scary games

[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] 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] Alan Wake Was My Disturbing Boyfriend (Xbox 360)

Confession time.

I have been happily married for years to a wonderful guy. But, for the better part of one month, I was obsessed with a different guy.  His name was Alan Wake, and I was enraptured by the man, the myth, THE GAME for most of February 2012, and as long ago as that was, I have to say the memory of that game stays with me to this day.

The first time I saw any part of Alan Wake I was standing in an EB Games waiting for my hubs to decide what current offering he was going to buy, when one of their TVs started playing the trailer to Alan Wake. I was instantly taken in. It had a few criteria I was interested in – it looked realistic, dark, and appeared to have an intriguing story behind it. But above all, it looked scary.

I had some experience with scary games – Shiver: the Vanishing Hitchhiker (of course), Silent Hill: Shattered Memories for the PSP, and the Walking Dead game on the XBox 360 come to mind. I had sweat through those games and made it to the credits unscathed. So, I thought, I could take on Alan Wake on the 360.

Alan Wake tells the story of a writer of thriller fiction whose wife goes missing while they are on vacation in rural Washington State. As he searches for his wife, he finds himself in a nightmare of sorts, where he is living in the plot of one of his scary books, but one he doesn’t remember writing. Armed with a flashlight, he ventures into the darkness of the forest looking for his wife, fighting enemies (also called ‘the Taken’), evil ravens and possessed inanimate objects. The light is the one thing that protects you from enemies, so you are searching relentlessly for batteries for your flashlight, some flashbangs, a spotlight or streetlight to save you from the evil (and to get to a safe point). Guns also help you to attack your enemies.

I found ‘the Taken’ scary as heck, and I think that is what freaked me out the most about Alan Wake. My nightmares often have scary dark figures chasing me, so imagine being surrounded by dark shadowy figures that wield axes or sickles at you, and yell odd things that scare the crap out of you. Thanks to a decent 5.1 stereo system, I got to hear ‘the Taken’ in all their angry surround-sound glory (you can listen to them here, if you don’t care about spoilers). Partner this with a misty dirt path through the forest in darkness, and you have the makings of a horror game.

Speaking of, the scenery in Alan Wake is truly breathtaking. You can tell the developers took five years to make this game. No detail was overlooked, nor overworked.

The final screen! I had to take a picture!

The final screen! I had to take a picture!

Alan Wake made me keep the lights on when I played it. My hands shook in petrification. I was even dreaming of the game in my sleep. At one point I said to the hubs that I thought I’d have to put the game down for awhile. The further I went into the game though, the more I wanted to see how the story ended. I would then find the courage to carry on and fight some more Taken. And I am glad I did – Alan Wake is one of my all-time favourite scary games.

Also read: Alan Wake’s American Nightmare

Alan Wake
Developer: Remedy Entertainment / Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Released: May 2010 (North America, Xbox 360)

This blog was originally posted in June 2013 – but because of my recent appearance on the Retro Fandango podcast where I proclaimed this game as my favourite, I spit-shone’er and made it new to you. Hope you enjoyed!

[Review] Shiver: Vanishing Hitchhiker (PC)

I have posted this review before – one of my very first from June 2013! I have since replayed this game, adding some decent screenshots. I thought I would provide a more fullsome review of one of my favourite hidden object games ever! Enjoy!

Let me tell you about the first time a video game made me sweat in fear. I mean, of course there were others since, but this one set the bar for what would make me love the Horror Video Game genre. That game was none other than Shiver: Vanishing Hitchhiker, and in my opinion, it is one of the best horror hidden object games that currently exists.

Vanishing Hitchhiker is the first in a thrill-ogy of spooky hidden object games that also includes Shiver: Midnight Grove and Shiver: Poltergeist. But, if we are to look at all three and compare, Vanishing Hitchhiker is the strongest game overall. It was unexpected. Its graphics and gameplay were unparalleled to other Hidden Object games at the time I played it a few years ago on PC. I had played others before that tried half-heartedly to be scary by using abandoned buildings, darkened corners, and ooo look! a cobweb! But, this game was downright macabre and suspenseful, and my perspective hasn’t changed as Autumn sets in and we count down to Hallowe’en; I get a hankering to replay this game about once a year. It still looks great and sounds great, and it still manages to give me the willies.

Shiver: The Vanishing Hitchhiker takes its story from the book of urban legends. Wikipedia has quite an extensive list of how the vanishing hitchhiker trope is used in storytelling. In this particular case, a dude (played by you) is driving on a rural road during a torrential downpour and stops to pick up a hitchhiking girl who is drenched from the rain, and clutching a teddy bear. The girl asks to be driven to her town, where she is dropped off. The dude drives away, but notices the girl has left her teddy in the back seat. He turns around and drives back to town to find the girl and give back her teddy, but she has vanished. He then finds himself searching a creepy abandoned town for the girl. And so the game begins…

Now, if you decide to play the game, don’t look too much into the ridiculousness of the story. This one incorporates cemeteries, an old hospital and an island with some sort of native burial ground on it – typical fodder for hidden object games. Oddities of this story aside, Vanishing Hitchhiker is very well made and the graphics are beautifully detailed. Sure, the scenery is dark and dreary, but you can tell a lot of work went into its execution. To tie the horror element together, the scenes are juxtaposed with a gorgeous, yet haunting, soundtrack.

If you want to know what I found was the most unsettling about Vanishing Hitchhiker…it was having to explore the dark nooks and crannies of old dusty houses, barns and wells using the dim glow of a flashlight. You innocently enough check around corners with your Maglight when you peek through a keyhole and…BOO! An eyeball stares back at you…or shadows run past you.

When I first played this game, it was only available on PC. It has since been ported to mobile devices (iOS and Android), and if it is anything like others I’ve played on my tablet, I am sure it looks great. I have extolled the virtues of Shiver: Vanishing Hitchiker many times before, but I cannot emphasize enough how good of a game this is. Give it a try – you won’t be disappointed!

5/5

Shiver: Vanishing Hitchhiker
Developer: Artogon / Publisher: Big Fish Games
Released: Spring 2011

Other Shiver game reviews:

Shiver: Moonlit Grove

Shiver: Poltergeist

[Review] Shiver: Poltergeist (Android)

From the makers of one of the best* horror hidden object games ever created – Shiver: Vanishing Hitchhiker – comes its sequel, Shiver: Poltergeist, and it’s everything I had hoped for. Much like its predecessor, Poltergeist is atmospheric, mysterious and spooky. I certainly was anxious to play it, and excited when it recently went on sale on Google Play.

The Shiver series is actually a trilogy, which also includes the unsatisfactory and frankly inferior Moonlit Grove, a game I reviewed last fall. Poltergeist, the middle child in this series really continued where Vanishing Hitchhiker left off in terms of spooky imagery and gameplay and is a great addition to the Shiver franchise.

One day, you receive notice that you have inherited the Kengale Estate, a property on a private island that has a mysterious past. Sounds awesome sauce, until you approach the island by boat, and a big storm rolls in that never goes away. At first glance, the grounds look neglected. You are met by a kind butler who attempts to keep up the house, but the place is still a junk pile and in disrepair despite his efforts. You are free to tour the estate as you please, but as you do so, you have apparitions of a young unhappy woman. Every time she appears, strange phenomena take place – mysterious fires occur, mirrors shatter…In the story, you discover you have some semblance to a guy long dead who lived in the manor, and you spend the game trying to figure out who this woman is and how you are linked to her.

Shiver: Poltergeist was creepy in every way. Visually stunning, the game takes you to a macabre environment leaving you feeling unsettled and a bit frightened of what you might find. It’s a hidden object game with a bit of adventure attached. The game seemed longer than the average hidden object game (4 hours +), and the bonus gameplay at the end was a great surprise. Elements from Vanishing Hitchhiker were a nice touch, such as a flashlight that you use in pitch black rooms (scary!) or the old “look through the peephole to see another eye looking back at you” schtick (but, works every time!).

Aside from its imagery, what makes this game scary is the atmospheric music and sound effects. Listening to the game through headphones scared me enough to make me sweat at every turn, and heaven help me if I was playing in a dark room – gah! It sounded like a lot of work went into the game’s music – real piano, violin, and classical bass could be heard.

One element that I didn’t like terribly, that I found broke the mood of the game was when there was any voice acting. Total cheese. To be frank, it sounded forced and insincere to the story. I don’t say this often, but the game would have been better off with just subtitles!

Beside Android, this game is available on PC, Mac, and iOS devices. Overall, I recommend Shiver: Poltergeist, and place this game in the pantheon of great and scary hidden object games!

5/5

*I know, a matter of opinion – my opinion! hah! But, if you find a hidden object game that is even scarier then holla!

Shiver: Poltergeist
Developer: Artogon/ Big Fish Games
Released: 2012

More Shiver reviews:

Shiver: Vanishing Hitchhiker

Shiver: Moonlit Grove

[Review] Miasmata (PC): Mia Gotta Motion Sickness

Bleh.

Miasmata, a creation by brothers, Joe and Bob Johnson, is a survival horror game that has you play as Robert Hughes, a scientist who has been exiled to a forested island. He doesn’t know how he got there and he has a mysterious plague. He wakes up with dried blood on his hands. His task is to figure out the mystery of why he is there, what happened on this island, and collect plants and fungi so he can create a cure, all without dying…from this illness, of course…but also from something evil lurking on this island… watching Robert…waiting for the right moment…

The good: Intriguing storyline, gorgeous scenery.

The bad: The gameplay made me sick.

You see things from Robert’s perspective and lead him around the island, collecting clues to figure out what happened. Time is an avenger here; to that end, you are given a watch to keep track of your time. You get to experience daytime, nightfall, thunderstorms and sunshine. You are also given a compass, and there is a rudimentary map at your disposal, but you are also made to mark it up using landmarks. I never did quite figure this piece out, so I was a bit lost a lot of the time.

(www.quickmeme.com)

Besides finding a cure so you don’t die, you are made to locate water to drink and shelter so you can sleep. There are various abandoned shelters on the island, each with a pitcher of water that you can use to drink from and fill your canteen. Some also have cots to sleep on (doubling as a safe point in the game). Others have microscopes, specimen trays and a distillery to make vaccines. Your health is important in this game. You get dehydrated, you die. You swim too long in the lake, you drown. You fall down a steep hill, you can get a fever and die. This is where cots are important. When things like a fall happen and you find a cot quickly, you can rest up and be ready for your next adventure in no time.

You have access to the entire island, and the scenery is breath-taking. You truly feel like you’ve been dropped somewhere in Algonquin Park.

(Photo: s19.postimg.org)

Except, some aspects of the gameplay itself left a lot to be desired or simply didn’t make any sense. For starters, there was food on the island, but Robert never got hungry for any of it. You are given bananas, access to a knife and rabbits and squirrels nearby, but you don’t kill any of them.

Then Robert finds very shocking dead things and instead of a cut scene associated with them – “ho-hum” – he casually steps over said dead things like roadkill. No reactions, no cut scenes, no writing it down in the journal – nothing! Bizarre!

Um, yeah don’t mind the guy lying prostrate with a knife in his back…nothing to see here…(photo:tap.repeatedly.com)

Miasmata uses a keyboard (SAWD and Esc keys) and mouse to move around. Although the game looks good, I didn’t find the maneuvering was all that smooth. In fact, moving my character forward was stiff, yet if I twitched my mouse just a little, the camera would swirl me around dizzily and I’d lose my orientation (this is with adjustments to sensitivity made in the game settings). As a result of this effect alone I developed a bad headache, coupled with nausea. I am not often prone to motion sickness, but it surfaced this time. Maybe because there was no on-screen cross-hair to look at and follow? I don’t know why, but I felt terrible playing this.

After over two hours of Miasmata, I had to walk away for good, And that’s where the story ends with Miasmata and me.This game has potential, and is probably a great story in the long run. But, I am passing on it for how it made me feel physically.

7/10 (The good bits were good, but lost points for the game mechanics)

Miasmata (PC)
Publisher: IonFx
Released: 2012

[Review] Still Life (PC): Gaming Stiffly Clicking

After I finish what I consider a decent game, I often check out the game’s developer to see what other games they’ve made. Who knows; maybe I’ll get to play another great game.

Take Syberia, a Microïds-produced game: I enjoyed this adventure game very much, and in fact, I consider it one of the better ones from the early 2000s. Throw forward a couple of years following its release, and we have another Microïds-produced game called Still Life, also an adventure game, highly regarded by critics for story and gameplay. Having just completed Still Life, I have to say I don’t share the critics’ enthusiasm.

Game 2014-03-29 22-40-22-19

Victoria McPherson, detective with the FBI is charged with investigating a series of sinister murders in 2004 Chicago. Her Grandfather, Gus McPherson was a P.I. back in the 1920s, who investigated similar cases involving the murder of prostitutes in Prague. All these murders have a Jack The Ripper sort of flavour as both murder suspects in both time periods dress in a cloak and top hat wearing a mysterious mask. The story is split between both Victoria and Gus, and their experiences. The reference of “Still Life” has to do with an artist who liked to paint prostitutes back the 1920s, the same ones who would eventually be found murdered.

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The good: Okay story, most graphic elements are half-decent.

The bad: Game had trouble loading, not enough gameplay, talky talky and a lot o’ clicky clicky.

Still Life is touted as an adventure game, but really I find it is more an interactive story than a game. In most adventure games, you click the mouse to send characters where you want them to go, interact with objects and solve puzzles, but, there wasn’t a lot of actual puzzle-solving in Still Life and basically you are left clicking characters from one scene to the next. Long-winded dialogue between characters also takes the click of a mouse with no ability to skip through or choose what is said, which was one major beef I have with this game. Instead of a dialogue scene, each time something was said by a character it took a mouse click to keep the conversation going. LAME!

The game is very linear with little room to explore your environs because the character will tell you, “I don’t think I need to go there.” To that end, the game does give you a pretty decent map that sends you to an area by mouse-click. The puzzles are not fun and really do their best to screw with you. In one puzzle, you are made to bake cookies (yes – COOKIES). The measurements given in the recipe call for a cup of this and half a cup of that, when the measuring cup they provide is in milliliters, not cups! WTF?!

Let's bake some cookies!

Let’s bake some cookies!

Some of the interactions the characters had with objects were stunted, peculiar, and obscure. For example, in one “gameplay” sequence, the boss tells Victoria to get him a cup of coffee, thus ensueing a witchhunt for his coffee mug, which you wind up finding in some random interrogation room. Made no sense.

Big hands

Big hands

The main characters in Still Life overall looked alright,but moved stiffly. The secondary characters for the most part were exaggerated and out of place with the life-like main characters. You’d often see them with big hands, big faces, big “idiot” voices!  The voice work vacillated between good and completely stereotyped. For example, one black police officer was obviously voiced by a white guy trying to be a soul brotha and failed miserably. And then there was the lesbian seductress who obviously was voiced by the same actress who voiced Victoria McPherson, only with a bit deeper and “sultry” (or is that slutty?) intonation.

Game 2014-03-30 21-06-09-98

One major problem I encountered running this game: I had to change my screen resolution just to get Still Life to even play on my Windows 7 gaming PC. There were some major compatibility issues that I thought would have been fixed, or at least a patch would have been provided…especially since I bought the game through Steam!  There is apparently a lot of complaints from folks on the internet about that. I would have figured by now, ten years later, someone would have gotten their shit together on that front.

Critics say Still Life is supposed to shiver your timbers…Some segments did make me go “whoa,” but it wasn’t scary. This is certainly not a game for kids – there are very mature themes, nudity, and displays of naked women cut up slashed and dead. Some strong language may offend.There wasn’t a time that I was frightened by the game, but there is some tension in the storyline and having to look at dead bodies can make one squirm. There are some violent action sequences as well.

Still Life is a long game: I clocked in over 7.5 hours of gameplay. That said, I have to say the story was enjoyable enough, but I would have probably enjoyed Still Life more reading the story than playing it. If you’re after an interactive story game, this is it. If you are after adventure, you will be disappointed here; check out Syberia instead.

Still Life (PC)
Developer: Microïds
Released: 2004

[Review] Mystery Legends: Sleepy Hollow (PC)

Okay, hands up: who has heard of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow?

I am going to sound extremely sheltered and naive here..Let me tell you my point of reference associated with Sleepy Hollow:

1. Ichabod’s, a popular bar on Richmond St in London, ON (RIP).

2. Sleepy Hollow Golf Course, located on Tenth Line in Whitchurch-Stouffville, ON.

3. Sleepy Hollow: the movie, starring ubiquitous actor, Johnny Depp, with Christina Ricci.

4. The write-up on Wikipedia…

5. A hidden object game called Mystery Legends: Sleepy Hollow, loosely based on the story of the ghost of a headless Hessian soldier who haunts the hamlet of Sleepy Hollow.

What can I say. My mom never wanted my sister and I to be exposed to anything scary or that could maybe be associated with ghosts or “spirits” growing up, so even though we read a lot, this famous legend passed me by. I didn’t get around to learning anything in-depth about Sleepy Hollow until about 10 years ago.

Knowing the story, I really didn’t have much of an expectation that the Sleepy Hollow game would be any good. It is one of the three afterthought games packaged on my Victorian Mysteries: Woman in White game CD, and figured it would probably be a throwaway. I was partially right: it wasn’t bad, but could have been better.

If one were to rely on Mystery Legends: Sleepy Hollow to accurately tell the original story of Sleepy Hollow, literature teachers everywhere would be sorely disappointed. Essentially, the game takes elements from the story, and lamely frames hidden object scenes around it. Each chapter of the game highlights one character from the story, such as Ichabod Crane, Katrina, and Brom Bones. The gamer needs to solve 4 hidden object scenes to “solve” the mystery of each character. The “solving” is saving the character from “losing their head” to the fate of the ghostly headless Hessian soldier. You search some nicely designed scenes and play some okay puzzles. My favourite part? As you are playing the game this soldier voice-overs, “Bloo-ddddd, you-rrr hea-ddddd…” like a creepy “R-r-r-roll up the rim” guy from Tim Hortons. Nice!

This game is for those that enjoy repetitiveness and familiarity with their bona fide hidden object games. There isn’t much to tell about Sleepy Hollow;  each chapter follows the same formula, repeats hidden object scenes and clues (Repeating clues: a huge no-no in my books) and has similar chapter endings. I would have liked to have seen more variety with the gameplay myself which is probably why I abandoned the game after Chapter 4.

My vote? Meh: It’s an okay game, if repetitive. You could do worse…

Mystery Legends: Sleepy Hollow
Developer: Play Pond
Released: 2011

[Review] Dark Dimensions: City of Fog (PC)

The legend of Dark Dimensions…a space between the living and dead. Where the light has been snuffed out, like the wind has blown the flame out of a candle. All that is left is the smokey semblance of what was. Silvertown, ME has been living in a dark dimension for a over a century. A fog has descended, and the townfolk have all disappeared. What is left are the ghosts and demons of those people, roaming around the town.

You have your own story: as a child, your family died in a car accident. Ever since, you are obsessed with the supernatural and dark dimensions, and have always wanted to bear witness to one with the hope that you will be able to see your family again. Your chance to experience it comes one day when a mysterious letter appears on your desk at work that talks about dark dimensions in the town of Silvertown, ME. You hastily quit your job to pursue it. You pack up your CRV and enroute, somehow crash it at the gates of Silvertown, ME – was it your bad driving? The weather? Or the demon souls in Big Fish Games’ hidden object game, Dark Dimensions: City of Fog? Let’s find out…

The good: Great vivid graphics, uncomplicated hidden object scenes and eerie music that startles. Complex labyrinth of many rooms, locations and pathways to explore.

The bad: Clichéed plot devices. The map is useless. And [where’s my slingshot?] that caw caw cawing crow…

To start, let’s acknowledge the plot is a little hoo-ish. When you crash your car, a guide book “mysteriously” appears in your car that tells a more scientific explanation for dark dimensions:

“Researchers have theorized that 30% of earth made up of dark matter particles, invisible to naked eye. Origins of dark particles [has to do with] super-symmetry equations and dark-dimensional theories, [which is] also said to be cause of newly discovered Dark Dimensions located throughout the world. One place is Silvertown, ME. The town disappeared a century ago. According to gravitational readings, conditions will mirror those existing when the city was swallowed by a thick fog.”

I am not sure what any of that means, except it’s fancy-speak for “you are traipsing around an abandoned town in fog.” Really, THAT’S IT. But, forget that. The game is fun.

City of Fog is gorgeous: every single scene is meticulously done, and nothing appears unfinished. It actually made you feel like you were searching in a cold dark place. The developers obviously worked hard on every aspect. The gameplay is smooth and I experienced no glitches while playing. City of Fog is fulsome with many areas to explore and search – at least 30 separate areas by my estimation. This is not a traditional linear game, so you were permitted to go around and search where you want provided you have the right tools to access them. The hidden object scenes were easy and there is also an interesting mix of other puzzles to play. And the music…eerie and startling at times.

As with many hidden object games, there were also clichéed plot devices in City of Fog: Misty fall weather, a train station, a repetitive cawing crow that wouldn’t quit and ritual sacrifice involving burning sage. If there are any ghosts, you can bet there will be some ritual herbs to be found or some candles to be lit. I don’t consider this a problem so much as not unique. At least the developers created a great distraction (or attraction) to hide this tired rehashing.

My main complaint with City of Fog has to do with the map. With such an elaborate game with so many locations, why wouldn’t they include a half decent map??  The game provides a lame-o guide that looks like it was hand-drawn from outer space…it shows locations from the top of a skyscraper…but going into rooms and alleyways, you need a closer perspective here. I had a walkthrough on stand-by as I was nearing the end of the game, because I could remember the room an object was in…I just couldn’t recall HOW TO GET TO IT…

Overall, Dark Dimensions: City of Fog is one of the better hidden object games I have played, and highly recommend it!

Dark Dimensions: City of Fog
Developers: Daily Magic Productions
Released: 2011

[Review] Alan Wake’s American Nightmare (PC) – The Love Affair Ends Here

Alan Wake, my disturbing boyfriend: I have obviously fallen hard for your first story, and I cannot see past it. I am sorry to say we must part ways.

I have droned on and on before about my love affair with the original Alan Wake on PC. My heart flutters when I read about the game, see its logo, even think about those Taken…I have such warm thoughts for this scary-ass game. It was my first hardcore game I played without any assistance from anyone – just me. I even deemed it the number one game I played in 2013! So when I learned there was a sequel to Alan Wake – Alan Wake’s American Nightmare – I couldn’t wait to see what the developers, Remedy, would come up with.

Is it okay to say the game is good, but secretly feel like your boyfriend broke up with you a little on the inside?

Framed in a campy 50s Twilight Zone episode rip-off, Alan Wake’s American Nightmare begins with Alan in a mysterious town called Night Springs, Arizona. Alan is chasing down Mr. Scratch; someone who resembles Alan physically, but who has an evil soul. Mr. Scratch has the ability of controlling everything in Alan’s world and hell-bent on taking everything away from him that he cares about. Alan soon finds out that he himself has the ability to re-write his own history, so he tries to track down Mr. Scratch in an attempt to make things right in the universe. Like the original game, Alan goes around collecting pages of a manuscript and weapons like guns, as well as ammo and batteries. Alan mostly travels by night, and uses a trusty flashlight to find his way. The flashlight also comes in handy when he needs to defeat the all-too-familiar Taken (hoards of shadow men that carry weapons and try to kill Alan), as light fends them off.

The fundamental mechanics of American Nightmare are basically the same as the original; have gun and flashlight with occasional flashbang, will travel. But really, that’s where it ends. The one essential element that was unforgettable in the first Alan Wake was the constant sense of dread – a hopelessness – that never left you the entire gameplay. So, it isn’t so far-fetched to expect the same treatment in its sequel, right?

Actually, like its predecessor, American Nightmare is considered a Survival Horror game…and well, I am a scardy-cat, and American Nightmare was NOT scary. It is definitely an action game (not that there’s anything wrong with that!). One indicator was the game never gave you time to catch your breath for all the fighting you do. The Taken are constantly on you, which, I guess might make you feel anxious as you’re fighting the hoard. But, it wasn’t frightening.It reminded me more of Street Fighter 2, than the original Alan Wake for all the fighting!

Another thing: in the original game, I was constantly foraging for bullets and batteries. It was an endless task, and often I found myself fighting for my life with nothing left. In a surprising turn, the sequel provides the gamer with a seemingly endless supply of ammo and guns to help  through the action! A gun or an ammo cabinet is always close by to draw from if you run out of bullets. There is also a weapon change-up in American Nightmare; like the game poster suggests, you can now fight Taken using a nail gun, machine gun and crossbow!

I am not going to say not to play American Nightmare…It really isn’t that bad game-wise. It was O-K. It didn’t blow. But, I played through the first part, and just couldn’t see myself continuing to the end. I am too entrenched in the first Alan Wake. I obviously went in biased with high expectations, and well, the game was not what I expected. So long, Alan Wake. Until they release another sequel…adieu.

Alan Wake’s American Nightmare
Developer: Remedy
Released: 2012