Artifex Mundi

[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] 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] 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] 9 Clues: The Secret of Serpent Creek (PC)

The year is 1953. Journalist, Helen Hunter, reporting on the town of Serpent Creek’s yearly festival, noticed something amiss with the townfolk. For one thing, they seem to be moving around in a catatonic state. She discovers there may be a link between their behaviour and that Black Mambi drink the festival keeps pushing on the festival-goers. Funny thing though, the creepy mayor and the sheriff don’t seem affected. Helen, your best friend, almost gets to the bottom of this weirdness. But, she smells corruption, and knows she is being trailed. She fears for her safety. While on the phone with you to convey her fears and share this odd story, she is stolen away to parts unknown.

Determined to find her, you take to this snake-bitten town, looking for Helen in the hopes of finding her alive. Little does the town know, you are a sleuth with a nose for the truth; these corrupt enforcers who took Helen don’t know what hit ’em! And while you search for Helen, you discover a whole bunch of snake oil with this mayor. There is more than just a creepy air to him, but sooner or later, he “sheds his skin” to reveal his true self.

9 Clues: the Secret of Serpent Creek was sitting in my Steam Library since 2014, and it was high time I got to my neglected list of games already! A hidden object adventure game by Tap It Games, it was a short but sweet journey of under 4 hours. Now, it isn’t a very difficult game at all…the hidden object scenes are not challenging, the puzzles are simple to figure out…but, sometimes, you don’t need a big challenge to enjoy a game. 9 Clues arrived at a good time following my confused experience playing the last game, Insane Cold: Back to the Ice Age. This game had an interesting story with a linear sensibility that curbed confusion. In fact, I didn’t hit the Hint button once playing this game.

The graphics in 9 Clues were superb, giving the atmosphere an eerie dark vibe. Although the puzzles were the usual HOG fare (fix the pipe, untangle the cord, make all the lights green…) I didn’t seem to mind the repetition here, perhaps because the game had elements not often seen in casual games that added some enjoyment. How about a map where I can click on geographic areas and teleport to that area instantly – 9 Clues had it. Or achievements? Casual gamers like achievements too!  9 Clues had that! The achievements for what it’s worth are attainable (for example, solve the game without hitting the Hint button, and you get one). About the only negative comment I have for this game is the sound-acting; which was a little wooden, but at least it wasn’t used in every scene.

Ultimately, 9 Clues: the Secret of Serpent Creek is a simple but mighty hidden object game  that is worth your time. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and highly recommend it! I only wish I didn’t wait so long to play it!

4.5/5

9 Clues: the Secret of Serpent Creek
Tap It Games / Artifex Mundi
2013