hidden object games

[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

[Review] REDRUM: An Eerie Hidden Object Collection (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!

REDRUM: An Eerie Hidden Object Collection

REDRUM was 2011’s boxing day sales find at the local Staples. I have confirmation that Staples in Canada is getting away from selling any games in its stores. Still, today on occasion, the casual hidden object adventure gamer can find some sweet deals on boxed games. This is always a gamble because a lot of these sets contain games that are all kinds of suck.

I had never heard of the REDRUM games before. The compilation consists of two REDRUM games – Dead Diary and Time Lies – as well as two bonus, unrelated and very forgettable games, the Curse of the Witch Crow and the Flying Dutchman. REDRUM, for one, has cheesy packaging, but the price was right (around $2.50), so I took a chance on it. Besides, I was getting 4 games for the price of a mobile game, so even if three of the four sucked, I felt it was still worth it.

deaddiary1

The first game, REDRUM Dead Diary centers around Rose, a girl who has been committed under psychiatric care for hearing voices. Her loaded divorced parents bicker about Rose’s care, but it’s her uncle, a Private I, who knows something is up with her Psychiatrist, Dr. Sigmund Fraud, as he is insisting Rose get the most expensive shock therapy treatments and medications. Of course, he is over-charging the rich parents, and tries to keep Rose in his care by injecting her with green serum that makes her all kinds of high. Things are not what they seem in her world. She sees and experiences some frightening stuff that the gamer must experience as well. Sooner or later, Fraud comes under scrutiny as he cares for other disturbed patients. He is soon under arrest and locked up for good. Rose is free and no longer hears voices.

timeliestitle

In the sequel, Time Lies, Dr. Fraud is somehow given a pardon, and released from the mental institution he was being held in under sentence for the shenanigans he was into from the first game. He is up to his evil tricks as he tries to wreck havoc in lives connected to Rose. Again, with help from her uncle, Rose manages to save the Doctor’s victims from their hell, and exposes the Doctor for the evil Fraud he is. The Doctor is then thrown in jail for good.

I was pleasantly surprised by this REDRUM package! The cover of the box doesn’t evoke confidence that this is gonna be any good…but the games were quite enjoyable! A nice mix of puzzles, from hidden object, to match the mosaic tile, to virtual jigsaw puzzles… I never got bored! Backtracking was a breeze when utilizing the easy-to-follow map provided (A+! Love maps!). The gameplay was challenging, but not frustrating. If we have to pick favourites between the first and second game, the sequel, Time Lies offered more game time, but both are good games.

I didn’t think I would find an equally good and scary hidden object game to Shiver: Vanishing Hitchhiker, but I found it in the REDRUM franchise. Some scenes are indeed shocking and difficult to look at. I would not recommend this for children because of the haunting imagery. Imagine having to play through a puzzle with this staring back at you:

deaddiary5

BAH!

The soundtrack was equally jarring. Overall, this would be a great game to install for Hallowe’en. I know I am talking as though both games of the REDRUM series is one, but really, both fit comfortably together. Time Lies, the sequel game was a bit longer, and had more puzzles, but both games are worth checking out. If you spot this box anywhere, I highly recommend you pick this one up! It’s a keeper!

Now, a word on the bonus games…

The Curse of the Witch Crow was a match-three game (like Bejeweled and Candy Crush) that looked and sounded okay, if a little dated, but nothing to really write home about.

Curse of the Witch Crow

Curse of the Witch Crow

The Flying Dutchman, unfortunately refused to load properly on my PC, even adjusting the resolution to 480, and changing the Windows compatibility settings. I couldn’t get past the load screen, which looked like a dog’s breakfast.

The Flying Dutchman's load screen

The Flying Dutchman’s load screen

REDRUM: An Eerie Hidden Object Collection
Anarchy Enterprises
2011

[Review] Mysteries and Treasures: The Adventures of the Mary Celeste (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!

Mysteries & Treasures: The Adventures of the Mary Celeste

I love me a good mystery, particularly urban legends and the unexplained. One of those areas happens to be stories about ghost ships.

Have you heard of the Mary Celeste? In 1872, an American ship called the Mary Celeste was found abandoned at sea. It was carrying booze which hadn’t been messed with, and was full of personal effects from the ship’s crew. The lifeboat was missing. The ship’s captain and crew have never been found. Since then, speculation and myths perpetuate about what happened to the crew – a storm? Pirates? Aliens??  No one really knows for sure.

Mysteries like this always intrigue me, because it’s different, strange and there are a lot of “what ifs”. Why wouldn’t I be interested in a hidden object game that epitomizes this historical story?

Well…the Adventures of the Mary Celeste isn’t reaaaallly about the real Mary Celeste…it’s about Mary Morehouse who takes a vacation on board the Mary Celeste II. Part II is on her maiden voyage, and of course, because of legend, all sorts of shit gets real, starting with a wicked storm. But, not before this happens:

Mary Celeste 2015-06-12 22-07-27-44

Thanks to the taxi company strewning the contents of Mary’s luggage all over the harbor, YOU have to pick it all up in a hidden object scene. If this were real life, I’d be pissed!

Once you pick up Mary’s knickers, she settles in to her cabin, when suddenly the lights go out. She soon discovers she is alone on this ride – what now? Time to find some objects! Where the heck is everyone?! She is tasked with getting off this crazy ship, but not before she searches for that wrench, rope and pulley for the upteenth time.

The gameplay predominantly consists of hidden object scenes with untangle and pipe puzzles interspersed. The game uses about eight different venues for these scenes, and repeats the same 20 objects to search for, which, let’s be honest here…gets boring even for a beginner to the genre. At least you weren’t timed (my least favourite casual gaming trait!)! The story of this ship does not advance in any meaningful way, and I guarantee you, if I were Mary, I’d be jumping on the next lifeboat outta there the first chance I got. No messing around!

The Adventures of the Mary Celeste was one of the first boxed hidden object games I ever bought, back in 2011. I had just started getting into this genre of casual games, and my appetite for HOGs was insatiable – I’d pretty much rip through one of these every two evenings. I had little experience with these games, and Mary Celeste filled a gaming need. But, even back then, I recognized there were some decent HOGs, and some bad. This one fits somewhere in the mid range – safe, boring, skippable. There are better ones out there!

6.5/10

Mysteries & Treasures: The Adventures of the Mary Celeste
City Interactive
2011

Go here to read recommendations for some better hidden object games!