzzle over from scratch. Amazingly, I was then able to move the crate. This glitchy nonsense happened several times throughout the game.

Porting problems from PC to 3DS persist in Murder on the Titanic, particularly in the hidden object scenes. Normally, in any game that provides a hidden object puzzle, a list of items to search for is provided. The 3DS version of Murder on the Titanic’s hidden object scenes oddly provided a shortened list of search items with a fraction of the objects the PC version provides…I assume as much because I was able to click around the scene randomly on items that weren’t listed and still gain points for finding them.

Forget porting issues, I had one serious problem with Murder on the Titanic that is completely inexcusable: You CANNOT SKIP A SINGLE PUZZLE.

The ability to skip puzzles is one gaming mechanic that is a standard in casual gaming, and sets them apart from other gaming genres. If a puzzle is too difficult or boring, one should have the ability to skip past that puzzle so they can continue in the game; they should NOT be held back by that puzzle. Often, when a skip button is provided, gamers are given a penalty like a reduction in points, or are punished by adding or reducing time to their clock, thereby affecting their game achievements. Not allowing to skip past a particular puzzle leaves gamers with only two choices: persevere, or abandon.

Friends, the developers did a massive faux-pas with Murder on the Titanic, and this was made all the more obvious when I wasted spent HOURS trying to figure out how to solve one puzzle. I was stuck but had no choice; it was solve it or bust. No thanks to the internet, I toiled (and boiled…and fumed…) on this one puzzle. And I wasn’t the only one that ran into trouble: this freaking puzzle caused some outrage on forums around the internet from gamers unable to solve it. What makes it worse – the puzzle in the 3DS version differs from what is in the PC version, and with no walkthrough available online for the 3DS version there was ZERO help out there.

You are left to solve this puzzle FOR HOURS while the likes of Inspector Magnussen,
Brendan Fraser and Jessica Fletcher stare back at you…Lawd ha’ mercy…

I eventually figured out the solution to the puzzle, but it cast huge shade on how I felt about this game. What was typical irritation that I get with the usual tomfoolery that comes with a bad 3DS port, turned into frustration, and the conclusion that this game is not recommended to even the expert casual gamer. I hope that anyone reading this to figure out if Murder on the Titanic is for them will understand this fact going in…

HOURS, I tell you…

Maybe the PC version is better?

1.5/5

Murder on the Titanic (Nintendo 3DS)
Easy Interactive
2012

[Review] Hidden Mysteries: Titanic – Secrets of the Fateful Voyage (Nintendo DS)

As mentioned in last week’s post, this Spring I got onto a real Titanic kick. This inspired me to find some Titanic-themed games, including looking at my own collection of games. I happened to find Hidden Mysteries: Titanic – Secrets of the Fateful Voyage for the Nintendo DS some time back and decided it was time to dust it off and give it a go.

I have played a game from the Hidden Mysteries series before – Hidden Mysteries: Buckingham Palace was a decent hidden object standard for the PC, and I seem to remember there not being that much wrong with it. How far removed this game is… Hidden Object: Titanic was originally released on the PC, and ported onto the Nintendo DS. Let me tell you, this port ain’t good.

The game tells the story of Margaret Ashley and her adventure traveling on the Titanic to America. Ashley is a newlywed who boards the ship with her husband, Robert, an egomaniac who is newly wealthy and has some serious concerns around image. Margaret’s mom, Mrs. Brown, was against the union from the start, and is hell-bent on stopping her daughter from leaving England, going so far as to stop her at the boarding gate! After some convincing, Margaret manages to go aboard with her mother satisfied she will see her daughter again. But, not before Margaret and Robert soon discover someone pick-pocketed one of their tickets. Because Robert is no gentleman and needs to board immediately to have a bath and a highball (seriously!), Margaret is left to search the ship for the culprit and ends up shaking down the ship’s ragamuffin, George, a young boy suspected of the theft. She also encounters Mr. Tavalouris, the Titanic’s Shipwright who created a secret hidey hole within the ship where he is living. His sanctum’s entrance just happens to conveniently portal into Margaret’s stateroom (how convenient). Thanks to meeting Tavalouris and George, and having to put up with her selfish husband, Margaret is put on mission after aimless mission, fixing plumbing, running errands and trying to now please all the men on this ship. The story follows the real story line of the Titanic (hits an iceberg, not enough lifeboats…), but seriously veers off-course somewhere around the point Margaret finds a sarcophagus in the cargo hold that is supposedly cursed. Yeah, it’s all random, dumb and unnecessary.

Margaret meets and talks with a handful of people in the game; dialogue choices are given that are supposed to impact the outcome of the story. This impact might have been what happens in the PC version of the game, because I can tell you, it didn’t matter what dialogue you chose, there was little to no consequence when I played the DS version. One example happened when Margaret and her mother were talking before boarding the ship. Margaret had a choice to tell her mother she never wanted to see her again, or tell her she would return to England for Christmas. I played through this part twice (because the game crashed on me…), both times choosing opposing dialogue. The outcome for both was, “I’ll see you at Christmas.” At this point I am concluding the DS version is a very lazy port from PC.

Other port problems persisted with Hidden Mysteries: Titanic, such as vague or confusing puzzle instructions, and often you were left wandering around trying to figure out what you had to do next. The menu system provided a “hint” button that was broken, and not that this was necessarily the game’s fault, but walkthroughs for this game online are scant. There are PC walkthroughs, but following them can be a bit confusing as the DS version is missing several puzzles from the PC version.

Probably the best part about this game was how it looked. The graphics are pretty decent overall, but unfortunately this is counteracted with a crappy menu system, boring story-telling and shoddy game mechanics.

Maybe the PC version of Hidden Mysteries: Titanic is better?

1.5/5

Hidden Mysteries: Titanic – Secrets of the Fateful Voyage (DS)
Gunnar Games
2009

[Review] Mystery Case Files: 13th Skull (PC)

I got a lot of boxed games…and they are begging to be played! Most are point-and-click, and most I’m sure you’ve never heard of! Here is one of them!

Mystery Case Files: 13th Skull is the seventh installment of the Mystery Case Files collection by Big Fish Games. I have some familiarity with MCF games, having played Mystery Case Files: Malgrave Incident on the Wii a couple of years ago, as well as Mystery Case Files: MillionHeir on the Nintendo DS. I like the series as every game is unique in its own right, either by its storytelling, or graphic execution. The production value is predominantly top-notch, and 13th Skull is no exception.

Sara and Marcus Lawson move from Ohio into a run-down mansion amid the swampy bayous of Louisiana, along with their daughter Magnolia. Soon after settling in, Marcus goes missing, and Sara calls upon you, a detective, to find him. In the meantime, you must rummage through this dirty creepy mansion, interview rednecks and avoid alligators all in the name of detective work, just so you can locate Sara’s husband. While gathering evidence, you discover that the mansion and town are steeped in pirate history, the townfolk are superstitious and a brigand by the name of Phineas Crown once lived and buried his treasure at the mansion. There is also gossip around town of the curse of the 13th Skull, a spell that is cast on anyone who locates the treasure. Sooner or later, Marcus is found, along with some interesting plot twists. Arr Matey!

13th Skull is a point and click hidden object adventure game that does very well to encapsulate a feeling of the old South with its characters, settings and music. The puzzles in this game are typical, but fun and challenging. What sets this one apart from other HOGs, is the use of live-action interview scenes that the gamer is made to participate in to advance the story. The major characters of the story – Sara Lawson, her daughter Magnolia, their superstitious housekeepers, and some town locals are represented. The game places the full-motion actor within the game’s UI, so it appears as though the actor is living in this virtual world. The interview part is an interesting aspect and enriches the experience. The acting? Well…it’s a bit cheesy and exaggerated, but I liked how Big Fish Games tried to do something different within a hidden object game.

Although the puzzles were challenging in 13th Skull, there happened to be several instances where you would have to scour the game’s numerous scenes, including the bar, swamp, cemetery and the Lawson house’s 10 rooms to find one single object needed to continue in the story. At the end of the puzzle, it was easy to lose track of where you are going and what you were supposed to be doing next. This is a minor critique, and the game comes with a walkthough to help you out, if you are so inclined to use it.

Critiques aside, 13th Skull is a fun game that shouldn’t be missed, and fits nicely within the pantheon of Mystery Case Files games.

3.5/5

Mystery Case Files: 13th Skull (PC)
Big Fish Games
2010