hidden object games

[Review] Left in the Dark: No One On Board (PC)

You have been recruited by the mayor of Port Providence, a coastal town that has experienced a mysterious disappearance: a cargo ship went missing out at sea, but was found adrift a week later, intact, with its crew and cargo missing. What happened to the crew? The cargo? You, Madame Detective (yes, Madame), must solve the case that takes you through the town to the now anchored cargo ship, then to a deserted island where a lighthouse sits abandoned. As you explore, you are followed by the ghost of a young girl, Isabella, who warns of a cloaked “monster” who is responsible for the disappearance of the ship and its crew. She knows…the same happened to her and her family who are now all dead…and Mme. Detective could be next if she scratches too far down into the mystery…

Working on my backlog of games, Left in the Dark: No One on Board had been sitting in my Steam library since June 2017, and it was high time I got to it. And WOW! It’s an excellent game from top to bottom. Beautiful graphics, clear and visually appealing hidden object scenes,  an interesting array of challenging puzzles, and a fantastic map that allows you to jettison to particular areas within the game really get the thumbs up from me! The music composition was pretty too. And how about that story? A lot of the time the tales told in HOGs are a convoluted mess that makes no sense, but this one had me on the edge of my seat!

Clear hidden object scenes

About the only thing to gripe about with Left in the Dark… it has a dreaded voiceover!! All I got to say is developers have got to stop looking to Fiverr to solve their voice work needs!

Great map!

Overall, HOG fans would not waste their money on Left in the Dark: No One on Board; a good-looking game with a variety of puzzles, and an interesting story to keep you in the game. What more could you ask for? Highly recommended!

4.9/5

Left in the Dark: No One on Board
Moonrise Interactive / Artifex Mundi
2013

[Review] Sonya: The Great Adventure (PC)

Sonya: The Great Adventure had been popping up on Steam as a suggested game repeatedly since my big 2019 Winter Sale buy where I bought a couple of hidden object bundles. And lo and behold, the Summer Sale is on…and looky here, I am pretty much stuck here at home on staycation…what more is a girl to do but buy more games?

What convinced me to buy this game in the end? First it’s called “Sonya” which is a name you don’t come across too often…but, I have a close friend also named Sonya (spelled Sonia, actually). Second, the artwork of the trailer was bright and modern. I know this has tripped me up before, where an attractive 2 second trailer shows the good bits, only to buy it and it’s a Windows 10 compatibility mess; however, to quote Mortal Kombat, “Sonya wins!” In gameplay, it really does win! The plot, however, is pretty tiresome…

Sonya’s sister Lily has been kidnapped by armed assailants, who have also locked you in a room. Once you escape, you are ported to parts unknown to figure out who has taken her. You find doorways blocked by coloured smoke. To gain access, you must find orbs that can destroy the smoke, so you can gain access to Sonya’s sister. Along the way, you discover the assailant has left a string of victims behind, so it is imperative you find Lily before it’s too late! Are you asleep yet?

Really, the strength of Sonya: the Great Adventure is in the gameplay. I’ve often ignored the plot for a decent hidden object game, and have managed just fine. Here, we are rewarded for our moderate ignorance in a nice array of puzzles and HO scenes. The only thing is that Sonya lacks a map since there is a bit of backtracking. However, the game does have a clue indicator by way of a blinking eye that gamers can use to indicate areas of interest (as opposed to constantly hitting the hint button). My version also provided a walkthrough guide, so I could refer to it when completely lost (which wasn’t too often).

Stylistically, I liked the look of the game overall. My main complaint is more that the voice-acting left a lot to be desired and the font they used was very difficult to read. However, the graphics and soundtrack felt modern which, for a game from 2012, is impressive. The puzzles were more challenging than the hidden object scenes. If you buy this game on Steam, you are also given achievements (if you are into that…)

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention there is a bonus game after you’ve completed the main story, because, Sonya’s adventure was great, and she now needs to find her way home.

Overall, I would recommend Sonya: the Great Adventure, if anything, for its variety of puzzles and hidden object scenes.

3/5
Sonya: The Great Adventure
SpecialBit
2012

[Review] 9 Clues 2: The Ward (PC)

The date is July 13, 1954. A new case comes into your P.I office, by way of a frantic call: “It’s coming!” it says. Your partner traces the call to the remote Mnemosyne Asylum. Once there, you witness a man propel himself out a window – was it suicide or murder? The man is Dr. Crow, resident Psychiatrist who treated an interesting cross-section of mental health patients. The dilapidated building that houses the asylum had a fire a few years back caused by one of the asylum’s patients, Zed, and somehow the mental hospital still exists. Zed, a schizophrenic, is suspected in Dr. Crow’s death, as well as the demise of another resident. He may also be the one who caused a nurse’s mental breakdown. Yet, there is a mysterious dark figure roaming the halls, striking when you least expect it…is it Zed? You must solve the 9 Clues to find if Zed is responsible, before you become the shadowy figure’s next victim…

9 Clues 2: The Ward is a sequel to the most excellent 9 Clues: the Secret of Serpent Creek, and it too hits out of the park. It follows a similar tone to Serpent Creek in terms of graphics and gameplay. The graphics were right up my alley – clean and bright for a dark-themed game. There is the clever “search the clues” aspect that we have seen before in Serpent Creek, but is still interesting. You play detective by scanning the crime scene for 9 clues, then you are charged with figuring out how they fit into a proper sequence of events. A deduction scene then plays where the crime is played back. This device reminded me a lot of the Sherlock Holmes games I’ve played in the past.

Beyond that, the hidden object scenes and puzzles in The Ward were similar in nature to what we have seen before, but they were still fun. If I have any gripes, it would have to be the wooden voiceover acting (you’d think they would have learned their lesson…). That aside, it’s the unusual and suspenseful story that 9 Clues 2: the Ward tells that made me want to see how it ends.

Recommended!

4/5

9 Clues 2: The Ward
Artifex Mundi
2014

[Review] Empress of the Deep 2: Song of the Blue Whale (PC)

Empress of the Deep 2: Song of the Blue Whale is another offering from New Brunswick-based Gogii Games. I played its predecessor, Empress of the Deep: The Darkest Secret, in 2014! Back then, I recall it being a damn fine HOG with an adventure element. Gogii does produce a half-decent sequel in Part 2, in graphics and gameplay, even while the storyline itself is a little strange.

In the Darkest Secret, Anna discovered that she is the Empress of the Deep – her sister Pandora was jealous of her and had her locked under sea in a tomb, asleep. Pandora destroyed the tomb, and Anna narrowly escaped with her life. Now in Song of the Blue Whale, she is being summoned to the Temple in the Sky to find the four Children of Light and save them from Pandora’s evil clutches. In this temple she must also seek the animal guardians who will free the children and restore harmony. Yes, a lot of responsibility on Anna’s shoulders!

The sequel holds the Empress of the Deep canon well. My memory might be fuzzy on the past, but I think Part 2 might be stronger than its predecessor. It certainly has a lot to offer… The puzzles are engaging and varied; I found the hidden object scenes clear and interesting, but easy. The game is short (it took me under 3 hours to complete), but there are plenty of scenes to navigate. If I am to offer any critique, it would have to do with being given a map that I had difficulty deciphering, and that there seemed to be quite a bit of backtracking which made me lose my place a lot.

Mostly though, I really enjoyed the atmosphere in this game – the beautiful soundtrack, the odd soundbites of children talking and the serenity of water falling. Like its predecessor, there are aspects of the game that give a feeling of peace, similar to the Fall, or even Myst. And one takes pause at the calming pace at which the voiceover of Anna is delivered, acted by none other than Lucy DeCoutère (Trailer Park Boys). Gogii chose rightly here; just perfect!

Overall, Empress of the Deep 2: Song of the Blue Whale is a fine compliment to the first set, and often goes on sale on Steam – I highly recommend that you pick it up when it does!

4.75/5

Empress of the Deep 2: Song of the Blue Whale
Gogii
2011

[Review] Infected: The Twin Vaccine (PC)

A timely game coming at you!

Infected: the Twin Vaccine is truly a disturbing tale that I never thought could happen in our times, but here we are in the midst of the Covid-19 outbreak! Cities are shutting down! Mass panic at the Costco! People are dying! Never had I any idea that we would be living in these times – and what the heck – while I am in social-isolation (at least for the weekend), why not play a game about the extreme version of our reality?

A plague has ripped through Oxford City, killing many of its residents. Patient Zero is a set of twins, Tiffany and Theresa Morrisey. Tiffany didn’t survive the illness, but Theresa made a full recovery. And now she is considered the one with the secret to the cure but she has coincidentally gone missing. Oxford has been under mandatory evacuation, and with residents gone, the authorities want to blow it up, but what if the girl is still in Oxford, hiding? The world won’t have a chance of survival! Could her father have anything to do with her disappearance? And what about Carl, the local hobo who is taking advantage of the deserted town – what is his involvement? You as a doctor must return to the abandoned town and find Theresa before it’s too late.

Infected: The Twin Vaccine is from New Brunswick developers Gogii Games. I have had quite a history with Gogii, reviewing several of their offerings – some good, …some not so good…but Infected: the Twin Vaccine is pret-tay good for a game from 2012.

Some decent production value at the onset as we are introduced to the plot via a very realistic-looking news report. The game itself is the average length of 3 hours and has a variety of hidden object scenes with plenty of item-collecting and some fairly easy mini-games in there for good measure. Overall, I recommend the game for the surprisingly timely on-point story.

About my only complaint about Infected is there is a lot of pixel hunting in the HOG scenes, which is a large portion of the game. The map could have been much better too but at least there was a map!

Infected: the Twin Vaccine was sitting in my Steam library a long time – so long in fact that it’s no longer sold in the Steam Store! It’s too bad because this one has a pretty rich story and the gameplay ain’t half bad. It still lives for purchase via Big Fish Games, though, and I recommend it!

4/5

Stay safe and healthy out there!

Infected: the Twin Vaccine
2012
Gogii Games

[Review] The Other Side: Tower of Souls (PC)

I played The Other Side: Tower of Souls as part of a 6-in-1 hidden object bundle by developer Alawar I recently purchased on Steam during the 2019 Winter Sale.

Two alchemists lived in a tower and created a gateway to the spiritual world, unaware that evil wanted to pass through to the real world. They attempted to shut out the evil spirits by locking a massive gate, but the evil is busting through. One man sacrificed himself to the cause by using his soul to lock the gate for good. But, it too is failing, and evil is slowly leaching in…

The Other Side: Tower of Souls is from 2014 and looks much older. Get the Swiffer; this one’s really dusty.

Initially, the game needed to download some kind of driver so it would play. Then, it tried playing at 480P cutting off the left and right halves of the screen with black bars. I then had to go into the guts of the game to adjust the scaling so it would play right. But, even after fixing it. the game continued to run like shit; pretty unplayable, actually. The graphics were super fuzzy, and text on-screen was really small; I used the Windows Magnifier consistently while playing. Don’t let these screenshots fool you…

Not only that, the serious tone of the initial story line was downgraded to jokes when we are met with Boris the Cat, a smarmy steadfast companion throughout the game who loved his gags and refused to shut up. Sorry, that is an automatic turn-off. I’ve played games where there is a partner who is in every scene, giving you direction and helping you along. I don’t really dig that dynamic, especially when they have an opinion on every single move you make.

The Other Side got really great reviews on other sites, and I will just have to chalk it up to taste; this one isn’t mine. More filler in the Alawar 6 in 1 bundle…

The Other Side: Tower of Souls
Alawar
2014

[Review] Cruel Games: Red Riding Hood (PC)

I played Cruel Games: Red Riding Hood as part of a 6-in-1 hidden object bundle by developer Alawar I recently purchased on Steam during the 2019 Winter Sale.

Your boyfriend, Kevin, drops you off after a wonderful evening date. You had worn your red hooded jacket for the occasion. As you enter the house, you find a teddy bear sitting on the hallway table. What’s this? A gift from Kevin? You lift it up to take a better look, and like a disturbed Teddy Ruxpin, it speaks to you in a robotic voice, saying that Kevin has disappeared in the old cemetery. You don’t believe it. You quickly get in your car and drive to the spooky property, enclosed in some rusty gates, guarded by a rabid wolf. Who is this mysterious person? And, why Kevin?

Cruel Games: Red Riding Hood is an older game from 2012, and honestly, Alawar hit it out of the park production-wise: It feels fresh and new, animations are interesting and sharp. There is some high production value here! I found the game relatively short to play (under 3 hours), but there are at least 30 different scenes to explore which include a biker bar, a gas station, a boat, a lighthouse… And best news of all: there is an awesome map! There is a lot of backtracking in-game but the map allows you to warp to different areas instantly with a mouse-click. The mini-games and HOGs in Cruel Games are typical fare and pretty easy to solve (not that it is necessarily a bad thing). There is plenty to do, and I didn’t once feel bored.

Funny bit: in one scene you had to go into a biker bar, and get met with this guy who says, “Leave me alone. I’m drinking my beer.” Haha

When it comes to the Alawar 6 in 1 hidden object bundle, I have to say having Cruel Games: Red Riding Hood included in this collection alone makes it a great deal. It’s good times!

5/5

Cruel Games: Red Riding Hood
Alawar
2012

 

[Review] Panopticon: Path of Reflections (PC)

I played Panopticon: Path of Reflections as part of a 6-in-1 hidden object bundle by developer Alawar I recently purchased on Steam during the 2019 Winter Sale.

The famous illusionist Andy Fox, well known for his disappearing acts on stage has gone missing during one of his performances. He had used his invention- a time-travel machine – to make him disappear to the netherworld, but the device is supposed to return him back and something went berserk. Now he is trapped in some unknown place. What’s worse, his assistant Angela is also trapped. You, the famous detective John Perry, have been asked to investigate Fox’s and Angela’s disappearance on behalf of the 18th century town’s police chief. And hey, if you find them, Houdini might come and do an act with Fox!

Panopticon: Path of Reflections is an “okayyy” HOG in this Alawar 6 in 1. It’s an older game (~2014), so I went in with low expectations. What I discovered were some pretty modern graphic scenes. However, the character animations were rendered barrel-shaped, walking around like they took Metamucil and needed to relieve themselves. …Not sure what that was about…

Panopticon is certainly long enough (over 3 hours) with several scenes to explore (at least 12). No map that I could find, but the backtracking was easy enough to navigate. The puzzles were a range of stupidly easy HOG scenes, gathering items to add to other items, and puzzles that gave you vague instructions. Mostly though, I was doing a lot of clicking and pixel hunting. In several instances, I would try to use an item on something I knew I had to – say a screwdriver to loosen a screw – but, the game wouldn’t let me do it. Frustrated, I’d press the hint button, and it was then that I was allowed to perform that action. Why, oh why? Thank goodness the game didn’t keep score on my hints…

One thing I experienced with Panopticon right off the bat was that I couldn’t find the menu button to back out of the game. Now, I have played one or two games in my life where there was absolutely no main menu button, and I’d have to Ctrl-Alt-Delete if I wanted to quit. My first bit playing this, I backed out of the game using the ol’ Windows trick, fearful the game wouldn’t save my progress (it did, all good). If it hadn’t, Panopticon would have received a one-line review and an automatic F from me. Well, Alawar, I’m sorry I doubted your game devs – the menu button was not in a typical spot – it’s a hidden button in the top left corner that toggles down when your mouse pointer grazes the area. All good, nothing to see here…

Overall, Panopticon: Path of Reflections is okayyy. Not the best game, and I likely wouldn’t recommend buying it as a standalone game. So, let’s just consider it filler in the Alawar 6-in-1 Hidden Object pack and move along.

A cautious 3/5

Panopticon: Path of Reflections
~2014
Alawar

[Review] Mexicana: Deadly Holiday (PC)

I played Mexicana: Deadly Holiday as part of a 6-in-1 hidden object bundle by developer Alawar I recently purchased on Steam during the 2019 Winter Sale.

Katrina and Vitor are vacationing in Mexico during the Day of the Dead festival. On a lark they decide to get their fortunes told by a shaman. But, their future is in question when the card reading goes awry and a spell is cast causing Vitor to disappear into the World of the Dead. Katrina must now brave this strange world by battling evil demons who want her dead, but also receiving a kind helping hand by way ancient gods.

Mexicana: Deadly Holiday was quite good in the style department. I really dug how it looked – nice, bright scenes and it also had great acoustic music reminiscent in style to the Gypsy Kings. I have always enjoyed casual games that delve into Latin American history, mythology and mysticism. And frankly, this one is a nice switch-up from the “missing children taken by ghosts” plotlines. The puzzles varied from usual HOG scenes, to collecting objects and finding keys to unlock doors, to rounding out the play with some interesting mini-games. Mexicana was not overly challenging and made for a nice relaxing time. And it seemed to go on and on….and on forever! Well, not that it is a bad thing necessarily, only that the story felt like it went on three chapters longer than it should have…If you weren’t engaging with the plot, I doubt you would have even notice!

Overall, Mexicana: Deadly Holiday was fun, and again I felt I got my money’s worth with this 6-in-1 bundle!

3.5/5

Mexicana: Deadly Holiday
Alawar
2014

[Review] The Lake House: Children of Silence (PC)

I played The Lake House: Children of Silence as part of a 6-in-1 hidden object bundle by developer Alawar I recently purchased on Steam during the 2019 Winter Sale.

Ann and Henry suffer a break-in to their home. The only thing that was messed with was their precious photo album; pics of the couple are ripped up or Henry’s face is scratched out. A package arrives for Ann, and inside are childhood toys belonging to her brother Tommy, as well as a ripped photo of the old lake house where they lived as children. Tommy tragically drowned there, and the family moved away promptly after, abandoning the property. As Ann assembles the picture, she has a vision of her brother in his favourite mask calling to her to return to the old lake house. She doesn’t know why, but feels compelled to comply. As they search the property, Ann sees the image of her brother just as she is kidnapped by a figure wearing the same mask her brother liked to wear. Now Henry must find Ann and discover who is behind the kidnapping. As he searches, the pieces of information unfold by way of old home movie film strips which shows that there is more than meets the eye with Ann’s family.

Unlike Kronville: Stolen Dreams, The Lake House: Children of Silence is very much worth the $4 I paid for the 6-in-1 bundle. This is a well-made HOG game with all the fixins. The game looks great, mechanics are intuitive and the music was beautiful. Most of all, the plot was engaging for once! The puzzles mostly consisted of collecting items and hidden object scenes. To that end, if there was anything to gripe about, the hidden object scenes changed every time, but the items to search for could have used some imagination; finding a cork, a ribbon or a spool of thread each time can get a tad tedious.

Gripes aside, my version of the Lake House was the collector’s edition which came with a strategy guide, and a bonus chapter which unlocks after you have completed the game. Let me tell you, the bonus chapter turns the story on its head – totally worth it!

The Lake House: Children of Silence gets a 5/5 from me! Highly recommended!

The Lake House: Children of Silence
Alawar
2012